In last week's recap of The Walking Dead, I bemoaned the lack of action and the abundance of characters talking about their feelings, which has never been this show's strong suit. For the first 50 or so minutes of tonight's episode, "Home," I was ready to dismiss it in the same way, until those last fabulous, freaky final minutes. They were explosive, and when I say explosive, I mean full of guns and zombies, which is definitely more appropriate for TWD. Spoilers ahead!
Let's the get the first three-quarters out of the way so we can talk about what really matters: Woodbury vs. Prison.
• Rick has gone full Captain Crazypants, and now is just wandering the prison yard looking for Ghost Lori.
• The Governor has left Andrea in charge of Woodbury, ostensibly to keep the town from falling apart but mostly to keep her out of his way as he not-so-secretly goes to kill everyone at the prison.
• Glenn is quite angry and wants to take charge of the group while Rick's on his loony sabbatical, but pretty solely so he can kill the Governor in revenge for whatever he did to Maggie (which Maggie finally tells him about). Glenn leaves to attempt his incredibly stupid mission, then thinks better of it because he's not Rick.
• Daryl helps a stranded Hispanic family, while Merle is a racist dick; this convinces Daryl to go back to his nice, non-racist friends, and tells Merle he can come and try to make the best of it or… not. They return to the prison.
• Kindly Redneck-but-possibly-a-Pederast prisoner flirts with a rather responsive Carol until the Governor shoots him in the goddamned head.
And that's when the episode kicks into high gear, i.e., people shooting at each other for pretty much 10 minutes straight without a single line of dialogue. After last week's slow goings (and the mid-season break), I'd been jonesing for the visceral thrills that Walking Dead does so well, and "Home" delivered.
Specifically, what it delivered was the Governor and a few iof his minions basically shooting at every single person in the Prison Crew and managing to shoot every square inch around them while somehow not hitting them. It's silly, but the episode writer/director wisely chose to film the entirely, lengthy sequence without dialogue, ratcheting up the tension despite the fact no one else even gets a scratch. Besides, who needs gunshot victims when the Governor has somebody drive a van full of zombies through the prison's outer fences and lets them loose in the yard?
This sadism (and the fact he took only a few, hand-picked men, and lied to everyone else at Woodbury about it) proves beyond a doubt that the Governor is purely in this for revenge and the Zombie Delivery van is sadism for sadism's sake. I mean, if the Governor were just eliminating a threat, he'd bring in his army and clean house. The Governor wants the Prison crew to suffer before their die. This is obviously part one of his Fuck Everybody at the Prison's Shit Up plan, and it went swimmingly. And this pure maliciousness wears well both on the Governor and David Morrissey.
Honestly, the battle was so exciting and tense that when it ended, I thought it had lasted 20 full minutes; rewinding my DVR, I was shocked to discover it was less than 10. Which means 1) the first 50 minutes were pretty boring, and 2) the episode was still redeemed by that last action sequence for me.
Look, I know The Walking Dead's never going to reach the level of characterization of Mad Men or the dialogue of Justified (or even come close, for that matter). Do I wish it would? Hell yes. But I'm content – entertained, even –- as long as the show can provide enough moments like these to making sitting though. I don't know if "Home" was a return to form quite yet, but it was definitely a return to what The Walking Dead does best, and now I'm excited about the next episode again.
• In the very first shot, when Rick loses Michonne in the binoculars, who said, "How not to be seen" out loud? Raise your hands.
• Ghost Lori's tendency to disappear and appear somewhat farther away is still less annoying than Alive Lori was.
• The Governor apparently put Andrea in charge on the basis of her godawful pep rally from last week. Honestly he should have kicked her out of Woodbury with raw steaks tied to her.
• Zombie kill of the episode: Daryl closing the trunk on that zombie's head and it bursting like a balloon full of red corn syrup. It was incredibly goofy-looking, but it was also funny.
• "When do you think you'll be done?" Herschel asks Rick, on behalf of every Walking Dead audience member.
• It's always jarring to watch the characters go from "hit everything with a head shot" mode to "can't hit anything to save their goddamned lives" mode. The second Kindly Redneck-but-possibly-a-Pederast prisoner died, it was like somebody turned Damage off.
• I suppose the Governor had to call off his attack for narrative reasons –- we can't have eight full episodes of battles like these (although I certainly wish we could), but unfortunately the Governor is still so poorly shaded as a character that it's tough to make it work. I mean, I could believe that he wants to make the Prison crew suffer, and thus is prolonging the fight, but that seems counter to the rather merciless efficiency we've seen of him so far.
• Although I did like the Governor being the only dude to stand straight up during the gun fight. The Governor don't give a fuck.
• I am already super-tired of Crazypants Rick. Honestly, I think the tension of the prison fighting the far better armed, far less moral Governor is plenty, without having to wonder if Rick will get his shit together in time to save some of the prison crew.
• Did anyone else think the driver of the Zombie Delivery van might be Andrea? I know it would have made no sense, but it would have been a great twist anyways.