Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead "Made to Suffer"

Non Spoiler Review:
The mid-season finale is upon us, as Rick's group makes a daring rescue attempt and escape from Woodbury. Michonne has her own plans which opens up a whole can of worms for everyone. Daryl learns his brother is alive, Andrea is faced with conflicting loyalties, and the prison gets some additional visitors.

Made to Suffer lived up to the hectic pace established over the course of this season, covering a lot of ground by the first half. But the conclusion was suitably intense, and ended on a gripping cliffhanger with a sufficient number of revelations, as well as some welcome additions to the cast.

There's really no way the series could have topped Lori's surprise death without playing a bunch of cards, but it doesn't need to prove itself at this point. I have complete confidence in the second act of season three, not only with what will happen with the Governor, but with some long-awaited character arrivals.

Spoilers Now!
A walker is drawn to the sounds of screams in the woods, but a man emerges from behind a tree and kills it, running into Sasha, another of his group. He's caught sight of a tower beyond the trees and directs the rest of his party to follow. They're in the midst of fending off a growing herd of zombies, but one is bitten as they make their escape.

They emerge from the trees to find the prison, and enter via the broken wall. Sasha won't let the injured woman come with them because she'll eventually turn, but he won't leave anyone behind and they all walk in together. 

In Woodbury, Andrea has promised Milton to help cremate the body of his experiment. The Governor is pleased the town is starting to grow on her. After she leaves, he goes to see his daughter who is chained up in the closet with a cowl over her face. He sings to her but gets frustrated when all she wants is the bowl of raw meat. He locks her back inside. 

Rick and his crew lay in wait outside of Woodbury's gates, but Michonne shows them a route inside and takes them to the hospital where she was first questioned. There's a knock on the door and a man enters, declaring he saw movement from inside and no one is supposed to be in there. Rick takes him down and demands to know where his people are. Daryl gags and knocks him out when he doesn't know who they're talking about.

The Governor wants to remove the threat of the group at the prison and let the biters move back in. He suggests to Merle that his brother could be their inside man to get them access. Merle wants assurances nothing happens to Daryl. As for Maggie and Glen, the Governor orders them taken to the screamer pits before Andrea happens upon them.

In the prison, Axel and Beth, Carl and Carol are seeing to the baby. Carol isn't keen on Axel flirting with Beth, so takes him aside to tell him to stay away from her. He apologizes for not being around women much, and thought Carol was a lesbian until she sets him straight. 

Glen gets the idea to rip off the dead walker's arm that is sharing their captivity and proceeds to break off a sharp piece of bone that he gives to Maggie for a weapon. When Merle comes for them, they make their move and kill the one guard. Rick hears the gunfire and they leave the hospital. Maggie has the weapon trained on Merle but reinforcements arrive and disarm her. 

Rick's group gets to the building and hear Merle as he prepares to lead out his prisoners. Rick tosses tear gas and in the mayhem grab Maggie and Glen. A gunfight ensues, alerting the Governor and Andrea. Another woman found the man in the hospital, who explains there are intruders in the town. The Governor wants everyone to remain calm while they see to the problem. 

Rick's group take refuge in another building while Michonne leaves them behind. Rick says she's on her own and Glen explains Merle did this and fills them in on what's going on. Daryl wants to see his brother, but Rick needs him with them. Daryl agrees.

The Governor is starting to panic and instructs Andrea to see to the residents and ensure they are all safe. She wants to help given her fighting experience, but he brushes her off. Merle is in charge of the search for the terrorists

Rick makes his break for it amid some tear gas and gunfire. Andrea emerges, ready to join the fight. She sees someone (Oscar) wearing a prison jumpsuit. The Governor runs off and tells her to get off the street.  Daryl lays down cover fire to give them a route to escape. As they make their break over the fence, Rick seems to think he sees Shane for a moment. Rick kills the man and realizes it's not him. However Oscar is shot, and Maggie shoots him in the head when she realizes he's dead. 

Carl, Hershel and Beth hear some yelling from the catacombs, so Carl informs them he'll go check it out. He comes upon the boiler room, and a walker, which he quickly takes care of. Inside he finds the new arrivals in a desperate battle with walkers. He orders them to hurry up and follow him. Their wounded member is slowing them down and Carl wants them to leave her. 

Carl brings them back to the cell block as the wounded girl, Donna, dies. Carl says he'll handle it, taking out his gun, but he's told they take care of their own. The leader, Tyreese, takes out a hammer and is about to bash in her skull. But Carl, joined by Beth and Hershel, locks them in the cell and informs them they'll be secure with food and water. Sasha is furious, but Tyreese calms her down, explaining they're in the safest place they've seen in weeks. He tells Carl they don't want trouble. Beth wants to help them, but Carl explains he did.

