The Story: The survivors go all Stepford Wives.

The Review:

1. The Governor (?), at last… – If you go back to when this show debuted 2 years ago, all of the comic fans were waiting in breathless anticipation of “The Prison” and “The Governor.”  Some fans hoped these stories would be developed in those first 6 episodes, but it took 2 years for them to arrive.  Now that we’ve finally seen the Governor, what do we think?  Well, he certainly isn’t the Governor from the comics.  He’s much more Plantation Owner than the character from the comics (who was Trailer Park, Meth-Addict Redneck).  He’s clean, pretty well groomed, and wears a shooting jacket at all times?  We’ll have to see how it plays out, but The Governor isn’t outwardly someone you should be afraid of as long as you like Plantation Owners with English-infused southern accents.

Now, comic book Governor was more like Merle, a guy who you don’t even want to be in the same room with.  Nasty, bigoted, hateful, strong, mean…  I’m glad to have Merle back, but I honestly think he would have been a much better Governor than this other dude.  I can’t imagine Merle will be very interesting in this role of chief thug.

2. Disadvantage to have read the comics. – This was an episode where I almost hated that I’ve previously read the comics.  I mean, not everything in the show is ripped from the comics, but it is a pretty safe bet that the Governor will be a nasty bastard and that Woodbury will be less nice than it seems.  I felt like I was back to comparing every scene to the comics in a way that I haven’t since the first episode of the show: THIS is the same, THAT is different.  As you can tell, I have a few concerns about the direction of the show, but sometimes it would be nice to be able to unplug and just let the show’s creators tell a story.

3. Clumsy and awkward. – I’m not sure this story is going to work very well.  It seems very obvious that they’re setting up the drama in Woodbury as follows: It seems really nice, but that’s only because the citizens have made a deal with the devil and traded their freedom and individuality for safety and security.  Andrea seems kinda seduced by both the surroundings and the sexy man in the shooting jacket.  This is kind of a throw-back to the quitter Andrea in Season 1, which is unfortunate.  But still, it’s just awkward and obvious and cliche.  You can have safety as long as you let The Governor do whatever he wants.  Even the small elements of the episode were cliche like the brief appearance of a naked woman in The Governor’s bed.  We all know that seeing a face-down naked woman with the sheet barely covering herself is visual shorthand for, “My God! He had such energetic sex with her that she is passed out!”  Now, he is such a vigorous man that he’s up and about, tending to Woodbury business, cooking eggs for people and wearing his shooting jacket.  But the girl… PASSED OUT FOR HOURS!

This was just weak.  It’s a shame.  I’d like this series to be able to handle the subtleties of the comics, but they just don’t have the writers (or actors) to do it.  Talent matters and given what they have, they’d be better served to just do a monster-show.

4. Michonne still not working. – Again, it’s hard to separate that comic book knowledge, but this isn’t the same character– aloof, almost mute, standoffish.  They can do what they want (I guess), but I just don’t see the point of bringing over a beloved character from the comics if the only similarities are that she is black and has a sword.  I really wanted to see the Michonne that was tough and and survivor, but also interesting because she was vulnerable and kinda crazy.  On the other hand, I’m not sure this writing staff could have handled appropriate dialog for this character anyway.

5. Divided storytelling. – Is there a good reason for splitting the storytelling?  Last week’s episode was quite good and a definite step in the right direction.  But it didn’t show Michonne/Andrea at all.  Now, this week is all Michonne/Andrea and zero of Rick and Company.  Are they just avoiding the payment of fees and residuals to the actors?

6. Stop explaining the zombies. – It’s never a good thing to examine the zombies too closely.  Don’t ask, “Where does all the food they eat go?”  That just leads to other questions like, “Do they poop?”  “Is there digestive system still active?” “Where are they getting the calories to power their muscles?” “How do their bodies move when their musculature is rotting away?”  This show is playing with fire by examining whether the zombies have memories and fiddling with whether they can be tamed.  We viewers can accept zombies, but unless you have a really outstanding explanation for them – and this show has never show itself to be outstanding at anything – it is better left vague.

