The Walking Dead, Ep. 3.03: “Walk With Me” revives worries about the show’s ultimate direction
The Walking Dead, Season 3, Episode 3: “Walk With Me”
Written by Evan T. Reilly
Directed by Guy Ferland
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC
Andrea and Michonne take the spotlight this week as their journey leads them (and us) in a completely new direction. Welcome to Woodbury!
“Walk With Me” sets up what will most likely be this season’s biggest conflict: the inevitable confrontation between Rick and the Governor. “Walk With Me” is the first episode without a single scene featuring Grimes; which is perhaps a wise decision on the part of the writers. The episode keeps Woodbury in focus and introduces us to an assemble of new characters but more importantly, a new villain. The series is exactly where it needs to be the moment – like it or not.
Season three of The Walking Dead feels very much like George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead. Having to follow in the footsteps of two of the most highly regarded zombie movies in history, George A. Romero directed Day of the Dead, unquestionably the most controversial and hotly debated entry in his original zombie trilogy. Having to follow on the heels of the success of both season one and two, the writers of The Walking Dead knew they had to up the ante.
In Day, society has completely collapsed leaving a group of survivors barricading themselves in concrete bunkers. Meanwhile Rick and co. have locked themselves literally into a prison. Order is preserved by shoving a gun in its face and demanding it to act reasonably. Unlike most of the films found within the sub-genre, Day of the Dead is concerned more with existentialism and gender/political divides than scares. Romero chose to directly address the nature of human emotions and prejudices, resulting in bitter and cynical characters backed into a corner like an oppressed minority. In “Walk With Me”, Andrea and Michonne find themselves in a similar situation, albeit a small town as appose to a military bunker. Nobody is forcing them to stay but nobody is stopping them from leaving, only because they haven’t yet tried.
Much like Day of the Dead, the humans in season three of The Walking Dead are mostly unpleasant, violent and unpredictable, and nobody can be trusted – more so than ever before. Ever since the group escaped the horde in Atlanta, the zombies have acted as secondary villains to the humans who’ve posed a greater threat. And now we have a governor.
The Governor (David Morrissey) is like Day’s Captain Rhodes (Joe Pilato) at centre stage. He is the head of a small community, who while dedicated to solving the zombie problem (via scientific means), quickly slips into a state of insanity. The Governor at first seems trustworthy, but anyone who’s read the comics knows what the iron-fisted leader is capable of. David Morrissey is cast brilliantly against type, and is physically speaking, polar opposite of the Hells-Angels-like leader found in the original source material. Morrissey makes a fine contrast to Rick’s current state: He’s calm and he smiles – he’s authoritative without needing to raise his voice nor his gun – and he is downright welcoming. We know the Governor had a family once, a wife and a daughter and much like Rick, he has his new family now, a family whom he protects no matter what the cost. The look on his face before the episode ended isn’t so far removed from some of the blank expressions we’ve seen behind Rick’s eyes.
What makes The Walking Dead a great series isn’t the lasagna-gut munching, syrup-based blood and spectacular onscreen effects. Although we greatly appreciate the men ripped in half, heads torn off, and people devoured alive – what truly elevates the show is the commentary on everything from racism to tribalism and social and governmental concerns. After all, this is really a series about survival and one that tackles the very essence of man’s inhumanity to man.
Survival of the fittest in its rawest, animalistic form seems to be the only way to get by in a zombie apocalypse. The speech The Governor gives to Andrea about rebuilding society and holding on to hope somehow makes us believe that he actually believes it himself. Yet his scenes behind closed doors is howling and unforgiving and will make every viewer’s skin crawl.
Much like Michonne, The Governor keeps to himself. He is quiet, distrusting and quick to make bloodcurdling decisions. His draw of his, gun, pre-massacre, challenges the speed of Michonne’s sword when beheading her longtime companions. And things only get creepier during the final reveal, when we learn that like Michonne and Hershel, the Governor also keeps a few zombie pets of his own.
Which quickly brings us to creepy Milton (Dallas Roberts), similar to Day of the Dead’s Dr. Logan, a character who acts as Romero’s voice, emphasizing that zombies are but imperfections of ourselves, and offers a formidable glance at humanity’s instinctual tendency to destroy itself. This episode opened a big can of worms with Milton’s theory that the zombies could retain a portion of their human selves, even if faint memories. Like Logan and his general in Day of the Dead, Milton and The Governor see hope in the future and a way to maintain order. They experiment on the undead to not only find a cure, but to find a way to walk among them unnoticed. Yet Milton leaves us with an impression that he isn’t necessarily on the same page as the Governor and his troops. The two men need each other as Milton needs his lab and The Governor needs his research. It’ll be interesting to see if we get any bigger conclusions from these tests Milton is working on.
And just what sort of tea are they drinking?
Having Merle come back isn’t a big surprise since we never saw his corpse back in season one when Daryl tried to rescue him. With that said, nobody was missing Merle – not the characters in the show nor us, the viewers. He was a terrible caricature and a drug-fueled stereotype. While his character seems better written this time around, its a bit of a stretch that such a non-team-player could now be kinder, gentler and even sympathetic to Andrea upon learning about Amy’s death?
Walking Dead funnybook fans have been teasing Season Three for some time, intimating that new characters and settings should inject the show with some new ideas and energy. “Walk With Me” does that, on a literal level, but it also revives worries about the show’s ultimate direction.
The OG Walking Dead Crew are left behind entirely with the exception of Andrea, who is swept into Woodbury, land of The Governor, along with sterling zombie-slicing companion Michonne. David Morrissey’s casting was widely reported, and he brings plenty of subdued menace, but the arrival of Dallas Roberts of The Good Wife and The Grey as his lab-rat assistant is actually more personally exciting; his versatility as a character actor makes it difficult to determine his allegiance and level of sinister-hood.
The downside to the arrival of Woodbury and The Governor is that – and time may not bear this out – the path through the season, narratively, now feels very definite. The Governor will find Rick’s camp, a conflict will arise, characters will die (horribly), and both Woodbury and the prison are invalidated as safe havens. That inevitability might be less of an issue if the Woodbury setting weren’t so damned familiar. Ricky already cited Day of the Dead up there, but Morrissey’s inviting manner towards Michonne and Andrea versus his malicious mass-killing of a squad of military men suggests that, like the crazed military compound men in th last act of 28 Days Later, The Governor is more inclined to let women live thanks to their reproductive abilities.
It’s tricky to assess “Walk With Me” on its own, especially for those who have no concrete idea of the particulars of the show’s future. The introduction we get to The Governor suggests a fasmiliar set of clichés at work, but that might be a clever bit of narrative obfuscation. (What’s worrisome is that, for all of The Walking Dead‘s virtues, cleverness is not one of them.) One thing that really doesn’t work, though, is the reintroduction of Merle, who simply does not seem like the same character this time around. That in and of itself is a good thing, since Merle was cartoonishly evil in the first season, but it begs the question as to why they brought the big guy back at all.