We open this week’s mid-season finale with a shot of a zombie lady in a sweater tracking screams through the woods. She’s smacked on the head by a hammer-wielding man whom I recognize as the awesome Dennis “Cutty” Wise from The Wire.
Cutty—whose name on this show is Tyreese—keeps running through the woods where he encounters a lady with a shovel fighting off zombies. They’re joined by the other members of their group and a whole bunch of zombies. In the ensuing zombie fight, the non-shovel lady is bitten on the arm, leading me yet again to wonder why everyone on this show always wears shirts with no sleeves. Maybe they wouldn’t completely protect you, but at least you wouldn’t be waving all that nice tasty sweat-basted meat in Walker faces.
The group keeps running until they see the prison, from a different, completely ruined angle than we’re used to seeing. Shovel-Lady (whose name is Sasha) argues that they should leave Bitten Lady behind, but Tyreese says that they will have to bring her with them. The entire group enters the prison through the giant hole in the wall.
Back in Woodbury, Andrea is fixing her hair in front of the mirror in the Governor’s pad when she notices that she bears more than a passing resemblance to a photo of the Governor’s dead wife. As the Governor nuzzles her neck, Andrea tells him that she likes the communal aspects of Woodbury, “helping each other through this mess.”
The Governor goes to visit his zombie daughter Penny who is chained inside a cage. A boombox plays a lullaby, and I surprise myself by actually feeling sympathy for the Governor and his desperate attempts to make a connection with the thing that used to be his child. Penny is much more interested in the bowl of meat next to the Governor than in her father’s songs, and doesn’t respond to her father’s increasingly agitated commands to look at him. The Governor puts her hood back on and puts her back in her closet.
All nascent sympathy for the Governor vanishes during the next scene, which is of a beaten up Glenn and Maggie in their cell. Glenn is relieved that Maggie wasn’t actually raped; Maggie voices the trite but true cliche that the most dangerous enemy they face is their fellow man. This seems to give Glenn an idea; he rips the arm bones out of the Walker he killed and gives one to Maggie. Nothing says true love like a shiv made from Walker bones!
Outside Woodbury, Rick, Daryl, and Oscar survey the walls. Michonne pops up behind them, and they follow her away from the walls.
The Governor checks out the map of the prison, telling Merle of his plans to kill everyone there and let the Walkers take the place over again. I’m not really getting his motivation here at all to be honest. Is it worth the risk of losing his own men? Merle is concerned that Daryl is part of the “kill all the prison inhabitants” plan; the Governor says that Daryl can be the “inside” man for the Woodbury crew to take over the prison.
“Nothing happens to Daryl,” Merle insists.
“Of course not,” the Governor promises, though Merle still looks unconvinced. He should know by now that the Governor’s promises are worth a lot less than a hill of beans. Ask the head of the helicopter pilot currently residing in the Governor's aquarium o’ noggins.
Merle asks what they should do with Maggie and Glenn, and the Governor says that the longer they’re in Woodbury, the more likely it is that Andrea will find them. The Governor orders Merle to take Glenn and Maggie to the “Screamer Pits.” Well, that can’t be good! (Again, I question the elaborate nature of their demise. Why doesn’t the Governor just have Merle kill them and add their heads to his collection? Is he planning to show off the Wall of Heads to Andrea someday, so he doesn’t want anyone she knows in there?)
Michonne leads Rick and his group to the place where she was questioned when she and Andrea were initially captured by the Woodbury gang. Rick takes the other three away for a consult about how they will cut Michonne loose if it turns out she’s led them into a trap.
The tension is interrupted by a somewhat clueless older Woodbury resident who enters, apparently thinking that teenagers are stealing the meds or something. Rick soon ascertains that the guy knows nothing about the whereabouts of Glenn and Maggie. Unlike the Governor, Rick doesn’t threaten his prisoner with rape or death for information; the rescuers just gag him and bop him on the head.
In the prison, Axel tries to chat up Beth by telling her how good she is with baby Judith. He ascertains that Beth is of legal age, and then Carol interrupts their tete-a-tete, telling Axel to stay away from Beth. Axel insists that a man has needs, especially after a stint in prison; since Maggie’s with Glenn, and Carol is clearly a lesbian because of her short hair, only “lucky” Beth remains as the recipient of his attentions. Once he finds out that Carol isn’t gay, Axel thinks that’s interesting too. Watch out, Axel! Carol’s pretty handy with a knife these days!
