The Story: Will Rick deliver a member of his group to the Governor in exchange for peace?
1. A mostly nice episode for Merle & Michonne - Michael Rooker has been among TWD‘s best assets this season. As an actor, he’s just interesting to watch. Every scene with Merle is always just a little more than the mere dialogue would suggest. There’s always something lurking under the surface, whether it’s betrayal of the group or an unwelcomed sexual advance or the threat of violence. Even when saddled with this week’s stupid subplot from the writers (about searching the prison for drugs), Rooker is usually able to rise above the material. He’ll be missed on a show whose stars are capable of little more than reading the lines (with a strained voice to disguise their English accent).
Credit should also go to the way the show has salvaged Michonne. Remember Michonne during the fall season? She was just an awful mess of glowering and saying very little. Of course, it probably didn’t help that most of her dramatic scenes were with Andrea (who would make all of us glower), but still, the writers just didn’t know what to do with her during the fall. Obviously they rewatched those episodes over the winter break and said, “Yuck. How about we write some dialog for this lady?” And it has mostly worked out. I enjoy Michonne now and like how she slowly and calmly talked Merle into releasing her and trying to settle scores with the Governor.
2. Too much patronizing of the audience. - There is almost nothing more annoying than a TV show that patronizes the audience. This episode wasted half of its running time with the morality of giving Michonne over to the Governor. Are there really people in the audience who don’t understand the implications of that? Let me break it down for you. You see, if the Governor and the prison go to war, MANY people are likely to die, so it might make sense to sacrifice ONE person to avoid further bloodshed. Do you get it? We can talk about it again in a slightly different way if you’d like. You see, is Michonne really even a true member of the group or is she extra because she wasn’t even at the farm? Even if Michonne is ‘worth more’ from a utilitarian standpoint than one-legged Herschel and his singing daughter, Michonne isn’t family.
Gah! I hate it when writers think that the audience is too stupid to figure out what is going on. Part of the fun with these dilemmas is when they are vague and you can quietly consider what it means to YOU, rather than having it explained in a raspy dialog by Rick and Darryl. Of course, the show wasn’t done being patronizing as we had to dive into the amoral cesspool of “gettin’ someone to do yer dirty work” with Merle… Or as the Governor put it, “He’s a wild card, but he’s effective.” This whole trope of people like Merle being necessary evils because they do the dirty work is beyond annoying. By the end of the episode, there was some interesting stuff related to Merle, and that higher-level material isn’t served by the patronizing.
3. Glen + Maggie - Just as Michonne has blossomed this spring, Glen has taken a real nose-dive. He’s always mad and intense. Clearly when the actor auditioned, they didn’t make him read any lines with intensity. He did have that really great and intense scene with the zombie when he was held captive in Woodbury, but that intensity doesn’t translate well to his relations with fellow cast members.
Even if Glen’s decreasing Q-score makes him less fun, his relationship with Maggie is still an important part of TWD: If someone doesn’t start to make some babies, TWD will never be more than Rick and the Governor fighting over the last can of pinto beans. So, it’s nice to see that some ideals like marriage and monogamy are surviving and that TWD isn’t falling into one of those post-apocalyptic tropes where women are forced to become breeding stock. I worry a little for this show when they fiddle with these higher ideas because they’ve shown a propensity to dive (badly) into the “what makes us human” theme. Nevertheless, they didn’t muck it up this week.