The Screaming Pits
Well, as soon as the episode opened on those two new black characters, I figured the helpful, black inmate, Oscar was not long for this world. Following up on our conversation from last week, I can’t say this episode helped all that much with our concerns about a white heteropatriarchy, then – especially given the strange scene between Carol and Axel in which he assumes she’s a lesbian because of her short hair. That scene seemed to be playing for a very rare laugh by deploying too many stereotypes at once for my liking. That being said, Maggie did seem to me to become solidified as a genuine leader of the group as she led the charges, kept everyone covered during shoot outs, killed an actual human (was Merle’s buddy her first human kill?), was the one to give the necessary head-shot to Oscar, and pretty much led the close to the battle after Rick’s delusional state had him see Shane dressed like x-man, Wolverine, come striding through the smoke. I guess when I asked last week if we’d see more about Rick and the strange phone call, that’s a little something of what I was wondering…will we see the psychic break permeate other aspects of his life? Will it just be voices and visions of the departed? Or will madness start creeping into him elsewhere too? A few questions and thoughts to get our conversation going this week:
1. At first I found all the ‘kill the terrorists…they want to destroy our way of life’ stuff a little over-the-top and annoying. The evocation of sitting in front of the tv watching in fear was just too referential to 9/11. But then I wondered whether or not we’re supposed to imagine this world we’re watching as having had 9/11 and the ensuing years? By this I mean, are we to imagine the Governor is basically introducing that language into a 21st century American context, and that it echoes our world in heavy handed ways? Or are we to imagine he’s redeploying the language he watched be so useful in an ‘age of terror’ in the age to come? I find the latter option intriguing. I like the idea that he’s not just whipping up the crowd to fulfill his own desires with some random words, but rather that he’s intentionally deploying recently used concepts to ground the current fight as an extension of another recent one.
2. The fight scene between Michonne and the Gov. pretty much had me screaming the whole time – especially when a) that biter head was trying to bite her in the tank and b) she put the glass through the Gov’s eye! But did her shock and outrage at Penny’s existence strike anyone else as a little hypocritical? Wouldn’t Michonne out of everyone understand the desire or need to keep a turned love one around? We got the sense that her pack mule zombies were people she knew. Was her killing of Penny revenge for losing whoever her pet zombies were? Or what can we interpret out of the differences in the ways she kept folks around and the Governor did the same?
3. What is going to happen at the prison? Did we know before this episode that the back of the prison was essentially bombed out? And did it seem at all strange how easily Hershel was convinced to let Carl go down in the basement all by himself and start shooting his gun? (I guess we’re not worried about rallying the walkers with gunshot noises anymore?) The new group expands our adult pool nicely (perhaps connecting to Axel’s creepy desire to repopulate, taking some of the heat off of young Beth). But when Carl said it’s what his dad would do…I wasn’t quite sure anymore that it was. And these new guys don’t seem nearly as experienced as our crew. Just what have they been doing or where have they been hiding that they think it’s a good idea to bring a bitten loved one into enclosed quarters with them? And why was Terese, their leader, so quick to respect the authority of a child?!?
Looking forward to hearing what you all thought!
Natalie and all….
Action-packed winter finale! I regret being absent for what were, in my estimation, the best episodes of Season 3. Great blogging the past couple of weeks, and I want to comment briefly on the torture/seduction sequences and the racial politics of the show. While you noted the problematic depiction of African American characters, you did not mention the depiction of the Asian male. The “didn’t know you had it in you,” has been hanging over Glen since the beginning of the show, and we have watched his transformation from a timid and reluctant fighter to a natural born killer in the torture scene (and this week, he rips apart the walker body, using it as an instrument of escape). Shame is at the root of torture, and James Gilligan makes a great case that violence is wielded in an attempt to overcome shame and humiliation. In that sense, I thought all the moves in these scenes captured that brilliantly. But of the Asian male body?
The invasion of spaces–Woodbury and the prison–was a nice set us up for the second half of the season. Departures from the CDC and the farm ended the last two seasons, so I imagine that we might be on the road again soon. And, Natalie, I’m with you–did no one notice the gaping hole in the back of the building? And the gladiator brothers are placed in the center arena with the crowds yelling “Crucify them.” Andrea looks appropriately distraught, but I have to admit that seeing Daryl and Merle together in the ring reminded me of the scene in season one when Merle gave Daryl the “blood brothers” speech. Kathryn anticipated that this brother-pairing would turn things around in Woodbury. Apparently, we have to wait some weeks before we know how the back-woods boys are going to escape this one. The other pairing in this episode was a father-daughter one–the Governor weeping over the second-death of his daughter. The zombie tanks paired with the image of Penny’s red skirt and shiny shoes is the stuff of great horror movies. Yet the experiments at Woodbury still capture my attention. Was Penny civilizing? Can music, and a particular triggering of memories, resurrect the human? The show doesn’t keep up the research thread enough to lead me to think that anything much is going to come from this, beyond confirming the naivete of the doctor or the insanity of the Governor.
