Everybody has questions on last night's The Walking Dead! Rick wants to know what Michonne's deal is! Merle wants to know where his brother and Rick are! Milton wants to know if zombies keep any memories after their death! A very sound sleeper living in the woods wants to know who the fuck just broke into his cabin! And the Governor also wants to know where Rick's group are! (But he also wants to see Maggie's tits.)
I don't think "When the Dead Come Knocking" is quite as good as last week's TWD, but it's certainly fast-paced and the glacier that was season 2 is still fresh enough in my mind that I continue to appreciate things happening. The episode begins with Michonne approaching the prison; Rick is deciding what to do with her - his track record for dealing with outsiders hasn't been so good recently - until the zombies start noticing the blood from Michonne's gunshot wound and Carl takes matters into his tiny, psychotic hands by shooting some of the zombies.
Rick brings her in, immediately takes away her sword, and locks her in a room until she answers how she came to the prison and why she brought baby formula. Rick even squeezes her thigh wound when she doesn't answer quickly enough; between that and the sword, it's a nice reminder that at this point there's not that much of a difference between Rick and the Governor (although this will change shortly).
Eventually, Michonne spills about Woodbury and Maggie and Glenn getting captured by Merle, although she manages not to mention Merle by name (reasonable) or that he has one hand (not unplausible, but still). Rick, Daryl, Michonne and Oscar head out to rescue them, but not before Rick has an actual conversation with Carl about how his son, you know, had to shoot his dead mother in the head. Rick admits this was not an optimal situation. Jokes aside, the talk is well done, mostly because Chandler Riggs manages to convey all the psychological damage in his head that's pretty much only being contained by his father's hat.
Meanwhile, Merle interrogates Glenn, who gets to be extra badass this week. First, Merle beats the bejeezus out of him, trying to find where the hell his brother is, and Glenn stays silent. Then, when Merle lets a zombie in the room while Glenn is duck-taped to a chair, Glenn kills the zombie anyways. It's awesome, but not as awesome as the three extra seconds the camera lingers on Glenn after his scream of triumph/rage - where he and the audience realize although he's pulled off this incredible feat, it means absolutely nothing in terms of how awful his situation is. Perfect.
Andrea stars in the least interesting segment, obviously, where she helps Milton the Vague Science Guy perform an experiment to see if the recently zombified have any residual memories of their past lives. (Spoiler: They don't.) I was dead certain Andrea would go off on a tirade about the dignity of human life, even though the dude was a volunteer and had prostate cancer and old as hell, but she surprised me. She simply told Milton
she has his red stapler that the experiment wouldn't work, and when the experiment didn't work, she stabs the zombie right before it eats Milton's face. Oh, and Andrea screws the Governor a lot. I point this out because Andrea currently has a much, much sweeter deal with the Gov than she ever had with Team T-Dog, and if the writers continue their current trend of not sucking, she should have some real conflict about which side to choose coming up.
On the way to the prison, Rick and his Power Posse get surrounded by a herd of zombies, forcing them to run through the woods into a random cabin, where they accidentally wake up the post-apocalypse's soundest sleeper. He freaks out, either because he's crazy or because he has no idea that zombies even exist, and runs, forcing Michonne to kill him before he opens the door to let the zombies in. It's a nicely weird, random scene, and one that shows Rick's group is just as willing to kill when they're threatened as the Governor is (it's just that Governor has a much broader view of what constitutes a threat). Anyways, the group distracts the zombies with the dude's fresh corpse and escape out the back.
But the real drama is happening back in Woodbury, when the Governor elects to interrogate Maggie himself. As you might suspect, things get… uncomfortable. The quick version is that the Governor forces her to remove her top then acts as if he's about to rape her, but stops. It's a scene staged for maximum discomfort, and given what I know happens in the comic, I am surprised - and grateful - TWD didn't take it all the way. And when the Gov brings Glenn and Maggie together and threatens to shoot one of them (Maggie's still topless for maximum vulnerability and disquieting AMC-level titillation) I was surprised and grateful Maggie blurted out the prison's location before one or both of them died. Honestly, by diverging from the comics so much, and by clearly being just as willing to off characters, The Walking Dead TV series manages make me legitimately worry when the characters are in trouble, because they truly could die at any time. Very few dramas are capable of managing this, and TWD is using it very, very well in season 3.
