This review contains spoilers.
3.5 Say The Word
Woodbury is like nothing else in The Walking Dead‘s universe. During the cold opening of this week’s episode, all the playing children, grilling food, and people partying seemed like a flashback akin to the second season’s Lori revelations, but no! This is Woodbury; there are zombies outside the walls, armed guards, and a taste of the old way of life. That’s what Andrea loves about it; it’s also what Michonne distrusts about the place.
Andrew Lincoln has really picked up the ball and run with it this week. That’s two weeks in a row he’s had a lot of difficult stuff to do. Last week, there was his big emotional breakdown that capped things off, and this week we get to see Rick’s further degeneration into the depths of madness that were hinted at for him way back in the first season when he used his walkie-talkies to try to communicate to Morgan. While it didn’t work then – Morgan has yet to show up again – it did make Rick feel better. Without that support system in place now, Rick uses a different method of getting his head right once more, and that’s to storm off into a zombie-infested prison with an axe.
Once again, the special effects of the show are a highlight, and with special effects genius Greg Nicotero behind the camera, they get used to full effect. There are a couple of stand-out zombie sequences this week, with bladed weapons getting used with brutal effectiveness by Rick and Michonne. Michonne taking her katana to zombies will never get old, if only because Nicotero and company use such creativity in just how the bodies will be split and cleaved. The Rick hallway shot in particular was stellar, but Nicotero has some technique as well. He did the highly regarded webisodes for the show, and it’s obvious he’s got a flair for the visual that allows him to make some clever camera movements and downright brilliant shot compositions.
There’s also some great tension in certain moments tonight, particularly when Daryl and Maggie go off to look for baby formula. It’s nice to see how the characters in our familiar group are responding to the change in situation. They’ve lost multiple group members in a short time; that’s the kind of trauma that can provoke some intense reactions, particularly after eight months of successfully keeping together and alive during the winter. Daryl and, to a lesser extent, Maggie respond to the multiple deaths and the baby’s birth by putting themselves at risk for the greater good. Glenn does the same thing in a different sense as he wanders into the prison to find a hatchet-crazed Rick. Neither of these is a smart decision, but at least Norman Reedus gets to tap into Daryl’s emotional well in a few important scenes, particularly when he’s reminded of his failure to find Sophia.
Still, it feels like Michonne and Andrea are going nowhere fast, despite a solid script from Angela Kang. Michonne finds more validation for her suspicions, and Andrea gets to see that Michonne was wisely suspicious of Woodbury for good reason as she watches some unusual local customs. Despite Michonne’s explorations and Andrea’s presence at the local’s entertaining Fight Club, the real creepy reveal was saved for the audience (at least for now) and it’s nice to see just how much the television series returned to the comic source this week, at least for some very important plot points they felt compelled to include after wide divergence from Robert Kirkman’s world.
Multiple threads have been changed or dropped, but when the comic book fans are waiting and hoping for the stuff we know and love, it tends to show up. It may be on a different time line, but it’s generally there. I can only wonder just how far The Walking Dead will push the boundaries of good taste (and cable television) when it comes to the Woodbury crew. The show seems to be able to get away with a lot as far as gore and language goes, but just how much actual horror will they be able to tap into?
That’s the delicate balancing act the show is getting right this season. When characters die, it means something this time around, unlike a lot of deaths from the second season. No one is safe anymore. The Walking Dead has racked up quite a body count, as Carl mentioned when he ran down a list of potential baby names, but it’s the moments without someone dying that have really improved. The threats to the group are more real now than ever, from the omnipresent zombie hordes to the prisoners and to one of Woodbury’s Merle-centric research teams.
No character is safe, not even people who are main characters. The stars of the comics could very easily disappear from the TV edition, and that’s a great feeling. Even the very plots taken from the comic book can play out completely differently, and I think I’d be happy with that.
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