This week's episode of The Walking Dead picks up right where we left off before the hiatus, with the Dixon brothers in a kill-or-be-killed gladiator match in Woodbury. A guerrilla attack by the prison crew ushers Merle and Daryl safely out of that situation, and then Daryl promptly packs up and leaves with Merle. I guess we all expected as much, but everyone else seems rather surprised. I know he'll be back, and I think the show is establishing an interesting dynamic in which Daryl will be torn between his "code" and his morality, but all of that will have to come later. We don't get much time with the Dixon brothers this week, and the episode's a little less fun for it.
Instead we spend lots of time in Woodbury, which feels rather lamer without Merle there declassing up the joint. I...I just have no idea what the fuck Andrea is up to now. Andrea's past loyalty to The Governor and Woodbury could be explained by ignorance, but now that she knows The Gov's most diabolical potential and knows that he kept her friends from her, it makes exactly no sense that she stubbornly demands to stay where no one wants her. Andrea's supposedly inspiring speech to Woodbury's citizens rang hollow and bland. I think Laurie Holden's a solid actress, but she is subject to some excruciating writing. Andrea has no reasonable motivations for any decision she makes. She has nothing of interest or substance to her.
Neither does Michonne, unfortunately. Her silent, scowly few minutes at the beginning of "The Suicide King" reinforced how little this show understands its own character. Michonne has no plan, no cause. Maggie, Beth and Sasha are all similarly victim to the fact that The Walking Dead has no idea how to write women (here's a hint - write them like people!), just existing as sweet, pretty backdrops. Christ knows Lori was hardly a fully dimensional character. And of course, one could say that none of the men on the show are written that well, either, and while that's somewhat true, they're miles above the ladies. Glenn, Herschel, The Governor, the Dixons - even Tyreese, who's brand new and Rick, whom I despise - are all written with more texture and depth than the women on this show.
So thank lord for Carol. We could really use more of this character, and who would have thought anyone might ever say that after an entire season of her sniffling about and yelling "Sophia!" through every episode last year. She tells Beth, "I'm hardly the woman I was a year ago," to which I add a hearty "Amen." Carol has become strong and nuanced, legitimately compelling. Her exchange with Carl this week was touching, and makes a lot of sense as she's now without a child and he's without a mother. She makes Carl and Beth more interesting simply by virtue of opening up to them. She vows that she would never leave with Ed, her abusive husband of S1, if he showed up at her door, but she doesn't blame Daryl for doing just that with Merle. "He has his code, and the world needs more men like that." It's true. And this show needs more women like Carol.
Glenn has a strong scene, also, this week, as he loses his temper at Rick for the loss of Daryl and the fact that The Governor still lives after what he did to Maggie. I've always liked Steven Yeun's performance but I've never thought the show gave him enough to do. If he begins to take up the mantle that Rick is leaving so unguarded, I could seriously dig it.
Because, yeah, Rick is losing control. Just as we think the exchange with Tyreese's group is going to end well for everyone, Rick sees a vision of Lori in white and completely unravels. After the crazy phone and his vision of Shane, I think we can gather that Rick's spiraling. It's not a great time for The Governor to plot vengeance and for Daryl to be elsewhere. It's going to be up to Carol, Glenn and Tyreese to protect the prison, or none of the rest of these yahoos have a shot in hell.
Over the hiatus we learned that showrunner Glen Mazzara, who has guided The Walking Dead through its strongest season yet, split over creative differences with AMC and executive producer Robert Kirkman. The remaining episodes of the season were run by Mazzara, so I don't know if we'll see a big difference in quality in the latter half of S3, but I'm very curious what the hell is going on behind the scenes of The Walking Dead and not a little discouraged about the direction it will take next season. If AMC is unhappy with the direction Mazzara has taken this show, then I think we have very different ideas of what works in The Walking Dead.
Tune back in next week as Henri takes the TV Talk wheel. Henri, can you even stand any of the women on this show other than Carol? What do you think will come of Rick's latest episode? Do you think Daryl exhibited loyalty or weakness by leaving with Merle?