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Everybody was psyched up to see what happens
next at the prison, especially more of Rick’s continued slide down a dangerous
slope. Instead, they pulled the rug out from under us and gave us an episode
which focused entirely on Andrea and Michonne.
So the lovely ladies of the post-apocalypse
and their awesome pack mule zombies investigate a plume of black smoke and
discover a helicopter crash site. It isn’t long before another pack of
survivors show up as well though, in numbers and much better armed. Andrea and
Michonne get caught by an old friend and brought back to Woodbury, kind of like
Mayberry but with heavily armed militia-types, where The Governor is introduced
and is certain to be the *Big Deal* this season. Of course Woodbury is very
nice, but like a David Lynch town, it has dark secrets; secrets the townsfolk
may be aware of, but they keep neatly tucked away under the idyllic façade of
an all-American small town.
One of the highlights was obviously the
return of Merle (Michael Rooker) and his new prosthetic arm/harpoon, something straight out of
EVIL DEAD. I picture him cutting his hand off and then going “Workshed!” and
rushing off to fashion this thing. I look forward to seeing the other
attachments he has for it besides the bayonet. If his nickname isn’t Swiss Army
by the end of the season, I will be sad.
The other main attraction was the reveal of
The Governor (David Morrissey) and Woodbury itself. I’ve not read the comics so I have no idea
what the Governor is supposed to be like, but I get this distinctly right-wing
survivalist vibe from him. Before the walkers, was he was doing a podcast
featuring long tirades against the federal government from his mountain
compound and chasing off Census workers with assault weapons. There is a vibe
about him and about the aesthetics of Woodbury—small town America, an idealized
past—that are pretty consistent with the hardcore libertarian types. It also
explains why he guns down the soldiers they find at the end of the episode,
instead of rescuing them. He doesn’t want the armed forces coming in and trying
to take away the new world he’s building.
So is The Governor a radical who took the
apocalypse as his chance to build the world he always wanted from the ashes of
America? What explains the fish tanks full of heads at the end though? I have
no idea really. I think it might be guilt. He’s a fundamentally decent man,
like Rick Grimes, and like Rick he needs to torture himself over the appalling
decisions he has to make in order for his vision of survival to carry on.
The unexpected focus shift to Andrea and
Michonne really paid of. It sets the stage for what will certainly be the
central conflict of the season and the contrast between Woodbury and the prison
really shows us how seductive The Governor will be able to be. I’m sure many
people would be fine with all kinds of barbarism as long as it’s out of sight
and they get to enjoy a little slice of civilization and comfort. That’s what
men like The Governor have counted on in human nature for millennia.
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