Time for the midseason finale of The Walking Dead, and not a moment too soon!
Morning. Rain. A forest. A lone walker stumbles among the trees. Out of nowhere comes none other than Dennis “Cutty” Wise (Chad Coleman) from The Wire. His name is actually Tyreese and apparently he’s a fan favorite, but I’m going to call him Cutty, at least until he proves himself (and then probably after that too). Turns out, Cutty’s not alone. He seems to be the leader of a group that includes Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and what looks like a father-mother-son team of redshirts (walker-fodder? disposables?) who probably won’t make it through the second half of season 3. In fact, as if she could read my thoughts, mom gets bitten. Cutty’s crew (henceforth known as Cutting Crew) arrives at a large, partially ruined brick structure. Sasha votes they off mom and go inside. Cutty overrules her, decides to spare mom for now and the group enters…the prison? Nice little reveal.
It’s morning in Woodbury too. Andrea studies herself in a mirror and then looks at a picture of the Gov with his family. Maybe she can bring him that happiness again. The Gov comes over and Andrea explains how she likes the way the residents of Woodbury work together. “Woodbury’s starting to grow on you, huh?” he asks her. Too bad. Andrea leaves and the Gov decides to spend some time with Penny, his walker/daughter (does the fact that she’s a walker make her his “step” daughter? Sorry about that). The Gov removes Penny’s hood and unbinds her arms. He sings to her. Say what you will about the situation, but I felt some genuine sadness for the guy. Of course, all Penny wants is the bowl of brains (or pink slime?) on the Gov’s table. He ties her up and locks her away again.
The Gov talks to Merle about the situation with the prison. He doesn’t want to take over the prison, he just wants to kill Rick’s group. He doesn’t give a good reason, so we’re forced to assume insanity. Merle asks what to do with Maggie and Glenn. “Take them to the screamer pits,” he replies. Maggie and Glenn have been busy in the meantime. Maggie tells Glenn that the Gov didn’t do anything to her, but she also comments that they spend so much time running from walkers that they forget what living people can do to each other. It’s a sad fact, but one that goes both ways. Glenn MacGyvers a weapon out of the radius/ulna of the walker he killed last week. It’s appropriately gross/awesome. When Merle and a Woodbury disposable show up, Glenn tries to take out Merle and Maggie stabs the other dude in the neck with the walker-stake.
As he dies, his gun goes off, alerting everyone nearby that something is going down. “Everyone” includes Rick, Daryl, Michonne and Oscar who sneaked in the back door that Michonne found. Under cover of smoke grenades, Rick & Co. manage to rescue Glenn and Maggie. Glenn tells Daryl that Merle is the cause of all of his injuries. Bewildered, Daryl asks, “my brother’s this Governor?” It’s kind of funny. Glenn sets him straight, but Daryl wants to leave the group to go find Merle. “I need you,” Rick tells Daryl in the most manly way ever. Daryl agrees to stick with Rick and they all run outside, starting a firefight in the streets of Woodbury.
Meanwhile, the Gov has met with Milton, Andrea and others to decide what to do about these “terrorists.” I’m not sure if that’s some kind of commentary playing on people’s post 9/11 fears, but I feel like living among the walkers would trump any kind of worry about a jihad. Andrea volunteers to help fight and the Gov’s all like “oh, it’s probably nothing. Why don’t you just go knock on doors and make sure everyone has enough salsa and pancake batter for tomorrow’s 2nd annual Woodbury Flapjack Fiesta (¡Ole!).” Andrea protests a little (probably because she prefers French toast) but eventually caves, at least until people start shooting at her. The Gov orders his team to “shoot to kill” and they do their best.
Rick and the gang are also shooting to kill, and they manage to off at least 3-4 guys who are standing on a line of buses acting as a makeshift wall. They start to climb over one bus when who should appear out of the smoke…
It’s Shane, and he has a beard. Shane shoots and kills Oscar, then Rick kills Shane only to find that it’s not actually Shane. Guess he hasn’t exorcised all of his demons, has he? Let’s go back to Oscar for a second. I realize that posting this 2 months after the episode aired makes me the last person to say this, but seriously? You kill T-Dog right after we meet Oscar, then you kill Oscar in the same episode that introduces Cutty? Seems a little strange. Clearly this isn’t the reason season 3 is the highest rated season yet. Maggie puts a mercy bullet into dead Oscar and everyone escapes over the bus. Well, almost everyone.
Meanwhile, back at the prison Beth is holding Judith “Asskicker” Grimes while sitting on a bunk next to Axel. Axel gets curious and asks Beth how old she is. “Seventeen,” she replies. “Seventeen” Axel muses, “interesting.” It’s as creepy as it sounds, and thankfully Carol notices. She calls Axel aside and tells him to back off. It’s not like that, he says. He’s just been locked up without women for so long, and what, with Maggie hooking up with Glenn and Carol being a lesbian, he doesn’t have many other options. Carol informs him that she isn’t a lesbian, despite having “the short hair.” “This is interesting” says Axel, turning on the “charm” again. “No it isn’t,” says Carol, walking away from him.
