Review of ‘The Walking Dead’ – Series 3, Episode 14: Laurie Holden is on form
SPOILERS: Do not read this if you have not seen episode 14, series 3 of ‘The Walking Dead’
With an impressive degree of character development, numerous unexpected plot twists and a truly compelling central villain, the third season of AMC’s ambitious zombie saga could be its most gratifying to date. However, despite its accomplishments as a long-running zombie tale, this season of The Walking Dead has occasionally been held back by one central flaw: the inaccessibility of the Woodbury community.
Despite several attempts, the Woodbury community has at times eluded the audience, simultaneously presenting an idyllic suburban haven for survivors of the apocalypse and a ruthlessly uncivilised training camps for monsters and psychopaths.
This week’s episode is focused firmly on Woodbury and does its best to balance the violent inclinations of its residents with its few redeeming features. After several attempts at revealing the dark side of suburbia, it manages to paint the first plausible picture of how the community functions. Despite these efforts, the episode falls short of being amongst the finest dramatic offerings this season but remains a solid hour of television with a few flashes of brilliance on show.
In the wake of his meeting with Rick, the Governor is preparing for the inevitable confrontation ahead. When Milton discovers the tools of torture that the Governor is secretly installing, he reaches out to Andrea, who leaps into action and makes a swift escape from Woodbury. Recent refugees Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) begin to question the values and morality of their Woodbury counterparts. Meanwhile the Governor and Andrea conduct a cat and mouse game across zombie-littered terrain with disastrous consequences.
Surprisingly, the key to the success of the episode lies in the shift in viewpoint, for the first time the audience is given the chance to experience Woodbury through the eyes of its residents. Freed from the cross-cutting technique that has been used throughout the season, Woodbury suddenly springs to life as a community of people with their own fears, objectives and secrets.
This feeling is enhanced through the use of Tyreese and Sasha, two characters who have been overshadowed in a season of radical cast changes, but this week demonstrates a degree of warmth and well-placed scepticism in the face of Woodbury’s preparations for war. Coleman and Martin-Green do well to generate a rapport with the audience and we’re led to care more about their fates by the end of this episode than we have since we first met them.
The only downside is that they seem somewhat gullible in their acceptance of the Governor’s threadbare excuses for their use of Biters. Similar to Andrea’s blind trust in the Governor’s goodness earlier in the season, it’s almost as though some kind of mind sedating drug permeates the air of Woodbury, causing its inhabitants to ignore the obvious warning signs.
Of all the Woodbury residents, Milton is the character who truly shines, managing to embody all that is good and bad about the community whilst retaining a degree of the audience’s sympathy. Dallas Roberts has perfected Milton’s childlike mannerisms, wide-eyed and cowardly one moment before revealing a subtle, sinister edge moments later.
Mere weeks after sparing the Governor’s life, Andrea once more takes centre stage as she fights to preserve her own. Andrea’s mission at the prison is a well-staged exercise in tension, and Laurie Holden is once again on admirable form as a tough-as-nails heroine, frequently outsmarting the Governor and handling herself well in the wild. All of this would be redundant if she was not up against a distinctive adversary, but the ever-reliable David Morrissey is at his most duplicitous this week, relentless in his pursuit of Andrea and endlessly creative in his use of excuses and lies back in suburbia.
Their final encounter in the abandoned factory is one of the most tense scenes on the show ever, with the sound department offering an endless series of cues, with everything from meat hooks to broken glass being used as tools to betray the characters’ locations. Andrea’s inventive escape is a satisfying resolution and an efficient use of the pent-up zombie population.
The fact that the Governor is the one who gets the last laugh is a cruel and highly effective turn of events, negating Andrea’s efforts and snatching victory from the hands of the heroes at the last moment. It’s the pessimistic conclusion to what is essentially an hour-long psychological thriller, and further demonstrates the variety of genres that the series can experiment with and the dramatic rewards it can produce.
Will Michonne sacrifice herself to get Andrea out of that chair? Can Milton help the prison residents escape the Governor’s wrath? And will Rick realise the Governor’s full intentions before it is too late?Tagged in: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, The Walking Dead, zombies
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