Monday, February 18, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead "Home"

Non Spoiler Review: 
Home continues to process the fallout of the Woodbury attack with friction between Glen and Maggie, Rick's steady descent into madness, and Hershel's attempting to keep it all together. There's debate whether to abandon the prison in the face of a potential attack. While in Woodbury, Andrea seeks answers from an ever secretive Governor, and Merle and Daryl encounter other survivors on the road.

Like last week's character driven episode, Home starts out much the same, continuing to deliver some interesting scenes within the prison while Rick goes on extended walkabout. That's enough to lure the audience into complacency, because the final minutes deliver some classic shocks and excitement, making for a tense and ominous conclusion. 

Spoilers Now! 
Rick surveys the woods for signs of activity, spying Michonne sitting outside the gates. He finds Lori's spectre again and goes out to her grave, then sees her move beyond the outer wall. He runs after, getting Michonne's attention, who cautiously observes him as he reaches the dock by the creek and meets up with his spectral wife.

In Woodbury, Andrea gets a visit from the Governor with compliments for her speech. As for the prison, as long as they're left alone, he has no problem with them, he claims. She wants to go see them. He understands she might choose her friends over them, but suggests Woodbury (and him) need her.

The Governor goes on to visit Milton, asking if he intends to stay in Woodbury. Leaving has never crossed his mind, he says. The Governor counts on him, and also considers him a friend. Though he counted on Merle, as well, he adds. Would Milton take a bullet for him? Milton believes he would. But he's not sure where Andrea's loyalties lie, so he asks Milton to keep tabs on her.

Later on Andrea notices Martinez and the Governor are absent, so she confronts Milton to get some answers. Milton thinks they're out looking for supplies, but he's being obviously vague,  leaving Andrea frustrated.

Daryl and Merle are finding little to sustain them in the woods but already they're in disagreement about where to find food. Merle prefers hunting over scavenging houses and continues to egg on his little brother. He suggests the Governor will be planning to bury what's left of Daryl's friends.

The prison group gathers for a meeting and Glen warns the facility remains insecure if Tyreese could get in, and given the Governor may attack at any time he wants to hit them again. Michonne explains the Governor is a mad man with his aquarium full of heads, and Glen wants her to come with him to assassinate the man while they have the chance. Hershel attempts to reason with him—he was almost killed the first time and he didn't know they were coming. He suggests they should leave the prison—Lori and T-Dog have already lost their life there. But Glen won't run, and reminds them they have a baby now to take with them. Maggie walks off. Glen takes Carl to figure out where the breach is. He orders Michonne to stay on watch, given no one appears to be on guard duty at the moment. 

Glen and Carl return with news the whole section they earlier cleared has been overrun again. Hershel, Carol, and Beth all suggest they abandon the prison. Glen goes off to see Maggie, who is hold up in her cell. She doesn't want to talk about their experience at Woodbury, but she tells him what the Governor did, though he never raped her. She took off her shirt or he would take off Glen's hand. Glen doesn't know how to deal with it and only angers her further, so she sends him away. 

Carol and Axel fortify the fence the best they can. Axel admits he's scared to death of guns and actually robbed a gas station with a toy gun. The cops found him the next day but discovered weapons in his brother's house, resulting in his conviction for armed robbery. He doesn't know how to use a gun, so Carol teaches him. That leads to some flirtation and Axel thinks she's quite a lady.

Daryl gets impatient with Merle's insessant teasing. He thinks he hears a baby and they come upon a group of people on a bridge trying to keep away from a swarm of walkers. Daryl immediately goes to their aid. Two men are stuck on a flat bed shooting at the roamers while a woman and her baby are stranded in their vehicle. Daryl starts taking them out with his crossbow, and Merle slowly makes his way there. Merle goes to the stranded woman but pulls a gun on the man who only speaks Spanish. Daryl orders him to let him go, then tells Merle to get out of the car, as he's going through their supplies. He advises the others to get in their car and leave. They drive off, while Daryl keeps his crossbow trained on his brother.