In the prison, Merle and a nameless henchman come for Maggie and Glenn. Maggie uses her zombie wishbone to stab the henchman in the neck. Ewwww! Also, go Maggie! Merle gets the better of the wounded gun, until Maggie grabs a gun, and points it at Merle, but unfortunately, some more of Merle’s henchmen turn up to even the odds.
Rick and the rescuers (which is a great name for a post-apocalyptic band!) hear the gunshots and manage to ambush the executioners with smoke grenades. Maggie and Glenn have been saved from the Pit of Despair!
Woodbury is fraying at the seams; someone discovers the Woodbury guy Rick immobilized, who immediately says there were six or seven men who held him up. The Governor orders his crew to shoot to kill.
Rick and the rescue squad get Maggie and Glenn into a conveniently empty building and Michonne sneaks away. Glenn tells Daryl that Merle was the one who tortured him, and Daryl disbelievingly asks whether Merle is the Governor. Maggie says that Merle is just the Lieutenant Governor. (But I want to know if he’s constitutionally empowered to take over in case the Governor is incapacitated?) Daryl asks whether Merle knows about him, and Glenn confesses to Rick that the Governor knows all about the prison. Awww, nice of him to share the blame with Maggie. For the record, I don’t think Maggie did anything wrong in an impossible situation, and to his credit, Rick also says that there’s no reason to apologize.
Daryl, stunned by the knowledge that Merle is still alive and is actually in Woodbury, suggests that he should talk to his brother. Rick tells Daryl that Glenn is badly wounded and that “I need you!” and asks if Daryl is with him. Daryl says “yes.” So I guess the big question about who Daryl would choose in the event of a conflict between Merle and Rick for his affections was moot after all.
At Milton’s lab, there’s a emergency meeting of the Governor and his henchpeople. Merle pretends that Rick’s rescue party was a raiding party that wants what Woodbury has. The Governor assigns everyone except Andrea to various dangerous jobs; Andrea decides that this is a good time to question the gender conventions of Woodbury, which have seemingly not bothered her much to this point. Eventually, the Governor just orders Andrea to do as he asks, and she does. But will she respect herself in the morning?
At the Governor’s apartment, Michonne waits with her sword drawn.
Rick and the rescue party set off some more smoke grenades and start fighting their way out of Woodbury. Andrea chooses to exercise her capacity for independent thought and shooting, exchanging gunfire with Oscar. The Governor emerges and Andrea says “I saw them!”; the Governor is briefly concerned that she saw Glenn and Maggie, but turns out that she only saw someone in a prison uniform.
There’s a continuing firefight and the Governor tells Andrea to get off the street.
Rick and the rescuers throw even more smoke grenades; Daryl tells Rick that he lay down covering fire, as the rest of them climb towards the wall. Daryl and Merle are shooting right at each other (and Daryl looks as awesome with his assault rifle as he does with his bow and arrow). I’m wondering whether the brothers will inadvertently kill each other and also whether a horde of Walkers is even now headed towards Woodbury, considering all the enormous amount of noise that’s being made.
Meanwhile Rick’s stress-induced psychosis chooses this inconvenient time to resurface with a vision of a bearded Shane stalking towards him with a rifle. Rick is momentarily paralyzed until “Shane” fires his rifle, and then Rick shoots and kills his friend for a second time as the guy morphs back into a stranger.
Behind Rick, Maggie screams because Oscar has just been hit in the chest. I guess it was too much to ask that we get two black men with lines on this show; in with Tyreese, out with Oscar, just as it was in with Oscar, out with T-Dog. Poor Oscar never even got to enjoy his slippers. Maggie delivers the headshot to stop Oscar from rising, and Rick pulls himself together, heading for the exit and yelling for Daryl who’s still shooting.
