Even though last week’s episode involved multiple character deaths, I feel this week’s was even more disturbing. The pacing was different, slower without the constant threat of the walker attack, but both plotlines flowed together better this week.
In quite the contrast to last week’s emotional ending in the prison yard, this episode opens on a Woodbury block party. There’s music, refreshments, and women literally braiding each other’s hair. Okay, we get it: Woodbury seems perfect on the outside.
The Governor is in his house, brushing a girl’s hair. Oh good, I thought, his daughter is alive. Then part of her scalp rips off and it turns out she’s a walker. He’s got a straightjacket on her that he ties back up and he puts a hood over her head to keep her from biting him. “Daddy still loves you,” he whispers as he kisses her cheek through the bag over her head. That is a whole new level of twisted, even for the Governor.
Back in the prison yard we get a little taste of what it’s like to be in Rick’s grief-addled brain: everything’s a bit fuzzy and sounds like he’s hearing things through a tunnel. Thankfully that sensory discomfort doesn’t last long, but it drives home the point that Rick is not exactly right in the head at the moment (who would be?).
It turns out Lori’s baby is a girl, and Hershel pronounces her healthy, though she needs food and diapers immediately. I mean, it’s not like they had months of warning to try and get some of that stuff together for the baby or anything. Anyway, Daryl immediately volunteers to go on a baby necessities run, and tells Beth she should look after Carl. Aww.
Rick scoops up the closest ax and storms off into the prison in a silent fury. The group collectively decides letting him go is the best decision, and Daryl and Maggie head out on his motorcycle to find baby supplies. Rick, meanwhile, starts slaughtering every walker he comes across inside the prison. For the record, I am way more convinced by Andrew Lincoln’s ability to convey crazed grief and rage than I am by his ability to cry on camera. Rick on this vengeance mission is absolutely chilling to watch.
Back in Woodbury, the Governor does what he does best and makes an uplifting speech to his assembled people about celebrating how far they’ve come as a community while remembering those that they’ve lost along the way. Michonne isn’t present at this celebration, though; she’s too busy breaking into the Governor’s house and getting her sword back. The second she has it, you can tell she feels infinitely better about her situation. I feel like Michonne has defined herself in this walker-ravaged world by her ability to fight and survive, and she was powerless to do that without her weapon. I doubt we’ll get any back story on her soon, but I really want to know who she was before the walker disaster.
She starts to investigate, finding a journal of some sort that belongs to the Governor. It seems fairly normal until she flips to a list of names, with Penny emphasized in bold followed by pages and pages of hash marks. I don’t know what it means, but it’s definitely creepy, as is the shot of Rick’s old “sheriff” duffel bag full of weapons and ammo he lost back in Atlanta. They must have found it when they found Merle, but I feel like it’s definitely foreshadowing a confrontation between the Woodbury guards and the group at the prison.
Michonne escapes out the window as the Governor, Merle, and the scientist return, talking ambiguously about plans for tonight. She finds herself in a concrete yard facing a cage full of walkers, who she frees and then instantly kills. She even smiles for the first time since her arrival, but her good mood only lasts until a guard shows up carrying a bucket full of bloody pieces to feed to the walkers.
The Governor ends up interrogating her, trying (and failing miserably) to intimidate her. She’s repulsed, sure, but not overpowered. He tries to tell her he has nothing to hide and that she should stay, but she brings up Penny. It’s clear she doesn’t understand that she’s his daughter, and he doesn’t correct her. He offers her a deal: no punishment if she joins his research team. She rejects it by yanking her sword back and holding it to his throat before walking out. Sometimes I just want to high-five Michonne.
Out in the prison yard, Glenn is toiling away at digging a grave. Oscar and Axel offer their help, and Glenn leaves them to dig two more. It’s never made abundantly clear who the three graves are for, but it seems to be T-Dog, Lori, and Carol (who I refuse to believe is actually dead).
Hershel tells Glenn that Rick is still somewhere in the prison, drowning his grief in the blood of walkers. Okay, he didn’t actually say that last bit, but that’s what he’s doing. Glenn wishes they had shot the prisoners on sight, and then this wouldn’t have happened. Hershel thinks Oscar and Axel are pretty good guys, and Glenn retorts with a story about how T-Dog went around picking up senior citizens in his van during the evacuation because he was the best kind of guy. Wow, makes you wish we knew things about T-Dog’s character back when he was alive, huh?
The Governor asks Andrea for help with Michonne. Andrea smartly wants to know why the Governor was keeping walkers locked up in the first place, but he dodges the question. She then not-so-smartly tries to make the case to Michonne that Woodbury is a great, safe place to be anyway. To be fair, Michonne does sound a little paranoid talking about being prisoners and things not being what they seem when you consider Andrea has seen none of the weird stuff about the Governor that we as viewers have been privy to.
