Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The incredibly slowly Walking Dead

I'll get the latest episode's recap up soon, I promise.  Stuff has just come up and I haven't been able to get to it.  For those of us who've read [at least 99 issues of] the comics in addition to watching the show: the scenes with the Governor and Maggie - while tense and awful - could have been a helluva lot worse.  What a yucky guy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E6 "Hounded" 11/18/12

What we've got here is a lot of talking interspersed with some pretty good stuff.  I'm probably going to go light on the dialogue but I promise you won't be missing much.

The Governor has sent Merle and three other fellows, also known as "Redshirts" or "fodder," out to hunt down Michonne.  They're supposed to bring back her decapitated head (for his aquarium collection, I imagine) and her sword.  Out in the woods, using zombie body parts, she leaves them a warning/visual gag that I won't spoil for you here - but even Merle thinks it's clever.  Then she drops down from the trees and slices off one of the guy's heads.  She uses another guy as a shield as Merle shoots at her, catching a bullet in her thigh before running off into the woods.

The A.V. Club reviewer really liked the scenes with Rick on the phone, appreciating the building tension and how they showed a desperate Rick coming apart at the scenes.  I thought that it was obvious that he was losing it, his poor mind trying to come to grips with what's happened.  I guess his slight slide into madness is better and more realistic than the more usual television tropes of just bouncing back to normal right away or going completely batshit crazy.  Anyway, when Herschel hobbles down to check on him, Rick tells him that he's been getting phone calls from other survivors.  Herschel is decent and canny enough not to give anything away when he listens to the empty phone line, but it's clear from the gentle, careful expression on his face that he's concerned about Rick.  What it comes down to is Rick is talking to people he's lost, dead folks like Andrea's sister Amy and the recently-departed Lori, and by the end of the episode he realizes what he's doing and comes to terms with his losses.

Back in Woodbury, Andrea asked the Governor if she can work the wall: she used to be a good shot and would like to keep her skills up.  He asks her if she'd be willing to learn to use a bow and she says yes, so he pairs her up with a teenaged girl who supposedly was a competitive archer in Life Before the Zombies.  The girl is, in fact, a terrible shot and when she keeps missing the one walker that is approaching the wall, Andrea can't stand it any longer.  She jumps down from the wall, ignoring the girl's shouted protests, sweeps the zombie's legs out from under it and stabs it through the skull.  She jumps back up, totally stoked.

Merle and the remaining fodder manage to track Michonne down and engage her, but a small pod of zombies converges on them, drawn by the gunshots.  The wounded Michonne is off her game, missing one of her sword strokes and gutting a zombie, sending its gory bellyful of intestines spilling out over her.  As Merle and the other guy finish off the other walkers, Michonne gets away.  The last guy wants to chase after her but Merle says that she's headed into "the Red Zone," and is as good as dead.  When the guy complains that he's not going to lie to the Governor about what happened to Michonne, Merle just shoots him in the head, figuring he can do the lying himself.  So, Merle's not entirely reformed, then.

Back at the prison, Darryl, Carl and Oscar are doing a sweep of the lower tunnels.  They pass a door, held closed by a zombie corpse; something inside the room is banging softly on the door but Darryl says they'll get that one on their way back.  As they walk, Darryl tells Carl a long story about how he lost his own mother: she was drunk and smoking in bed and burned the house down around herself.  Carl tells him that he shot Lori before she was able to reanimate.  The boy pauses, then tells Darryl, "I'm sorry about your mom."  Darryl looks at him solemnly: "I'm sorry about yours."

The Governor chastises Andrea for going over the wall but says he understands why she did it.  She admits to him that she did, in fact, enjoy the fights the other night - she just didn't like that she liked them.  Then they flirt, just a little.  Later, he takes her to his back garden for conversation and a drink.  They flirt some more and start making out.

