The promos for season 3 said “Fight the dead, fear the living.” The newest episode gave us the first real hint as to what that means.
After last week’s all Rick & co. hour, “Walk with Me” changes gears to catch up with Andrea and Michonne’s side of the story. That’s right, most of the long-established cast is completely absent this episode. This show’s taking a few cues from “Game of Thrones” methinks.
Andrea and Michonne make their way to a helicopter wreckage just before another search party scours the area and kills the reanimated corpses on the chopper. The ladies try to stay hidden, with Michonne going so far as to decapitate her neutered pet walkers when they get too restless. It doesn’t work, as who should find them but Merle Dixon, sporting a squeaky bayonet prosthetic in place of his long-lost hand. I’m pleased to see that Merle’s mellowed out some since we last saw him, but of course he’s still Merle, and he still has a bone to pick with Rick for handcuffing him and leaving him for dead.
With that the ladies, along with the injured pilot from the chopper, are taken back to our newest locale: the seemingly idyllic post-human town of Woodbury, run by the handsome but enigmatic Governor (David Morrisey). Last season we spent an inordinate amount of time at Hershel’s farm, a nice change of scenery with a dark secret of its own: the barn full of walkers. So even with the sight of Woodbury’s quiet streets, running water, and children playing outside, it seems like only a matter of time before the some twisted underbelly is revealed, beyond the armed goons standing guard all along the town’s borders.
We finally get an explanation for Michonne’s neutered pet zombies that she travels with.
Apparently, they’re meant to camouflage her from other walkers, a concept that fascinates Woodbury’s resident mad scientist (Dallas Roberts) as he studies the walkers’ remains using freaky electrodes. I mostly figured Michonne was using them to carry her luggage. Silly me.
Despite her skepticism, Andrea is somewhat content to stay and rest as long as they need to, especially given how ill she’s been lately, but Michonne’s spidey-sense won’t stop tingling. It’s interesting to see how the change in environment drives a bit of a wedge between the two, even though most of their friendship and bonding occurred off-screen. Michonne says little, other than she wants her katana back, which isn’t surprising. I think she’s not used to staying rooted after so long; she certainly doesn’t take kindly to the Governor adding her katana to his trophy shelf, and his claims that he’ll return it as soon as they’re ready to depart gives little comfort.
The Governor is handsome, commanding yet soft-spoken, and carries all the effortless charm of a perfectly mild-mannered benevolent leader. So how could he NOT be the most diabolical villain the show has ever introduced? Merle inadvertently spells it out when talking with Michonne when he muses, “I think I’d piss my pants if some stranger come walking up with his mitts in his pockets.”
With that in mind, the Governor finally grants the viewers a glimpse of his true colors when he approaches the chopper pilot’s lost convoy waving the white flag and offering shelter and a reunion with their downed comrade, but soon signals his men to kill all of the soldiers in a perfectly staged ambush. Hard to say why exactly; inducting a fresh batch of experienced soldiers into his ranks may seem more logical to you and me, but maybe the pilot’s account, how their compound went to hell in a few hours once one walker got in, deemed them unworthy in the Governor’s eyes.
In the episode’s haunting final image (that I’m sure fans of the comic have been eagerly awaiting), the Governor heads into his secret back room where he’s stacked a bunch of zombie heads in fish tanks, including those of Michonne’s walkers and the pilot from the crash. And he just stares at them. As the tour guide said when showing the ladies the town, “everyone copes in their own way.” Other than that, I’m not sure I want to know.
Other than the looming threat of the walkers, “The Walking Dead” hasn’t really had an overarching human antagonist besides Shane, whose growing instability was at such a slow burn throughout the first two seasons that it became repetitive. But the Governor offers something completely new, especially when this story thread inevitably converges with Rick’s gang. With the walkers, they know what they’re dealing with; they have for a long time now. And Rick knows what to do with meatheads like Tomas or Merle who don’t cooperate. But how does a man like Rick, even as hardened as he’s become, deal with an enemy sporting a white flag and a smile?