The Walking Dead returned after 2 months, and the show didn’t waste any time, picking up right where it left off. Fans have been agonizing over the cliffhanger ending that brought us to the mid-season break, and it didn’t take long to find out how the Dixon Family Reunion was going to proceed. As you’ll recall, AMC’s ratings blockbuster left us hanging with fan-favorite Daryl squaring off against his big brother Merle with a volatile Governor and his bloodthirsty townsfolk looking on. The Governor was left stewing after Michonne decided he had one good eye too many, and he was looking to blow off a little steam with a brotherly battle to the death for the good people of Woodbury.
Season 3 resumed with Daryl and Merle throwing down, but neither of the Dixon brothers was ready to leave the show. Merle wasn’t going to turn on his own flesh and blood, and Rick and Maggie showed up to save the day. Shots were fired, flash grenades were thrown, and our heroes (with Merle in tow) made their escape while a particularly disgusting walker found his way inside the town of Woodbury.
Soon thereafter, Rick made it clear that he hadn’t forgot about the first time he met Merle (when he left him handcuffed to a rooftop in Atlanta in Season 1) and he had no interest in inviting the elder Dixon back into the fold. Yet Merle did lead the crew to safety, and Daryl wasn’t willing to part with his big brother. With an enraged Glenn and Maggie looking on, Rick made it clear that he considered Daryl part of their family, but he made it equally clear that Merle wasn’t welcome back at the prison. Merle didn’t help his cause any by immediately shifting gears and veering from heroic big brother back to antagonistic jerk in the blink of an eye. Regardless, blood is thicker than water, and Daryl issued an ultimatum, telling Rick that he wasn’t leaving his brother behind, and that was it. Rick wasn’t willing to back down, and neither was Daryl.
Daryl Dixon has left the building, folks. We wouldn’t get another glimpse of Daryl or Merle in this episode, but the teaser for next week’s episode promises more on that front.
So, then Rick, Glenn, Maggie, and Michonne returned to the prison, but only after Rick made it clear that he doesn’t want Michonne hanging around either. She’s wounded, and our weary sheriff turned savior of the apocalypse wants Hershel to look her over, but he doesn’t trust her. Thus far into the episode, I thought the ship was rocking and it appeared that the second portion of the third season was shaping up to be every bit as thrilling as the first half. However, I must admit that I was more than a little let down as “The Suicide King” bogged down toward the end.
We spent some additional time in Woodbury, where The Governor spent much of his time sulking in his room while his town went to hell. Andrea learned that Maggie and Glenn were being held in Woodbury, and she seemed pissed at first, but then she kind of shrugged it off. This was bizarre, and Andrea continues to feel less and less like the character we knew from Seasons 1 and 2, but that isn’t really a new development. Andrea has shrugged a lot of shit off since she came to Woodbury.
Anyway, as the people threatened to revolt and The Governor’s henchman threatened to gun them down, the grotesque walker that found a way in earlier showed up and took a bite out of one of the locals. Things were heating up before, but at that point, all hell broke loose. The Governor showed up to put a round in the walker’s victim before the poor bastard could turn, and then he left without saying a word. The people grew even more upset, and then Andrea gave a corny speech about the town’s place in history. Fortunately, the good people of Woodbury chose that moment to behave less like human beings and more like insignificant characters on a television show, settling down so we could focus on other things.
Back at the prison, Carol struggled to cope with Daryl’s absence and Hershel told Rick about Tyreese and his crew. Rick tried to take it all in, but the dude is tired. He’s tired of being responsible for people; he’s tired of wondering who he can trust, and he’s tired of holding other people’s lives in his hands. Even a tender moment with his baby girl didn’t allow him to ease out from under his many burdens and take a deep breath. So, it came as no surprise when he decided to send Tyreese and his band away. Yes, The Governor is probably going to come looking for revenge, and yes, the numbers game was in his favor even before the zombie-slaughtering badass known as Daryl Dixon hit the bricks, but Rick was too tired to care about any of that. He simply wasn’t willing to add any weight to all those burdens that are slowly but surely wearing him down.
Hershel, who is probably the most likable character on the show at this point, took Rick aside and encouraged him to change his mind. It looked like he made his point, and it appeared that Rick was going to welcome Tyreese and his crew into the group, but then our weary hero caught sight of a ghastly apparition that appeared to be his dead wife looking down on him and lost it. “The Suicide King” drew to a close with Rick shouting and waving his gun around while those who see him as their leader scattered.
Now, this was a decent episode, and there were certainly a number of key elements unveiled in Episode 9 that will having lasting implications on the program. Indeed, a number of plot points that were unveiled in this broadcast could lead to a stellar conclusion to this season, and I’m hoping for just that. However, while I thought the mid-season finale was a terrific show, I thought the return of The Walking Dead was a little lackluster. If I had to score it on a scale on of 1 to 10, I would probably give it a 6 or a 7, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who gave it a 5.
First off, I feel like Daryl is going to find his way back into the fold, but that needs to happen quickly. The program is stronger whenever he is on screen. Norman Reedus has developed a loyal fanbase for a reason, and while I’m open to new developments, The Walking Dead needs Daryl. Yes, the comics are a better representation of Kirkman’s vision and Daryl was never invited to the party there, but he has been one of the show’s strengths from the very beginning.
Secondly, I’ve been waiting for The Governor to become the evil badass this show needs for a while now. When the mid-season finale drew to a close, I thought we were there. At the onset of Episode 9, when he was strolling casually through the chaos that was enveloping Woodbury, I was convinced. Then he went and pouted for most of the show. Now, I realize that we’re waiting again. Can we speed his arc up? The Walking Dead deserves a villain with a stronger presence. The Governor is imposing, but he should be a nightmare wearing an eye-patch right about now.
Finally, Rick needs to get a grip. I like seeing Rick on the ropes, and Rick should be on the ropes, but he’s also a fighter and he needs to get his head in the game. The next time he sees a ghost, I need Rick to close his eyes and count to ten or take some deep breaths or something. He’s already taken phone calls from beyond the grave and he is clearly operating on a different wavelength these days, but he needs to settle down. Rick on the ropes is still a good leader, but right now it looks like Rick is down for the count and I’m thinking the group might be a lot safer if they locked him up in one of those cells. I also wonder if Andrew Lincoln is starting to feel the same way, because we’ve seen him lose his shit a lot on this show, and he rarely fails to impress. I didn’t think this most recent descent into madness was a shining example of what he’s capable of.
In closing, “The Suicide King” was an okay episode that advanced the plot, but it wasn’t what I’ve come to expect from The Walking Dead. I was anticipating a terrific episode, and maybe that was part of the problem, but this isn’t a series that has struggled to deliver terrific episodes. There are still seven episodes left in Season 3, and I’m still hoping that this winds up being the best season yet. Given the source material they’re using, I strongly believe that they can offer up something truly special as the town of Woodbury and our merry band of survivors at the prison brace for war.