Some Greenroom commenters were asking for it so here it is. Random thoughts:
1. We’re down to two compelling characters, the Governor and Merle, and Merle barely qualifies as a character. He seems to have no inner life except wanting to know where his brother is and I’m not sure if that’s because he misses him or because he misses tormenting him. Why he allows himself to be ordered around by the Governor when he’s willing to brutalize everyone else he encounters, I have no idea. If you had asked me to guess what he would do once he made it to Woodbury, I would have guessed that he’d shoot the Governor in the face within the first five minutes and had the rest of the town under his thumb in the next 10. But oh well. He’s a livewire onscreen and unpredictable moment to moment, and that’s more than you can say for the rest.
2. I haven’t read the comics but … we’re supposed to like Michonne, no? She saved Andrea, she sensed that the Governor is evil, she wields that sword like she’s the samurai queen — she has all the hallmarks of a bad-ass whom you should be rooting for. I’m not. She’s a drag in every scene she’s in. The alleged friendship between her and Andrea feels completely synthetic, mainly because Michonne can’t say more than five words at a time and is always in “hiss” mode. You would think that a show that’s taken heat for marginalizing its black characters (T-Dog and Oscar each got/get maybe two lines per ep) would want to flesh out someone who’s become central to the plot. Nope. She does three things, episode after episode: She glowers at people, kills a few zombies, and has some sort of short, terse confrontation with one of the other leads. That’s Michonne. Episode after episode. Zzzzzzz.
3. The almost-rape scene between the Governor and Maggie was solid, partly because it didn’t go all the way. One of the things about the show that’s always rung false is that it’s a story about men behaving like savages as society breaks down around them and yet the women are all mercifully spared from sexual attacks. The only one I can remember is when Shane got rough with Lori, and she managed to get away. I don’t fault the producers for not mining that narrative vein; no one wants to see it onscreen, especially amid broad comic-book horror like this, which is why zombie movies almost as a rule tend to stay away from it. (“28 Days Later” is a notable exception.) Even so, it’s hard to compute how an unhinged degenerate like Merle manages not to cross the line with the women of Woodbury. The scene with Maggie and the Governor was an elegant way of raising the subject. Nothing too graphic, but the degradation was visceral. They didn’t go any further because they didn’t need to. They made their point.
4. Everyone’s high-fiving over the scenes of Glenn standing up to Merle and then kicking zombie ass but to me that’s an example of the show losing its nerve. They get (and deserve) credit for being willing to kill off major characters like Lori and Shane out of the blue, but you knew watching it last night that they weren’t going to let Glenn get his throat ripped out by the undead sitting bound in that chair. That’s not how they roll. Almost always, when a major character dies, it’s attached to some momentous act of heroism. Lori dies in childbirth; T-Dog dies sacrificing himself to protect that woman whose name I can never remember; Shane dies in an epic struggle with Rick and is then finished off by little Carl. Rarely does anyone simply get ambushed by a zombie and eaten. It’s too undignified for a Major Character, but that’s weak: In a true zombie apocalypse, that’s how most people would die. And the pity of it is, had they let Glenn be devoured by Merle’s zombie last night, it would have been greatly more shocking and affecting than Lori’s or T-Dog’s death. Zombie killing on the show has now become so rote that it’s like watching a video game. The fight between Glenn and Merle’s zombie was the first scary encounter of the season that I can remember. I realize that this is basically just a soap opera with the zombies as part of the set, but they should retain some element of peril, yes?
Also, I’m a little bummed that the writers made sure to have Michonne stab that guy in the cabin before he was tossed to the wolves outside the door. True horror requires that he be pushed out there alive. Basic stuff here, guys.