Conclusion: One step forward, two steps back.  This is the weak and clumsy storytelling that happens to TWD any time the action slows.  They just don’t have the writers or actors to do they show we’d like to have, so I wish they’d just go with what they’re good at: zombie attacks and special effects.

Grade: C

-Dean Stell



  • Bogey-Man

    I would like to point out two ”under the radar” moments…in this week’s episode

    Although it was a cool moment to watch the governor sitting in front of his 57 heads ”T.V”. I wonder if we’ll ever see his niece Penny,or maybe for the show’s purpose it became his daughter instead, like it seems to be portrayed on the wooded frame picture we glimpse at.

    Penny is a huge part of the Governor’s (Brian Blake) history as depicted in the novel ”Rise of the Governor” and It really would be a shame to omit Penny from the story line,
    I’m conscious that the writers simply can’t have the Governor french kissing a zombified minor girl corpse on T.V.
    (For me THAT was the moment that separated or if you prefer ”cemented” the Governor as one of the most evil or disgusting or dislikable comic book caracter ever created, he’s on my top 5 for sure)

    Penny also has a major role concerning Rick’s right hand….

    And what about this big black Governor’s thug that seems to eyes Michonne do we FINALLY get to have a real Tyrese on the show ??
    Hey! writers It’s never to late to right a wrong!!….


  • Gwise

    I liked this ep. Why? No Rick and Company. Boy, I’d never realized how much I’d gotten sick of Rick and Lori doing the “Do you hate me? Please don’t hate me!” dance.

    Governor’s ok so far. Weird accent, but we haven’t seen his really evil side yet, so… time will tell. What happened to the arena, though? To me, the arena implied that the ordinary people of Woodbury were at least a little bit tipped towards the crazy side of the scale. These just seem to be good people who are totally fooled by the Governor’s Mr. Nice Guy Act. They’re idiots who don’t even bother asking: “How the hell is it that a bunch of SOLDIERS were unable to hold back the walkers with all this ordnance, vehicles and equipment, and then you and your handful of rednecks were able to march in there, clear away the biters, and bring back all the supplies without even a single casualty?” Really, that didn’t seem a bit too convenient to anyone? Morons.

    Michonne seems ok to me; I like the actress. It’s a step away from the book, but she makes it work at least to an extend, which is more than what can be said for most of the cast. Although I never did know she was called “Me-shone”; Am I alone in having always thought it was pronounced “Mi-khon”?

    Best thing about the episode (God help me) was Merle. He’s absolutely loathable in his role.

    • dfstell

      Yes….it was quite nice to not have a single Lori scene. This was a really hard episode to review because I found it much harder to view it purely as a TV show and not compare it to the comics. Perhaps that’s because this plot development is something we’ve all looked forward to since the series started?

      I actually thought it was a little weak that the National Guard guys got taken out so easily by a bunch of rednecks, but a friend of mine in the Guard didn’t have so much trouble with it from a factual basis.

      I always pronounced it Me-shone-a. 🙂

      The only problem I have with Merle is that Michael Rooker kinda blows the other actors off the screen when he’s there. It isn’t so noticeable when he’s being a whooping redneck who is shooting zombies, but you’ll see it when they do quiet moments.