As still gore-covered Michonne collects her pack from where she'd hid it, a small pod of zombies approaches.  She reaches for her sword but they walk right by without giving her a single look, hidden as she is by the coating of zombie guts.  Later she makes her way into the small town where Glen and Maggie just so happen to be making a scavenging run.  As Michonne watches, hiding behind a derelict car, Maggie foolishly proclaims that "it's a beautiful day," thereby guaranteeing that things are about to go to hell.  Lo and behold, as Glen walks out of a market with a basket of powdered baby formula, Merle shows up.  Glen and Maggie draw their guns on him as he turns on the good ol' boy charm, asking how Darryl is.  Glen refuses to bring Merle back with them but promises that if Merle stays here, he'll send his brother back out to meet him.  Michonne watches all this but is too shaky from her wound to intervene.  Merle draws his own gun and grabs Maggie, holding his gun to her head and forcing Glen to drive all three of them back to Woodbury.

Darryl, Carl and Oscar kill a zombie - overkill it really, with multiple bullets and an arrow to the head for good measure - then Darryl pulls a knife out of the corpse's neck.  It's Carol's knife.  He wipes the blade clean, retreating into himself as he wonders what happened to his friend.

Andrea and the Governor do the dance with no pants but they are interrupted when Merle returns to give his report.  The Governor goes out into the hallway to hear what he has to say:  the other three men are dead, Michonne is dead too but he didn't get her head and sword because they were swarmed by zombies.  Merle is quite the liar.  He appeases his boss by telling him "[b]ut I brought you something else."  The Governor asks if Glen and Maggie know Andrea and Merle says he'll find out where they've been holed up.  The Governor goes back to Andrea for round 2, pointedly not telling her that Merle has captured her friends.

As Rick rejoins the group, washed up and seemingly sane, holding his daughter for the first time, poor Darryl sits alone in the tunnels, outside that rattling door.  He pounds Carol's knife into the floor, certain that it's her behind that door, all zombified and waiting for him to kill her.  Finally, he works himself up enough and yanks open the door.  It's Carol in there all right, but she's human, weak and dazed.  Darryl scoops her into his arms and makes his way back upstairs.

Rick and the baby (jeez, name her already), Carl, Herschel and Beth go out to the yard for some fresh air.  Rick glances over at the fence where some zombies are clustered and hands the baby to Carl.  He walks across the field to the fence.  Standing there among the zombies, still covered in guts and holding the shopping basket full of formula, staring back at Rick through the chainlink fence, is Michonne.  Damn - she and Rick are going to have a LOT to talk about.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E5 "Say the Word" 11/11/12

Before I forget, check out the good write-up The A.V. Club did on this episode: discussing how badly this show breaks down when it turns from action to dialogue.  Also they talk about how Darryl is awesome, which can't be said enough.

Woodbury.  The Governor has arranged for a party - complete with cold drinks, such a luxury - for the town.  Michonne, of course, is glowering at everyone.  More importantly, the Governor goes to his house where we see him brushing the hair of his zombified daughter Penny.  I think the graphic novel did a better job of showing just how OMFG creepy this is, but man, even here it is so clear that this man is effed in the head, keeping the little girl-zombie alive, locked in his secret room and safely wrapped in a straitjacket.  Interestingly, like a horse, zombie Penny calms right down when you put a bag over her head.

Prison.  Darryl and Maggie go on a scavenging run to fetch formula for the new baby, Darryl pausing to ask Beth to keep an eye on Carl.  Rick is nearly catatonic for a bit, then grabs up an ax and heads back into the prison tunnels.  His eyes are wild, he's feral, more terrifying even than the walkers he brings down, one after another, blood and brains and bone flying everywhere.

