“The Walking Dead” – Prey episode review 1

Andrea (Laurie Holden) takes center stage this week as she attempts to escape Woodbury for good

Andrea (Laurie Holden) takes center stage this week as she attempts to escape Woodbury for good

★★★★☆

I hope I’m not the only one who was excited to get this Andrea-centric episode this week, because while it’s still painfully obvious that they’re killing time until the Big Confrontation, the writers are at least trying to do it in the most interesting and suspenseful way possible. “Prey” turned out to be great for two things: building a whole lot more tension, and giving us some great character depth, and not just for Andrea.

The first part of the cold open is a flashback to Andrea and Michonne out on the road, eating out of cans by a campfire as Michonne’s neutered walker guards are chained to a nearby tree. Since this flashback lasts all of ten seconds (okay, not literally), it doesn’t offer us much except Michonne’s indication that her walker “friends” weren’t exactly the greatest humans around before anyway, piquing yet another curiosity that will go unsatisfied this season.

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There’s a beautiful transition, though, between the walker’s chain and the chains the Governor is setting up in his brand new torture chamber, and the cut from past threat to present threat is such a good editing choice. Now, I recently finished the first compendium of the comics and—no spoilers, promise—this setup here looks awfully familiar. For those of you who’ve read them also, do you think they’re heading for that exact plotline? Or does the episode ending change things?

Anyway, Milton walks in on the Governor setting up for his Saw-esque future exploits and rightly makes to get the hell out of there. The Governor naturally stops him for a chat, and Milton finally tells him he thinks he’s gone too far. Wanting revenge on Michonne, Milton understands, but he doesn’t understand why the Governor also wants to wipe out the people at the prison. The Governor’s only response is to bring up his twice-dead daughter and remind Milton that part of Penny might still have been in there. That sympathy card is no longer going to fly with Milton; he immediately finds Andrea and brings her to see what the Governor’s working on.

Andrea is appropriately horrified, and Milton tells her to get out and take the prison folks with her. Andrea refuses, saying she can’t just sit back and let him get away with stuff like this, she has to kill him. Where was this attitude a few episodes back when you had him at your post-coital mercy? They look on from above as the Governor comes back with a few more supplies, and Milton stops Andrea from shooting him then and there. What, what, what are you doing, Milton? It’s in-character for him to still protect the Governor, but these missed opportunities are getting frustrating to watch.

Andrea feels the same way, and freaks out on Milton a bit once they’re out of there. Milton says he knew the Governor when he was Phillip, and he knows that guy is still in there somewhere. What’s interesting is that this is the same theory he has about walkers: that somewhere in their brains, they’re still the person they were before they turned. I really like the subtle parallels being drawn this episode between the increasing depravity of the Governor and the condition of the walkers; they’ve both become destructive shells of their former selves. Milton ends up declining Andrea’s offer to accompany her to the prison, so she heads off on her own.

First, she has to give up her gun to Martinez “for the cause;” everyone’s being disarmed so the soldiers can have more firepower. The Governor himself walks up spouting some BS about just wanting to keep her separate and safe. I love that now that Andrea’s made her decision to leave we can see a distinct difference in the way she talks to him. Her whole demeanor shifts to put on the pleasant exterior we’ve seen her use on him so many times before, only now, it’s so clear that it’s an act. Bravo to Laurie Holden on nailing that subtle difference.

Andrea’s second obstacle is the wall guarded by Tyreese and Sasha. They’re using a walker as target practice, and Tyreese is adorably terrible at it. Clearly he’s a man more comfortable using his hammer as a weapon. They see right through Andrea’s cover story about them needing to be somewhere else, and when she finally pulls a knife on them, they let her go. Tyreese is so wonderfully calm and rational throughout the whole ordeal as he tries to talk her down from her panic; he’d be so useful as part of the prison group, maybe helping Hershel smooth things over. It’s too bad Rick has such terrible trust issues, or they’d have these guys on their side.

Tyreese and Sasha dutifully report Andrea’s breakout to the Governor, though Tyreese does trust his gut and lies when the Governor asks if she said anything. Considering she just kept making the point that the Governor was not to be trusted, I think Tyreese has some pretty decent instincts. The Governor lies for some reason when he explains Andrea’s situation, telling them she was out all winter completely alone. I can’t exactly puzzle out if there’s a deeper reason for that, but I guess it goes a long way towards him making the “she’s just crazy, don’t believe a word she says” argument that he’ll no doubt use as a cover story.

The Governor takes out his frustration on Milton when he runs into him on Main Street. He’s going after her, and he’s extra pissed that Milton knew she was going to leave. Well, Milton doesn’t admit to knowing, but after he pleads with him to just let her go, the Governor kind of figured it out. We’ve never seen him be outright angry with Milton before, and considering the way Milton ends up reacting, I’m going to guess they’ve never truly clashed about anything. I’m thinking Milton just always went along with everything for the sake of safety and community even if it didn’t sit right with him. Now Andrea’s been here, helping expose him to the falseness surrounding him, and he starts to grow a spine.