Michonne breaks into the Governor's residence and sits waiting. She hears movement behind a door and kicks it open, finding the Governor's fish tanks, among which are her two zombies she was forced to kill. There are sounds from the secured closet, so she opens it and lets out the girl. Michonne tells her it's okay and unchains her, then takes off her cowl. She realizes she's undead and is about to kill her when the Governor arrives, pleading with her not to hurt her. He holsters his weapon, offering up himself instead. Michonne impales the girl and then faces the rage of the Governor as he jumps on her. The two wrestle to the ground and knock over the tanks. She grabs some glass to stab him in the eye and is about to finish him off when a shocked Andrea stops her with her gun. 

The two have a standoff but Michonne finally lowers her sword and turns away, walking out. Andrea sees to the Governor. She then notices all the decapitated heads in the aquarium while he cradles his daughter. She joins him.

After the doctor sees to his eye, Andrea asks why Michonne was there and why they were fighting. He explains she came to kill him. And the fish tanks? He says he made himself look at them to prepare himself for the horrors outside. Milton and Merle arrive. The others escaped over the wall. Merle suggests he'll take a group to the prison in the morning.

Rick gets beyond Woodbury's gates and waits for Daryl. Michonne meets up with them, but Rick is in no mood to chat, given how she left them. He pulls his gun and takes her sword. She tells him they need her, either to get Daryl or to get them back to the prison. 

In the arena, the Governor has called the town together. He addresses them that he'd thought they were passed the days of fear but he's failed them. He won't tell them they're safe now, because he's afraid of terrorists who want what they have. And one of those terrorists is one of their own. He declares Merle led them here and let them in. 

The Governor brings out the captured terrorist and pulls off his cowl—Merle's brother. The two lay eyes on one another (as does Andrea). He asks what they should do with them. Andrea is horrified as everyone calls for blood. 

The Governor tells Merle he wanted his brother. Now he has him.

The Verdict:
I called it wrong with the Tyreese reveal, but I much prefer this graphic novel version, complete with his daughter (I assume). Here's hoping for another strong addition to the ensemble cast. But seriously, his cogent take on Carl's actions and his act of kindness against an infected member of his own party already positions him as one of my favs.

Shane's quick but welcome cameo was an added touch to show that Rick's mind is still in turmoil. But do we really need to worry about who's in control when we get some more amazing Carlness. I'm sure Lori would be proud of her little sociopath man. He handled the Tyreese situation very well—saving them but ensuring their group was safe from them for the time being. Could Rick be trusted to make such a rational decision at the moment? I just wish the series had kept the additional children for Carl to interact with because that was a huge part of the graphic novels. But who knows, maybe some more refugees are on their way next season.

Michonne's first confrontation with the Governor didn't disappoint. I hadn't expected he would get disfigured so quickly. But her actions have set in motion quite a dark chain of events for all concerned. Her behaviour with Rick remains curious as it seems she very much sees that group as a safe place, otherwise she would have abandoned them right away and not put up with Rick. Her character has been very nebulous so far, and I know this likely is intentional on the part of Kirkman, but at the moment (being completely objective) she appears more erratic than the Governor.

One tiny quibble—after all that broken glass and what must have been extremely zombie contaminated water all over the floor, neither the Governor (with glass in his eye), nor Michonne (with sliced open hand from shoving glass in his eye) gets infected?

Though we didn't get Andrea's reunion with the rest of the survivors, she at least has an inclination who these terrorists are. How long will she look beyond the Governor's eccentricities? Merle earned his comeuppance in lying to the Governor about Michonne's death (placing a lot of blame for the situation squarely on Merle), but was the Governor getting revenge, or did he truly believe he was in league with Daryl and the terrorists? A little bit of trivia—this is actually the first time Daryl and Merle have been together in the series (hallucinations don't count).

And...WTF!—did they need to red shirt Oscar in the very episode they introduce Tyreese? How ridiculous coming on the the loss of T-Dog. Come on Walking Dead writers, it's looking like you have a saturation point of black male leads that you dare not exceed (i.e. one). Oscar had a lot of potential. They could easily have kept an extra prisoner alive (just like the graphic novels) to sacrifice instead.

Aside from that blatant point, I feel like Walking Dead has reached a comfortable place. Rick is at the prison. Michonne is firmly established. Tyreese is introduced. The Governor is disfigured. After three seasons of waiting for many critical events, here we are at last. I am content.

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