Back with the third installment of my review on Robert Kirkman’s classic tale of the zombie apocalypse, and the AMC miniseries that bears its name. Last time, I got into volume 3 and 4, which became the basis of the series first half, or at least much of the material they covered. Today, I will be covering volumes 5 and 6, which manages to cover the rest of the material from the first half of season three… sort of.
I know, confusing! But as I’ve said before, the show’s producers and writers took some rather large liberties when it came to season three, most of which seemed to be the result of changes made to season two. With Shane only dying at the end of that season, and Andrea getting lost in the wilderness and separated from the pack, and Merle’s ongoing disappearing act, it was predictable that the parts of the story dealing with the prison and the Governor would also be handled differently.
Volume 5 – The Best Defense:
The new volume opens with Rick, Dale, and Tyreese performing a final sweep of the prison to make sure the last of the cell blocks is clear. Things are strained between Rick and Tyreese, but time seems to have healed the rift a little. Glenn and Maggie find them and tell them they found the armory, which is stocked full of guns and suits of riot gear.
Outside, they test the riot gear by doing a sweep outside of the walls. It proves effective and they managed to take out several Walkers with ease. Their sweep is interrupted when they hear a noise coming from overhead, but they are enthused when they learn that its coming from a passing helicopter. That changes when they realize that it’s crashing in the distance.
A scouting part is formed with Rick, Glenn and Michonne. They commandeer a car from the parkade and head out to search for the crash site. Back inside, Lori continues to worry about Carol’s odd behavior towards her. The two have taken to distributing books from the library and planning movie nights now that they have electricity and some DVDs.
Rick, Glenn and Michonne follow the smoke plume from the crashed chopper to a nearby forest. After their car gets stuck, they are forced to make the last of the leg on foot. When they finally come to the wreckage, they see several sets of footprints leading from the chopper, which means someone took the crew away. They begin to follow the tracks to a nearby town called Woodbury.
Back at the prison, Andrea and Dale talk to Allen’s two son’s – Ben and Billy – and let them know that they will be taking care of them from now on since both their mother and father have died. Lori’s fears are confirmed when Carol suggests a polyamorous relationship between her, Lori and Rick. She naturally shoots the idea down, and Carol storms away in anger.
When Rick, Glenn and Michonne reach the town’s fence line, guns open fire and take out the Walkers pursuing them. They are pulled inside by a man named Martinez and other armed guards, and showed to a man called the Governor. He naturally wants to know who they are, and they lie and say they have been traveling.
He shows them around the town and explains they have a four block radius that is protected by walls, with intentions to expand of course. The highlight of the tour is a stadium where they have live gladiatorial-style fights, which involving Walkers. When Rick asks how they are keeping them alive – i.e. fed – the Governor tells them “Well stranger, we’re feeding them strangers.”
Rick and the others are immediately taken captive, and the Governor tells them that the chopper crew is being cut up to be fed to the Walkers. The purpose of the games is to keep the peace, he says, as people need distractions and release. He demands to know where Rick and his party came from, where they got their armor, and to make his point, he chops off Rick’s right hand.
Michonne tackles him and bites off his ear, and the Governor orders her thrown in a cell so he can deal with her personally. Glenn is tossed in another cell and Rick is hauled to their resident doctor, who is clearly hostile towards him. He then goes to Michonne, who is conversing with her dead boyfriend, looking for strength, and proceeds to beat and rape her.
Rick wakes up in the infirmary, tackles the doctor when he comes in and the nurse if forced to sedate him. Finished with Michonne for the night, the Governor heads home and meets his daughter, a Walker that he is keeping alive. After feeding her parts from the chopper crew, he takes the heads and placing them in a tank where dozens of other Walker heads are suspended in water.
He then goes to Glenn and demands he tell them where they came from. When Glenn won’t reply, he goes back to Michonne’s cell and beats her terribly, making his listen. He then visits Rick next to get his ear patched up, and tells Rick that Glenn told him everything about the prison. He also says he let him go and plans to follow him back.
