I believe that children are our future
Well, team, I am very curious to see if Martin and Shelly came around on this episode. I continue to find this season totally fascinating and gripping as suspenseful, post-apocalyptic horror. I was actually clenching my fists and swatting the air with anxiety as Michonne honed in on the Governor’s live zombie doll collection, which is a kind of suspense I haven’t felt for this series in a long time – not to mention I felt it without the on-screen presence of a single zombie. That feeling alone was enough to keep the flame of hope alive that the series has indeed found new footing.
But even more than ploys to get my heart racing, the juxtapositions between the prison and Woodbury allow the show to explore many of the themes that they probably would have just talked to death last season. I keep thinking about your comment from last week, Martin, that part of what we are exploring are new notions of time: what does it mean to live without a full sense (any sense?) of the future and an overly poignant sense of the past? This hit me hard when the camera panned out on the festival scene: it was so suburbanly cheerful I actually wondered for a split-second if it was a Lost-like flashback to The Time Before. The people of Woodbury aren’t planning for the future; they are clinging with nostalgia to the past, which, as Andrea points out, requires a dangerous de-fanging of the present. Realizing this so clearly in visual clues gave added depth to the way in which the prison group is actually trying to create a new future that fully confronts the reality of the present. They too are trying to create a refuge – some kind of way to a new normal outside simply running and surviving moment to moment, some new form of familial and community bonds, new rituals of life and death – but only by consistently letting go of their nostalgic assumptions about the past.
These themes are, once again, tied to the fate of children. The Governor’s desperate attempt to keep his zombie daughter “alive” in some way is perhaps the creepiest hint we’ve seen so far that he is a controlling bastard (watching him straight-jacket and hood his dead daughter made me think of a terrible parody of the worst kind of disciplinary parenting guides). What did the rest of you think of this? Did you think his aggressive soothing methods were working, or was that all just a delusion? Even if there is some part of the human left in the zombie, what are the ethics of keeping that form of decaying life alive? Isn’t it obviously the Governor’s inability to let go of the past that keeps him locked in a delusion about the present and future? Whereas the new Grimes baby (though maybe in this landscape, possessive names don’t apply. Should we just call her Lil’Ass-Kicker?) is a marker of an impossible future (that formula will be gone in a couple weeks), but one that is already re-orienting the group in new ways.
I will close by saying that Rick’s complete breakdown, while a fascinating visual counter-point to the staged gladiator battles in Woodbury, does seem a bit over the top. Have we seen anything in Rick’s character to suggest he would go AWOL like this? I’ll let the rest of you predict whose on the other end of that phone line.
Hmmm….Kathryn, I really wasn’t too keen on this episode, but your thoughts about its relationship to time makes it more interesting than I originally allowed.
Let me say why I found this episode annoying, and then I’ll get to some more philosophical stuff. But before any of that, let me just say how gross the Governor accidentally ripping out his child’s hair is. The image with accompanying sound will not leave my mind when I think of this show and I feel, akin to nails on a chalkboard, a sort of somatic response every time I think of it.
So, annoying stuff. The Andrea/Micchone conversations are painfully stupid. I guess this is what happens when you develop characters off-screen…I still find it mind-bogglingly contrived and silly. In part, I also thought that, on the whole, this episode captured much of the tone of last season: well, they’re waiting around, talking. Now, they’re debating utilitarianism. Oh wait, let’s wonder about the appearance/reality distinction and as it pertains to politics. (And remember, I actually didn’t hate last season as much as everyone else…but we already did that).
And your thoughts about the differing ways in which they are navigating temporality suggests why some of these scenes feel unnecessary. We already understand that this sort of gladiatorial combat is regressive–we don’t need the Governor to explain it to us and Andrea. As you nicely put it, Kathryn–we have all of the visual clues we need. Similarly, we get that the prison group is forging a new morality and we don’t need Glenn to meditate on it. This time could have been used for more interesting things. I do agree, that on the whole, these two models are interesting, and I suspect the phone call will interject a third–something that’s not all out post-apocalyptic (prison group) and that’s not all out regressive (Woodbury), but that’s somewhere in between (say, a surviving remnant of the government?)
I suppose, then, that I’m willing to see what happens next week before final verdict on this episode.
As far as Rick…I thought it was interesting what they did with the character, and the image of him stabbing the distended belly of the zombie who ate his wife was symbolic in many ways: (1) perhaps in part rejecting his wife’s pregnancy altogether (or at least raging against it), (2) lashing out against the alleged life and vitality it represents (strikingly, this belly is already deformed and dead), taking some form of vengeance, here, it is uncertain whether it is against the zombie or Lori…
So I might be the dumber one in the group – but it took me a few minutes to make sure that the zombie Rick went nuts on wasn’t actually Lori. I know we had the shell from the gun in the pool of blood, but I was still wondering from last week whether Carl actually managed to kill her. The close up on the zombie’s eyes for a moment convinced me they were Lori’s and that the belly was her leftover pregnancy belly. I had to remind myself that there’s no way she’d be so deteriorated given that she’d only been dead/turned for a few hours at most. But it also seemed strange to me that a zombie would eat an entire zombie corpse…don’t we usually see a remnant of an arm, or a hollowed out rib-cavity left behind? When have we ever seen a zombie eat all the bones too?!
