For the past few weeks, The Walking Dead‘s writers and producers have managed two distinct story lines without letting either one overtake the show. We had prison-heavy episodes and Woodbury-heavy episodes, but each had enough fights with walkers and visceral, meaningful tension to keep us interested. With the exception of last week’s campy Ultimate Fighting Championship-style brawl in the zombie pit, the action has provided a nice counterbalance to emotional subplots of death and loss. But as interesting as these two stories have been on their own, we always knew they would eventually collide.
Last night’s episode, “Hounded,” was the beginning of the end of a divided narrative and a big step towards what promises to be a nasty showdown. But first there was the mystery of who was on the other end of the phone. Last week left us with Rick answering a phone call, and for the first half hour or so of last night’s episode, it looked like we were headed towards a subplot where the group discovers a new piece of civilization. Woodbury is interesting because right now, other than the prison, it’s the only game in town for anyone who wants to have some semblance of a normal life.
One character who isn’t willing to play along with Woodbury’s rules is Michonne, and when we caught up with her, Merle and a few henchmen were hunting her through the woods. During the zombie ambush, when Michonne slices open a walker who spills his guts all over her, we saw a the defining rules in The Walking Dead universe in action. If a human is covered with zombie blood, they’re invisible—or at least uninteresting—to other zombies. If you’ll remember back in Season 1, Rick and Glenn put this technique to great use in Atlanta, picking their way through a zombie horde wearing trench coats splattered with zombie blood and guts. That was one of the more exciting set pieces that season, but Michonne’s discovery of the bloody invisibility cloak allowed her to move to the prison and unite with what’s left of Rick’s clan.
When a wounded Michonne happened upon the same parking lot as Glenn and Maggie on their supply run, I thought Michonne would get taken in by them. But when Merle arrived, all hell broke loose as we predicted it would a long time ago. Now the outline for the rest of the season has come into sharper relief: Michonne joining Rick’s group at the prison gives them an extraordinarily talented soldier on their side, and they’re going to need her. We can see the possibility of some kind of rescue mission to save Glenn and Maggie, but my money’s on Merle managing to get enough information out of them to try and reunite with his brother. At some point, Daryl will be forced to choose sides between his brother and the group with whom he’s fought, bled and survived. The discovery of Carol very much alive complicates an already excruciating decision. Watch Daryl in the coming episodes, because that will be an enormous showdown.
Zombie Kill Report: About a dozen, give or take. Michonne’s fearless skills were on terrific display, but the killing that shed the most light on a character was Andrea. When she leaped down from the wall to stab a walker in the head, Woodbury’s wall guard (who is a terrible shot with a bow, by the way), was outraged. Andrea later admits to The Governor that she misses the battles with the zombies from her days out in the danger zone. And while he expressed his disproval at her breaking the rules, he seemed willing to overlook it when she finally gave in to his advances.
Speaking of that romance…When we first met The Governor, we saw a quick shot of the inside of his apartment with a half naked woman asleep on his bed. It’s not surprising that he thinks he can get pretty much any woman in Woodbury, and he’s had his eye on Andrea for a little while. After a little wooing, she gave it. But knowing Andrea, she didn’t sleep with The Governor because of his advancements, she did it because she wanted to. That’s a decision that may come back to bite her in the end.
The other end of the line: TWD‘s writers took their time and strung us along, but we got a hint that there wasn’t really anyone on the other end of the line after Hershel picked up the phone and found silence. A phone conversation with dead loved ones isn’t a totally new idea, but it was well employed. Andrew Lincoln had another subtly powerful performance, continuing to make up for his overacting, and the phone call device was an interesting construction allowing him some closure after the death of his wife. Absent the occasional flashback, we’ve probably seen the last of Lori. And Rick seems to be back to his old self, ready to lead the troops again. It’s a good thing—they’re going to need him.