“You came through like always.” — Hershel Green
[some spoilers within]
It’s been months of waiting since the exciting mid-season finale of The Walking Dead‘s third season. This season has been quite a revelation in that it put some of the lost faith fans of the show had after the very uneven 2nd season under the split caretakers of Frank Darabont (fired after the first half of season 2) and Glen Mazzara (took over after Darabont’s departure). Under Mazzara’s guidance as the show’s showrunner the show has done a great job at fixing some of the major issues the show had been criticized about throughout season 2.
Season 3 has been faster-paced and didn’t rely too much on the use of exposition info-dumps to explain what was going on in the show. The action during the first half of season 3 wasn’t just for the thrill that fans wanted more of, but also allowed the show to show rather than tell the episodes. This was something that had been a major problem under Darabont’s guidance. Mazzara realized the problems and did some major course-correcting on the show’s narrative that even major detractors of the series had to concede that the show had breathed new life to what had become something that stagnated.
The Walking Dead broke for it’s mid-season winter hiatus with the excellent “Made to Suffer” episode. With two months of waiting to go through some things occurred behind-the-scenes on the show that could affect the series going forward with the second half of season 3 and the show’s future, in general. First, AMC announced that a fourth season of the show was being greenlit (worst kept secret), but the second news was more of a downer as the network announced that showrunner Glen Mazzara was leaving the show. Rumors as to why he was leaving has been flying since the announcement with creative differences between Mazzara and the show’s executive producer and comic book creator Robert Kirkman. We may never know the full details on what occurred behind-the-scenes, but it looks like The Walking Dead as a series may go through another course-correction that may help of hurt the show. Time will tell and hopefully incoming showrunner Scott Gimple (also one of the series’ veteran writers) will keep the show going on the positive end of the ledger.
“The Suicide Kings” marks the second half of season 3 and we pick up pretty much where the mid-season left-off with the Governor pitting the Dixon brothers against each other to appease the Woodbury mob who has just been violently woken up from their “idyllic” existence inside the walls of the town. The scene itself was milked for tension as we’re not sure (once the deathmatch began) whether Merle was actually going to kill Daryl in order to prove his loyalty to the Governor. Fortunately, this doesn’t last too long as the two brothers soon fight back-to-back against the Woodbury guards leading shackled walkers towards them. But it was the timely intervention of Team Rick and his well-trained “commandos” who finally broke the Dixon brothers out of the precarious situation and also shatter whatever illusion of safety the Woodbury residents had been holding onto even after the initial raid by Team Rick.
The bulk of the episode showed the two opposing groups having to deal with the effects of the raid and rescue by Rick’s group against the Governor and the town of Woodbury.
For a cold opening this one is pretty up there in setting the tone for a show’s return. We see how much Rick values Daryl as a member of his group that he would be willing to return to a place that hates him right now in order to rescue his right-hand man. It also helped showed how much the events that took place prior to this episode was affecting the Governor. With tear gas spreading and chaos reigning he calmly walks through it all with no care as to the safety of the people he declared himself as their protector or even as to his own safety. We see in these early moments a man who has lost everything he has cared about and just want blood from those he blames for his loss. The Governor during the rest of the episode looks to be setting himself up for a war and one he intends to win. He’s not out to rule over a grateful flock. In fact, he seems relieved to not having to pretend to be a benevolent leader anymore.
Rick, on the other hand, continues to crack under the weight of leadership. His decision concerning the Dixon brothers has begun to cause dissension amongst his own people not to mention that whatever psychological toll the death of Lori during the first half of the season really has gone away but has gotten worst. Andrew Lincoln’s performance as he becomes unhinged at the end of the episode was quite telling as it helps the viewers look at him less and less as a badass leader, but one with concern that he might be as big a danger to the group as the Governor. Even his own son Carl looks to be setting himself as a better leader of the group than his own father. Carl still mourns and worries about what he had to do to Lori, but at the same time we can see that he’s able to move on from such a traumatic event to help protect the group.
Will Carl be able to go against Rick when the time comes and a decision has to be made as to who should lead the group? We shall see if the writers will explore this aspect of the father-son dynamic as the season rolls onto it’s season finale.