I don’t have much more to add, but I would love to hear predictions from each of you about what is coming next….
First of all, let me say: CUTTY! (Yes.) = Wire reference for those who know.
Thanks for your thoughts. I have to say that I found this episode to be disjointed and generally not particularly great, especially as a finale (even a ‘mid-season’ one, whatever that actually is).
First of all, I’m not sure about the introduction of new characters. We don’t seem to do enough with the ones we have, so introducing more seems unnecessary (especially because we don’t even know anything about the two inmates…well, except that one of them is dead).
Second, while I find your suggestion intriguing, Natalie, I think the heavy-handedness of the political message is ultimately deeply unsatisfying. It’s almost comical in its effect, but I suppose that might be part of the point.
As far as my thoughts about some of your questions, Natalie: I think Micchone–it seems to me–dislikes weakness above all, and I think she viewed the Governor’s attachment to his zombie daughter as weak (well, and insane) and that seemed to be the chief motivating factor for her action. It’s not that you can’t keep or use zombies, but it’s that you *use* them, not fawn over them. (This may be Micchone’s approach to people, btw, and not solely zombies.) What did everyone make of the moment between Andrea and Micchone? I have to say I find understanding Andrea the past few episodes almost impossible. Is this part of the point? That the town’s residents will go through completely insane and improbably justifications for their lifestyle?
Carl was, btw, using a silencer — I was puzzled by this, too, but it is there and so the gunshots are muffled.
Since, I didn’t find much of interest in this episode (well, I do have to mention how badass Glen has become: I thought he was ripping off zombie arm to use it as a club, but he one-upped me and came up with a dagger!), here are my predictions:
(a) Merle and Daryl escape and/or rescued, setting up the great moral dilemma of whether Daryl can be accepted back into the prison society with Merle. This will prove to be boring and generally pointless. Carol will sway Daryl to abandon his brother.
(b) The new members will be integrated into prison society, but won’t have too many speaking lines. Some of them will die very quickly.
(c) Micchone will leave.
(d) Even more characters will be introduced in the second half. We probably won’t care about them…although it may be cool because some might be recognizable from other, better shows.
Until next, errr, half-season,
I’m with Shelly and Natalie on this one – the episode as a whole may have had some weak moments but the fight between Michonne and the Governor won my complete attention (including the sequence with Penny and the Governor leading up to Michonne’s discovery). Penny’s red skirt and shoes, the ribbon in her hair, the background of zombie heads (plus one not yet turned zombie head, remember!) – visually stunning, creepy, classic horror tropes. I was completely convinced that Michonne would be bitten by Penny for a moment there, as she tenderly reaches to unchain what she thinks is a human prisoner. That parallel alone redeemed a good deal of bad writing for me: all along Michonne has sensed that the Governor is really a sadistic control freak and her first assumption is that he is keeping a girl-child chained and hooded in a ventilation shaft in his creepy zombie tank room. She is not surprised to discover that the Governor would do such a thing and the tenderness in her manner as she moves to free Penny stood in beautifully for her desire to save Andrea from what she (rightly?) assumes would be a similar fate. That the girl turns out to be a zombie turns her hatred for the Governor into disgust. And I agree with you there, Martin: in showing his attachment for Penny to Michonne the Governor reveals that he is a pathetic adversary, as well as a creepy sadist.
I also agree with you, Shelly, that so far the “scientific” experiments of Woodbury to discover/recover the humanity of zombies has done more to prove their naivete and insanity than to suggest they are on to something real. But I am more intrigued by their desire, and perhaps our own, to prove that there is a lingering trace of humanity in the unconscious. Does it really matter if there is such a trace? The desire to resuscitate a corpse (which is decaying right in front of our eyes, a la hair from the scalp) to a form of obedience (look at me, damn it!) is a far cry from restoring human relationship (not to mention the organic human systems that would repair the body and give the dynamism of body and soul that we assume in human life). How is the Governor’s insistence anything but a form of insanity? Perhaps a form that parallels Rick’s own psychic break? Which does the raise the question – what does it mean to be sane in this world? I wonder if Carl isn’t the answer to that question in a very disturbing way.
I can’t wait to see how the backwoods brother’s fight their way out of that trap. I’m betting on an improbable “fight to the death with zombies” scene (instead of the much more pragmatic instantaneous death by gun shot sentence) that will allow Merle and Daryl to unleash zombie chaos on the town (which is really what we have been led to believe that town needs – the gladiator pits to come alive as horror and reality instead of entertainment), escape, and face various scenarios of re-integration at the prison (as predicted by Martin). But so long as Cutty stays on the scene, I don’t care that they’ve introduced new characters!