Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead "The Suicide King"

Non Spoiler Review:
The Walking Dead returns from its mid-season hiatus with The Suicide King, an episode that quickly resolves the cliffhanger of the Dixon brothers' death match. The remainder of the hour decompresses much of the events, examining the fallout in Woodbury and at the prison. Many decisions (mostly by Rick) come under scrutiny.

While there may be criticism that The Suicide King was less than action-packed, I found there were a few much-needed (and perhaps critical) character moments. The rest of the season requires some set up after the change in status quo, so this one accomplished that, allowing Hershel and Carol some more time in the spotlight, as well as a closer look at Tyreese and his compatriots.

There's a level of tension and foreboding that really permeates the series now. Everyone seems to be at each others' throats as Rick comes to terms with seriously angering their new neighbours and what it might mean for their refuge. The Ricktatorship is certainly in jeopardy.

Spoilers Now!
The crowd calls for Daryl and Merle's blood as Andrea asks the Governor to let him go. But it's not up to him anymore. Merle needs to prove his loyalties. Fight to do the death and the winner goes free. 

Merle begins to battle his brother, and declares to the crowd he'll do what he has to to prove his loyalty. Merle quietly instructs his brother to follow his lead. Walkers are brought in to make things more interesting, so the two begin to fight them off. Then gunshots erupt, killing walkers as well as Haley, with Maggie and Rick leading an attack on the arena. There's mayhem as the crowd disperses amid tear gas. Andrea takes the gun off Haley. The Governor watches Rick and his crew leave under cover of the smoke with Daryl and Merle.

Rick, Merle, Daryl and Maggie get outside the gates and fight their way through roamers. Some zombies get into town through the breach. In the morning the rescue party meets up with Michonne and Glen in the woods who are both outraged that Merle is with them, prompting a stand off. It's the first time the brothers get a chance to talk, and they learn Andrea is in Woodbury. Rick finds out Michonne knows her, as well. Merle explains how they found the two of them in the woods and mouths off pretty much everyone. Daryl warns his brother to shut up, but Rick ultimately knocks Merle out.

Rick and Daryl debate Merle staying in the prison with them, but Michonne's fate is up in the air, too. Glen refuses to accept Merle as part of their family. Daryl is their family, but his brother isn't. Daryl suggests the two of them can fend for themselves. Rick tries to convince him otherwise, but Daryl is determined to leave the group, leaving him with advice to take care of Carl, and explain things to Carol. He and his brother leave. As the rest pack up their cars, an angry Rick informs Michonne he'll patch her up and then she's on her own, too. 

At the prison, Carl and Hershel are seeing to their new visitors' medical needs. Tyreese tells Hershel they're the only decent people they've run into. He and Sasha encountered Allan and Ben and later joined a larger camp, but that was overrun six weeks before. Hershel seems to like him, but warns him not to get too comfortable there, as it's not up to him.

Tyreese and his group prepare Donna for burial. Allan suggests they try to take the prison given it's only Carol and Carl on guard. Tyreese won't hear of it, but their debate is interrupted by Axel and Beth bringing them some tools.

Rick, Maggie and Glen are forced to clear the road of vehicles on the way home. Glen let's loose his rage against Rick for not killing the Governor and bringing Merle instead. And after all the risk they took, Daryl just takes off with him. Rick dismissively tells him it's the hand they've been dealt.

Andrea and Milton touch base about the situation in Woodbury. The Governor has retreated to his home while some of the townsfolk are packed up and wanting to leave, but the men on the wall won't let them. Andrea attempts to calm the situation, explaining to the sheltered people that it's too dangerous outside. As a man honks his car horn, drawing walkers, the guards drag him out. Andrea tries to diffuse the altercation, but screams interrupt the exchange from down the street as walkers are already in the community. Andrea takes them out and as people gather around one of the bitten townsfolk it's the Governor who comes out and shoots him, then walks away.

Andrea follows him back, warning him people are panicking and need his leadership. The Governor doesn't care. He's through holding their hands and it ends now. She demands to know why Daryl was there, and he reveals Merle picked up her friends, Maggie and Glen, and they came with the other people she knows. If her friends are alive she wants to know why they're both shooting at each other and why he kept that information from her. They killed six of his people, he replies. Milton interrupts them, warning things could get ugly outside again.

Andrea and Milton return to address to the gathering crowd. The biters have been killed on the perimeter, he tells them, and the Governor is recovering. Andrea does a good job calming them down with a pep talk about perseverance. The Governor listens from his window.

Carl and Carol open the gates for Rick's vehicle. Rick has to tell Carol that Daryl's gone away with his brother. She doesn't take it well. As everyone is reunited, Rick confers with Hershel. The Governor is a sick mind, pitting Daryl and Merle together, he warns. Hershel lets him in on their new visitors.

As Beth looks after the baby, she and Carol discuss Daryl. Beth never met Merle, but Carol explains he was an abusive man. They'll get through Daryl's loss, too. Tyreese and his friends seem capable.

Hershel tends to Glen's wounds, but he notices something is different between him and Maggie. He tells him Glen is like his own son now, then goes on to talk to his daughter but doesn't get an explanation of what happened to her in Woodbury.

Michonne is sleeping and has a concussion, but Rick wants to know when she can travel. Axel is dealing with the loss of Oscar, who had been his close friend. They all gather to debate if the Governor is going to retaliate and Hershel suggests they can use some reinforcements, so Rick goes to meet their visitors.

Tyreese offers to lend a hand with any problems and otherwise keep out of their way if they wish. Rick refuses, prompting Hershel to speak up for them. Rick doesn't want to be responsible for more people, but Tyreese tells him if he turns them out, he will be responsible. Hershel takes Rick aside to speak in their defence. They've done everything Rick has asked, but he's wrong on this point. He's got to start giving people a chance.

Rick pauses and looks up to the second floor where he sees a ghostly Lori in a white dress. He loses it, demanding to know what she wants from him. His behaviour is definitely unnerving to everyone, and when he draws his gun and starts shouting at her to get out, Tyreese takes the initiative to leave with his people. Glen sees them out while the others regard Rick's outburst with fear.

The Verdict:
The Suicide King didn't waste any time moving some elements along—Andrea is aware that her friends are at the prison, and vice versa. Merle and Daryl left very quickly (though they won't be gone for long, I imagine). And both the Governor and Rick seem to be sharing a descent into their own personal madness.

I enjoyed the little scenes—Carol and Beth, Carol and Carl, and Hershel and Glen. Some would complain that uses up valuable screen time, but it's rare when we get one-on-ones like this without all the group present. Glen's explosive rage against Rick's decision was a great bit, as well. If anything, we see that after all these months the rest of the crew is gaining enough confidence to speak up against Rick's fading leadership skills. 

Rick's mental state appears to be coming to a head sooner rather than later. I'm surprised how he can treat Michonne so shabby either, given she didn't really do anything all that bad. And she was woefully in the background this episode, too, which really made no sense. And what was all that with the baby? Does he see Shane in the child, or was the weight of having to care for the infant finally sinking in?

1 comment:

  1. I’ve always felt Daryl to be an underrated character in this series. He’s a lot more important to the group than the previous episodes have shown and he finally gets recognized for his efforts in this episode—talk about not realizing how important something is until it’s gone. Daryl stands by his “code” and doesn’t ditch his bro behind like everyone thought he should.

    To be honest, I don’t think Rick tried hard enough to get Daryl to stay but back at the camp, the group realizes just what an important strong player they’ve lost. Carol just couldn’t find enough ways to articulate it.

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