Having discovered recently that the Walking Dead was made available on Netflix, I had the advantage of watching the entire series (multiple times) during the current midseason break. Luckily, I did not have a long wait for the February midseason premiere. Suffering from a borderline addiction to the show, my expectations for the return of Rick and the gang were high.
Season 3, Episode 9 opens with Rick and Maggie doing a smash and grab on the Woodbury Arena, rescuing Daryl (and by proxy Merle) from certain death. Aside from Daryl effortlessly reclaiming his crossbow from the hands of one of the governor’s goons, the rescue was pretty underwhelming. I waited weeks to see how they would survive, and they were out of harms way before the opening credits. I wish this had more screen time devoted to it. In fact, I would have preferred Daryl’s escape be the focus of the first half of the show. By contrast, at least three-quarters of the season 3 premiere (not to be confused with the mid-season premiere) was ass-kicking and it was awesome. I understand that a story has to move, and can’t be all action, but the sub-plots they gave time to this episode were not amazing. When moving a story forward you can just squeeze the subplots into the action. How about a whisper fight between Glen and Maggie while they are laying cover fire for Rick?
Instead, when Rick’s group is safely out of sight, they are faced with the decision to keep Merle or lose Daryl. The group decides they can’t keep Merle and, to the surprise of some, Daryl goes with Merle without a second thought. This was played perfectly. Daryl, who looks upon his brother as a father figure, instinctively falls back into line behind his abusive brother. Why? Because that is the nature of an abusive relationship. Events like this illustrate the multiple layers found in each character. And three-dimensional characters are what separate TWD from other TV dramas. Unless you have one of those TVs that come with special goggles.
The middle of the show is devoted to the parallel evolution of Glen and Andrea, both changing from strong participant in their respective groups to potential leaders. I think this is successfully done with Glen, because we are seeing him slowly pushed into the role of a protector, but not so much with Andrea. Andrea’s evolution consists of giving a ‘let’s all keep it together’ speech to a crowd in disarray. The speech itself is fine, but the agitated crowd’s instant calm following Andrea’s address is a bit hokey. We should not forget that Andrea, regardless of her proximity to the Governor and her natural charisma, has only been at Woodbury a few weeks. Quite frankly, I had a similar thought regarding Rick’s rapid rise to leadership in the first season.
The final moments of the show leave you with the kind of suspense you can expect from TWD. Just as Rick is deciding the fate of Tyreese and his group, a motionless vision of Lori appears. This was terrifying on two accounts. First of all, ghosts of the recently departed are scary in general, and second, because you fear for Rick’s sanity and the implications that has for the safety of the group. Here, TWD delivers another taut cliffhanger.
The question I had at the end of the show was why, when an attack from the Governor is imminent, would Rick turn away major league bad asses like Michonne, the Dixon brothers and Tyreese? The conclusion I came to was that the pressure of being head honcho has clouded Rick’s vision, and he cannot take being responsible for another person. As a parent I can sympathize. You do not have to have read the comic (which I have) to predict that the fore mentioned people will be there to battle the Governor. I will go a step further and predict that Daryl does not return to the prison until he is saving Rick’s ass from the Governor’s minions. (I don’t feel like it’s cheating making predictions about the Dixon brothers as they are an invention of the TV series.)
In sum, any episode of TWD is going to be better than most other shows on television, but in comparison to other episodes of TWD, it was average. Though, I am sure that the hype surrounding this episode impacted my opinion of it, I remain confident that history will show that this was standard Walking Dead material: Great, but not amazing.