Original air date: February 17, 2013

The Story: How long before the Governor attacks the Prison?

The Review (with SPOILERS): 

1. Pretty hot last 15 minutes – Maybe the final minutes only felt hot because the first ~100 minutes of this “spring season” were so plodding?  Regardless, I’ll bet everyone watching the episode said, “WHOA!” when Axel got shot.  One second I was wondering what the writers were doing by making Axel flirt with Carol, how that would play out when Darryl returned, etc… And then he has a hole in his head.  Splat!  I still think this is a deeply troubled show because the show’s creators have shown no ability to maintain any sort of fast-paced momentum, but it was nice to see that they haven’t lost the ability to deliver an “Oh, snap!” moment.  Good for them!  Then they followed up with the trojan horse truck through the gate.  I totally didn’t see that coming either.  Who was the driver? Was it Andrea?

Now, it wasn’t perfect.  There was a little too much automatic weapon spraying without anyone getting hit.  At some point, that just becomes nonsense noise that serves no purpose.  We get it. Much ammo was expended!  And how did The Gov get a man up into the tower?  And what sort of metallic innards did Axel have that Carol could hide behind him?  And why did the Gov have a very, very non-standard weapon?  Good luck finding spare magazines in the zombie apocalypse!

2. Less Rick = Better Episode – Even before the big finale, this was a much better episode because it had about 99% less Rick.  He wasn’t totally absent and we’ll talk about that below, but it was way more fun to spend time with ALL the other characters than to watch Rick do anything.  For example, I even prefer watching the Governor appoint Milton to spy on Andrea to watching Rick do much of anything.

3. The Dixon Brothers – How much fun were the Dixon brothers?  And how good were the actors?  I enjoyed Merle being bigger than life, peeing on trees, asking people for enchiladas and such.  But that scene after they saved the family was great and showed what a cool show this could be if it was blessed with better lead actors.  Didn’t you just love how Merle melted from belittling his little brother’s softness (in wanting to go back to the Prison) to realizing that he really didn’t want to be left behind and alone?  That emotion is so vital to the comics, but we usually can’t get it from the TV show because Rick just can’t pull off that level of acting.  And I loved seeing them ride to the rescue when Rick was pinned down by the zombies.  Merle should be a fun addition to the group and I’m sure Michael Rooker is drooling at the thought of out-acting Andrew Lincoln every week.

4. Gah! Visions of Lori – Speaking of Rick… Man, I was seriously hoping a zombie would eat him, but it appears that even the zombies outside the fence don’t want to be around Rick.  Is anyone enjoying this arc where he’s losing his mind and seeing Lori everywhere?  Was anyone happy to actually SEE Lori again?  Geez, move on people!  Wasn’t it weird how the others just let him wander around outside the fence?  The only person who showed up was Herschel, since the group needed their steely leader back.  WTF?  I’d like to see examples of Rick being this quality leader instead of merely being told that he is such.

5. Navel gazing doesn’t suit Maggie. – I seriously wonder if the writers of this show are anti-woman.  First they turned Lori into an unwatchable mess.  Then they turned on Andrea.  Now, Maggie has gone from this plucky and spicy young woman to a bunch of navel gazing.  Is she upset because she had to take her shirt off and fear that she might get raped?  I’m sure that in real life that would be hugely traumatic, but it isn’t making for good television.  This is why I have little faith on this show being able to maintain positive momentum for the finale.  Some writer actually said, “Hmm… This Maggie character is getting popular with the fanbase and everyone really likes her relationship with Glenn.  How about we have an arc where Maggie almost gets raped and then barely talks to anyone for a few episodes?”

6. Tyrese? – I guess since the budget was high for the gun battle and the TWO zombie fights, the show didn’t have enough to pay for the appearance of Tyrese’s gang.  It’s just funny how something that was central to the drama in the last episode doesn’t even get a mention this time.

7. Fast pace = Good TV – To wrap up, this show reminds me of what we used to call a “20 mph lawn” in a subdivision I used to live in.  That meant that your lawn had lots of weeds, bare spots, etc… and couldn’t withstand a rigorous inspection.  But it looked just fine if someone drove past at 20 mph.  That’s how this show is.  Keep moving and we don’t notice the weak parts.

Conclusion: Still a lot of flaws, but the show demonstrates that it still has the ability to surprise.  They actually gave us something to talk about when we’re around the water cooler this week!

Grade: A- (perhaps a little to high, but what the hell….)

– Dean Stell