Woodbury.  While the Governor speechifies to the townsfolk, Michonne takes the opportunity to break into his house to take back her samurai sword.  She finds a notebook on his desk, a journal with lists of names that devolves into pages and pages of The Shining-esque hashmarks.  When she hears a noise coming from the Governor's locked back room, she tries to break in but has to run when the Governor, Merle and Milton show up to pick up more beer.  Milton thinks they're wasting resources with this party and should be focusing on his experiment instead (whatever that is) but the Governor says no, the people need this and the show must go on.  Meanwhile, Michonne has escaped out the window and wanders around to Milton's warehouse/lab.  She hears a noise coming from a metal cage: a bunch of live walkers are locked inside.  She busts open the lock and as the walkers lurch towards her, she takes them out methodically.  There's an especially nasty kill where she stomps on a fallen zombie's skull - she and Rick should totally team up.  As she finishes killing the last one, she is discovered by one of the Governor's lackeys who has just arrived with a bucket of offal to feed the caged zombies.

After the commercial break, Michonne gets a talking-to from the Governor.  He thinks that she killed his zombies on purpose so he'd kick her and Andrea out of Woodbury.  He says he doesn't want her to go, although her breaking his rules will have to be dealt with, lest other folk get the same idea.  He's in the middle of outlining the possibilities of punishment for her - nothing too grim - when she grabs her sword away from him and holds it to his throat.  He's smart enough to STFU and she leaves.  When Merle checks in on his boss later, the Governor says that there's no trouble with Michonne but could he please send Andrea to him?  He also tells Merle to head out with the "research team" to pick up "more grist for the mill."

Prison.  Axel and Oscar help Glen dig three graves out in the field.  He's pretty brusque with them and goes to vent to Herschel.  Blah blah blah sadness / lost three of our own today / wish we'd just killed all the prisoners right away / T-Dog was "the best."  The dialogue is bad and the acting's not much better.

Woodbury.  The Governor tells Andrea that Michonne has to play by the rules if she's going to stay.  Andrea goes back to their room to find Michonne packing their stuff.  Andrea thinks they've got a good thing going in this town but Michonne is all, this place is not what they say it is.

Prison.  Glen tracks Rick down in the tunnels by following the trail of zombie carnage.  Rick is still acting pretty insane and looks like he smells REALLY bad, all covered in gore.  When Glen tries to convince him to rejoin the others, Rick grabs him and throws him against the wall, then shoves him away.  Without saying a word, he turns from Glen and walks deeper into the tunnels.

Woodbury.  The "research team" drives out to a tap and collects a net full of zombies.  They kill some of them but others that look more promising are laid down and their teeth pulled out.  Later, bags packed, Michonne and Andrea head for the front gate where Merle heads them off.  Michonne is sure that they won't be allowed to leave but Merle surprises her and opens the gates.  She looks at Andrea, giving her one last chance, but Andrea can't bring herself to leave the comfort and safety of the town.  Snarling that she'll move faster on her own anyway, Michonne strides out into the world.  Merle slams the gate closed behind her and Andrea watches her go.

Supply run.  Darryl and Maggie have struck out at the Piggly Wiggly but find a daycare center.  Maggie loads up on diapers, bottles and cans of powdered formula.  As they search the place, they hear a noise in a closet.  Maggie pulls the door open ... to reveal a hissing opossum, which Darryl promptly shoots.  "Hello, dinner!" he exclaims, pleased.  Maggie: "You're not putting that thing in my bag."  They make it back to the prison just after dark.  In the cellblock, the baby is crying and crying but when Darryl takes her from Carl, she quiets down immediately.  Beth prepares a bottle of formula and Darryl feeds her as everyone looks on, grinning at the unexpected soft side to this tough guy.  Darryl asks Carl if they've picked a name yet.  Poignantly, Carl gives a list he's considering: Sophia, Amy, Jackie, Patricia ... Carol, Lori - every woman of theirs who's been lost. To lighten the mood a little, Darryl suggests "Ass-kicker" as a possibility: "You like that, sweetheart?  Little Ass-kicker?"  And everyone watching their televisions goes AWWWWWWW!