Glenn follows the trail of slaughtered walkers in the prison halls to Rick, who’s standing still holding his ax that’s dripping with blood. Glenn tries to talk him down, get him to come back to the cleared-out C block, but Rick’s only response is to shove him against a wall and then toss him away before stalking off in his silent rage again. Like I said, Andrew Lincoln is doing a fabulous job with the bloodthirsty vengeance thing he’s working here.
Merle, the scientist, and a couple of the guys that guard the walls ride out in their truck to a pair of turbines in the middle of a field. It’s not clear what they’re doing out there until they use the crane on the truck to haul up a few captive walkers. The scientist isn’t great at restraining them but the others are old pros at this, so I’m wondering how long this has been going on. Merle holds down a walker and extracts one of its teeth. I wish it hadn’t taken so long for this scene to make sense.
Daryl and Maggie end up finding a daycare and raid it for formula and diapers (Maggie) and a doll for the baby (Daryl). I have to admit, the entire time they were creeping around the place I was terrified they would come face to face with a walker toddler and be forced to put it down. Thankfully, nobody went there with the writing this week.
Andrea and Michonne pack up to leave to test Michonne’s theory that they wouldn’t be allowed to go. At first, it looks like she’s right when Merle makes a big show of getting permission to open the gates. But when he does, they actually have to make that choice. For Michonne, it’s a no-brainer to leave, but Andrea isn’t so sure. Even though we only caught a glimpse of their life on the road together, Laurie Holden and Danai Gurira do a great job of illustrating the depth of their friendship in this scene. Andrea practically begs Michonne to stay in this refuge with her, but Michonne refuses, walking away with a bitter “you’d just slow me down anyway” as a goodbye.
Thankfully, Daryl and Maggie make it back to the prison safely, baby supplies and all. In a moment that launched a thousand gifs of explosions labeled “ovaries,” Daryl took the baby from Carl and fed her for the first time. I had figured based on his relationship with Carol that Daryl was hiding a soft, gooey center, but watching him coo at the baby and affectionately dub her “Lil’ Asskicker” was more than enough proof. Where did Daryl learn to be so good with infants? He asks Carl what her name is, and he lists off the possibilities: the names of all the women from their group who (they believe, at least) have died.
Rick is a little busy killing walkers and discovering the boiler room where Lori died to worry about baby names. Carl’s knife is on the floor and there’s an awful lot of blood, but no sign of Lori. At first I thought Carl didn’t go through with it, and Walker Lori was hanging around somewhere, but nope: Rick comes across a walker at the end of the blood trail who’s so bloated it literally can’t move. I didn’t think walkers ate dead things, but this one apparently devoured Lori after Carl and Maggie left.
Rick blows its brain all over the wall behind it and sinks down next to it, overcome with his grief. He takes out his pocketknife and viciously stabs the dead walker in its distended stomach, over and over again. Hmm, symbolic of his inner anger against the baby that killed his wife and might not even be his?
It’s nighttime in Woodbury, and we finally get to see what all the fuss was about. The Governor brings Andrea up to his prime seats in the stadium-looking area that Michonne killed the walkers in earlier. The crowd is going nuts, and there’s rock music blaring from somewhere. The scientist is obviously not pleased about this use of their electricity.
There are a handful of walkers chained to various points in a circle in the middle of the stadium, and before I could even decide how a walker Hunger Games would work, Merle and one of the other guards step out into the ring and square off to fight each other. Only instead of ropes as boundaries, there are walkers on all sides. After the first round, the chains are lengthened, and the walkers close the fighters into a tight circle. Merle emerges the champion, and Andrea is disgusted with the whole spectacle. The Governor justifies it as entertainment, explaining that the walkers have no teeth, so they aren’t dangerous. Andrea calls it barbaric and is clearly rethinking her decision to stay in Woodbury.
Back at the prison, Daryl walks out to the graves alone at sunrise, and lays a Cherokee rose down on what can only be Carol’s grave. It’s a touching moment, but I refuse to believe she’s dead until there’s more proof than her abandoned scarf. Rick’s still in the boiler room, hearing a baby’s cry echo in his head until he’s interrupted by a ringing phone. He walks over to the desk, confused, and picks it up with one bloody hand: “Hello?”
I think it’s brilliant that that was his first line of the episode and that it happened in the last second of it. I have no idea if the phone call is even real or if Rick has simply progressed into hallucinations, but either way it’s a cool tactic to leave the episode off on a non-tragic cliffhanger. Overall, this episode was a great way to come down off of last week’s walker frenzy while still ramping up the suspense and mystery that seems to be such a big theme this season.