Review of The Walking Dead – Series 3, Episode 9
Following a lengthy festive hiatus (after all, even zombies need time to celebrate Christmas and recharge their batteries), AMC’s The Walking Dead finally returns after the jaw-dropping mid-season finale that reunited two of its most iconic, estranged characters in a rather unexpected turn of events.
The opening scene suggested that we would be treated to a thorough examination of the relationship between Merle (Michael Rooker) and Darryl (Norman Reedus), so it’s a shame that they’re snatched away from dramatic events, leaving us with an episode that is entertaining but doesn’t quite offer the intensity we were expecting.
The episode opens where we left off in December, with long lost brothers Darryl and Merle reintroduced in Woodbury as the Governor (David Morrissey) urges them to fight to the death. Saved from destruction by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the other survivors, Darryl and Merle soon separate from the group and the focus shifts to Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) and his band of companions. In Woodbury, the citizens of the falsified suburbia are dealt a staggering blow when walkers get onto their grounds. With order in Woodbury descending into chaos, Andrea (Laurie Holden) takes up the mantle of leader and appeals to the Governor’s swiftly waning sense of humanity.
This week’s episode picks up the momentum of the mid-season finale and runs with it, as it delivers an action-packed pre-credits teaser that offers as many casualties as it does unexpected reunions. The Walking Dead has often been at its strongest when exploring the gaps and divisions between the personalities of the characters. Merle’s presence creates a crater-sized divide between Darryl and the others, so it’s disappointing that the implications of his return on the rest of the group are not fully explored.
While Darryl and Merle’s decision to separate makes dramatic sense, it also removes the joy of their reunion and the tension created by their presence from the story. Once they’ve departed, there’s a noticeable vacuum in the story that is filled by a number of heart-to-hearts between the survivors that do little to advance the plot.
In the prison, the introduction of Tyreese is one of the more unexpected but delightful developments of series three. As a central figure in the graphic novels, Tyreese’s arrival comes at the point where Rick’s leadership is at its most unstable and it’s interesting to speculate about the events that will lead to him being welcomed into the group.
The action in Woodbury is similarly impacted by Darryl and Merle’s departure. After weeks of residential complacency, it’s revealing that the inhabitants of Woodbury are so powerless in the face of a few walkers and they prove to be a compelling contradiction to the survivors in the prison. That they are a bloodthirsty mob using zombies as entertainment on one night and a cowering pack of fools the next morning reveals the depths of their collective delusion.
Darryl and Merle are the standout characters of the week. Despite their limited screen time, Reedus and Rooker settle back into their roles as on-screen brothers with ease, instantly reviving the chemistry of their relationship in the midst of the chaos around them. But it’s noticeable that there’s a change in their dynamic. Darryl has evolved since being separated from his brother, having become a prominent figure within the group. Rooker is on top form as Merle, in equal parts hilarious and extremely offensive, a ticking time bomb that Rick manages to defuse (at least for now).
It seems that Lincoln’s Rick Grimes will soon be joining the Governor in anti-hero territory, as his breakdown in the prison reveals. Lincoln has depicted an admirable performance of a man sagging under the weight of titanic responsibilities in an unforgiving world. The volatile meltdown that ends the episode is the most compelling prison scene this week. Rick may be struggling to carry the group in a post-apocalyptic world, but this episode proves Lincoln has no difficulty carrying The Walking Dead franchise on his shoulders.
The zombies get a suitable amount of screen time this week. The highlight was watching Glen destroy a stray walker, proof that in a world without blenders, all you need is your boot and a bad temper to make roadside zombie puree.
It’s also interesting to note how nicely the zombies have blended into the background of the prison. The dead feature in the distance during many conversations today and seem to have blended into the scenery, like flesh-eating shrubbery.
While this episode wasn’t one of the series’ greatest, it remained entertaining throughout, helped by a highly effective final scene. Will the others force Rick to step down as their leader? Will Andrea escape Woodbury to pursue her friends? And how long before the Governor marches on the gates of the prison?Tagged in: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, The Walking Dead, zombies
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