At the prison, everyone continues to worry about Rick and the others. Carol attempts to comfort Lori, is once again brushed off. Tyreese puts on another riot suit and heads out to pick up their trail. When he returns, they are forced to drive out to get him and pull him inside. He tells them all he found their car, but there was no sign of them. Back at Woodbury, the Governor reveals that he was bluffing, and that Glenn is still in his custody.
Volume 6 – This Sorrowful Life:
While in the infirmary, Rick is told by Stevens – the doctor – that he wants to help him, but that they are both under guard. A fight between two gladiators and when stabs the other in the neck. The Governor tells Michonne that if she steps into the ring and gives the crowd a good show, he will give her a few days grace.
Michonne is takes to the field with her sword amidst a huge crowd and proceeds to very quickly decapitate her opponent and all the Walkers chained up around her. The crowd is incensed and the Governor orders taken back to her cell. Rick meanwhile befriends the nurse Alice and learns that she too would like to escape.
They get their wish when Martinez comes in and tells them he’s defecting, and they need to leave now if they are going to make it out. They find Glenn, whom Rick thought was dead, and learns that the Governor doesn’t yet know where the prison is. They make it to Michonne’s cell and free her too, and Alice and the doc join them.
They head for the wall and wait for Stevens to get some supplies from the infirmary, and Michonne tells them she needs to go visit the Governor and will catch up with them, or not. Once they make it over, doc Stevens is bitten and they are forced to shoot him and the Walker, thus alerting people inside the town. They begin to beat a hasty retreat, knowing they’ll have guards to worry about soon.
Michonne breaks into the Governor’s apartment and they begin to fight it out. She overpowers him quickly enough and then chains him up. As soon as he wakes up, she begin to go to work on him with a number of power tools. By the time his henchmen come to the door, Michonne has cut off his arm, removed his eye, sodomized him with a spoon, and removed his manhood. She then flees and catches up with Rick and the others, and refuses to talk about it.
They begin to proceed back to the prison and are attacked by multiple waves of Walkers. Luckily, they find their way back to their old car and drive the rest of the way. When they arrive, they find the front yard overrun by Walkers and fear the worst. The issue ends with a quick look over at Morgan and Duane, who are still in their old hometown and enjoying Christmas together.
Glenn drives into the yard and crashes the car into the far wall. The other follow, forcibly cutting a path. Rick finds Otis’ reanimated corpse on the ground, and Alice runs to pull Glenn out of the wreck. Andrea and Dale emerge from the RV and begin to provide cover. The explain that the Walkers got in after Tyreese came back from looking for them, that Otis and Hershel were bit, and that the rest ran inside.
While Andrea and Martinez provide cover, Rick gets the front door open and lets them inside. Hershel is there to meet him and tells him he was wounded by “friendly fire”. Lori and Carl come to greet him and are shocked to see he lost his hand. Telling him to sit this one out, Tyreese leads the others outside to clear the rest of the yard.
Next day, they begin burning the Walkers, but Glenn asks them to stop long enough to fetch a wedding ring from one the bodies. Alice looks Lori over and determines that her pregnancy is coming along nicely and she is healthy. Aside from the death of Otis, everything seems fine. Until Rick learns that Martinez is missing, and suspects they’ve been had…
Rick grabs the RV and starts driving off alone to find him. Within minutes, he spots Martinez running across the field and rams the truck into him. While standing over his broken body, Martinez tells Rick he wanted to get his own people into the prison and away from the Governor. Rick tells him he doesn’t know what people are capable of, but Martinez replies that he’s beginning to see, and Rick chokes the last of his life out of him.
Back at the prison, Glenn asks Hershel’s permission to wed Maggie, which he agrees to. Maggie does too, and they decide to hold a wedding and let Hershel officiate. Rick returns and tells Lori how he killed Martinez and that he doesn’t know who he is anymore. He calls a meeting and tells everyone about Woodbury, the Governor, and how they need to prepare for their arrival…
Differences to AMC’s The Walking Dead:
Picking up where I left off last time, it should be clear to anyone at this point what the biggest divergence was at this point in the adaptation. Namely, Lori isn’t dead! Yes, by this point in the show, she was not only nine months but pregnant, but died in the delivery due to complications caused by one of the inmates (Andrew) who escaped and came back to cause trouble. Never happened! Moving on…
The introduction to the Governor and Woobdury was also something that happened much quicker in the comic book, and didn’t involve a separate thread where Andrea and Michonne wandered in. What remained true to the spirit of the comic was the involvement of a crashed helicopter, which Andrea and Michonne tracked until they came upon the Governor’s own people. But beyond that, things happened very differently.
