A Few Things (with minor SPOILERS): 1. Kinda directionless – This episode wasn’t really about anything.  So far this season, each episode has had a clearly defined plot: prison clearing, guided tours of Woodbury, dealing with inmates, etc.  Looking at my notes, there wasn’t really a central defining theme of this episode. Things do happen, but because of the split action, neither the Prison narrative nor the events in Woodbury could gather much steam.  However, it does allow us to focus on a lot of smaller items…

2. New revelations in Woodbury – We learned a lot about Woodbury.  Some was good and some not so much.

Good: Michonne really emerged as a character in this episode.  She hasn’t had much to do but stand in the background and glower thus far this season.  But, here we get to see her bona fides with the sword, and she seems legitimately bad-ass.  Or maybe she was just a HUGE Kill Bill fan?  Regardless, she has a personality now and it’s adding something to the show, especially since she ruptured her partnership with Andrea.  Although I have a bad feeling that the Governor isn’t going to let her go so easily.

Mixed results: Andrea is kinda all over the place as a character.  Her willingness to accept a screwed-up, alt-version of society does fit with the young lady who wanted to lay down and die at the CDC in Season 1.  But, then in Season 2, Andrea started to emerge as a bit of a tough customer when Shane started teaching her to shoot.  It would be nice if the show’s creators made an effort to reconcile these two depictions of Andrea.  Is she a quitter?  Was she only acting tough, but really had a death wish?  Does she just have a thing for men with terrible Southern accents?

Bad: The zombie/gladiator games were really stupid.  Those worked very well in the comics because all of Woodbury was very Thunderdome-esque, but the TV version of Woodbury has a Stepford Wives aspect to it.  It’s fine to be different from the comics, but given that Woodbury itself is so different, they should have just omitted the zombie fights or at least handled it differently.  It just seemed wrong that the crowd of people who were dutifully edging their sidewalks earlier in the day turn into professional wrestling fans at night.

3. Rick goes Col. Kurtz – How long was Rick missing in the Prison?  It’s reasonable that he wanted to look for Lori, but the whole thing got weird after Glenn went to find him.  After their confrontation, Glenn obviously just left him there for what?  12 hours?  2 days?  Does he realize that he’s standing on the zombie spawn point and no new zombies will appear until he moves?  Not even little Carl stops by to check on him during his illicit scouting trips to the Prison library?  And how did he know where Lori died?  Why did Carl and Maggie leave the knife behind?  Did Rick think that the zombie gobbled Lori up bones and all?  There are a lot of holes in this part of the story.  I mean, it isn’t terrible, but this story could be vastly improved if the writers’ room had a few cynical SOBs who would ask questions like these.  It wouldn’t take much to address them and tighten the narrative.

4. Telephone calls – And then we have The Telephone… (SPOILERS) The set-up for the telephone is so different from the comics that it will necessarily be a different story. One thing I HOPE is that we viewers don’t hear Lori’s voice on the phone. TWD is a third-party narrative and there is no place for inner monologue or hearing a character’s thoughts in a third-party narrative.  The viewer is a fly on the wall and while the fly can get close enough to the phone to hear both sides of a legit phone call, the fly is not telepathic and cannot hear Rick’s insanity.  The creators can still tell the same stories, but they need to be more creative.  The writers have already (kinda) broken this rule last season when Darryl hallucinated Merle, but at least those scenes were shot from a first-person perspective.

5. Special effects are worse – Did anyone else notice that all the zombie chopping this week went from incredibly well done make-up/physical effects to mediocre CGI?  It wasn’t quite Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie quality, but it wasn’t good either.  If the budget doesn’t allow for the proper effects to be done, the creators should just modify the script and shoot the scenes differently.  I’m especially thinking of the scene of Michonne chopping up the gametime zombies.  That could have been handled in many different ways and gotten the same effect.

6. Carol? – Is Carol dead?  It sure seems like it, but how weak to do it off-camera?  I mean, they buried something.  Carol was at least as important to the show as T-Dogg, and it just seems like more should have been made of her death.  It’s just odd that one episode we’d spend time capturing a zombie and seeing Carol learning to perform a C-section and then the next she perhaps dies off camera.

7. Were any characters aware that Lori was pregnant? – Why did they have no formula and diapers on hand?  Presumably they are scouting constantly and a helpful soul like Darryl would have just grabbed some, right?  Given the lack of preparation, Lori would have been nagging constantly about how Rick hadn’t even assembled the crib yet.  Have the writers ever been around pregnant women?

8. Cavalry draw holsters? – This is a minor point for the gun-nerds out there, but we all have our hobbies and notice this stuff.  The Governor uses a Cavalry Draw holster.  Hollywood types love Cavalry Draw for some reason and it pops up all over the place (I guess it seems flashy to them), but it’s a horribly flawed way to carry a pistol for two reasons.  One, it’s child’s play for an assailant to pull your gun out of your holster and shoot you in the belly with it; it’s almost as if it is holstered to make it convenient for assailants.  Two, the entire motion of drawing the weapon is awkward because you must cross your body.  It makes it harder to hit your target and easier for an assailant to close distance and block your arm (and then the assailant has taken your back and you’re in huge trouble).  It’s just a bad way to do things.  The only people who use this system are people who spend all day sitting down (like cabdrivers).  It’s a minor point and I know most viewers don’t care, but makes it hard to buy the Governor as this cerebral villain.  I mean, Merle would see the weakness in this system and so would most of the other survivors.

9.  Wardrobe Week – Andrea got a new shirt!  But it still had bare arms and back because she wants the Governor to like her.  Darryl has scrounged a very clean serape from somewhere.  The Governor has lost his shooting vest!  And why is Maggie going on scouting missions in an Andrea-esque slinky top?  Heck, just a pair of Carhartt coveralls would defeat most zombie bites.

Conclusion: Not a whole lot happened this week until the final cliffhanger.  Some was pretty nifty.  Some was kinda stupid.  This show is frustrating because so many of the mistakes are minor and easy to fix.  It’s like having a decent term paper with misspelled words.  If TWD were a student, the teacher would speak to the parents about the student’s lack of effort.

Grade: C+

– Dean Stell