Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead "Welcome to the Tombs"

Non Spoiler Review:
Welcome to the Tombs brings Walking Dead's gripping third season to a close, as the prison group prepares for Woodbury's attack. Andrea struggles to free herself while Milton's deception catches up with him. Meanwhile, Rick must deal with Carl's increasingly aloof demeanor.

The finale takes some surprising detours and leads to an unexpected ending given the build up all season. Of course there is tragedy, and the status quo come season four will be quite a different situation.

It left me with mixed feelings given the (not so) unexpected deaths. While there was no absence of gravitas, and the ongoing theme of kill or be killed culminated in some surprising ways, I think many will be disappointed at how the epic confrontation unfolded. That being said, I credit the show for taking chances and departing (very significantly) from the graphic novels in many respects, despite the absence of a favorite character come season four.

Spoilers Now!
The Governor is beating Milton for burning the roamers, blaming him for the eight dead men that resulted. He has to learn to kill or die. Milton counters with what Penny would think about what her father has become. The Governor explains she would be afraid, but had he been that way from the start she'd be alive today. When Milton asks if he killed Andrea, the Governor takes him next door where she's being held.

The Governor orders him to get the tools, but he spills them on the floor, leaving a pair of pliers behind Andrea. He tells Milton to kill her and show him that he learned something. Milton begins to walk back over to her but instead swings the knife at the Governor. But the Governor is too fast and stabs him with a knife to the chest, explaining he's still going to kill Andrea when he turns. He locks the door behind him.

At the prison Carl is packing up his things, pausing to look at the photo of his mother and father. The rest are loading up the vehicles but Carl refuses to speak to Rick, and Glen notes he's never seen him so shut down. Carol consoles Daryl that his brother gave them a chance. Rick continues to see a vision of his wife. Michonne acknowledges Rick had to consider the deal the Governor offered and holds no grudges. She thanks him for taking her in. He tells her Carl made the call.

The Governor rouses Woodbury into a furor to end the prison threat. Tyreese confronts him and explains that he and Sasha aren't going to fight other people and will stay and defend Woodbury while they're gone. If he wants them out, there will be no hard feelings. The Governor takes a weapon and gives it to him, offering his thanks. Sasha wonders what happens when the Governor returns. Tyreese thinks they can slip out like Andrea did. 

The convoy approaches the prison, firing a rocket at the guard tower. They proceed to cover the prison in a hail of machine gun fire, dispatching with the walkers in the yard. The men rush the gates and continue inside but the place appears to be deserted. The Governor finds an open bible with a verse highlighted. He splits up his men to investigate the cell blocks. 

In the bowels of the prison they hear movement, and abruptly set off smoke bombs and alarms, forcing them to flee back out where they're met with gun fire from Maggie and Glen (in armor). Allan gets to the machine gun but it's jammed. The bulk of his militia scatters and drives off, leaving the Governor and Martinez to follow. One is left behind and flees through the woods, only to run into Carl and Hershel. He drops his weapon but Carl shoots him.

Michonne wants to go after them. Maggie and Glen agree they should take the fight back to Woodbury. Rick wants to check on the others first, and Beth, Carl, Hershel and Carol return. Carl wants to come with them and admits to taking out one of their soldiers. Hershel points out the kid stumbled across them and tells Rick the boy was handing his gun over. Carl didn't have to shoot. Rick defends him, but Hershel forces him to hear that he gunned down the boy.

Rick has a chat with his son. Carl maintains the kid had a gun but admits he was handing it over. He couldn't take the chance. He never killed the walker that killed Dale, Rick never killed Andrew and he came back and killed his mother, Rick never killed the Governor and he came back and killed Merle. Carl explains he did what he had to do and Rick needs to go and make sure the Governor doesn't kill any more of them. He tosses his badge to his father and walks off. Glen and Maggie volunteer to stay at the prison to protect it, with Rick, Daryl and Michonne heading on their mission to Woodbury.

The Governor catches up to his militia and forces them to pull over. He insists they're not giving up but the others are firmly in favor of leaving the people at the prison alone. The Governor loses it and massacres all the men and women who want to flee. Allan, who has been loyally at his side, pulls his gun on him but the Governor shoots him in the head. Martinez watches the Governor walk out and shoot the bodies in the head. One woman remains alive hiding underneath a corpse. He runs out of bullets and walks back to his vehicle, and tells Martinez and his other henchman to get in.

A mortally wounded Milton informs Andrea about the pliers behind her. She struggles to reach them and promises he'll be okay, but Milton knows he's going to die and tells her she's going to get free and stab him in the head. She manages to retrieve the tool. He asks her why she didn't stay with her friends once she found them, but Andrea wanted to save everyone. She confesses she had a chance to kill the Governor but she didn't because she wanted to try and save everyone. Milton dies and as Andrea struggles to free herself he begins to reanimate. He rises and comes to her just as she frees her hands. 

Rick, Daryl and Michonne encounter the Governor's massacre on the road, killing the walkers that turned. They find the surviving woman, Karen. They reach Woodbury by nightfall, taking fire from the wall manned by Tyreese and Sasha. Karen speaks up and tells them the Governor killed them all and Rick saved her. Rick calls out that they're coming out and proceed to the fence. Sasha opens the gate and greets them. Rick explains they were coming to finish the Governor but they saw what he did to his own people. He also says Andrea never made it to the prison so she might still be in Woodbury.

Together they go to the Governor's lair and see the blood under the door. They find Milton dead, as well as Andrea lying against the wall. She's feverish. She's been bitten. Rick tells her everyone is alive. She's happy Michonne found them. She just didn't want anyone to die. She tells them she can do it herself while she still can. Rick gives her his gun and Michonne promises to stay with her. They leave them alone. Andrea kills herself.

By dawn they return to the prison with a school bus and Andrea's body. The bus contains the surviving men and women from Woodbury. Rick tells Carl they're going to join them. 

The Verdict:
While I enjoyed the finale for the most part I felt it perhaps wasn't as strong as the previous season ender. There were two notable moments—Carl shooting the boy, and Andrea's death, of course. The former was quite shocking and a powerful moment, leading to a host of ethical questions. Andrea's death, growing ever more inevitable over the last few weeks, was heartfelt, but this is the biggest waste of a character the series has seen, especially one who continues to play such a prominent role in the graphic novels. I was very disappointed they chose this route and it just feels like the series couldn't figure out what to do with her at this point.

Getting back to Carl, I'm very happy they're charting his moral decay so well. With the theme this episode being kill or die, it drew an interesting comparison to the Governor. Yet we're forced to agree with Carl's reasoning that so many of them would still be alive if Rick (and Andrea) had just taken the initiative and killed a few more people.

I'm sad to see Milton go as well. He and Andrea would have rounded out the prison group very well. But in an interesting twist Rick has brought the remaining survivors of Woodbury back to the prison. It was a touching final scene that seemed to be full of hope and promise for the future, but I got the sense that a lot of those people (like the background characters in Lost) are cannon fodder for future attacks. Hopefully there are some interesting personalities in their midst that will shine next year.

Tyreese and Sasha have at last been made part of the group, though I hope he and Rick have a quick chat about the latter's behaviour that sent them running in the first place. I'm glad we got a similar discussion from Michonne acknowledging the tough choice he had to make.

