This week’s “The Walking Dead” was constructed as a series of conversations, and while Rick’s not-so-good-faith negotiations with the Governor took up most of the screen time, the more pivotal discussions may have been happening all around them.
“I could’ve killed you all and I didn’t,” the Governor tells Rick in a preview of the twisted narcissism and power games to come. The sociopathic leader leads Rick in quite a dance and unloads a lot of information — his status as a reluctant leader, the death of his wife before the zombie apocalypse, an unwillingness to compromise, and his primary interest: revenge against Michonne (who took his daughter, his eye and probably a chunk of his pride).
We don’t know how much of it to believe, and neither does Rick. But he has no choice when it comes to considering the Governor’s deal: turn over Michonne and everyone else can go free. After the events of last week, Rick and Michonne are closer than ever. But she’s still an outsider and it’s hard to justify putting her safety ahead of the rest of the group. He has an inhuman and morally reprehensible decision to make, but Rick’s life is all about those calls right now and he wisely recognizes that he needs to talk it over with someone like Hershel if he has any chance of convincing himself to take the moral high road.
Of course we know something Rick can only guess at: the Governor’s deal is entirely bogus. As the Governor reveals to Caesar and Milton back in Woodbury, he plans to kill Rick’s entire crew and keep Michonne for himself. It’s the “best way to avoid a slaughter” in Woodbury. But as Milton points out, the Governor’s plan “is a slaughter.”
There’s been grumbling among some fans about why Andrea has been so “gullible” in falling for the Governor’s lies, but this episode does a solid job of reminding us just how inviting and masterfully executed those lies are. David Morrissey was particularly slimy throughout the hour but also cunning, charming and reassuring — a master manipulator who gets off on screwing with people. (And if the story he told Rick about his pre-apocalypse life was true, it might be his way of working through lingering resentment and emasculation from his prior professional life.)
Andrea has few illusions left anyway. She may be hopeful some sort of peace can be brokered, but she knows her place isn’t with the Governor. He’s nothing like the man she thought he was — now she’s even aware he assaulted Maggie — but as her talk with Hershel revealed between the lines: she can’t just bolt Woodbury because of her concern for the people who are still there and the knowledge that her departure would surely hasten an even more aggressive attack on Rick’s group.
Milton’s eyes are opening too. Whether it was his bonding session with Hershel — seeing for himself that Rick’s group is made up of actual, decent people — or witnessing what’s been happening to Woodbury, it appears that his loyalty to the Governor is beginning to fade.
Meanwhile, the brief interactions between Daryl and Caesar illustrated what it’s like for the lieutenants on either side of this conflict. They don’t believe for a minute that peace is possible, and they’re ready to do whatever is necessary. But they’re both regular guys. In different circumstances — say, if Caesar had found Rick’s group instead of Woodbury — they’d likely put their respective crossbow and baseball bat to use on the same side of the fight.
Back at the prison, Merle tries to encourage Glenn, Michonne and Maggie to make a play and hit the Governor during the negotiations. Merle knows better than anyone else — including Michonne — what kind of man they’re dealing with. But Merle’s reasoning is understandably lost on three people he was instrumental in almost getting killed. They can’t trust him, and they don’t want to take the risk of someone getting hurt without a solid plan. As the action seems to be shifting to full-fledged war in the three episodes left this season, they might regret that choice.
– Glenn and Maggie had their reconciliation and the make-up sex just might have made all their arguments worth it. Sex doesn’t play a big role on “The Walking Dead” outside of storylines like Lori’s affair with Shane or the Governor’s seduction of Andrea, so it’s always a relief to see some evidence that positive sexual relationships are still possible after a zombie apocalypse.
– The Governor responding to Rick’s offer to give up their shelter: “I don’t want your prison. That doesn’t sound good at all.”
– Daryl meeting Milton: “Great, he brought his butler.”
– Sure, Rick’s group has come a long way — even Beth is getting handy with a gun, as we saw tonight — but is it really enough to take on Woodbury? We’ll find out soon enough.