It’s finally back! As promised, the Walking Dead has returned from its mid-season hiatus to bring us new episodes and some closure to what has already been a tumultuous and climactic season. I was a bit late in catching up with the episode this week, what with work and all. But today, I finally made some time to watch the episode, get caught up, and getting down to giving it its rightful review.
Picking up where the last season left off, we are presented with the continuance of the story’s two main threads. In one, the town of Woodbury is up in arms in the wake of the attack by Rick, Michonne and his people as they attempted to rescue Glenn and Maggie. At the same time, they lost Daryl in the heat of battle, who was captured and brought face to face with his brother Merle. Not the best of circumstances for a reunion, but what can you do?
Meanwhile, over at the prison, everyone is a little on edge due to the arrival of a new group of people led by a man named Tyreese and a woman named Sasha. Having been put through the grinder themselves, they are able to understand that they must be patient and respect the prison camps rules. However, trust does not come easily in this world anymore, and as we’ve seen in the past, new arrivals always come the chance for renewed infighting.
So here’s what happened this week!
The Suicide King:
The episode opens in Woodbury, with a close up of the Governor’s face as he stares angrily at Daryl and Merle with his one good eye. He orders them to fight to the death, over Andrea’s desperate pleas that he let them go. But the town has spoken, and Merle attacks his brother, stating he will do what he has to to prove his loyalty. The fight is on, but the Governor quickly orders that some Walkers be tossed in as well, and not the toothless kind from the gladiator fights!
However, it seems Merle has a plan. Standing back to back, they start fighting with the Walkers hand to hand. And within seconds, gunfire erupts as Maggie and Rick show up to save them. While Maggie starts sniping from the gallery. Rick tosses in a smoke grenade to cover their escape. Making their way through the town wall, they fight off some more Walkers and head for the forest. As they escape, a Walker notices the hole in the fence and starts peering inside…
After meeting up with the rest of their group, tempers flare as Michonne and Glenn noticed that Merle is with them. Naturally, Merle can’t seem to keep his mouth shut and Rick is forced to knock him out so they can discuss what to do about him in private. After coming to no agreement, Daryle decides to take his chances with his brother rather than turn his back on him.
Rick let him go and tells Michonne she is to leave too once they get back and she gets herself checked out. None of this sits well with Glenn, who takes his frustrations out by stomping in the head of a Walker they come across while searching for another vehicle. He then lets loose on Rick for letting Daryl go, and for letting Maggie go back with him to save him when it should have been him. Maggie interrupts, not wanting what happened to her to be aired just yet, and tells them to head home.
Back at the prison, Tyreese and his crew begin to bond with the others. Hershel tends to Allen’s injuries while they share stories about their trials. Naturally, they are surprised to see a baby, and explain how they originally came from Jacksonville and found each other along the way. Arrangements are also made to bury one of their dead, but of course Hershel tells them not to get too comfortable since Rick and the others will be returning soon.
Naturally, this leads Ben and Allen, the other members of the group, to suggest that they take matters into their own hands. They way they see it, they could easily take out the current prison population before Rick and the others return, a move which Tyreese and Sasha are vehemently opposed to. For the time being, at least, he is determined to earn the trust of the prison camp, whom he believes are good people.
At Woodbury, pandemonium ensues as people try to escape town and the Governor retreats into isolation. A group of Walkers appear in the middle of town and begin attacking a man. Andrea and Jose gun them down but are unable to do anything for the bitten man. The Governor then appears to put a bullet through the head of a wounded man and then ducks back inside.
Andrea tries talk to him afterwards, but can’t seem to reach the Governor anymore. As far as he is concerned, they are at war, and he is unconcerned about the people’s bellyaching. Faced with a possible shootout, she chooses to step in and try and calm people’s tempers. She calls to the people to “dig deep” and persevere, and they seem to respond. The Governor hears her too and seems to take solace in it.
Once back at camp, Rick meets with Hershel and discusses their new problems. On the one hand, there’s the Governor, a brutal man who is clearly the product of their new world. On the other their are the new arrivals, who they need to come to a decision on. Given that the its only a matter of time before reprisal comes from Woodbury, and that they are outnumbered and outgunned, they think it would be good to get some fresh blood.
Unfortunately, Rick seems to be losing his marbles once again and experiences flashbacks and visions of Lori. In the midst of talking with Tyreese’s group, he begins to have a vision of Lori and begins babbling and screaming. He then draws his gun and orders Tyreese and his people to go, forcing them to run and leaving everyone else seriously spooked.
Personally, I was very pleased with this episode. As the mid-season opener, it had its work cut out for it, especially with the way they left things off. After such a big build-up and the promises of plenty of action and a few deaths, I went in expecting some consequences, but was happy to see that it didn’t all end in a huge bloodbath either. Got to save something for the season finale 😉
To start, there was the title itself: The Suicide King. For those who don’t know, this is a reference to the King of Hearts card since the suit shows the king holding a sword to his head. In a poker game, this card is often declared wild, and so the theme of this episode becomes clear from the get-go. For one, it focuses heavily on both Rick and the Governor, the kings of both camps in their own rights, who are both beginning to show signs of breaking.
In addition to that thematic nuance, there were plenty of symbolic tidbits which I enjoyed. For example, the opening scene, where we are put face to face with the Governor as he stares menacingly at Daryl and Merle while his other eye bleeds through the bandage. Could there be a more perfect image to express what’s coming? It was like the preview poster said, “an eye for an eye”. The Governor is going to war and is out for blood! All bets are henceforth off!
And there was also the issues of loyalty, trust and choosing a side which came up a few times in this episode. In previous episodes, the overriding theme of the Walking Dead – that it is our fellow humans that we need to be most worried about – has been made abundantly clear through the struggle between Rick and Shane and how they had to fight off the other group of men who found out about the farm.
But the way it’s now being escalated as a fight between two well-established camps, the prison and the town, has really deepened it. Andrea, someone who has a foot in both, was the perfect case for illustrating how loyalties can be strained. On the one hand, she wants to help the people of Woodbury, but on the other, she feels compelled to stand up for her old comrades and try and prevent a war. Which side will she be forced to choose?
Merle and Daryl also served as examples of this too, men who are torn between loyalty to their camps and loyalty to their kin. In their case, a third option presented itself as, as they chose to go their own way together. Andrea had a similar option earlier when Michonne could no longer abide living under the Governor, but Andrea chose to stay. The parallels are clear, and it will be interesting to see how things shape up for all of them.
And of course, the way Rick is once again losing his mind was beautifully rendered. After so much grief and loss and the constant pressures of being leader, he was once again having a psychotic break in this episode. And of course, we are reminded that the last time they had outsiders coming in, the attack that took Lori’s life was a direct result.
How else for him to react then, except to see his dead wife before him and feel it all come rushing back. And all that yelling: “What do you want from me? Get out! Get out!” Just who was he talking to? The image of Lori? Tyreese and his crew? Everyone who’s been making demands on him? Hard to say. Most likely all of the above, since he’s got to feeling that the world is crumbling around him. Because for him, it is!
Whoo! Heavy stuff! Looking forward to next week and the rest of the season. Also looking forward to the grand climax between the Governor’s people and Ricks. At this point, they are pretty far off scrip vis a vis the original comic book, so it will be interesting to see how it all turns out.