  • mgibbs

    “As you can tell, I have a few concerns about the direction of the show, but sometimes it would be nice to be able to unplug and just let the show’s creators tell a story.” The show’s creators are telling a story. You’re just too hell bent on them on trying to mirror the book 100%. With that outlook, you probably shouldn’t watch comic book movies (i.e. a human Bruce Wayne who’s quick to retire). Newsflash buddy. You should’ve known that the show is not going to be exactly like the book with the way they killed Shane and with the introduction of characters like Darryl and Merle. Plus it makes and it’s more believable that the Governor is this clean, evil gentleman. I honestly don’t buy that a meth addict redneck could’ve held it down for that long to lead a colony without getting shot and told to STFU. This rendition draws more respect, and really sells that he’s a leader. Which I think paints a formidable portrait of the Antagonist to Rick this season. TV Governor = “darker” version of what Rick can be. Comics Governor = Gratuitous Sociopath/ All-Around Bad Guy

    • mgibbs

      Plus it makes sense and it’s more believable that the Governor is this clean, evil gentleman.*

    • dfstell

      I obviously came off too much as “comic book guy” this week. Go figure…… 🙂

      Honestly, I don’t want them mirror the comics. There’s really no point to doing that kind of TV show because we’ve already seen *that*. What I DO what them to do is take the best of the comics and improve those things and then skip the weak parts of the comics.

      So….what’s an example……they should absolutely NOT do the whole Telephone Story. That was weak and not a good story. It was screwed up because other than those moments, we’ve never heard any of the character’s thought balloons before (and that’s what Lori’s voice was on the phone – Rick’s thought balloons). But, they absolutely could do a “Rick Goes Nuts” story. There’s been a lot of other weak stuff in the comics too over the last 50 issues.

      I guess my problem is when they deviate from the good parts of the comic. The Governor worked really well because he plays into the idea that the apocalypse might be ruled by the truly vicious. I know that this TV Governor is vicious too, but how did he get all these redneck thugs to follow him? In the normal world, you get redneck thugs to follow you by paying them, but in this world, it isn’t clear why Merle or one of the other dudes wouldn’t have just killed him…..especially because he seems very “landed gentry” and that isn’t someone the rednecks usually like very much.

      I could be wrong and I’d like this to be an improvement on the comics, but I’m not sold yet.

      Regarding Michonne, I’ve got the same complaint. EVERYBODY likes her from the comics. So, if you were creating the TV show, I think you’d want to try to adhere to that unless there was a good reason to change things.

      Thanks for commenting. I’ll try not to come across as such a “comic book guy” next week because even though I do love the comics and really cannot divorce myself from them, I don’t want this to just be a live-action version of the comics. I want it to be the BETTER, second draft of what Kirkman did originally.

      • Richard

        Oh man… don’t tell me I’m the only one in here who actually liked the “telephone” story. I mean, I really liked it. Being sad, angry, lonely and desperate can make the mind do strange things. That’s how rick was coping with his loss.

        Mind you in order for the ‘telephone’ story to EVEN be an option in this show, the death of a certain important character has to happen first…

        • dfstell

          I didn’t mind the “telephone” until someone else explained this bug-a-boo….and then I hated it. I mean….at no other time in the entire series do we get to see anyone’s thoughts. The closest is watching a crazy person talk to themselves like Michonne has done a few times, but we never actually see the thought balloons. And that’s what the telephone was….it was a thought balloon.

          I actually think it would have worked better if Rick was just talking into the receiver and you only heard one-side of the conversation. I mean….we didn’t really know who he thought he was talking to for awhile anyway.

          So I guess I should say that I didn’t mind that story…..I just didn’t love the execution in the comics. So, maybe that’s a place for the TV show to take the template of the comics and then improve it? 🙂

  • Bogey-Man

    I’m not sure and not trying to defend dfstell, but I have a lot of troubles splitting the show and the comic book myself….
    And it totally kills the experience…I mean the comic book stands out as one of the best product on the shelves today and I’m always hoping that the show gets closer to the comic since it is so good.

    I’ve always thought that the best episodes were the ones that matches the comic book the most.

    When the show gets away from the comic book plot lines it’s always kinda deceiving… As you point out Daniel, choosing to view the show as a separate entity really is the best solution..
    The writers are not weak in my opinion they’re just doing it differently
    than the comics …witch is not bad at all. WE just have to adjust and enjoy the show.
    As for the show’s cast I find the actors very weak compared to a lot of other t.v. series..