Also, the fights that the Governor stages were very different, with the version presented by the show being a rather benign affair where the Walkers had their teeth removed. The fact that Andrea approved of them seemed weird, but then again, so was her relationship with the Governor. Much like the feud between Shane and Rick, the way this tested her loyalties was something that I felt dragged out inexorably in season three.
What’s more, when the two camps did come together in the form of the Governor taking some of the prison crew captive, it was Glenn and Maggie he grabbed in the show, not Glenn, Rick and Michonne. Instead of torturing and raping Michonne, the Governor instead threatened to rape Maggie while Glenn listened. But alas, he didn’t, nor did he chop anyone’s hands off. He still came off as cruel, but nowhere near as psychotic as he was in the comics.
In fact, vast efforts were made to humanize the Governor throughout the third season, which I did not understand. Many a time, it felt like the writers were trying to steer the audience back to seeing the good in him, like they couldn’t make up their minds as to whether he was truly crazy, or just hardened and redeemable. After the first few episodes, it seemed established that his outer persona of the benevolent Governor concealed his inner, psychotic self. Best to leave it at that and move on.
Also, Michonne’s disdain and hate for the Governor also seemed somewhat unjustified in the show since he never took her captive or abused her in the first place. This made the showdown scene with him later seem remarkably toned down and less justified. In the comics, she mutilated him horribly in revenge for torturing and raping her. But in the show, she kills his Walker daughter and stabs him in the eye because… she just never liked him. Way less convincing!
Another element which was missing here was Carol’s descent into quasi-madness. As I’ve said before, not having Tyreese or Sophia around left a big, gaping hole in her story. And some abortive romantic tension between her and Daryl really didn’t fill that void. Instead, she seemed to grow stronger and more confident, never really doing much, but still exuding a toughness that wasn’t there in her before.
Glenn and Maggie’s courtship was adapted truly though. In the comics, as with the show, they truly came together once they began living in the prison. And faced with the prospect of death, they decided to make every moment count and got married. And of course, Hershel approved and officiated. In this one case, everything was by the book.
And of course, I could mention that so much of this depended on Merle, who in the show was practically the Governor’s right hand man. He was the one who captured Maggie and Glenn, tortured Glenn, and then tried to feed him to a Walker. At this point in the comics, Otis did die, but Axel was still alive, and of course Tyreese was part of the camp.
In short, it seemed like at this point, the show’s writers were determined to keep things true to the spirit of the comic, if not the letter. But the changes were very vast and sweeping, and required them to seriously retool many plot elements. Also, as I mentioned, great pains were taken to create a sense of tension with regards to divided loyalties, with both Andrea and Merle, that never took place in the original.
While it seemed creative to bring Merle back into the fold by putting him in with their enemy, Andrea’s relationship with the Governor and the way she became torn with the whole “can’t we all get along” became very drawn out and tedious. And as more than one friend remarked to me, the way she kept trusting in the Governor and giving him the benefit of the doubt made her seem like a bit of an idiot.
But of course, much of this hadn’t come up yet and the show still seemed fresh in my mind. The biggest change was the fact that Lori had been killed off and Rick was beginning to lose it as a result. This called to mind how he began to lose it in the last volume when Carol nearly killed herself and he and Tyreese had their terrible fight. But again, this was a case of removing one thing and subbing another. Doesn’t seem true to the spirit of the story when you keep doing a cut and paste job like that…
One more installment to go before I’ve caught up to the show! I tell ya, I’m not sure what to expect out of season four, but I can tell you that it’s likely to be so widely divergent from the comics at this point that just about anything could be done. And that’s my problem, since I disapprove on the one hand, but am made more curious as a result.
Man, this is so much easier with Game of Thrones. By comparison, those people really stay on script!