Over the course of The Walking Dead’s two and a half seasons, it has shown that it is at its strongest when it is dealing with human drama, human conflict, with the dead themselves being a catalyst for that drama. As the second half of season three opens, the group faces their biggest conflict yet. Daryl, captured after the rescue of Glenn and Maggie, has been pitted against his brother Merle in the Woodbury arena in a fight to the death. Injured and undermanned, Rick and company launch another rescue, causing general mayhem to ensue in the arena but ultimately freeing Daryl and his brother. After this exciting escape and the tension filled reunion with Merle, the show fragments drastically.
Since the start of season three, the show has followed two story threads. On one front is Rick and company at the prison, on the other is Andrea, who has taken up with Woodbury’s leader, The Governor. Instead of reuniting the group to focus on the group as a whole again, by the end of the episode there are potentially four different threads to follow. All of this of course leaves less time to explore the most interesting development of the season, Rick’s less than stable mental state.
All through season three Rick has been a touch unhinged. It is quite understandable considering he is dealing with having to kill his best friend, Lori’s death, his new daughter and the burdens of being the leader. It weighs on him but how he deals with it has been mighty bi-polar. He’s lashed out in some instances, while clamming up in others but his conversations with Lori on his “magic” telephone are when he really seems to have crossed over into crazy land. The show takes things even further in that direction at the end of the episode with Rick’s seeing things. As a reader of the comic series, it is a weird move and one I’m not sure will work well in the long run but then again Robert Kirkman, the series creator, has constantly said the two are their own entities. Regardless, it is the most interesting thing going on in the series right now.
How the show handles Rick’s issues is vitally important to how the series progresses and that is the big problem with the show currently, how Rick goes, so goes the show. But the show has such a wealth of characters that also deserve some focus. And for it to remain compelling, the show needs to spend some time developing Michonne and Tyreese. Michonne in particular has been horribly under-developed throughout the season and she is the most fascinating character outside of The Governor to enter the show since the start.
Ultimately this episode just doesn’t fire on all cylinders, it is passable but it is not great. The action at the outset is fine, if somewhat less exhilarating than where the last episode left off at. It does have its moments, in particular one where The Governor walks outside and kills a bitten man in front of the entire community and then walks back to his home. It is fantastic and purely representative of his character. But so much more of the episode left me wanting and not in a good way. Hopefully this is not indicative of where the series is going for the remainder of the season.