    • dfstell

      Yay! Someone being nice to me.

      Look….there are a LOT of great places to read reviews of TWD by people who haven’t read the comics. Andy Greenwald at Grantland is probably the best.

      This is a comic book site. The only reason we even cover the show is because of the comic book connection, so I think it makes sense to cover them from the perspective of people who have read the comics.

      To be clear, I don’t think this is a bad show. Of the dramas I watch every week right now… is worse than Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Dexter, Doctor Who, Spartacus and Boardwalk Empire. It is probably similar in quality to Falling Skies and True Blood. It is probably better than Revolution and Last Resort.

      So, the writers aren’t “bad”, but they just aren’t A-list either. And, they probably can’t get anyone any better because of the way that Mad Men ate the entire AMC budget (even Breaking Bad had to cut back). You just don’t see the flaws as much when the tempo is brisk.

  • Daniel

    Aaaaand I think I’ve reached the point were I’m going to stop reading your reviews. Just too overwhelmingly negative. You’re following the typical fanboy mindset of *looking* for reasons to hate the show because “durrrr the comics are betterrrr!” I also love the comics (and think they’re better than the show) but choose to view the show as a separate entity and enjoy it very much. Season 2 did at times feel like it was spinning it’s wheels but it really feels like you’ve decided to hate the show prior to viewing a particular episode. Your insults towards the actors and writers not being high enough caliber to pull off the show in the way you think it should be done are just absurd. It reminds me of the 0/10 would not bang meme. In fact I think the root cause of your hatred is that you arrogantly believe you could do a better job if you were in charge of it. You can’t.

    • dfstell

      Is there something that you think is good on this show? Something in particular you’d like to defend or that you think I’m maligning unjustly? Let’s talk about that.

      • Daniel

        For example, you seem to hate the show’s depiction of the Governor because he’s too far off base from the comic version and you think Merle would have been a better Governor. During the episode where Daryl is hallucinating about Merle I also had the thought that it would be awesome if Merle ended up being the Governor. But they went a different direction and instead of being pissed that they didn’t take the show the way I thought they should have I viewed it for what it was. I love it when the writers tease people who have read the comics. How many times in season 2 did Rick and Shane go off in to the woods and Lori (of course) lost track of Carl which left most of us on the edge of our seats expecting issue #6 in the comics to go down? This episode, I was sitting there expecting the Governor to say something along the lines of “well, we feed them strangers, stranger,” and instead they sent us on a snipe hunt of trying to figure out if this version of the Governor was going to be more moral or at least more grey-area than the comics version. I loved that uncertainty. I also thought it was a good idea to dedicate a full episode to introducing the Governor and Woodsbury. Non-Comic readers aren’t as familiar with the characters as us and it’s a perfectly legitimate decision to dedicate an episode to introduce them to a big plot device. But no, it all had to do with royalties and writer ineptitude correct? Like I said, you clearly have chosen to hate the show before watching it. Even last week when you gave the episode a good review you put all sorts of underhanded insults in there saying things like the writers should stick to a more action oriented show because the writers and actors aren’t high enough caliber to handle the more dramatic elements. (0/10 would not bang) Again, season 2 did spin it’s wheels at times when it had it’s almost weekly monologues about human nature and not becoming animals but the show really isn’t nearly as bad as your reviews paint it.

        • dfstell

          Yeah….but you’ll notice I gave this episode a “C”. That means average TV show. That’s really all this is. On a good week it can be better than average, but on a week like this it is comparable with a lot of other programs.

          • Daniel

            Ok so you gave it a “C.” You still trashed it pretty thoroughly in your write up.

            • dfstell

              Oh….I know. That happens sometimes when you’re writing these things quickly at 0500 before work and have a fever.

