This review contains spoilers.
There are three episodes of The Walking Dead left in the third season, and thus far Glen Mazzara has addressed a great deal of the show’s difficulties. He’s sped up the plot, turned the zombies back into threats, introduced a brilliant human threat in the form of the Governor and his Woodbury cronies, as well as two of the most-wanted characters from the comic book, and he’s resurrected the show from its second season doldrums. There’s still one thing left on his plate: do something about Andrea.
Director Stefan Schwartz deserves a lot of credit for what he’s managed to pull off this week. He’s taken an Andrea episode and turned it into a compelling, interesting, pulse-pounding bit of television by digging into his bag of directorial tricks and turning Andrea and the Governor into a full-fledged horror film. Andrea’s flight from Woodbury initially reminds me a great deal of Duel, particularly when a running Andrea is being chased down by a pickup truck. After that, the episode remains a tense game of cat and mouse, with the Governor taking the role of the one-eyed serial killer and Andrea the helpless blonde victim.
Of course, our Andrea has been far from the resourceful, clever Final Girl for most of her time in Woodbury, but she reverts to a more familiar Andrea when on the run and on the road, with some very quick thinking to balance out some very stupid decisions on her part. She’s one of those that functions best when not given time to think; when left to ponder decisions, she’ll inevitably over think and do the absolute wrong thing all the time. It leans heavily on horror movie tropes, such as the villain knowing where the hero is going to be at all points in the trip, but it’s still a lot of fun.
It was a wise decision on the part of writers Evan Reilly and Glen Mazzara to focus on Woodbury and Andrea exclusively this week. With the presence of Tyreese and his group, the ethical dilemma faced by Milton, The Governor’s growing paranoia and dangerousness, Andrea’s… presence, it’s shaping up to be a very interesting setting for the show. As the build continues for the season-ending war (or so we assume), the weaknesses in both groups are starting to show and it seems everyone is cracking under the pressure.
In particular, Milton is a weakness, albeit a brilliantly played one. Throughout the season, Dallas Roberts has been a bit unappreciated, but what he’s been doing with Milton has been very good work. He’s one of the show’s better recent additions, and he adds a lot to his character with his mannerisms and expressions. He plays a great milquetoast egghead type, and Milton’s inability to lie to anyone successfully is a nice break to the show’s darkness with some awkward comedy. (Ditto the relationship between Tyreese and Sasha.)
That’s something you can say for the show. When they have to add an actor or character, they make good decisions on who to add and have definitely improved on the quality of actors they’ve pulled in (Danai Guerira does more with Michonne’s facial expressions tonight in a five minute flashback than she has all season). The remaining regulars have dutifully stepped up their game in response. I can only hope that the improved actors continue to get a nice big budget around them, because if the show has to cut back in the fourth season as they did in the second season, it may derail all the good stuff that the cast and crew have accomplished this year.
The Walking Dead is not going to be a show where you’ll win Emmys for your work if you’re not Greg Nicotero and KNB, because it’s genre TV. But what they can do with good writers is produce good genre TV, combining human drama and zombie gore in an acceptable ratio for fans and critics alike. It’s very possible to do if AMC doesn’t get cheap, and my fear is that they’ll think with their wallets rather than doing what’s right for the programme.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan would love to see Andrea get the Lori send-off before this season is over. Of course, that probably won’t happen, but we can hope, right? Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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