Down in the tunnels, Rick has made his way to the room where Lori died.  He finds a nasty ol' zombie in there, a male with a big pooched out belly.  Crazy Rick shoots the zombie in the head, then draws his knife and stabs it in the belly over and over again.  We get the symbolism: he's killing what killed his wife.  Also: Rick is a goddamn mess.

Woodbury.  After dark, the party's main event starts.  To the blaring of "Saturday Night Special," the townsfolk gather to watch a gladiator fight:  Merle vs. some other guy.  The trick is that the ring they're going to fight in is encircled by chained zombies.  The crowd goes wild, chanting Merle's name.  Everyone's way into it as the two men pummel each other, trying to stay out of reach of the zombies.  Andrea is freaked out and horrified by the spectacle.  The Governor tells her to relax - everyone's just blowing off steam, plus the fight is rigged since the zombies have been de-toothed.  She still thinks it's sick.

Prison.  After he's sliced and diced the dead zombie's belly, Rick sits in a corner.  The baby's cries echo through his head ... and then turn into a telephone ringing.  He gets up and answers the phone on the wall.  Damn, I read the comics but I don't remember who's calling!

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mini movie review: Stake Land

It's curiously synchronous, I guess: I'm rereading the wonderful book, The Passage, about the apocalyptic destruction of the world as we know it due to a vampiric epidemic and then I also just watched Stake Land, a little 2010 indie horror movie about the apocalyptic destruction of the world as we know it due to a vampiric epidemic.  Only 96 minutes long, Stake Land is kind of like crossing The Road with The Walking Dead, only replacing the zombies with the nasty-ass vampires from 30 Days of Night.  These bloodsuckers do not sparkle.  They are fast and vicious and make a really big mess, and the entire world has fallen apart under their onslaught.  Society has fallen apart and the surviving humans are splintered into straggly groups of survivors.  Some are trying to rebuild in small communities, including the mythical "New Eden," way up north where the vampires are fewer; some have banded together into wicked scary religious cults.  Some folks, like our heroes, teenaged orphan Martin (played by Connor Paolo, previously seen as rich teen Eric van der Woodsen on Gossip Girl!) and the vampire-hunting man who saved his life, Mister, are just keeping mobile, trying to survive.

There's not much plot to follow: Mister saves Martin after his family is slaughtered and they slowly move through the ravaged U.S., picking up and losing companions along the way, trying to avoid the fanatical Brotherhood, heading towards New Eden.  The violence is bloody but not truly scary and the movie ends on a slightly hopeful note.  A decent entry into the genre.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


I've had trouble getting excited about the books I've read recently: one I liked more while I was reading it than after I finished it, and the other was just the reverse.

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan - This adult (meaning: quite a lot of sex, but not like Anita Blake levels) urban fantasy about the last werewolf was pretty fun while it lasted, but afterwards I had trouble formulating any thoughts about it.  Jake is over 200 years old although he doesn't look a day over 35 (or so).  He manages his condition through decades of practice, knowledge and accumulated wealth.  He's the last of his kind, due to werewolves being hunted to near extermination, but ennui has set in and he can hardly muster the energy to care.  Until he learns that a couple of factions are interested in keeping the species alive - for different nefarious reasons - and until he meets Tallula.  Sex, violence, violent sex, longing - all written intelligently.  But I'm not sure I can muster the energy to care about the sequel, Tallula Rising.  Maybe.

Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel - Wolf Hall is not at all about werewolves but is instead an erudite historical novel about Thomas Cromwell and his efforts to assist Henry VIII in divorcing Catherine of Aragon and hooking up with Anne Boleyn.  Written with Cromwell as the antihero protagonist (and referred to only ever as "he," which is sometimes confusing), Cromwell schemes and bullies and manipulates, maneuvering himself and his extended household, to whom he is completely devoted, into a position of wealth and power.  Cromwell is smart and ruthless and is determined to get Henry what he wants.  What Henry wants is Anne, that clever, bewitching, determined girl; what Anne wants is power.  Wolf Hall is not an easy read, not a page-turner.  After I turned the last page, however, I was eager to read the next book in line (just out), even though I know how this story is going to end - with Anne, unable to provide Henry with the heir he so desperately needs, on the chopping block.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E4 "Killer Within" (11/4/12)

At the prison, someone is up to no good: dragging a fresh deer carcass into the yard and opening the gates wide.  Zombies flock to the tasty, bloody treats.  Lots of zombies.  This someone is wearing a prison jumpsuit so we're led to believe that it's either Axel or Oscar, but since we never see their face, I think it's likely someone else who's been hiding out.

Later that morning, Rick, Darryl, T-Dog and Carol enlist Glen and Maggie to help them clean up the yard, moving the vehicles into the courtyard and parking them so as to make a quick getaway if need be.  Oscar and Axel come out and Rick is up in their grills immediately, all "you can't come any closer" and "we had an agreement."  The convicts beg him to reconsider as they're thoroughly spooked by staying in that cellblock, even after they cleaned out all the bodies.  Rick won't budge: either you stay in that cellblock or you leave the prison.  His group steps aside to discuss the situation and T-Dog is the only one who wants to give the convicts a chance: "Those two might actually have less blood on their hands than we do."  No one else is having any of it, however, and they tell Oscar and Axel they can have a week's worth of food if they want to hit the road.

Woodbury.  Michonne checks out the National Guard trucks that the Governor brought back; the smears of blood and bullet holes do nothing to lessen her suspicions.  The Governor walks up and tries to win her over, saying they could use a soldier like her.  Michonne just glares daggers at him.  She goes back to the room she shares with Andrea to pack her things, telling Andrea that she thinks they should head for the coast, maybe find a defensible island.  Andrea really doesn't want to leave the safety and comfort of Woodbury.

Prison.  While the rest are outside working in the yard, Lori, Carl and Beth get Herschel up and walking around on crutches.  He's doing remarkably well for an old guy who just got his leg cut off.  They go outside and wave at the workers.  Rick, Darryl and Glen squeeze through the cut in the exterior fence to collect firewood so they can finish burning the walker bodies.  Everyone is smiling, it's bucolic and calm ... and then all frigging hell breaks loose.

Zombies flood in behind Herschel et als. inside the courtyard, dozens and dozens of them.  Carl notices them first and starts shooting; Maggie, T-Dog and Carol, who were working inside the first fence, get there quickly and start dropping zombies; Herschel and Beth manage to safely lock themselves into a fenced-off area; Rick, Darryl and Glen sprint to help, but they're so far away and have to get through two locked fences to be of any help.  Maggie grabs Lori and Carl and they run into a cellblock, but the walkers are there too and they have to run into the tunnels.  T-Dog and Carol notice the open gate.  He manages to close it but gets bitten in the neck.  He and Carol make an escape into the prison tunnels as zombies cluster around the door.

Woodbury.  Andrea gives Merle a map, telling him how to find Herschel's farm, thinking that he can maybe track Darryl from there.  Merle is definitely a changed man: he's still coarse and kind of scary, but he's much, much gentler than he was.  He hits on her a little: "How come we never hooked up?"  Andrea, smiling: "You called me a whore and a rug-muncher."  Merle grins: "Got a way with words, don't I?"  More seriously, she asks him if he thinks the Governor is a good man.  He tells her that the Governor had no reason to help him but he did, and yes, that's a good man.

Prison.  Rick, Darryl and Glen have just finished off the remaining zombies in the courtyard when the alarms start blaring, attracting exterior zombies to the fence.  They try to shoot out the loudspeakers to no avail.  Oscar offers that the generators must be starting up and Rick grabs him, saying they've got to shut those generators down.  In the tunnels, T-Dog is in bad shape, bleeding freely.  A sad Carol promises that he'll never turn into one of "those things."  In another hallway, Maggie, Lori and Carl run from a small herd of zombies, but Lori's labor has started and she can't move far.  They take refuge in a utility room and the herd shuffles past.