              Honestly….I do appreciate you keeping me honest. There are some positive things to point out about this episode. For one thing, they really “sold” the whole Stepford Wives community feeling down to the flowers, the manicured lawns and the dude raking leaves. It’s always a very nice LOOKING show.

              I promise….I’ll try to be more clear about reasons I do keep watching the show next week. 🙂

              • Richard

                Actually, I’m inclined to agree a bit with Daniel. This review was pretty harsh and critical (*sigh* again about Michonne) and you’ve been ragging on the actors playing Lori and rick for some time now. Don’t get me wrong: I like your reviews because you’re a fan of the original series (as am I). But you’re a tough fan to please. For instance, the Governor works in this series the way he is because he’s not meant to look so menacing right away. At first, I didn’t like his look either, but now I see the larger purpose it serves. He’s kinda “seducing” Andrea because she’s totally buying in.

                Michonne’s reactions work for me as well. She never seemed overly talkative in the books and her wariness of being in this strange town without her sword is consistent with her character from the book. I just wonder if her resistance to the Governor’s charms will case her to be “punished” (in a similar fashion to the books).

                Just my two cents.

                • dfstell

                  Point taken and I appreciate the honesty. These things are hard to write because I can never decide to treat the review as if it is the reader’s first time reading a review of mine OR whether they’re semi-regular. On one hand, you risk neglecting to mention something you think is important. On the other….you sound like a broken record.

                  But….I probably value the “regulars” more, so I don’t want to be a broken record. 🙂

                  And then some of it is locking yourself into reviewing something before you know whether you’ll have something useful to say about it. It’s one of the dangers of reviewing periodical entertainment. Some of this stuff is just “fine” or “okay” and doesn’t really merit a write up…..and when you force the write-up, it usually comes out harsher than you may have intended. But, that is a self-inflicted wound…..

                  With the Governor, I can see the attraction to him being more subtle, but I still kinda demand to know why a mean SOB like Merle is following his orders. I mean….what did he DO to make Merle a willing lackey? Ditto for some of the other guys. I mean….being smart and calculating probably isn’t enough. A guy like Merle is probably only going to respect physical power and violence and I’m not convinced this guy could kick anyone’s ass OR be the most hair-trigger and vicious bastard of the lot where even the hard-cases say, “Damn dude…..just chill! You can be in charge! Just quit biting people’s ears off because they looked at you funny!”

                  I mean…he’s got some charisma, but it’s more lady-killer charisma than gang-leader charisma.

                  Do you see what I mean? How is the Governor in charge of this group of alpha males? Because he looks like the first guy they’d throw over the wall.

                  • Richard

                    I hear you, but I think we’ll see just how he rose to alpha male status. The fact that Kirkman wrote an entire novel as a backstory for the Governor should provide us viewers with lots of interesting tidbits, flashes, stories, etc. (He is an executive producer after all).

                    As far as his appearance goes, looking tough is one thing. Being tough, however, is more of a mind-set. His displays of cool, yet calm violence has already been a tad disturbing. He shows no real emotion on his face. (Watch episode 3 again to see what I’m referring to.)

                    As for good ol’ Merle, I think he’s just grateful to be saved and in a place where he can contribute. He seems more mellow now. Maybe the Governor had something to do with that, or being so close to death. I think when Merle eventually confronts Rick and T-Dog in person, that’ll be intense and his old persona will crop up.

                  • Bogey-Man

                    I think Merle’s loyalty and ”obeisance” is due to the fact that the governor saved his life and for me that’s very plausible since Merle’s said it himself, he was nearly bloodless and ready to eat a bullet for breakfast…
                    But a loose canon like Merle can switch allegiance in the snap of fingers.
                    I personally see him shot to death by his own brother…Daryl.

                    • dfstell

                      Good points to both of you! Let’s see how it turns out…. 🙂 I really appreciate the discussion. I don’t claim to be the expert on this stuff…..I’m just a guy with a full-time professional job who writes reviews at 0500 before his family wakes up. That’s never going to be a perfect system….