Monday, November 26, 2012

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 7 (When the Dead Come Knocking)

Last night was another solid outing for The Walking Dead, and as we head toward this week's mid-season finale, the tension is incredibly high.  This show always leaves me wanting more, and there have been several fine cliff-hangers to close out episodes, but I'm particularly anxious for next week's show.  This season has featured an abundance of action, but the plot has been gaining steam slowly, setting up a looming conflict between Rick and the band of survivors he has led to the prison and The Governor and his people in Woodbury.  Next week these communities will finally clash, and the stakes are incredibly high.

I continue to marvel at Andrew Lincoln and his masterful portrayal of Rick, which has certainly proven to be an incredibly demanding role.  He is the heart and soul of this show, and he excels at giving the audience a compelling character to cement this epic program.  Having said that, the rest of the cast is incredibly gifted as well, and with every episode fan-favorites like Daryl and Michonne become even more important to The Walking Dead's success.  As with many of my favorite shows, this is a true ensemble piece, and if one were to ask me to name my favorite character, I'm not entirely sure that I could.  Even if I did, if you asked me the same question a week later it's entirely possible that my answer would change.

Steven Yeun
One standout had been under-utilized this season until last night's offering, but Glenn (Steven Yeun) definitely had a full plate in Episode 7.  "When the Dead Come Knocking" found he and Maggie (the gorgeous Lauren Cohan) imprisoned in Woodbury.  Merle (Michael Rooker) wants to know where his brother is, and The Governor wants the scoop on the other group's location, so Merle spent much of this episode working Glenn over.  Glenn's a tough nut, and he didn't crack, but The Governor managed to get Maggie to spill the beans. 

Meanwhile, Michonne found her way to the prison and met up with Rick and the gang, and they formed an uneasy alliance that should become stronger as time passes.  Michonne was struggling with a gunshot wound, but that didn't stop Danai Guriri from kicking a lot of ass.  Aside from Andrew Lincoln, I thought Jon Bernthal was the show's big find in the first two seasons, and now Guriri and David Morrissey (The Governor) are proving to be just as critical to the show's success in Season 3.  I think that there can be no doubt that Guriri is a stellar representation of the character fans of the comic just can't get enough of, and last night's episode only added to her appeal.  Morrissey is also doing a terrific job, but I'm still a bit on the fence in regards to the way AMC has chosen to depict the character.

Now, anyone who has read the comic series knows that the show has made a lot of changes.  Many of them have been relatively minor, slight alterations that serve to keep those who read the comic on their toes without really disrupting the plot.  Some have been major alterations, to include shocking deaths for characters who survived far longer in the comics, or the addition of stellar characters like Daryl and Merle.  The people behind the show are using the comic series as the basis for their efforts, but they aren't painting by the numbers.  Yet in spite of the liberties they have taken, some of the choices they have made with The Governor's character are particularly intriguing. 

Robert Kirkman, the mastermind behind The Walking Dead, has gone on record as saying that the show intends to show a more seductive side of the character and that they wanted to make him more political.  Yet in many ways, some feel that in giving us a more nuanced version of this character, The Governor has essentially been defanged.  Now, we're not even halfway through the season yet, and The Governor is proving to be a solid villain, but I do think that there is some merit to those claims.   

In the comics, Rick and Michonne (not Glenn and Maggie) wind up in The Governor's clutches, and since there is no Merle, it's The Governor who works them both over.  He promptly cuts Rick's hand off, and Michonne is beaten and raped repeatedly by this despicable menace.  He is utterly deplorable and his actions set him up as the finest villain the comic series has yet to produce.  The show is giving us a sound villain, that much is true, but I do believe The Governor that comic fans know and despise would eat the television version of his character alive.  To a certain extent I'm okay with that; television is a different medium with different requirements.  However, as much as I like this show, last night's scene with The Governor and Maggie hit me the wrong way.

Maybe I'm thinking about this too much, but I didn't like the way they arranged that scene.  I think I would have preferred if they had gone all the way with the material and allowed The Governor to beat and rape Maggie, though I think they should have found a way to do it off-screen.  Simply allowing The Governor to force Maggie to disrobe was a bizarre choice.  Was it an attempt to hint at the way the scene unfolded in the comic or was it a shameless attempt to titillate the audience?  Seriously, why have her disrobe to begin with given the way things played out?  Anyone who has read my work knows that (much like Kirkman) I don't believe in pulling punches, so I think they should have taken things to the limit, but in lieu of that, I would have abandoned the disrobing aspect altogether.  It was totally unnecessary given the direction they took, and that moment did serve as a compelling example of how the show's version of The Governor isn't nearly as demented or ruthless as his comic counterpart. 

The comic book version of The Governor
Now, this was still a terrific episode, and it really set the stage for the mid-season finale.  The Walking Dead remains the best thing going on television (at least until Justified starts up again) and the show is only getting better.  In truth, I firmly believe that whether you prefer the show or the comic, The Walking Dead is the best thing happening in horror in 2012, to include television, motion pictures, comics, and novels.  That's lofty praise, but Robert Kirkman and his bloodthirsty creation deserve it.  Next week's episode should be explosive.

Will Rick and The Governor square off?

Will Daryl and Merle have a reunion?   

Will Glen and Maggie be rescued? 

Will the show find a way to set their version of The Governor up as a figure who is just as terrifying and monstrous as the comic book's superior villain? 

Will there be another shocking death before the second half of the season gets underway? 

I don't know, but I do know this: I'll be watching. 

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