Well, I just can’t imagine that Daryl is actually gone. But what will be the circumstances of his return? Will Merle be admitted to the group at a later date, or will the bonds of blood prove insufficient in a post-apocalypse? Will chosen family surpass family of birth? Does this world really need a man with a code, as Carol puts it? Or have men with codes gone the way of the constant buzz of sound that plagues our modern, pre-apocalyptic world? The idea of a code seems so quaint, a nostalgic reference not only to certain forms of loyalty, but to the patriarchal structure that held those forms in place. More importantly, is TWD finally becoming a bit more self-aware of the social structures that always seem to hang in the background but never surface in any meaningful – or rather, perhaps, intentional – way? I noted three explicit references to race – Merle’s comment about the ‘irony’ of Michonne’s shackled walkers, and the short exchange between Tyrese and the creepy (but increasingly endearing) white prisoner…the one trying to get into prison, the other not trying to get out. I’m not enthusiastic about the change-up in showrunners in general for this show – but this episode made me hopeful that some of the more implicit themes that we’ve talked about together might become more explicit.
As leadership is also a pervasive theme for our considerations – I’m curious to hear what you all thought of Andrea stepping into the void left by the Governor’s absence. As she started talking, I became nervous that we were slipping into the awkward exposition of season 1 – when characters narrated the show’s themes rather than living them out. But this speech functioned differently, I thought. Andrea managed to tap into what the group needed to hear, to situate them in a grand sweep of history, and give the mayhem meaning. She got them to stay put. As much as Andrea stepped into leadership, however, Rick is falling from it. Seeing Lorrie (in her wedding dress?) in the shadows triggered some form of psychic break – but whether the others realize that’s what happening, or just think he’s shouting at the new people (which is what the new people seemed to think), still remains to be seen, perhaps. My hunch is that Tyrese and co. will stick around (especially given what those who have read even the first graphic novel already know). Certainly something needs to happen before the Governor shows up to storm the prison gates!
How nervous is everyone else about Beth’s crush on Rick?
What I wouldn’t give for the sweet sound of a jumbo jet –
Thanks, Natalie for getting us started and for the slew of (all the right) questions. My suspicions are that the group is indeed fractured, and I suspect there will be more fracturing even with the three remaining groups (Merle/Daryl; Woodbury; and the prison). We already saw that the Tyrese and co. group is on the verge of fracturing. That, to me, seemed the theme with this week: that society in the zombie world is, at best, an illusion, at worst, outright warfare, and, usually, just a variation of what the Governor had going in the pit between Merle and Daryl (i.e. the two brothers as symbolic of the brotherhood of humanity).
I don’t have much to add to that theme. It strikes me as not terribly interesting, but neither as entirely awful (I did, however, find the cinematography entirely awful in this episode–it looked like it was shot in the 80s).
What struck me with this episode were the constant references to “the world.” As you mention, Natalie, “the world needs men like that” and Hershel mentions that it’s “the kind this world creates.” All of this got me to thinking about what this theme of “worldhood” is amounting to in this context. What does it mean to have a ‘world’ in this context? On one hand, it obviously means relatively the same stuff that it did prior to the zombie apocalypse: a world, most fundamentally, of objects, which gain their function from a deeper world of significance and salience, filled with trajectories of use and meaning. But this latter world is largely missing: not only are basic functional pieces missing (electricity, telephony, running water, and so forth), but so are the sites of significance (whether political, cultural, economic, social, and so forth). We’re restricted to the world of family (explored throughout this show–but which is also deprived of its basic function to the extent that families are no longer embedded in broader civil society) and the world of tools (guns, shovels, and so forth). We’ve seen how Woodbury aimed to breathe new life into the world (and this makes Andrea’s speech all the more interesting), but from that perspective, the Woodbury experiment flashed by too quickly onscreen, and didn’t explore this possibility in sufficient depth. In any case, that’s all I’ve got for tonight…but I’m hoping this theme of ‘worldhood’ gets explored some more…
Quick note: Martin, I totally agree with you about the boring cinematography in this episode. I was wondering the same thing. But I did like that one shot at the end, as Rick was starting to lose it, that looked as if it was being filmed from the angle of (but not with the quality of) a security camera. Had they added the security camera quality, it would have felt cheap – but with just the angle, it seemed to add credibility to Rick’s breakdown somehow. It’s not that I think anything “real” is causing his break from reality (i.e., I don’t think this is Lost) – but I think that camerawork (and the way they pulled off the creepy hallucinatory phone calls last season) at least give us some real clues as to what Rick’s slip into insanity might project onto everyone’s shared reality. It’s a subtle little game they’re playing with this – and I’m kind of loving it.
Ok, I’ll shush now so others can jump in…
I can’t say I was as sanguine about this mid-season return. The episode mostly retrod old territory and felt belabored and slow in a way it hadn’t for most of the first half. For example, the showdown between Andrea and the glowering Governor almost became a “relationship talk.” “Don’t push me out” – really? Andrea should be running for the hills after watching the pit match and now she wants to call the Governor to some kind of intimacy accountability. Even her pull-together speech to the cowed citizens of Woodbury, which was, I suppose, saved somewhat by not being purely expository, served to prove that Woodbury is not a community at all – it is a collection of fake people who seem to be living in a world entirely different from the one we’ve been wtaching. This was kind of interesting when we were watching from the Governor’s perspective: of course the town feels like sheep when seen through the eyes of their crooked shepherd. But if Andrea becomes the new spokesperson, giving a new, less martial rhetoric to rally the town to coherence, this assumes there are actually real people in this town, people with all the competing impulses and challenges of the other humans we are watching in other parts of the show. I know, I know – I’m barking up the tree of logical coherence, which has never grown particularly strong or straight for this show. So let me start with things I liked, or hope I’ll come to like, depending on where they go:
Merle: no, I hate Merle. He gets inside my head and makes me feel like I deserve the abuse he unleashes and I cringe and squirm every time he opens his mouth. But I was curious about Carol’s read of the situation: that Daryl is Merle’s victim. Which means we are not just dealing with blood ties vs. formed family, but with the power of abuse and trauma to create connections or undo them. I couldn’t help but wonder if Carol’s speech was setting us up for the moment when Daryl will finally choose Carol/the group over Merle, probably by killing Merle. If we can be led to see that relationship as one of power, domination, and abuse, we will see the murder as Darly’s final liberation. Though if that also means he abandons his code, what will that do for the failing moral order?
Perhaps this plot line is akin to the seething rage and impotence that is destroying Glen. Will he get his chance to take down the Governor? Will this restore his identity/masculinity/peace, undone not so much by his own beating, but by the intense shame he clearly feels at not being able to protect Maggie? Is anyone else struck by how much the female body is standing in for the group as a whole? Maggie’s violation stands in for Glen as the inviolable attack on the group itself – the ultimate threat to their safety. Rick’s intense guilt over not being able to protect Lori threatens to crumble the authoritarian rule that has kept the group going since they fled the burning farm. And Andrea is going to be the lynchpin in whatever goes down between prison and Woodbury – not entirely sure how this will work, but something about these group identities is going to come to a head in Andrea. This is the oldest trope of war between patriarchical societies (“we will destroy your land and rape your women”). I’m not sure the show will give us a more liberating alternative, or if, in fact, it is suggesting a much more conservative vision: survival means reestablishing patriarchical control over land, supplies, women, and life itself. Are there glimmers of hope here I am missing?
Mothchase friends – don’t forget to check back to hear what the rest of our writers thought of this episode!