I suppose this could leave me puzzling about the sequence of events – did Carl shoot Lori before she turned? If the brain is shot before the person turns, do they never turn? Was Lori ever a zombie?
These questions might seem a little nit-picky, but I raise them because I’m struck by how much the show has avoided showing us Lori’s dead, zombiefied or ripped apart body. This is not a show that shies away from disgusting images (little girl having her scalp brushed off offers case in point) and gore (up close visual of Michonne crushing a zombie’s head with her boot). So why have they hidden Lori from us? Is there something sacred about birthing that means we can’t see her as anything other than composed in death?
All that to say – yes, Martin, I saw Rick’s enraged attack on the belly as being some attempt to break through to where his wife lay buried in an excruciating blend of a desire to say good-bye and a desire to punish her one last time.
I guess, Kathryn, that I buy Rick’s snap. Ever since he killed the guy in the bar in season two (and we were reminded of his brutality against humans too when he killed the inmate a few weeks ago), I’ve accepted that anything is possible with him. It’s been a long time since he’s really been protecting the group, and I think he’s been testing the borders of his sanity for a while. I don’t know who is on the other end of that line, if they will pull Rick back into some semblance of sanity – but I would actually rather watch this broken Rick for a while. I like the idea of Daryl stepping into the father role for the group (who would have thought Daryl would end up as the sane, care-giving softie when we started out on this journey a few seasons ago?!). I’d like to see Maggie step into leadership, maybe Maggie and Glen together. Shifting the power dynamics within the group as everyone has to figure out how to care for Rick and the baby simultaneously could actually create some compelling storylines, I think.
As for Annie, the Governor’s daughter – I know that was supposed to make him creepier, so does it make me creepy that it actually made me like him more. Yes, absolutely, the straightjacket and hood were terrible, horrible things to see. But I believed the soothing. I thought Annie, for a moment, calmed down…and let’s remember, that she was entirely calm in his presence having her hair brushed until he pulled too hard. I continue to wonder if there’s a cure that is administered through care, through loving integration. I know that’s corny (and certainly upended by the zombie boxing ring). But there’s something beautiful to me in the figure of a father who keeps persisting in trying to keep his daughter human – it’s a more compelling image, at least, than watching that bullet rip through Sophia’s head.
And it shows why the Governor was so uncomfortable with the language of docility. But just who is Penny!?
Still giggling at the one thing left unchanged in the zombie-apocalypse: wrestling is still staged –
I refrained from despairing about the show this week. Kathryn, I was not won over; I chose to overlook the bloated zombie stomach and the Andrea/Michonne melodrama to hang in with all of you. While I believe that post-apocalyptic films have potential to speak to a moment of crisis, of tapping into anxieties and performing a helpful—even cathartic—function, I wonder if my lack of excitement about TWD is that I think it is speaking to a cultural moment that has passed or is passing. It does not seem as relevant as I found it in Season 1. I would love to hear others weigh in on this.
The return of the children theme was a very interesting one, and I have to agree with Natalie that the moments of the Governor soothing his zombie-daughter did lead me to think about the ‘research’—the taming and, could we say, civilizing of the zombies. Reminiscent of psycho-horror flicks with the haunting dead child. When will the Governor’s wife appear? (Penny? – I was thinking that this might be the ‘last’ woman that the Governor entertained in his bed. Michonne warning Andrea? I may be way off base here). I continue to be intrigued by what is happening with the research in Woodbury, and I did love the solo scenes with Michonne sneaking around the Governor’s house. I was waiting for the zombie-head-tank revelation. The young boy on the shoulders of his father watching the gladiatorial zombie show and cheering did bring out a different dimension of the conversations we had about Carl and Sophia at the beginning of last season. While Carl has entered into adolescence, it is interesting that the first name that he suggests for the baby name is ‘Sophia.’ But who needs wisdom when you could have a Lil’ Kick Ass in the post-apocalyptic world? The children in Woodbury are being raised, as Natalie says, on nostalgia for the old world, they are, via ‘the games’ being trained to see the zombies in a particular way; again, we might get glimpses of the research agenda here. The sober head-researcher seems to be unable to enjoy the entertainment.
Rick’s wake-up call? I couldn’t help thinking that his Season 1, Episode 1 friend had finally tracked him down….
Don’t forget to check back later for Shelly and Travis’ responses…