Woodbury. The Governor is hitting golf balls of the town's wall, whacking zombies on the head.  Merle finds him there and they talk and talk and talk: Merle wants to go see if he can find his brother but the Governor doesn't want him to go.  Finally, the Governor agrees that if Merle can come up with some solid information about Darryl's whereabouts, he'll go check it out with Merle

Prison.  Lori's baby is definitely on its way.  Maggie helps her out of her pants; poor Carl is pretty calm under the circumstances. Lori tries to push and starts screaming.  There's a gush of blood and Maggie shouts that something's wrong.  Out in another corridor, T-Dog and Carol are cornered so he throws himself at a group of zombies, sacrificing himself so she can get away.  Carol turns back to look at her friend and we're treated to an impressively gory shot of a zombie ripping T-Dog's throat out.  Yeesh.

Woodbury.  Andrea stops by to say goodbye to the Governor.  They talk and talk and talk, and have a drink together, and share the people that they've lost [Note to y'all who've read the comics:  he mentions that his wife died in a car accident before the zombie apocalypse, leaving him and his daughter.]  Andrea is becoming more and more charmed by this guy - he even tells her his real name.  When she goes back to her room, she tells Michonne that she wants to stay in town for another couple of days.  Michonne is PISSED.

Prison.  Rick, Darryl and Oscar make it to the generator room, where that someone who caused all this mayhem is waiting for them:  it's Andrew, and it seems he survived Rick's locking him into a courtyard full of zombies.  While Darryl tries to keep the door to the generator room closed against a gang of zombies, Andrew attacks Rick and it's an ugly, vicious fight.  Finally, Oscar grabs up Rick's gun and shoots Andrew dead.  He gives Rick his gun back and they shut down the generators, silencing the braying alarms.  I think Oscar has earned his keep, Rick.

Lori is not doing well at all and she tells Maggie that she has to open her up and save the baby.  Maggie's all no-no-no, I have no training, there's no anesthetic, you won't survive it.  But Lori is wild, adamant, begging and ordering Maggie to do it.  Carl cries and cries and Lori hugs him fiercely, telling him how much she loves him.  "You always gotta do what's right ... if it feels wrong, if it feels easy, don't do it."  She is crying, Carl is crying, Maggie is crying.  Then Lori steels herself and tells Maggie to do it.  Horribly, Maggie slices into her abdomen along the old scar from her first C-section.  Lori screams and then, thankfully, passes out.  Maggie has to ask poor Carl to hold part of his mother's belly open so she can reach in to get the baby.  She pulls the baby out and after a moment, the infant girl starts crying.  They wrap the newborn in Carl's jacket and Maggie says, "We have to go."  Carl: "We can't just leave her here.  She'll turn."  Maggie tries to get him to come away and he says no, she's my mom, and pulls out his gun.  Maggie turns away and after a few moments (and luckily off-screen) there's a gunshot.  Carl kept his mother from turning.  Poor, traumatized, dead-eyed Carl - that'll scar a kid for life.

Out in the corridors, Rick, Darryl and Oscar rejoin Glen and Axel.  They find T-Dog's remains and kill the zombies still feeding on him.  They also find the scarf Carol was wearing and assume the worst.  They make their way back to the courtyard where Herschel and Beth are waiting.  As they try to formulate a plan to find any other survivors, they hear a baby's cries.  They turn around and there's Maggie, holding the baby and sobbing, and Carl, in shock, holding his gun (not a euphemism) and trying to keep his shit together.  Rick, however, completely falls apart, collapsing and blubbering and squeaking out Lori's name.  Way to be strong for your son there, Rick.

