Review of The Walking Dead – Series 3, Episode 11
History is littered with seminal moments when the fate of many hinged on the crucial decision of one individual. The events of this week’s episode focus on one such decision that will determine the fates of the Woodbury and prison residents. While much of the episode is rather toothless in comparison to a number of standout instalments in the first half of the season, its strength rests in a genuinely heart-wrenching final scene, as one of the series’ finest characters carries the weight of the world on her shoulders.
With the memory of the Governor’s unscheduled (and rather catastrophic) visit still fresh in everyone’s memories, the prison inmates make preparations for battle, while their Woodbury counterparts follow a similar path. Aware of the potential disasters that lie ahead, Andrea makes the decision to visit the prison, where she receives a welcome considerably lacking in warmth. It is not long before she finds herself in the middle of an impossible dilemma. She returns to Woodbury intent on destroying the Governor, but is ultimately forced to question where her allegiance truly lies…
This episode is unquestionably Laurie Holden’s best hour of series three to date, and is at its most effective while she is onscreen. It’s a relief to see that the old Andrea wasn’t so much snuffed out as she was on suburban sabbatical, and her rejuvenated sense of purpose offers Holden the opportunity to remind loyal viewers why they fell in love with the character in the first place. Her arrival at the prison is the family reunion from hell we have been expecting for weeks, so it’s surprising how quickly we are led to side with Andrea, especially considering the recent sufferings experienced by the central group.
As she is now arguably the central female Walking Dead character following Lori’s demise, Holden embraces the opportunity to remind us that she can spill blood from wandering zombies as easily as she can tears from the audience. In the woods, her particular spin on the ‘Michonne technique’ is a suitably gruesome affair, brutal but efficient, and a perfect example of a strong female character who doesn’t have to sacrifice her femininity to kick butt (although I would suggest that next time, considering the sheer quantity of zombie haemoglobin that was flying around, she should invest in some goggles).
While Andrea’s dilemma is believable and painful to watch, it does highlight one of the central problems with series three, namely the residents of Woodbury. Despite glimpsing many of them in previous weeks, there is still little sense of a rapport with them, and it’s difficult to see why Andrea has become so attached to a community into which she does not seem fully integrated. The cameo parts we have been introduced to so far have been callous or difficult to read.
The effect is that the audience is unable to fully identify with Andrea’s plight, so strongly are we encouraged to remain emotionally loyal to the prison residents. If there were even one redeeming Woodbury character it would help to dramatize the depth of her inner turmoil, something that the series is trying so hard to convey.
This instalment introduces a few interesting character dynamics, the most unexpected being the unlikely but revealing exchange between Herschel and Merle. On one hand, the scene illustrates how war can bring people together (and that in a world overrun by the dead, a discussion of past physical mutilation is considered small talk). But on the grander scale of things it rather smartly demonstrates Merle’s possibilities for redemption by forging a connection between him and the most saintly character on the show.
Despite the emphasis on Andrea this week, the latter half of the episode demonstrated why the series works so well as an ensemble show. The point where Beth (Emily Kinney) bursts into song is an awkward moment that somehow transforms into something beautiful, reinforcing the sense of family (however dysfunctional) between the survivors while foreshadowing the darkness that is yet to come (In the past, Beth has burst into song at a moment of crisis for one or all of the characters).
For an episode where the central antagonist was largely absent, this week’s episode still managed to be engaging throughout, mostly fuelled by Laurie Holden’s impressive performance, culminating in a powerful final scene.
The drama threatens to escalate in next week’s episode. Will Rick and Michonne’s return to Woodbury end in tragedy? Can Merle be trusted around the inmates? And how long will it be before the Governor finally gets his revenge?Tagged in: amc, The Walking Dead, tv series, zombies
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