Merle is unimpressed and that leads to an argument as they head back into the woods. Daryl vents he went back for him and it was Merle who cut off his own hand. Merle thinks it's amusing he and Rick are buddy-buddy now given the Dixons originally intended to rob their camp blind. Merle throws him down on the ground, but exposes Daryl's back which is covered in scars from their father's abuse. Merle never knew. Daryl walks off in a huff, intent on returning to the prison. Merle shouts after him that he can't go given he tried to kill Michonne. Daryl keeps walking.

Hershel has a man-to-man with Glen asking him if he's going back to Woodbury. Glen says no, just on a supply run. He can't sit on his hands and claims he did what he could to save Maggie. Hershel trusts him with her life but that rage will get them all killed, he warns. Glen declares he's the next in charge after Rick and drives off. 

Rick continues to wander about outside, then hears his name being called. It's Hershel, who hobbles down to the fence with some effort, warning him Glen is on the warpath and getting reckless. Rick suggests Hershel should go after him then. After a moment Rick finally admits he saw Lori. He knows it's not really her but there has to be a reason why she's appearing. Hershel asks if it was her on the phone. Rick confirms that, as well as seeing Shane in town. He's hoping to find an answer and can't come in yet, so walks off. 

Axel and Carol watch the two of them from inside. Axel comments he saw plenty of men crack in his day. Life on the inside was more simple. Then he's shot in the head (!).

It's the Governor, and he and his men open fire on everyone at the prison. One of his people has even taken position in a guard tower, sending Rick and Hershel diving for cover. Carol is stranded next to Axel's body. Michonne grabs her gun and fires back, as does Carl. Maggie comes out with weapons, and Carol manages to get back to their group with everyone pinned down in the firefight.

Then a van rams the gate, drives inside the outer courtyard and drops open its back door, releasing a crowd of walkers. A man in armor comes out firing. Maggie finally kills the man in the tower. Rick makes a run for the wall as roamers are drawn to the battle. The Governor watches the chaos, pleased with himself, then drives off with his men just as Glen returns to the mayhem. As Michonne slices up walkers, Daryl and Merle arrive just in time to rescue Rick from the zombies swarming his position. Glen picks up Hershel and drives on to the inner gate, as Rick stares through the fence at the new walkers roaming around the prison.

The Verdict: 
A very exciting ending to an otherwise decent hour that continued to build on the personal relationships. I wouldn't have complained too much if that's all it amounted to, but because it started out so quiet the last ten minutes were just that much more nail-biting.

There was some great misdirection as far as Axel, as the moment Carol taught him how to use the gun I was sure he would turn out to be some sinister killer that would take out one of the survivors very soon (considering he was the last of the prisoners and the graphic novel had one kill two of Hershel's daughters).

Another welcome development is Glen's new backbone. In the vacuum left by Rick, Glen steps up to the plate and takes charge. Coupled with Hershel, and even the likes of Carol and Maggie and Beth having months to gain their own sense of confidence, the Rictatorship could very well be at its end.

As if Daryl couldn't become more of a knight in shining armor, he rushes to the rescue not once but twice. His appearance to save the day at the prison was a great ending. It will be interesting if Merle has any hope whatsoever at integrating himself with their group. The initial suspicion that his betrayal of the Governor was all a set up seemed to go out the window last week. It would be quite a contrived plot to swallow if that were actually the case now and he's the Governor's plant in the prison. Regardless, I'm doubting Merle can survive the season.

One element that doesn't get a lot of attention—the background music for Rick's vision of Lori was a callback to the bicycle zombie in episode one. It's a very poignant and memorable piece. 

It looks like Andrea may now reunite with the prison group sooner rather than later, and I'm thinking permanently, given this week's events. The Governor has exposed some serious flaws in their defences, but why not finish them off? Does he want something from them, or is he simply torturing them?

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