After the rough, brutal reintroduction to The Walking Dead‘s post-apocalyptic dystopia this season, this week’s episode ushers us back into a bizarre normalcy. “Walk with Me” begins with a helicopter crash – but who’s flying, and how did they get here? Michonne and Andrea follow the smoke – as the old adage says, where there’s smoke there’s fire, and where there’s fire there’s civilization (or perhaps just the ruins flames tend to leave behind). Andrea, who’s an ugly chartreuse in the face and dripping sweat with whatever infection she’s carrying around, immediately vomits and leaves Michonne to inspect the ruins. Michonne does a very motherly, slightly spooky thing before she leaves Andrea: she loosely coils her tethered walkers around a tree so they don’t wander off.
Before she can examine the last living soldier, a slew of vehicles rounds the corner carrying a group of men. These men, dressed in clean leather vests and with shining pink skin, are obviously knowledgeable about the walkers – they know to shoot for the head and use as few bullets as possible. But the two women have been traveling alone for so long, wary of everyone and everything, that to show themselves feels like a death wish.
The walkers, tied to the tree, serve as protection when another zombie shambles right on by. They are camouflage. When you walk with walkers, they think you are one. Unfortunately, the two begin to make a little too much noise and Michonne severs their jawless heads, easy as pie – but not before someone finds the women. And who should it be, but Merle Dixon? Those watching closely will have seen in the opening credits that Michael Rooker is now back as a regular cast member – I told you in the first season, no one smart discards Michael Rooker.
Merle, always a little batshit and a lot cruel, has taken his weakness – the stump of his hand, which he sawed off himself on the roof of the building in Atlanta after Rick cuffed him to it – and made it a weapon. A makeshift bayonet makes him a valuable hand-to-hand combatant. He escorts Andrea and Michonne back with him, at which point we officially meet The Governor (David Morrissey).
“You’re not prisoners here, you’re guests,” the Governor tells Andrea after she’s awakened from her antibiotic treatment and spoken uncomfortably to Merle about the preceeding eight months. Guests whose weapons have been confiscated, guests brought with a gun in their backs. Funny way to treat your guests, no?
Nonetheless, the Governor shows the women their quarters – a bed, fresh clothes, hot water for a shower. It’s frighteningly reminiscent of the CDC in the first season. A little too good to be true, perhaps. Just after they’ve finished processing the fact that they are “guests” here, but guarded and watched, helpless without weapons, the Governor shows them outside.
Woodbury is a darkened town, bathed in the flickering fireglow of lanterns and torches. The grass is green, flowers bloom, and the streets are clean and quiet. The Governor takes an obvious pride in this place, his own invention. When Merle calls to him, Andrea notes his nickname. “Gov’s just a nickname; Governor’s a title. There’s a difference,” she says shrewdly. Indeed there is – “Governor” is respectful, in this case almost worshipful.
The next morning, we see Woodbury in all its creepy glory: it is a semblance of normality. People garden in light pink summer dresses, sweaters tied around their shoulders. They eat eggs and toast with tea, with napkins draped across their laps, dressed in light summer suits. There are seventy-three people here, and since they have one very pregnant woman, it’s soon to be seventy-four. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” says the pretty brunette who’s explaining Woodbury. Is Woodbury Rome, destined for greatness before a monumental fall?
The longer Michonne is onscreen, the crazier she appears. She doesn’t speak, even when spoken to. She warily watches the movements of everyone around her. She doesn’t make eye contact with anyone but Andrea, and prefers to sit in the shadows and watch the goings-on. When a new acquaintance, Dr. Stevens, asks Michonne who her walkers were, Michonne freezes completely, apparently unable to speak. Whoever they were, she knew them. Andrea, always strong (though sometimes obnoxiously short-sighted – ahem, Shane), joins the fray and decides to take what’s given…but with a healthy skepticism.
“Looks like you’re sittin’ pretty at the end of the world,” she says to the Governor, who only chuckles.
“We will rise again, only this time we won’t need anything but each other,” he answers. The only thing that gives him away is the look in his eyes. He leaves the women to enter a dingy, dirty lab where Dr. Stevens is performing experiments on walkers (for those zombie aficionados, reminiscent of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab in Day of the Dead). Particularly, he is performing experiments on Michonne’s walkers. They become docile, you see, when you remove their jaws and arms. When you take away their ability to eat, they lose all sense of longing for food. And oh yes, they are starving, just not as quickly as we do. (As an aside, the internet isn’t forthcoming on the actor playing Dr. Stevens, but I’m fairly certain it is Dallas Roberts. What say you?)
The pilot of the doomed helicopter tells the Governor about his National Guard convoy on the highway, and the Governor goes to find them, waving a white sheet out the window of his compact car. He supervises as his men shoot the soldiers dead (and finish the job with the butts of guns and hunting knives). When they reappear in Woodbury bearing military supplies and armored trucks, he assures the “citizens” that the walkers got the convoy.
Andrea, who’s feeling a bit more chipper, asks the Governor his real name. “I never tell,” he says.”Never.” Before he tucks into bed with the beautiful brunette tour guide, he bitterly eyes a photo of himself with a beautiful woman and little girl – his erstwhile family. Then he enters a secret room (there are an awful lot of secrets here in Woodbury, aren’t there?), and sits down in a comfortable leather chair to watch a bank of aquariums filled with heads of walkers, the eyes still moving listlessly.
This episode took a step in the right direction by leaving behind the drama at the prison and introducing us to more new faces. It feels a little anticlimactic after the edgy, slick pacing of the first two episodes – but manages to up the ante, to inject tension, to remind us that in this ugly world, “civilization” is a lie. On another note, I watched and wrote this recap while home from work due to Hurricane Sandy (which, in my neck of the woods, is currently Frankendrizzle). For your information: a Bloody Mary is not the correct drink to imbibe while watching people torn apart (or maybe it is exactly correct?). And please stay safe, if you’re in the path of this looming triad of storms.
Is the Governor giving you the heebs? Who do you think Michonne’s walkers were before they were her gruesome pets? How did you feel about this episode? Share in the comments!