Later, Herschel, Carl and Beth hear screams from inside the prison. Carl does what his dad would and goes to check it out. He ends up rescuing the Cutting Crew and leading them to safety. Cutty lays the bitten mom down on the floor, but it appears that she died in his arms (tonight…). Carl volunteers to “take care of it,” but Cutty says they take care of their own. While Cutty prepares to smack mom with a hammer, Carl locks them out of the cell block. They’re safe with food and water as Carl explains, but Sasha won’t have any of it. Cutty asserts his power again, telling her to “let the man go.” Hearing this, Carl sprouts a chest hair, but also pees a little with excitement. We never see what becomes of mom. Maybe she woke up and bit the rest of her family to save us a half-season of annoyance. That’s it for the Prison this episode.
Back in Woodbury, Michonne has broken off from the group. She makes her way to the Gov’s apartment and waits…until she hears Penny making noise. Michonne discovers the Gov’s secret room, along with his collection of heads and his little dungeon/nursery. She begins to rescue Penny but then she pulls off the hood and finds out Penny is a pint-sized walker (walker junior?). Sword time! But wait, the Gov arrives. He takes off his gun-belt and pleads with Michonne not to hurt his daughter. He seems damn sincere too. “There’s no need for her to suffer,” he says. “She doesn’t have needs,” responds Michonne. “Don’t hurt my little girl,” he pleads again. Michonne draws back her blade.
And the fight is on! This is probably the most brutal thing we’ve seen on the show, at least between two humans. Plus it’s our two new regular characters duking it out. Even better. The Gov and Michonne throw each other around the room. Fish tanks break. Walker heads snap their teeth (somehow), trying to get in one last bite. The Gov grabs hold of Michonne. She reaches for her sword, but it’s too far away. She spots the next best thing, a jagged shard of aquarium glass. Now where to stick it…
And the best part is, she snaps the piece of glass in two, leaving half of the shard in his eye socket! Having stuck something in the heads of both the Gov and his daughter, Michonne decides to finish things. Before she can end the Gov for good, Andrea comes in. Stupid, stupid Andrea. “What have you done?” she asks Michonne, instead of asking the Gov “What the hell is going on in this crazy, messed up room?” Andrea allows Michonne to leave. She then turns to the Gov, his dead walker daughter and his collection of un-dead heads…and falls even more in love with him! Later, after getting an eye patch, the Gov explains to Andrea that he will not tolerate pirate jokes. He also tells her that the heads were there to help prepare him for the horrors of the world beyond the walls of Woodbury. Apparently, she buys it. She doesn’t have enough time to ask any follow-up questions about Penny, because Merle arrives and announces that the prisoners escaped. The Gov glares at Merle, or at least he tries, half-glares anyway.
Glenn, Maggie and Rick hide outside of the walls, waiting for Daryl to join them. He doesn’t, but Michonne appears. At a loss for what to do, Rick takes her sword away. I’m going to set the over/under at how many times that happens in the next 8 episodes at, oh, I don’t know, twelve. Having missed her best chance to kill the Gov, but perhaps wanting another shot, Michonne volunteers to stay with Rick’s group. “You need me” she says. Maybe. I guess Herschel doesn’t scowl enough. Will they go back to the prison, to meet Cutty and perhaps the Gov’s recon party from last episode, or will they stay to rescue Daryl from death (and a certain drop in ratings)? We’ll see when the show returns.
The episode ends with an emergency public meeting of the Woodbury city council, held at the Walxing arena. The Gov addresses the crowd, admitting that he failed to keep them safe and explaining that he’s “afraid of terrorists who want what we have; who want to destroy us.” He then tells the people they have a terrorist in their midst. He singles out Merle as the traitor who led the insurgents to Woodbury with the help of his own brother, Daryl, who has just been delivered to the Walxing arena courtesy of the Woodbury militia.
The Gov asks the crowd what he should do with the brothers. “Crucify! Crucify!” they shout, foregoing the option to release Barabbas and deciding that both men must die. Then, for once, Andrea seems truly horrified by what might happen next. She can’t believe these people want to spill the blood of the living. Why, she thinks, can’t they be more like the Gov, a wholesome, loving, not-at-all-crazy family man? We all know what’s going to happen next. The Gov draws a figurative Dixon-Dixon line. It’s Merle vs. Daryl in Redneck Rumble I. “You wanted your brother,” the Gov tells Merle, “now you’ve got him.”
Next week on The Walking Dead: Goodbye Cutty, hello Tyler Perry!