Obviously the writers want to head into a Rick-goes-off-the-deep-end storyline, which is why Lori got killed off.  But I'm not sure why we needed to kill T-Dog too - poor fellow finally got to say some lines and pfftt, he's dead.

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead

Sunday, November 4, 2012

October ends with a whimper, not a scream

I really do apologize for the incredible lameness of this year's Third Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series:  not only did I only manage to see five scary movies in October, they mostly weren't any good.  I will try to do better next year, I promise.  As a small consolation, I have managed to eke out two more "scary" movies in these first couple of days of November:

Scream 4 - Parts of Scream 4 I really liked a lot.  I liked the framing conceit, done fairly well throughout the series's run, of having this fourth installment be a reboot rather than just another sequel.  I liked the opening, with a movie within a movie within a movie, and the cameos by Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) and Julie Taylor (Amee Teegarden).  I liked seeing the old gang back together, Sidney/Neve Campbell, Dewey/David Arquette and Gail/Courteney Cox.  And I loved the best line of the movie, Sidney's triumphant "You forgot the first rule of remakes: don't fuck with the original."  But as an actual scary movie, Scream 4 just isn't scary.  Yes, there is plenty Ghostface fodder, slashings galore, but there's no suspense at all.  The first Scream was clever and had a fair share of jump-scares but I think the franchise is just too familiar now.

The Frighteners - This 1996 offering from writer/director/producer Peter Jackson stars Michael J. Fox as psychic Ray Bannister, who normally uses his otherworldly gifts to con people.  Bannister changes his ways when he learns that an evil presence is mass-murdering the townsfolk.  The special effects are quite good for 1996 (but nothing compared to now), the story is entertaining and MJF is cute as a button.  But don't go into The Frighteners expecting another Dead Alive: there's spooky violence and a couple of jumps, and one guy gets his head blown off, but there is by no means the level of gore and ichor that Dead Alive has.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Walking Dead S3E3 "Walk with Me" (10/28/12)

A helicopter goes down not far from where Andrea, Michonne and Michonne's pack zombies are walking.  They see the smoke from the wreckage and decide to investigate.  Andrea is pretty sick by now so Michonne chains the zombies to a tree and leaves Andrea there with them, handing her friend a gun just in case.  She checks out the 'copter wreckage, sword in hand.  There are a couple of dead soldiers scattered all over the ground but before she can really search for survivors, she hears approaching vehicles.  Michonne goes back to Andrea's hiding spot and they crouch in the underbrush, watching.

Several trucks drive up and a bunch of men get out.  The leader, a tall man wearing a vest, warns his men not to waste ammunition if they can help it, so the men put down a number of approaching zombies hand to hand.  They pull the still-breathing pilot out of the helicopter and load him into one of their trucks.  The leader pauses, looking down at one of the soldier corpses on the ground.  It's reanimating already but Andrea and Michonne can't see this from their hiding spot, so they are horrified when they see the man stab what they think is an innocent corpse in the head.  Michonne's zombies start to get agitated at all the commotion in the field in front of them and she coolly strikes off their heads before their location is discovered.  The men get ready to leave the 'copter wreck and the hiding women think they are off the hook.  But they're not - because standing right behind them, gun in the left hand, bayonet as the right hand, is good ol' Merle, alive and full of piss and vinegar.  Andrea stares at him, not believing what she's seeing, and then faints dead away.

When she regains consciousness, she's in a clinic, being treated by a doctor.  Michonne stands off to the side, silent, hostile and on the defensive.  Merle comes in to chat with the women and it's clear that he's changed some: he's still a redneck asshole but his edges are not quite so rough.  Andrea warms up enough to tell him what happened to their group - who all died (he remembers her sister's name and she is touched by this) and how Darryl has changed.  "He's always been the sweet one, my baby brother," muses Merle.