On the other side of town, Tyreese and Allen butt heads about Andrea escaping. Allen doesn’t want Tyreese’s actions (or lack thereof) screwing them out of a good thing at Woodbury, and the two of them end up arguing about this one time Tyreese saved Donna and Allen got jealous. Level-headed Tyreese talks Alan down so they can go on their assignment with Martinez.

Martinez takes Tyreese and his original group out to what he calls the biter pit, which is exactly what it sounds like: a pit in the ground full of trapped walkers. Tyreese correctly guesses this has something to do with the meeting with Rick, and his character gets more awesome. I want more Tyreese: he’s smart, deadly against walkers, and tends to be the rational one. Rick’s group in particular could use more people like him. Just saying. Anyway, Tyreese refuses on the grounds that it’s a sick thing to do, and Allen jumps down his throat again. So Tyreese hangs him over the edge of the walker pit and throws the Donna incident back in his face before releasing him. I did say “tends to be” rational for a reason.

Andrea meanwhile is still making her way to the prison. She’s seen the same truck twice on her way now, and ends up chased by it through an open field. Naturally, it’s the Governor driving, and he pursues her till she gets into the trees. He follows her all the way to the abandoned building she stops in for night cover, and what proceeds are some of the tensest minutes of the show so far. Headlights illuminating bits and pieces of the building, he proceeds to slowly stalk her as she tries to quietly hide and dispatch stray walkers. He generally acts like a horror movie villain, whistling, dragging a shovel around, and taunting her verbally as he hunts her. And it really is hunting, he is dead behind that one good eye; he is out to kill or capture, no two ways about it.

Andrea makes her way to an outer door, only to find a whole group of walkers patiently waiting outside it. She turns around to the Governor standing there, all shadowy and extra creepy as he tells her it’s time to go home. Andrea, badass that she is, simply opens the door to let the walkers in. Using it as a shield until they’ve all entered, she slips outside as they head straight for the Governor. He’s good with a gun and the handy hanging metal hooks, but she can hear his yelling from outside as she pauses only for a moment before moving on.

Meanwhile, a mysterious someone is at the walker pit dousing both the caravan of walkers intended and those left down in the pit with gasoline before lighting them all up. And boy, do they burn. My first thought was Tyreese, who was so indignant about the use of the walkers, but the figure drives off in a Woodbury car. No way Tyreese is either allowed a car or reckless enough to steal one and sneak out. So, it has to be newly insubordinate Milton. I have a sinking feeling Milton isn’t going to survive the season, but I am loving his development in the meantime despite that.

In the morning, Andrea has made her way to just outside the prison. She raises her hand to catch the eye of Rick, here only in a brief wordless appearance as tower guard, but is quickly tackled by the Governor, now looking a little worse for wear after his night with the walkers. Rick notices a commotion out of the corner of his eye, but when he sees nothing but loitering walkers through his scope, he leaves it alone. Considering he’s been hallucinating things lately anyway, it’s totally understandable why he brushes it off.

The Governor rolls back into Woodbury to the news of the walker pit fires, but keeps his window rolled halfway up the whole time he lies to Martinez about not finding Andrea. He goes to talk to Tyreese’s group, since they’re obviously suspects, and lies to them a bit about the walkers just being a scare tactic, nothing more. It looks like Tyreese’s BS-o-meter is going off in his head, but he chooses to accept the cover story and apologize for his earlier behavior so they can all stay safe in Woodbury. On his way out, he asks where they got the gasoline, but nobody in that room knows what he’s talking about. Suspicions confirmed, the Governor approaches Milton on the street to let him know that he knows who set the walker fires. Speaking of which, the burnt yet still “alive” walkers in the bottom of the pit are some of the creepiest, most well-done make-up and effects I’ve seen to date on this show. Seriously, watching their charred faces still moving and biting was stomach-turning (which is totally a compliment).

The ending is still scored by a male vocalist and his guitar, but this time the guitar is electric, and the difference is actually noticeable; the suspense builds and builds as the camera takes a slow walk through the warehouse leading up to the Governor’s new favorite room, where Andrea sits bound and gagged to a chair in the middle. Yikes. Poor Andrea, after all she went through to get out. Anyone have theories on how this is going to play out for her? Or do you think this is the last we’ll really see of Andrea this season?

Only two episodes left, as the AMC voiceovers keep reminding us, and the suspense has pretty much reached a boiling point. I can’t imagine they have much else to cover before the actual showdown between the prison and Woodbury, so hopefully we get a little more plot movement next week. Not that I didn’t love the lingering looks we got at Andrea, Milton, and Tyreese as characters, but it’s the end of the season and I think we’re all itching for some sort of outcome to this conflict.