As for the rest of the cast we get to know a bit more of Tyrese and his people. One, Tyrese seems like a genuinely good person just looking for a safe place for his sister Sasha and the rest of what had been a group of 25 people. Two, we learn that Allen and his son Ben of Team Tyrese are setting themselves up for a rude awakening if they think Carl and Carol will be easy to overpower for their guns thus take over the prison for themselves. If these two only knew what Carl has had to do since the end of season 2 they’d be backing away in fear of the original Lil’ Asskicker.
There’s also the interesting subplot developing between Glenn and Maggie. The two lovebirds look to be going through a personal crisis since their escape from Woodbury and the attentions of the Governor. Where Maggie seems to be holding up quite well considering the near-rape she had to go through with the Governor, Glenn on the other hand looks to be playing up the role of the furious significant other who wants revenge on the Governor and Woodbury for what they put his lover through. Maggie, as we can see from her reaction to Glenn’s behavior throughout the episode is none too grateful for being treated like she’s helpless. It looks like there’s some interesting times in store for the show’s resident couple.
“The Suicide Kings” is an apt title for tonight’s episode as we see the opposing kings of the show looking like they’re heading down a path of suicide to punish those they think has caused them heartache and loss but also to finally end the suffering they’re going through. The Governor wants war while Rick just wants and end to everything as a way to get away from the demons and heartache he’s currently going through this season. Time to see which king will finally get their wish by season’s end.
- Tonight’s episode was written by series regular Evan Reilly and directed by newcomer Lesli Linka Glatter.
- While he comes off as quite the mad scientist during the early episode of the season it looks like Milton (played by Dallas Roberts) doesn’t seem to be quite sure of the Governor as a leader to follow especially during the “fight club” sequence in the beginning of the episode.
- Nice to see Merle being Merle (funny and great performance by Michael Rooker) by rewarding Rick and his group rescuing him from Woodbury by mouthing off. Seeing Rick pistolwhip Merle then seeing the look of silent thanks from Daryl was a great moment. Daryl may be sticking with Merle because of their shared blood, but Daryl understands how much more of a big brother Rick has been to him. This makes his reluctant choice to side with Merle in the end to be so bittersweet. Daryl knows his true place is with Rick, but blood calls much stronger.
- Glenn, Glenn, Glenn….why are you being such a dumbass. Just goes to show that when it comes to man trying to stand up for their woman (or man) sometimes they let their balls do the thinking instead of their brain.
- When it looked like Carol was about to revert back to being useless, catatonic Carol when she found out about Daryl’s decision to leave the group she surprised me (and probably many) by taking things in stride after having a cry over the initial news. I do hope that the season continues to explore the unique relationship and bond which seem to have grown between Carol and fan-favorite Daryl Dixon.
- Chandler Riggs continues to improve as an actor this season though at times hints pop up just how much of a newbie he is to the craft. Yet, when it comes to being the silent, badass type he does seem to pull off the type well.
- When Rick was holding baby Judith in his arms once he got back to the prison there was a moment, just moment, when the look on his face made it seem like he didn’t like what he was seeing when looking down at her and wanted to bash her wee baby head against the wall. Maybe he thought he saw some Shane in her or maybe he thought it would be better off if she never grew up in a world as uncaring and horrific as the world this show has created.
- Andrea is a character that seems like the writers continually on the cusp of finding the role for, but always comes off as unforgivably stupid or just irritatingly cocksure of herself despite always making the worst decisions each and every time she’s confronted by hard choices. Maybe it’s not the character but the actor Laurie Holden’s performance that’s hampering what should’ve been one of the show’s bedrock, badass characters. Instead, it looks like she’s just a character that’s now on borrowed time with the show’s writers just looking to find a way to give her the proper exit.
- Rick, my man, looks to be unraveling before our eyes, not to mention in front of the rest of the group, with his hallucination of what could only be Lori’s ghost in the end of the episode as he’s contemplating the decision to whether let Tyrese and his people stay or leave.
- Zombie Kill Count of tonight’s episode: 13 seen (possibly 8 more off-screen)
Past Season 3 Episode Review