I was debating whether the Governor storyline would completely wrap up or he would be back again, and I'm happy the series chose to send him off for now where he can lick his wounds and come back in full force. Given the prison storyline in the graphic novels was so much longer than what we've got so far, I'm looking forward to some of those additional plot developments to unfold in the next season. The Governor's arc has been fun to watch and much preferable over the full blown villain that appeared in the comics. Now that he's lost his town and pretty much all of his people, when next we see him he will likely be far more unhinged and similar to his literary counterpart.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Spartacus: War of the Damned "Separate Paths"

Non Spoiler Review:
Separate Paths brings the inevitable parting of ways for Spartacus and Crixus. As Spartacus has a change in strategy, his brother in arms can no longer follow and opts to chart his own path. Kore attempts to keep her identity secret within the rebel camp, but it's her loss that has Crassus behaving erratically, raising Caesar's concern that the war (and their future glory) is at risk.

The momentum continues with another epic chapter. This week brought a host of wonderful scenes, most notably between Spartacus and Crixus. Meanwhile, the situation in the Roman camp was equally eventful as Tiberius rises from mere annoyance to true villain.

Separate Paths will be a memorable episode in this series for several reasons. It delivered some shocks beyond the obvious ones, and quite an emotional punch (and considering I watched it on the heels of this week's Walking Dead it certainly made for a draining evening).

Spoilers Now!
The rebels continue their long march even as the Romans attack their rear position. Crassus only sends a few men, enough to slow their advance so his legions can catch up. Spartacus interrogates a prisoner for more information, learning they are four days away. The Roman begs him to spare his life, but Spartacus ignores him, allowing Crixus to finish him off.

Three days later Crassus arrives among the dead on the battlefield. Caesar warns him not to push his legions to collapse in pursuit but Crassus is bound to not let Spartacus slip again from his grasp. He's called back to camp by Senator Metallus who demands an explanation why his campaign hasn't ended the rebellion.

Crassus warns him not to forget their arrangement, and promises to grind Spartacus beneath his heel. But Metallus has already heard rumor his most trusted slave has joined the rebellion. Crassus strikes him, much to the horror of Tiberius and Caesar, who watch him beat the senator until they call him off. Crassus orders him to return to Rome and speak nothing of it lest he put his fortune towards his death. He has the senator put on his horse and the second legion sent after Spartacus.

Crixus continues to disagree with the plan to flee from the Romans. Spartacus is thinking of those less able to engage in battle, even though Crixus points out they're still taking up supplies. Agron confirms their stores are running low. Spartacus realizes they will have to stand and fight eventually. 

Agron remains suspicious of Castus, but Nasir assures him he need only prove himself against the Romans. He suggests Nasir is attracted to him, something the latter denies. Agron lends some aid to Laeta, if more for Spartacus whom he says carries some affection for her. He warns her that Spartacus deserves some small measure of happiness.

Kore rushes to get help as a woman is about to give birth. Spartacus and Agron see to her, as well. Kore delivers the baby boy and Spartacus notes she is good at it. Laeta asks of her master. Kore lies, but Spartacus sees her mark is from Marcus Crassus, forcing her to admit she fled. They fear she's a spy but Laeta comes to her defense. Spartacus gets her to confess that it was not Crassus but his son who had raped her. He gives her to Laeta as her responsibility, but if she's lying, her life will be forfeit. Spartacus confides in Agron they cannot turn away any slave wanting freedom.

Caesar shares his concern with Tiberius that his father's manner has grown erratic since losing Kore. He suggests he provide measured counsel and restore his reason. Tiberius accuses Caesar of giving Kore the opportunity to betray his father but Caesar counters she wanted to speak to Crassus about his son's actions, and asks what he did to her to make her run away. He promises to uncover the truth and Crassus will fall to reason when he realizes Kore was not the one who betrayed him. 

Gannicus and Lugo return from scouting and have found a valley that would provide them with food. Spartacus is pleased and announces they will press north to the Alps and cross them, seeing them free. Thousands of slaves running free beyond the Republic would be beyond Crassus' ability to follow. Crixus is against that. Spartacus asks how many more will fall if they continue in their fight. He would have them finally free. Crixus wants to turn west and attack Rome before Crassus can reach them. Spartacus orders the others to leave so the two rivals can discuss it in private. 

Spartacus admits he fears the reprisal they have drawn from Rome. His concerns have moved beyond revenge. Crixus is tired of running and wants Rome to fall beneath their feet and be truly free. He doesn't believe the Republic will let them slip away after they've shown they can challenge the status quo. Spartacus can't ask him to close his eyes to that notion after having opened them. With or without him, Crixus vows to march on Rome. Spartacus tells him they've fought for the choice to forge their own path, so he will no longer stand in the way of his. Crixus announces they will part ways at the break of dawn.

Spartacus asks one final thing of him. Come morning their army takes the valley and Spartacus declares a feast for Crixus and those who follow the undefeated Gaul. 

Agron feels conflicted about Crixus' departure and admits to Nasir that he's marching with him. Spartacus is his brother but he's not of like mind. There's no life for him beyond the Alps. Nasir assures him he'll be at his side, but Agron wants him to leave with Spartacus. Agron can't bear the thought of leading him to his doom and asks he aid Spartacus and live. 

Spartacus shares a drink with Crixus and confesses it's a wonder they've not killed one another. Crixus muses they've done the impossible, ruined the house of Batiatus, devastated Capua and the Roman horde. If they'd never met fate would have led them to a less glorious path. He hopes they may greet one another again in this life. 

Agron tells Spartacus his intent and they part on good terms. Laeta informs him Kore is grateful she still draws breath. He comments how interesting it is that Laeta has grown fond of her given she was once a domina. He muses her wounds must be healed given she's so argumentative. Their flirtation quickly turns into a kiss. He tells her he can never hold a Roman close to heart, but that's not what she's after, so they enjoy a night of passion.

Come morning Gannicus has final words with Crixus, who asks him to join him. Gannicus admits his journey is to other parts, and Crixus understands, as it appears he and Sybil are now together. Crixus' forces are ready to advance on Rome. Spartacus gets his people prepared for their journey north. Crixus tells him that he will always hold him as a brother. 

Crassus confides in his son that he wonders what he did to send Kore away, but Tiberius admits it could have been his fault for not seeing a closer eye on her. News of the dividing forces reaches them. Caesar realizes with alarm they are moving towards Rome. Tiberius feels that Rome can defend itself, and that Crixus is leading that force while Spartacus moves north. Crassus believes women and children will slow his nemesis.

After their discussion, Caesar remains adamant Rome could fall, infuriating Tiberius that he is questioning his direction. Caesar warns him he knows he forced himself on Kore. A whore witnessed him leave Kore's tent and Caesar can persuade her to talk if necessary. But he won't push Crassus into madness by revealing betrayal. Instead he wants him to advise his father to bring him to reason. Tiberius smashes his cup across Caesar's face, leading them to fight. Tiberius orders his men to seize Caesar and vows he will never lay hands on him again. Caesar warns him he can't kill him, so Tiberius has him held down as he rapes him.

Crixus's army engages the Romans and cuts a bloody path towards Rome. They stand within reach of the capital and Crixus addresses his army to face their last legion, recalling Oenomaus' words to him in the house of Batiatus, that they stand on sacred ground. They win the battle and Crixus kills the general, but as they celebrate they hear the horns of new legions approaching—Crassus and a surprisingly silent Caesar enduring Tiberius' command.

Crixus, upon Naevia's urging, meets the attack. The battle is brutal and Crassus is pulled off his horse. Crixus orders a fall back to reform their forces but Tiberius mortally wounds Agron and he falls on the field. Crixus attempts to kill Crassus to win the day but is set upon by Caesar. Naevia comes to his defense but she's thrown off. When Crixus is about to strike down Caesar Tiberius spears him. Tiberius would not have Caesar taken so easily from the world, and orders the screaming Naevia silenced. Crassus comes up to them and tells his son to retrieve his sword which has been in Crixus' possession. 

Tiberius would see him crucified but Crassus wants to send a message to Spartacus. Crixus shares a last look with Naevia as Tiberius takes his head. 

The Verdict:
The writers wasted no time resolving Spartacus and Crixus' ongoing (and often tiring) dispute by setting them on their separate destinies. It all felt ominous and inevitable, with some the most poignant and well-acted scenes of the season as these powerful and beloved characters said their good-byes to one another as friends and brothers. Yes, we knew they would never see one another again, and Crixus' end is just a precursor to the ultimate resolution of the war that lies ahead, but it was all very well done.

Agron's fate was questionable. After all this time as Spartacus' loyal right hand, to have him opt to go along with Crixus because he saw no life for himself outside of battle had me scratching my head. It seemed an easy out to send Nasir off into the waiting arms of Castus after so much was invested in their relationship. His death came so quickly I would have hoped for a more herioc send off for him.

After the visually spectacular Mor Indecepta, this week brought an even more fantastic series of battles that kept me riveted to the screen. Only once (when Crixus prepared to attack the advancing Roman army) did the rendering look a bit sketchy. The series should be applauded for delivering such quality on a weekly basis.

And Spartacus wastes no time in exposing plots either—Kore's true identity could have been played out awhile longer, but is revealed right off the bat, so she seems to be an ally, and now in the care of Laeta, perhaps ensuring she might make it out of the series alive, as well, if the other does. Spartacus and Laeta's union was hasty, but didn't seem too forced, given they both admitted they only wanted a no strings attached romp before facing the new day.

Despite Tiberius' will it would seem that Crassus regained his reason and marched towards Rome's salvation. Most surprising was Tiberius getting the upper hand on Caesar with the shocking and unexpected rape. Not only that, but he killed both Agron and Crixus, and has sealed his fate as the true villain of the season. I can't see the writers allowing him to survive this, especially since Crassus and Caesar's destinies are in stone.

That leads to my only criticism—the vague passage of time from Crixus leaving Spartacus' ranks and reaching striking distant of Rome. One would think it would be at least a few weeks, but Crassus' comment about Caesar having difficulty sitting on his horse seems at odds with that. I realize the series can't take its time getting them to battle, and they did and effective job with their bloody montage showing Crixus' progress, but it was jarring finding them suddenly in sight of Rome given the more leisurely pace of the first half.

So much for my theory that Agron and Nasir would survive to find a life together outside the Republic. According to historical accounts Gannicus died with Crixus, so now I'm leaning towards him and Sybil making their escape in the series' final scene. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Vikings "Trial"

Non Spoiler Review:
As Ragnar oversees his second raid in Northumbria, he raises the ire of the Saxon King Aelle. Back home, Haraldson takes Ragnar to task for events that occurred on the voyage, leading to retaliation against his friends. Brother Rollo is offered an interesting proposition, and Athelstan continues to integrate into the Lothbrok family while questioning his faith.

Vikings has really hit its stride with Trial, an episode that had plenty of action, political schemes and twists. The pacing is brisk and there's no moment where it feels the series is spinning its wheels with filler. Fans of Lagertha will be pleased she gets more of the spotlight this week.

Ragnar remains an intriguing figure whose hubris may lead to his downfall, as well as anyone unfortunate to be associated with him. It's clear the rest of the series will be dealing with his rivalry with the Earl, but has he also created an enemy across the sea?

Spoilers Now!
Ragnar has taken a surviving soldier prisoner to find out where the village is. They make their way there and Rollo wants to attack right away, but Ragnar decides to postpone until the next day given it's a large town and they have few men. It's Saturday and Ragnar teases they'll soon understand why attacking the next day will be beneficial. 

Ragnar advises his wife not to take any foolish risks or get separated from the others. By morning he attempts to quell the impatience of his men and tells them to wait and listen. They hear church bells, and he then leads them off, leaving their captive tied to a tree.

The men scale the walls of the village and proceed inside where they open up the vacant houses. Ragnar hears the church service in the chapel and they break in. Some men rise to attack but are cut down by the northmen while the rest cower. Ragnar calmly tells the priest he will not hurt them if they don't resist, and then begin to plunder the treasures.

Rollo finds a sick old man in his home, but instead of killing him he fills his water and gives him the cup to drink from (though he takes it when he's finished). Meanwhile, Floki horrifies the congregation by drinking the communion wine, then kills the priest himself.

Knut scavenges another house and finds two children inside. He begins to rape the girl but is discovered by Lagertha who orders him to leave her alone. Knut shoves her away so she stabs him. He slams her head into a rock, deciding to rape her instead. She manages to stab him again and finishes him off. 

The surviving soldier who escaped the battle makes his way to King Aelle, who wants to know who attacked. They believe it's the same men who raided the monastery. 

Lagertha rendezvous with the others and Ragnar notices Knut is missing. She explains she killed him given he raped a Saxon and tried to rape her. Ragnar angrily asks his brother where he was when all this was happening. They head back to shore only to find a contingent of soldiers waiting on the beach for them. 

Ragnar leads them onto the beach where they secure themselves behind a wall of shields to fend off the first volley of arrows. The soldiers rush them but they stay their ground, pressing forward against the onslaught of spears. They slowly pick off the Saxons by maintaining their shield wall. The Saxon leaders watch from horseback as their men are routed and the northmen charge after them, forcing them to flee.

Ragnar and his men bury their fallen and Eric vows King Aelle must suffer for it. Ragnar assures him one day he will if the gods will it. Then he thanks his prisoner for keeping his word directing them to the town, and lets him have a drink. He asks if he wants to live and the man nods. So he leaves Rollo to kill him.

King Aelle is advised of the fierce nature of the northmen. Two of them who were guarding the boat were captured and killed, but they did give up one word—Ragnar.

Back on the farm Athelstan is dealing with Bjorn's rebellion. He refuses to allow Bjorn to go off on his own, so the boy suggests the three of them go to the village. Later, Athelstan wonders where his lord is, asking if it's His will that he's living with heathens. He admits he's angry with Him for allowing his brothers to be slaughtered. Athelstan sees an owl watching him from the rafters, then goes to talk to Bjorn and tells them they'll all go together as he wished.

The ship returns home again and the northmen haul their treasure to Haraldson. Ragnar explains the Saxons attacked them in great force but they defeated them. Haraldson is happy to salute his achievements and share in his profit, but asks where Knut is. Ragnar admits he's dead and he killed him because he tried to rape his wife. Haraldson finds that too convenient and orders him arrested. Ragnar stills his men and is taken away.

Haraldson summons Rollo to his table asking about his brother's character. He suggests Ragnar considers himself first among equals and takes credit for everything. Haraldson can give him a great deal and offers him a large portion of the treasure. But it's time he stepped out from under his brother's shadow. He brings in his daughter who needs to be married to someone with ambition and prospect. His two boys were killed, so the man he chooses will hold a high place, as if he were his own. Siggy enters and introduces herself, commenting she has heard he is a great warrior.

Lagertha is reunited with her children and they and Athelstan attend Ragnar's trial. Haraldson admits Knut was his half-brother and he loved him. Ragnar is an ambitious man who doesn't respect their traditions or his loyalty to his chief. Ragnar confesses he killed Knut but did so when he found him trying to rape his wife. He asks all free men what they would have done in his place. Even if he had known he was his brother he would have done it. Lagertha speaks up that she can confirm the story. Haraldson accuses her of lying for her husband, so she tells Thor to strike him down. She reveals she killed Knut when he tried to rape her. 

Haraldson can't believe she killed his brother and reiterates that Ragnar did, and they have a witness. Rollo steps forward declaring he saw Ragnar murder Knut, but then adds he had good reason. He explains Knut was caught trying to rape Lagertha, his lawful wife, and so he cannot punish him. Haraldson was not expecting that and Ragnar is freed.

Ragnar celebrates with his men and suggests he owes Rollo a debt. His brother looks forward to collecting it. He toasts to his friends and freedom. Then he sits with Athelstan, asking him to drink with him and thanks him for taking care of his children. Lagertha is equally grateful to Rollo for what he did, but he admits he didn't do it for his brother, but for her. She doesn't want to believe that.

The party is attacked by several men, leading to a bloody battle where Eric is killed. Furious, Ragnar ends up leaving the farm to sit alone on the cliff. Athelstan is curious at his behaviour, but then tells Lagertha he realizes what he's doing. He's preparing himself. 

Haraldson consults the oracle to ask if he's under threat. There is a quarrel, there will be violence, the priest explains. If Ragnar kills Haraldson, he will be earl. Haraldson always thought the gods favored him, but he reminds the Earl the gods allowed his sons to die. Haraldson asks if they really exist, and the oracle laughs. 

The Verdict:
Trial was a healthy mix of blood, politics and drama, including an impressive battle scene that highlighted the viking fighting style. Will King Aelle retaliate, or do the Saxons have the ability to cross the sea?

The rest of the cast continues to evolve and Lagertha is certainly shining as a strong ally to her husband. Rollo managed to redeem himself significantly (if not curiously) for refusing to betray his brother, but equally in sparing the old man in the village.

Once again Ragnar—this time blatantly—let's Rollo do his dirty work by killing the prisoner. That in itself was perhaps more odious than had he been bold enough to do it himself. What's behind his need to keep his hands clean? He told the priest he was safe, but Floki killed him too, and there seems to be no repercussions when his will is disobeyed.

Ragnar is clearly ambitious and arrogant, and if he believes the gods are on his side he can lead many more of his friends to their doom. It's inevitable he confronts Haraldson, but will the series end with him being named chief? If so, will he be the type of leader who lets his henchmen do all his dirty work?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead "This Sorrowful Life"

Non Spoiler Review:
This Sorrowful Life sees Rick dealing with the Governor's looming deadline, as he enlists Daryl and Merle's aid in capturing Michonne to hand over to Woodbury. While Rick soul searches, Merle takes matters into his own hands. With their survival up in the air, Glen makes a decision about Maggie.

This was a surprising little gem on the eve of the season finale, providing some twists and great character moments. After a Woodbury-focused episode, things shift back to the prison and on Merle as he struggles with adapting to life among his brother's family.

Michonne continues to evolve, this time sharing the focus with the Dixon brothers. Aside from the riveting drama, there were some novel zombie kills and innovative ways of using them, making for a fun and surprisingly poignant ending.

Spoilers Now!
Rick has brought Daryl into his conspiracy with Hershel to hand over Michonne. Daryl and Hershel both think it's treacherous, but Rick feels it's the only way to avoid a fight, and wants to enlist Merle's aid, too. He goes to talk to him, finding Merle tearing open a mattress in search of hidden drugs, but with no luck.

Rick needs his help and explains the Governor's offer. Merle says if he gives Michonne over to him the Governor isn't going to kill her, but slowly torture her for his pleasure, and if Rick allows that he's as cold as ice. But they'll need wire, he suggests, so Michonne can't chew through it. 

As they plan for an assault, Michonne suggests they don't have to win, just make it more trouble than it's worth for the Governor to attack. As Carol sees to the baby, she asks Merle if he's with them. As usual he replies that he's with his brother, but he notices she's not scared of things like she was in the camp. She comments she's a late bloomer, perhaps like him.

Daryl addresses the tension with Glen, explaining his brother is sorry for what he's done and he'll make it right, even if Daryl has to force him. Glen can accept what he did to him, but not what he did to Maggie. Daryl finds his brother looking for drugs and learns Rick has spoken with him already, but Merle doesn't think Rick has the stomach for it. Merle chides his brother that he needs to grow up, while his people look at him like he's the devil. But now Rick wants to do the same thing Merle did. Daryl just wants his brother back. 

Rick gathers up wire but is having difficulty with his task and sees Lori again. Hershel is about to confront Rick but he admits he can't go through with it anyway. Unfortunately Merle has already brought Michonne down into the corridors to clear out walkers and instead knocks her out and drags her into a cell, tying her up. He makes off with her from the prison, explaining about the Governor's offer to Rick. He got it done while Rick wouldn't have gone through with it. He figures he's there to do their dirty work for them just as he did in Woodbury.

Rick advises Daryl the plan is off but can't find Merle and Michonne anywhere. Daryl takes Rick to the room where he and Merle last talked, finding evidence that he took Michonne. Daryl goes off in search, promising to come back to them. 

Merle confesses he killed sixteen men since reaching Woodbury. Michonne points out a truly evil person wouldn't feel the weight of what they've done. They arrive at a motel and he ties her to a post while he scavenges for a working vehicle. He hot wires a car but sets off the alarm, drawing a multitude of walkers. Michonne calls him to set her loose but he's too busy trying to shut it off. She fights them off as Merle gets attacked in the car. Merle cuts her free and the two drive off. 

Glen confides in Hershel about his problem forgiving Merle. He wants to marry Maggie given their uncertain future, and Hershel gives his blessing. Glen peruses the fence searching for a walker with a wedding ring and cuts it off.

On the drive, Michonne reiterates that Merle is just around to do other people's dirty work, whereas Rick needs and respects his brother, and never asked Daryl to do the job. This could have been his new beginning, she says, but he chose to stay on the outside. No one will mourn him, not even his brother, who has a new family. Once the Governor is done with her she at least won't have to live with herself.

She asks if he ever killed anyone before the apocalypse before he met the Governor. Merle says no. She wants to know why he would continue to kill for him. They can just go back, she suggests, but Merle confesses he can't. Troubled, he stops the car and cuts her bonds. He tells her to go back with Daryl and be ready for what's next. He has something he's got to do on his own. He gives her her sword back and drives off without her. 

Daryl finds Michonne, asking where his brother is. She explains he let her go, so he runs off in search of him. Merle is parked in his car by a bar, with the music loud to draw a crowd or roamers around him as he downs some whiskey. He slowly drives ahead allowing them to follow to the farm where Rick and the Governor met, then dives out and heads into the shed as the large horde lumbers along after the car.

The Governor's men are outside waiting, alerted to the music and go to investigate. Merle watches from inside while Martinez and his men start killing the walkers. Merle beings picking off the Governor's men during the commotion, but Martinez notices the additional gunshots. Merle has the Governor in his sights when he's attacked by a biter, leading Martinez to find him. Merle gets pulled down and beaten up, then the Governor drags him inside to a brutal fight where he bites off Merle's fingers. Merle won't beg. The Governor says no, and shoots him.

Glen takes a moment and puts the ring in Maggie's hand. She says yes. They join the group as Rick has called a meeting. He comes clean about the Governor's true offer and confesses he has changed his mind. But Merle has taken Michonne and he doesn't know if it's too late. He was wrong not to tell them and apologizes. He declares it can't be his dictatorship anymore. They are the greater good, how they live and how they die. He's not their governor and they stick together. He wants to vote on their next course of action and leaves them to discuss. From the lookout tower he sees Michonne returning. 

Daryl arrives at the farm and finds some of the roamers feeding on the dead. One of them is Merle and he raises his head to him. Daryl breaks down as he rises and comes towards him. He pushes his brother away and finally puts an end to him, stabbing his face repeatedly. 

The Verdict:
An alternate title would be the Redemption of Merle Dixon. The series did a decent job diverting expectations, as I was beginning to get used to the idea of Merle integrating with the prison group, so his death ended up being a surprise. But the combined forces of Daryl, Carol, Rick and Michonne seems to have made an impact and forced him into an epiphany that he was never going to fit in.

Who better than to play off Merle than Michonne? Their car ride made for some great scenes and a heartfelt moment when he set her free. It wouldn't have worked with any other characters except these two.

It's unfortunate his plan didn't produce better results. The Governor must seriously be on his sixth or seventh life by now. During their fight I was expecting Merle might inflict some additional maiming before getting killed, but again, our Governor managed to escape unscathed.

Need I mention the closing scene, which was easily one of Daryl's best. But the direction in focusing on Merle's eyes was just as important in creating an effective final moment between the Dixon brothers (and kind of reminiscent of the bicycle girl from the first episode in humanizing the zombies).

On another note, I never realized until watching the Talking Dead that one of Merle's victims was Ben, and he was apparently chowing down on him in the final scene. That leaves Allan out for blood next week, I guess (and not long for this world either).

Of all the scenes in This Sorrowful Life, it's Rick's that felt the weakest. That's likely just my own prejudice playing in given how wishy-washy his character is right now. I guess that's the point, given his big moment was to step down from the Ricktatorship and restore democracy. How this all unfolds next week remains a big question. I don't care so much if they stay at the prison, as long as Andrea (with Milton, Tyreese and Sasha in tow) is integrated back into the fold of our favorite survivors. Will the Governor storyline be completely resolved? If so, there's so much from the graphic novels they didn't deal with, so I suspect it could very well continue on into season four. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: Spartacus: War of the Damned "Mors Indecepta"

Non Spoiler Review:
Mors Indecepta carries on the game of brinkmanship between Crassus and Spartacus as the rebel army remains trapped between the Roman trench and the approaching army. Crixus and Spartacus disagree on their next course, while a severe storm batters their ranks. In Sinuessa en Valle, Kore gets some unpleasant news which leads her to take some drastic action, even as Crassus puts the pieces in place to ensure his final victory.

This was undoubtedly the most stunning Spartacus: War of the Damned episode to date (and perhaps of the series)—set against the white blanket of the storm, the vivid colours of the Roman regalia and the rebels was gorgeous. I'm loving the aerial shots of the massing armies this season, too. As I've said often enough this year, the creators have succeeded in delivering on the epic scale of the story.

Not just visually engrossing, the story was equally unpredictable, with plenty of drama to be had. Deception is the theme this week as Mors Indecepta further intensified the battle of wills between Crassus and Spartacus and how its fallout is devastating the men and women under their command. 

Spoilers Now!
The trench is full of bodies of those rebels attempting to scale the battlements only to be speared by the Romans manning the wall. Before an account of the dead can be had, Nasir alerts Spartacus that Crassus' army is approaching via the mountain pass, so Spartacus leads his forces to meet them. He opts not to advance against them, raising Crixus' ire, who is eager to spill Roman blood. The two forces face down one another as the legion stops its advance and begins to make camp. Spartacus wisely remembers his time from the auxiliary and realized the Romans were not in a formation to attack. They are awaiting Crassus' arrival.

Back in the city Crassus gives Tiberius his armor back, as he would have his son at his side as they approach the end of the rebellion. A reinstated and proud Tiberius visits Kore in the kitchen, announcing that when the war is over he'll stay in Sinuessa to handle his father's business, and Kore shall remain there with him. Soon, he tells her, they will enjoy the leisure of time to let him repay her for all she's done. Kore is, of course, horrified.

A storm is coming, and Gannicus remains distracted, rebuffing Saxa's advances to make the best of the time they might have left. Castus receives the brunt of hostility given the death of so many in the city due to the Cilicians. Nasir saves him from a beating and Castus declares he wishes to help take arms against the Romans, a decision Nasir promises to convey to the others. Later, Agron frees him and agrees to let him fight, as much as a favor to make amends with Nasir.

In the tent of the wounded Spartacus visits Laeta, who is wallowing in despair at her fate. He sees she now bears the brand of a slave and shows her his own brand of the house of Batiatus, telling her to go on living.

As Crassus prepares to depart, Kore brings him his afternoon meal, but also needs to speak. She asks if she's to serve his son in the city after he leaves. Crassus is annoyed Tiberius revealed that fact already, but he promises to speak with her again once the battle is won and rushes off.

Spartacus notices Crassus has placed his praetorian tent in a relatively exposed location and suggests they attack them there with a small force. Crixus prefers a bolder attack with a clash of armies. Spartacus asks him to stay at his side and when Crassus is dead and his forces in disarray they will destroy their legions. 

As the storm descends, Spartacus, Agron, Crixus, Naevia, Saxa and Gannicus make their way to the praetorian tent only to find Donar's dead body crucified inside and carved with the words mors indecepta—death cannot be deceived. It's a trap, of course. They emerge to make their escape but are set upon by a group of soldiers. After a pitched battle Spartacus saves a wounded Naevia and carries her off the battlefield. The Romans call them cowards, so Crixus turns back and fights them. Spartacus orders him back as reinforcements approach and they flee to safety.

Crassus isn't pleased Spartacus slipped away again but realizes the time for plots is ended and summons Tiberius and Caesar. He orders Caesar to retrieve the remaining troops from Sinuessa and fall under Tiberius' command for the coming battle. When he balks, Crassus reminds him it was Crassus who took the city, not Caesar. Caesar falls in line and Crassus assures him they will seize the heavens as promised. 

Back in Sinuessa Tiberius takes the opportunity to gloat, and an angry Caesar finds Kore watching his tantrum. She explains she fears a Tiberius who has been restored to power. Caesar wonders how she would dare speak against her master, but she confides in him privately to reveal how Tiberius has become their common enemy. She assures him she's been as wounded as Caesar has been. Caesar is reluctant to cast his lot with her, but hears her out.

Naevia is thankful to Spartacus for saving her. Crixus is less than grateful, and suggests this all wouldn't have happened if they'd moved to direct battle like he suggested instead of falling for a trap by a more devious mind. Spartacus refuses to march them all to certain death, but Crixus declares he won't die with a sword in his back. He decides to gather those of like mind to fight Crassus. Spartacus demands he fall to command, so Crixus breaks an ice-filled mug across his face, reminding him he's not a god. The two men have a brutal fist fight until Gannicus and Agron pull them off one another. 

The brunt of the storm hits, forcing everyone to shelter. Caesar arrives in the Roman camp without any notice, bringing Kore directly to Crassus. He leaves them alone and is discovered by Tiberius, who is furious he did not wait for him. Caesar warns him to pause before seeking his father's audience, as he's with Kore and she was desperate to make word with him. Caesar could not deny her, though claims he doesn't know what it's about. 

Crassus is a little annoyed with Kore's breach of protocol, but promises Caesar will see her back to the city when the storm passes. She asks if she is to be banished from him when the war is over, but Crassus assures her he's claimed the city so he has a place to visit her free from prying eyes. He would have her there to counsel Tiberius, as well. When she delicately suggests there might be some things that would divide him from his son, Crassus remarks he can't see anything that would make him withhold forgiveness from him. Kore begins to weep, but says everything is very clear to her now, then enjoys the night with him. After, as Crassus lies sleeping, Kore takes a knife.

Saxa comes looking for Gannicus so Spartacus goes off in search for him in the storm. Sybil has been seeking answers to the gods through a blood offering with some of her devout friends, but Gannicus takes her back to shelter under a wagon before she freezes to death and mends her wound. She kisses him and the two end up having sex.

Having failed to find Gannicus, Spartacus returns to shelter and tells Saxa to remain inside. Laeta offers he share her blanket. As the storm breaks Spartacus learns nearly a thousand have died in the night. Gannicus and Sybil meet up with them. Finding her former friends frozen to death in prayer, Sybil sees the gods have replied to their pleas. 

Spartacus goes to confront Crixus, who is even more angry now that they've lost a thousand men. Spartacus explains the trench and the wall is not only a barrier to escape, but also to what lies beyond it. Perhaps there are only a few men holding it. 

Taking a great tactical risk, they attack the trench and pull down some of the fortifications, picking off the Romans who try to stop them. Scaling the cliff they see only a few hundred waiting for them beyond. As they rush to the camp other rebels begin to bring down the wall and file through to lend aid.

Crassus is woken and advised the rebels have breached the wall. He commands the legions to formation but can't find Kore. He looks outside his tent to see a dead guard. 

The rebels succeed in breaking through and defeating the Romans on the other side. Their numbers escape through the opening in the barrier, and among them is Kore. Crassus and his men are alerted that Spartacus' army is gone from the mountain pass. They wonder how they could span the trench, but when they get there they see it has been filled with the frozen bodies of their own dead to allow passage across.

An angry Crassus orders the legion to advance to reclaim what is his, but he's nearly killed by a spear as the rebels have been lying in wait behind the battlements. Spartacus meets Crassus' eyes again for a moment before the imperator retreats under their spears and arrows. Spartacus declares they will see themselves far from there and honor the fallen with future victories, and the blood of Marcus Crassus.

The Verdict:
Mors Indecepta ranks as one of the best of the season, and as I mentioned, the most visually enjoyable to be sure. It held its fair share of surprises, too—Kore actually joined the rebels, while I thought suicide was definitely going to be her way out. How much of an asset or bane to Spartacus she can be will play out in the final episodes, though she could just as easily fade into the background. She's yet another curious addition to the rebel ranks that include Castus, Laeta and Sybil. Are they throwaway subplots at this late juncture, or will they actually have a bearing on plot?

At least Sybil got a bit more development to her character. I'm just not feeling any type of chemistry with Gannicus, though. Oddly enough Saxa came off as less of a caricature this week in her conversation with Spartacus. I almost wished the two of them would hook up.

I was wondering how the rebels would get out of this mess, and it was a nail-biter right to the end. It was a fitting victory for them, albeit a costly one. I dare to question Crassus' strategies though—why put such a small force to ambush Spartacus at his praetorian when he could have sent in hundreds of men to end him once and for all? He's not above sacrificing men (like the poor guards who were stationed at the tent). I guess his hubris will be his downfall. That and his personal life, which he's curiously blind to. Odd that Crassus can read and manipulate Spartacus but can't see through his son and is incredibly dense when it came to hearing Kore's concerns. Will her loss shake his confidence in battle?

My main critique is the rivalry between Crixus and Spartacus. I'm beating a dead horse each week by reiterating this, but I'm still not getting a reason for the depth of animosity from Crixus. There's much talk that he's reverted back to his gladiator days, and that seems to be the case. Is it because he's so in love with Naevia he's blinded by everything else? While making for a great scene, it didn't feel right. Historically there are reports of dissent in the leadership of the rebels, prompting reckless actions, so that may be the impetus from the writers in turning Crixus this way.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Vikings "Dispossessed"

Non Spoiler Review:
Dispossessed brings the raiders home with their slaves and bounty, but they are received with mixed reactions. Athelstan learns more of his new foreign home, but proves a valuable resource for Ragnar.

Vikings continues to deliver another compelling episode, and my earlier critiques about the monk were answered with some fleshing out of his character. The series doesn't sit on its heels for very long. A second voyage is commissioned and the crew gets back on the sea for a different encounter that is sure to have some serious consequences.

My only critique is the glazing over of the passage of time (or the lack thereof). It's still unclear how long the sea voyage took. I'm guessing only a couple of days. But the time spent back home is equally vague—mere days or weeks? Given some of the decisions Ragnar makes, it does affect the plot, so I hope we get some further explanation.

Spoilers Now!
Bjorn is greeted by Haraldson's henchman Svein, who arrives at their farm asking where his father is. Lagertha explains he's gone fishing. However, he must take someone back to the Earl in case Ragnar has not gone fishing. Seeing she's holding an axe, he thinks better of taking Bjorn, and instead tells another boy in the village to come with him. 

The ship approaches home, and Ragnar speaks with Athelstan, learning they had indeed reached England. Athelstan is more eager to explain he's there because he's receiving God's judgement. Ragnar points out he spared his life, but doesn't really know why yet. One of the other captured monks has died so they throw him overboard. 

The boat is met by a multitude, and Ragnar is saluted for being right about the land and plunder to the west. He finds Knut among them, who advises him Haraldson has summoned them. In the great hall the treasures are displayed and Ragnar explains it was all ripe for the taking, with the priests putting up no fight. To sail there would benefit them all. 

Haraldson asks how he found the place when all before had failed. Ragnar explains they were more fortunate than others, with Thor on their side. The Earl reminds him all their bounty belongs to him by right. Ragnar protests that he and his crew are entitled to some reward, but the Earl counters they should not expect payment if they took their treasure so easily. Haraldson allows the men to each take one thing from the hall, and the world can see how magnanimous he is, especially since Ragnar disobeyed him in the first place.

To the surprise of all, Ragnar chooses Athelstan for his slave, but Haraldson grants it. Afterwards Rollo wants to know why his brother gave everything away so easily and wishes he had never put his faith in him. Ragnar reminds him the Earl is looking for an excuse to kill them. Rollo reveals he took a bag full of coins in addition to his treasure. Ragnar is furious with him for doing something so stupid and advises him to spend it all on whores so the Earl certainly finds out he stole from him.

Siggy and Haraldson delight in their new found treasures. She congratulates him for displaying his power and authority, but it's apparent the Earl is impotent when it comes to his wife.

Ragnar returns to his village to greet his daughter and son. Lagertha is pleased to see him but asks about the treasure he promised. Though the Earl took it all, he found the land he sought, and he introduces the priest to his family as proof. The strange man proves to be a subject of interest for the two children who poke and prod him while Ragnar and Lagertha enjoy their reunion.

As Athelstan prays in the night, Ragnar and Lagertha ask him to join them in a threesome, but he confesses he's taken vows of celibacy. That prompts Lagertha to attempt some seduction but Athelstan protests his God would know and continues praying. Later, Athelstan realizes his hair is growing back, so takes a knife to shave the top of his head. He makes a bloody mess of it, prompting laughs at his strange customs.

Haraldson still has his captive boy from the village, and he's helping to dig a secluded pit in the woods. The Earl muses his own son would be his age had he lived. Once it's deep enough they bury the looted treasures. The boy asks why, and he's reminded that Odin promised they would receive their bounty in the next life, though it requires a guardian to care for it in this life and the next. Haraldson and his henchman kill the boy and bury him with the gold and silver.

Ragnar gets Athelstan drunk and asks him about England and its ruler. The monk explains there are four kingdoms with four kings and they landed in Northumbria, whose king is Aelle, a great and powerful man. Before he came they had no need to protect their monastery. Ragnar asks why his god needs silver and gold. He assumes he's a greedy god like Loki. Christians give their riches to the church to save their souls, the priest replies. Ragnar asks to learn some of his language, so Athelstan agrees. 

Returning to the village, Ragnar and Athelstan see the other captured monks hung up dead. Ragnar visits Haraldson to ask to sail west again, revealing Athelstan has told a great deal about the countries to the west, as well as a large town near to his temple. Athelstan is horrified that's why he was asked for the information and protests he was lying. That proves it's worth a visit to Haraldson and Ragnar. He has nothing to lose as Ragnar reminds him he's more expendable than the Earl. Haraldson sanctions the raid on the condition that Knut goes with him to keep an eye on his interests. Haraldson wants Knut to find out how Ragnar is navigating the sea.

As they leave Athelstan prays for his fallen comrades and Ragnar cuts his bonds, telling him he can run away if he wishes. The priest follows him home. This time Ragnar asks Lagertha if she's coming along. He's putting the priest in charge of the farm while they're away, which infuriates Bjorn. Ragnar regards Athelstan as a responsible person, though Lagertha warns him that if any harm befalls her children she'll tear his lungs from his body.

The next day the boat sets sail. Knut spies on Floki and Ragnar as they chart their course. Rollo sees him and nearly strangles him, warning him that their war band lives and dies together. If he can't trust the men on either side of him then he's already a dead man. Knut admits he made a mistake by not coming along before and fears Odin will judge him harshly if he doesn't come this time. 

On the coast of Northumbria the ship is spotted, and as the party comes ashore they're met by an equal number of soldiers. In English, Ragnar explains they are traders. The other man says he is the sheriff and can take them to meet the king to discuss commerce. Rollo warns his brother it's a trap and Eric suggests they kill them. The Sheriff sees them arguing, and asks why they won't come with them. Ragnar says they will come, but Rollo refuses. Ragnar confesses to the sheriff that Rollo doesn't trust him, so as a sign of good faith the man gives Rollo his badge of office to hold.

Floki spies a cross around a soldier's neck and tears it off. That prompts swords to be drawn, and before the sheriff can stop them his men attack. The vikings slaughter the Northumbrians, but one man manages to flee on horseback as his countrymen are cut down. 

The Verdict:
Dispossessed continues a string of compelling episodes as the series continually improves. And while moving at a brisk pace, it took enough of a break to flesh out the character of Athelstan as he was integrated into the Lothbrok household. He's certainly fortunate to have hooked up with Ragnar, who sees the value in his knowledge but is not above exploiting it. After seeing what's happened to his brothers Athelstan opts to keep his lot with Ragnar, which earns him the trust to care for the family and the farm.

As for historical accuracy, I can't speak to the cultural openness expressed by Ragnar and Lagertha. Their polytheist ways no doubt afford them a much more accepting world view than Christianity. A threesome is one thing, but I do wonder how realistic is was that Ragnar would put someone he's known for barely a week in charge of his farm (and potentially his children should they both die). I guess he sees that the devote Athelstan would feel responsible to look after them.

That raises a criticism I mentioned above—how much time has passed between sea voyages? I'm guessing a week at most, but if that's the case I question if Ragnar could pick up enough of the language to strike up a conversation with the Northumbrian sheriff. Unless I missed something and a much longer stretch of time passed, it didn't feel plausible at all.

I also wasn't clear as to Ragnar's intent once they disembarked in Northumbria. Was he thinking on getting an audience with the king himself once that option was raised, or did he see it as a potential trap like his brother? It looked like things would have proceeded more smoothly had Floki not intervened, so it will be interesting to see where the repercussions fall once events settle back down. 

It's difficult to judge the northmen, as it was hard to tell if the Northumbrians were being genuine either. The switch to subtitles (used successfully here and there whenever encountering a foreigner in the last few episodes) were especially effective in sharing the confusion of the two cultures with the viewer.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead "Prey"

Non Spoiler Review:
Prey takes a break from the prison and focuses on the rising unease within Woodbury. Andrea, Milton and Tyreese are faced with difficult decisions as it's evident an armed assault against the prison is imminent despite the talk of negotiation. That leads to a tension-filled stand off as the Governor opts to personally deal with the dissension in his ranks.

For the most part this was a prison-less episode, giving Andrea a much-needed spotlight to digest the recent developments and revelations about her lover. Add to that mix the increasingly interesting Milton, as well as Tyreese and Sasha for a riveting Walking Dead that included more than a couple of jump-out-of-your-seat moments.

Prey kept me guessing until the last scene. The pieces all appear in place now for the final two episodes of the season. What's interesting is things could play out in any number of ways, with the fates of an equal number of characters hanging in the balance.

Spoilers Now!
In a flashback, Andrea and Michonne are camped out in the woods with their disarmed roamer guardians chained to a tree. Andrea asks her where she found her two companions, but realizes Michonne knew them. All she says in answer is they deserved what they got—they weren't human to begin with. 

In the present, the Governor is in his chamber of horrors preparing the place for a future occupant. Milton finds Martinez arming up a truck in preparation for attack. Milton goes to the Governor's warehouse where he sees him assembling his tools and confronts him about his plan. Milton understands his vendetta against Michonne, but the people at the prison are innocent. The Governor replies that if there is still a spark of humanity in the walkers like Milton suspects, then that was Penny who died. 

Milton goes on to tell Andrea that the Governor has asked for Michonne but will kill them all at the prison anyway. Andrea thought there was a deal on the table. He takes Andrea to look in on the Governor's lair and tells her to go warn the prison. She realizes she has to kill the Governor, who happens to walk in. They secretly watch him lay out a needle and thread and whistle into a tape recorder. She takes out her gun to shoot him but Milton stops her. After they get back home Milton maintains that the Governor is a good man deep down, and even if she kills him it will be Martinez who takes over. Andrea decides she has to warn the prison and Milton will come with her. She assures him he'll be fine there, but Milton is adamant he belongs in Woodbury. Andrea tells him if he stays he can't keep looking the other way.

Andrea gets stopped by Martinez to collect her weapon as ordered by the Governor for the coming attack. She reluctantly hands it over. The Governor apologizes for not telling her earlier. He wanted to keep her safe. He wants her with them when they go to meet Rick the next day.

Tyreese and Sasha are on the back wall, taking practice shooting roamers. Her father isn't the best shot. Andrea tells them a pack of walkers have been seen approaching the main gate and they need to go help. Tyreese won't leave without Martinez's approval, so Andrea comes clean, telling them she's leaving. Tyreese won't let her, but she pulls a knife. Andrea explains the Governor is not who he seems to be, he's done terrible things and planning worse. She warns them to leave, too. Tyreese lets her climb over the fence and she runs off.

They go to warn the Governor, who assures them they did the right thing not to confront her. He appears worried that she can't take care of herself as, according to him, she was out there all winter by herself. He realizes she'd been alone too long and asks if Andrea said anything else. Tyreese doesn't have any information to offer, and worries that he complicated things by letting her go. The Governor asks him to go help Martinez.

The Governor then crosses paths with Milton, who asks if Andrea is gone. The Governor's going after her. Milton asks him to let her go. The Governor realizes he talked to her and knew she was leaving. Furious, he demands to know if Milton compromised their secrets and realizes Andrea also knows about Michonne. He storms off. 

Martinez orders Tyreese to meet them at the truck to be ready to roll, but won't say to where. Allan and Ben are there, too, and seems to think Andrea is crazy to begin with, but Tyreese wonders why she said so much against the Governor. They warn Tyreese not to make waves. Allan has plenty of issues with Tyreese, especially because Donna apparently fell for him. Martinez interrupts their argument to get going on the road. Allan warns they aren't finished with the matter.

Martinez takes his group to the pit they've used to capture walkers. Sasha and Tyreese realize they're bringing them to their meeting at the prison. Tyreese thinks it's all sick and refuses to do it. Martinez suggests he explain himself to the Governor when he gets back. Allan warns Tyreese he doesn't speak for them and he can look after his boy just fine. Like he looked after Donna, Tyreese shoots back, and the two come to blows. He holds Allan over the open pit but Sasha calms him down. Martinez orders his other man to take them all back to town.

Andrea makes her way down the highway and hears an approaching vehicle, forcing her to run off into the trees. She watches the truck pass but is grabbed by a walker as several others approach. She frees herself and gets away. Exhausted, she runs across an open field when she hears the truck again. Spotted, she's forced to sprint as the Governor drives after her. She reaches the safety of the woods and continues as night begins to fall, where she finds a warehouse. But the truck is close behind. 

She seeks refuge inside but sees the Governor pull up. He starts whistling as he enters, and Andrea is forced to kill a walker that's heard them. He calls out to her and asks her to come back to Woodbury. When he gets no response he begins smashing the windows. He approaches her hiding place but is drawn away by more roamers. Andrea impales another on a hook and when she tries to flee through a door finds another room packed full of the undead. That leaves her to face the Governor. 

He tells her it's time to go home. Instead she opens the door and pulls it safely in front of her while allowing the herd of walkers to file out after the Governor. She flees upstairs as the Governor fires at the roamers, and hears his yells as she leaves the warehouse.

At the walker pit a truck drives up and someone douses both the zombies in the pit and those loaded in the trailer with gasoline, then sets them on fire. In the morning Martinez's man finds the smokey remains.

By morning Andrea finally reaches the prison. She waves to Rick who is on watch, but the Governor takes her down. The Governor returns to Woodbury and tells Martinez she got away. He's advised of what happened in the pit, so he instructs Martinez to get more biters. 

The Governor goes on to see Sasha, Tyreese, Allan and Ben about the incident at the pit. Tyreese wants to know why they're gathering walkers, but the Governor tells them the whole thing is a bluff. Tyreese asks why Martinez never said that in the first place. The Governor explains they don't discuss tactics with those they don't really know. Tyreese is contrite and says they want to stay. He won't make trouble again. The Governor is glad to hear that, but asks where they got the gasoline. They don't know what he's talking about. 

Milton confronts the Governor and asks if Andrea is dead. He says he hopes not. Milton says it's a shame about the pits and hope he finds out who did it. The Governor says he already has. Meanwhile, Andrea is very much alive, handcuffed and gagged in his torture chamber.

The Verdict:
Prey was incredibly intense and produced at least two jump-out moments (Andrea being grabbed by the walker in the tree and the Governor at the prison). Finally all the Andrea-haters out there (and there seems to be plenty) can take some solace that she's acting (and no thanks to Milton, failed). Viewers need to realize that Andrea has spent more time among Michonne and the citizens of Woodbury than she ever did with Rick and their group.

The flashback between Michonne and Andrea on the road was long in coming. It implies that Michonne's reaction to the Governor comes from a familiarity with his ilk from the beginning. The writers seem to be making a big deal about keeping the identities of her roamers a secret for as long as possible, but I imagine we'll find out before the finale.

I confess, only now did I realize that Allan, Ben and Donna are the Allan, Ben and Donna from the graphic novels, or at least The Walking Dead television versions (and a vastly aged Ben from his comic book counterpart). But the scene never really made it clear what exactly happened between them. Is Allan just jealous he was made to look weak, or did Donna indeed start to show feelings for Tyreese? It came out of left field and just seemed to be there as a plot device.

Does whistling attract walkers? The zombie pit which we've seen before employs the windmill/whistling thingie to lead them in. But we also see the Governor making a point of whistling as he enters the warehouse. Was it to draw out any biters that might be hidden, or was it just to torment Andrea? Add to that the mysterious tape recorder we saw him whistling into earlier.

I do have a big quibble about the Governor catching up to Andrea, much less finding her in the first place. Having grown up on the prairies, I can be pretty confident I could keep hidden in the woods from someone in a truck. And unless your last name is Dixon, I can't imagine the Governor tracking Andrea in the first place, much less getting away from the zombies and catching up with her at the prison.

I'm relieved Andrea didn't meet her end in Prey. There were several moments when I was certain the Governor would bring her down. Now she needs to be rescued by Milton and the two can then hopefully make their escape with Tyreese and Sasha to save the prison, and maybe even Ben if Beth needs a potential love interest in season four.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...