Anyways, that's where it stands; the Governor is sending a team to the prison, the prison's T-Dog Memorial Task Force is outside Woodbury, they don't know Merle and Andrea are inside, Andrea doesn't know Glenn and Maggie are hostages, the Governor knows a rescue attempt is coming at some point, and the next week's episode is the mid-season finale and features a shit-ton of gunfire.
• Again, I haven't read the comic, but I know some of the things that happen in it, especially regarding the Governor. Since the comic Governor is basically pure evil, I feel like the TV series is trying more to compare and contrast the TV Governor and Rick, and their methods of protecting their groups. Rick's been more cold and calculating this season, but he's still going in for half-measures (e.g. letting that one guy leave and take his chances with the zombies as opposed to 1) letting him in the group or 2) just shooting him). Meanwhile, the Governor is cold as hell, and will do anything to ensure the safety of Woodbury, including kill a bunch of National Guardsmen and threaten a woman with rape. All terrible, but again, Woodbury's a lot safer than Rick's group is, too. I like that the show is asking if humanity and kindness is genuinely a detriment in this new world. At any rate, the show is now asking something, so that's cool.
• Here's my problem with the TV Governor - I have no idea who he is. I know he's OCD and a bit crazy, although his crazy seems mostly limited to his leisure hours. All the other horrible stuff he's done can at least partially be attributed to being for the good/safety of Woodbury. But how does he decide who to accept and who to kill? Are his moments of kindness all fake? Would he really have raped Maggie, or was he merely acting to get her to talk? What is he actually doing for Woodbury, and what is he doing for himself? I don't mind the Governor being all over the map at this point, but I hope there's an actual core in there that we'll get to see in the second half of the season that's not just "He's a wacko!"
• Rick accepts Michonne in the group pretty damn fast. Maybe it's because she was wounded, maybe it's because she's a woman, maybe it's because she's simply not a convicted criminal, or maybe he can simply tell how awesome she is. But seeing what a hard, occasionally deadly time he's been giving any other new people, it feels kind of rushed and awkward. On the plus side, I am now confident enough in the writers to think they maybe possibly have an answer for this.
• Also, Michonne accepts the group pretty easy. Granted, they fix her leg, but her welcome in the prison isn't any more pleasant than it was in Woodbury. And why is Michonne going back there? She doesn't know Glenn and Maggie. Andrea decided to stay in Woodbury. I know the Governor sent Merle and pals to kill her, but is revenge really enough for her to storm an armed compound while wounded?
• Michonne's trick of being covered in zombie juice in order to roam safely among the zombies? Already forgotten, lost in the mists of time.
• In the beginning, Rick finds Carol returned and safe, and it's a nice moment. When Carol sees the baby, and then doesn't see Lori, and Rick can't look her in the eye… that's a tremendous moment. Just fantastically done.
• Also: Carl also names the baby Judith after a third-grade teacher he clearly had a crush on, and that Rick clearly doesn't remember in the slightest but pretends he does for Carl's sake. It's beautifully acted by both of them.
• When Rick and crew stopped on the side of the road, I had a note that I liked that everyone was so used to the dead walking around that they just ignored the one hanging out behind them. But then the herd showed up, and I figured the previous zombie was just foreshadowing for that. Oh well.
• Seriously, I was 90% certain Glenn was gonna die. Well done, TWD.
• Michonne should never, ever be using her katana to stab zombies in the gut. It does nothing. She would obviously know this by now. It's pissing me off.
• Speaking of Michonne's katana, her stabbing things continues to be the worst CG in the show.
• Oscar has very few lines, in a clear homage to T-Dog.
• Nothing like seeing the giant head of Chris Hardwick yelling about hashtags immediately after watching a brutal near-rape, amirite?