After quite a bit of talking, the tall man in the vest comes in.  Merle calls him "the Governor."  He is soft-spoken but firm, with a gentle half-smile concealing an iron will, as he explains that the two women are guests, not prisoners ("Then give us back our weapons," snarls Michonne.), and they are welcome to leave in the morning if they wish, with their weapons, food, even a vehicle if they want one.  He also brings them up to speed on the whole everyone-turns-into-a-biter-when-they-die thing, which they didn't know.  "Welcome to Woodbury," says the Governor, walking them through the quiet, torch-lit streets of his little fortified town, heavily armed men patrolling the encircling wall.  He shows them to their room - with a bed, clean clothes, food and hot running water - and tells them he'll see them in the morning.

In the morning, Andrea and Michonne learn that there are over seventy people living safely in Woodbury.  People have jobs; they grow their own food; children go to school.  Everyone obeys the strict curfews and the Governor's rules because they're safe - not a single casualty since winter.  Michonne, as usual, looks suspicious, Andrea is more incredulous than anything.

Back at the clinic, the Governor is talking with the wounded pilot, who has woken up.  He tells the Governor that there are ten more National Guardmen waiting out on the road for him (the 'copter was supposed to be scouting for survivors or somesuch and should have reported back).  The Governor promises to go out and fetch the other Guardsmen back to town.  After that, he goes to a lab where Merle and a geeky scientist-type are waiting for him.  Merle tells him what he knows about Andrea and the Governor encourages him to talk with her again, to see what else he can find out about her former group.  The lab guy has been examining  the remains of Michonne's pet walkers and has learned this: (1) zombies do starve if not fed, but it takes longer than with humans, plus they get docile when they haven't eaten, (2) Michonne has been using the mutilated and harmless walkers as camouflage, since zombies aren't much interested in each other.  The Governor and the lab guy (Milton?) are quite impressed with her resourcefulness.

A little later, the Governor has Andrea, Michonne and the lab guy over for breakfast (scrambled eggs).  Andrea is warming up to him, talking with him, trying to figure him out, impressed with his vision of rebuilding civilization.  All Michonne can do, however, is stare at her samurai sword, sitting there on a shelf in the Governor's kitchen.  Afterwards, Andrea tries to get her companion to relax a little but Michonne is entirely resistant and anxious to get the hell out of Woodbury.  She doesn't trust anyone here.

The Governor drives out to where the remaining National Guardsmen are holed up.  He waves a white flag, saying that he rescued their pilot and is here to bring them in.  And then he, and all his men who are hiding in the surrounding forest, shoot the shit out of all the poor Guardsmen, killing them all and none too humanely.  In a particularly icky moment, the Governor crushes the skull of one of the fallen Guardsmen before he can reanimate - and he's a little too vehement about it for my taste.  They collect all the weapons and check out the Guardsmen's vehicles.  "Let's see what Uncle Sam brought us," the Governor says happily.

When the convoy gets back to Woodbury, the Governor makes a little speech to the assembled townsfolk, saying that when they got out to the convoy, the Guardsmen were already dead.  But now they have new weapons, food and medicine, and other things the town needs.  "We didn't know them but we'll honor their sacrifice by not taking what we have here for granted ... Be thankful for what you have, and watch out for each other."  Michonne listens to this speech suspiciously.  Andrea is taken in by it, however, and chats up the Governor afterwards, asking him what his real name is.  He tells her that he never tells.  "Never say never!" she chirps.  The Governor, not smiling: "Never."

That night, after dinner, after the town has closed up for curfew, the Governor takes his glass of bourbon and goes into a padlocked room.  He sits quietly, thinking about the day ... and staring at a wall of aquariums that bubble and glow, filling the room with an eerie light. Each tank holds several rotting human heads - including Michonne's two pets and the poor, now-deceased helicopter pilot.  Dude, the Governor is just not right.  (And for those of us who've read at least half the comics, we know it's just gonna get worse.)

Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead