Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead "Hounded"

Non Spoiler Review:
Hounded focuses on Rick's deteriorating mental state, while Maggie and Glen make a supply run into town that yields interesting results. Michonne is hunted by Merle, as Andrea and the Governor grow closer. 

What started off as a low key, introspective episode ended with plenty of ground covered (literally, in some cases). The Governor and prison storylines draw closer as characters begin to intermingle far sooner than I would have expected. But season three has already established an aggressive pace and doesn't look like it will let up. As Walking Dead approaches its midseason break, it looks like Rick and the Governor might be meeting sooner than later. 

Spoilers Now!
Merle and three of his men are tracking Michonne in the woods but find three walkers arranged in a pattern to mean go back. Merle is amused. Michonne jumps out of a tree and kills two of them while Merle manages to shoot her in the leg and takes off in pursuit, but ultimately loses her.  

A woman is on the phone with Rick and claims she's been trying to find someone else since it all started, but won't reveal where her group is. Rick pleads with her to take in him and the others. They can pull their weight. But she has to talk to her people first and promises to call back in two hours. 

Rick returns to the cell block to check in on the rest who are having dinner. He explains he cleared out the boiler block and just wanted to check in on Carl. He doesn't stick around to answer any questions.

In Woodbury, Andrea thinks the escapism of the fight isn't the right kind of escape they need. The world is already violent enough. She wants to contribute and work the wall, given she's a good shot. The Governor agrees to get someone to teach her to use a bow.

Andrea teams up a female archer on watch. As a walker approaches she can't get a hit with the arrows, so Andrea takes it upon herself to jump down and kill it personally, against orders. The Governor berates her for disobeying and tells her they don't need her on the wall. She confesses she liked the fights. He suggests he's growing on her too.

Back in the boiler room, Rick gets another cryptic call, this time from a man. He asks Rick if he's killed anyone and how many. Rick admits to four, including Shane, who tried to kill him. The man asks how he lost his wife (given he has a boy and a baby). Rick doesn't want to talk about that, so the line goes dead.

Hershel comes down to see him and tries to tell him Lori was sorry for all the things that happened. Rick says the prison isn't safe enough, and he got a phone call from someone with their own group and wants to talk her into taking them in if she calls back. Hershel finds that all very dubious and suggests he sit there with him, but Rick won't have it, so he leaves him alone.

Michonne ambushes Merle again, slicing up the other man, Neil, and nearly killing Merle. The fight draws walkers, and Michonne manages another escape after splitting open a zombie and getting its guts spilled all over her. Merle is ready to return to Woodbury and say their mission was a success, since they messed her up bad and she's heading for the red zone anyway. And they'll tell the Governor she's dead. Neil wants to keep going and won't lie about it so Merle shoots him in the head.

Daryl, Oscar and Carl sweep the lower levels. Daryl tells Carl the story of his own mother who liked to smoke in bed. When he and his friends heard sirens one day, they chased them down to find his house had burned to the ground and his mother dead. Carl confesses he shot Lori before she turned. The group encounters and kills a walker, but Daryl finds Carol's knife in its neck. 

Michonne limps off, but more walkers file by without noticing. The zombie remains on her have left her invisible to them. She makes her way to a small town but hears a vehicle approach and hides. It's Glen and Maggie on a supply run. They find ample baby formula and are about to load up when Merle finds them, prompting everyone to pull their guns. They recognize each other and Glen confirms Daryl is alive. Merle wants to be taken to him and he'll call it even on everything that went down in Atlanta. Glen refuses and says Daryl can come out to meet him. Merle manages to snare Maggie as a hostage and orders them all into the truck while Michonne watches them drive off. 

The Governor and Andrea enjoy a drink in his back yard, discussing life in general, which turns into a kiss. After an afternoon in bed, their tryst is interrupted when Merle returns to debrief him. He explains they lost all three guys but he managed to kill Michonne. The Governor asks for her head and sword, but Merle confesses they were all torn up, but he has something else—a guy from the Atlanta camp. From the looks of them they must be set up pretty good.

Rick gets another call. This woman calls him by name and says she should talk about how his wife died. He demands she explain how she knows his name and hangs up. She calls back. They know him and he knows them—Amy, Jim, Jacqui are the ones he was talking to, and now it's Lori. Rick breaks down and confesses he loved her but couldn't put it back together. He'd wanted to make them all safe before he could let her in again. She tells him he has Carl and the baby now. Rick returns to the cell block and picks up the baby for the first time.

Daryl tries to get up enough courage to see what's inside the room. He finds Carol in there, still alive. Rick takes the baby outside, but notices something by the fence and walks over. Michonne is staring back at him among the walkers, carrying the baby formula. 

The Verdict:
Walking Dead hasn't let up the pace. Rick's psychological scenes contrasted nicely with the showdown between Merle and Michonne. What could have been an uneventful story just with that stuff, ended up advancing things significantly—sending Maggie and Glen into the Governor's hands and Michonne to the prison.

It's easy to forget that Rick's not only dealing with the death of his wife, but the fact that it's Shane's baby that caused it all. It's quite a big step for him to accept it.

The level of coincidental meetings was pretty heavy this time around—Michonne and Merle both intercepting Glen and Maggie at the same time? Then Michonne finding the prison? It seems that Rick's little corner of Georgia is extremely little, as everything seems to lie within a 10 kilometer radius. Given Michonne was on foot, Woodbury must be quite close to Rick's group. It's surprising how everyone has avoided one another this long (and Rick missed Woodbury during their winter wanderings). What is the red zone Merle was talking about, and does the prison lie within it?

It looks like we'll see a reunion between Rick's group and Andrea soon, as well as Merle and Daryl. Daryl's reaction is what interests me the most given how much his character has evolved. I can't see him betraying Carol and Rick at this point. In contrast, Merle seems to have sealed his fate and an inevitable confrontation with the Governor as soon as the latter lays eyes on Michonne alive and well.

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