Meanwhile, Carl and Herschel are discussing how much baby formula is left. Herschel says Michonne’s supplies will last for a month or so, which seems about right from the number of cans in the shopping basket. They hear screams from somewhere else in the prison; Carol and Axel are too far away, in the guard tower, so Carl says he’ll go investigate, though Herschel briefly and ineffectually tries to stop him. Carl makes his way through the dark tunnels to the boiler room, where Tyreese and his group are engaged in a fight with the zombies. Carl saves Sasha and leads them to safety.
At the Governor’s apartment, Michonne hears thumping and discovers the Governor’s wall of heads, including the decidedly non-zombie head of the helicopter pilot from the first episode of the season. All her worst suspicions of the Governor have been confirmed, if she needed any more confirmation after the Governor sent men to hunt and kill her.
Michonne keeps going past the wall of heads (and more power to her brave self, because I’d be running the other way) and discovers what looks like a little girl who’s chained and wearing a hood. I guess Penny doesn’t have the carrion smell of the other zombies because she’s living indoors with access to clean clothes. Michonne is a different person with the child, gentle and kind, until she takes the hood off and Penny snarls at her. Michonne grabs Penny, but the Governor shows up at that point, begging Michonne not to hurt her.
Instead of asking the governor to slide his weapons over to her or throwing the flesh-eating zombie towards her father and using the distraction to grab the Governor’s weapon, Michonne stabs Penny through the back of the head, which is sort of gruesomely cool, but also rather stupid. Once Penny is definitely, irrevocably dead, the Governor lunges for Michonne and they begin a brutal fistfight, during the course of which Michonne’s head is repeatedly banged against a wall and smashed into the Governor’s fish tanks, breaking the glass. Michonne apparently has a skull made of titanium, because not only does she stay conscious while having her head smashed and during the Governor’s chokehold on her, she even manages to grab a piece of glass from the broken aquarium and stab the Governor in the eye with it. As the Governor recoils in pain, Michonne readies herself to behead him, only to be interrupted by Andrea, with her gun drawn.
Andrea asks “what have you done?” and Michonne neglects this opportunity to tell Andrea that the actual question is “what has the Governor done?” After a brief, silent standoff, in which Michonne doesn’t even attempt to explain things, Andrea lets Michonne go, and helps her lover, the Governor. As the Governor cradles Penny’s body, Andrea finally sees the wall of heads. Amazingly, she doesn’t run screaming from the room to apologize to Michonne for ever doubting her; instead she watches the Governor cradle Penny’s corpse with an expression of compassion on her face. Okay, yes, I get that Andrea is probably transferring her own feelings about her sister to the Governor, but … let me repeat: Wall. Of. Heads. What more does she need?
At the prison, the bitten lady from Tyreese’s group (whose name is Donna) finally dies. Carl readies his gun; after he shot his own mother in the head, I’m sure someone else’s mother is just not that difficult for him. Poor Carl! Tyreese insists that he’ll take care of it instead. Carl gets to the other side of room, and back into Cellblock C, where he locks the door, saying that Tyreese’s group is safe, and they have food and water. Sasha doesn’t take kindly to being imprisoned by a kid, and yells at him to open the door. If only she knew that Carl never does what he’s told. Tyreese tells her to back away, because this is the best situation their group has been for weeks; it’s Carl’s house, Carl’s rules.
Unfortunately, Andrea has accompanied the Governor to receive medical assistance for his eye. She asks him what “that” was, and for a bit I assume that she means “why do you have a giant wall of heads in your home and what’s up with the zombie child?” But apparently, Andrea doesn’t care about these things, and what she wants to know is why the Governor was fighting Michonne. The Governor says Michonne came back to kill him (which was true) but not why she wanted him dead.
I was sort of bummed that Michonne didn’t tell Andrea that the Governor tried to have her murdered, but thinking about it, Andrea’s reaction to Michonne’s fight with the Governor (“what have you done?”) basically proved to Michonne that Andrea was a lost cause. Michonne must have assumed Andrea knew about the heads and the zombie kid and maybe even the Michonne-assassination, and Andrea had thrown in her lot with the Governor/Woodbury anyway. So, although I wish Michonne had said something, I understood why she didn’t.
Andrea finally mentions the Wall of Heads to the Governor but is fobbed off with a rather lame explanation. If she were inclined to push further, she can’t because Milton enters the infirmary with Merle hot on his heels. Merle says that the attackers made it over the wall, and that he’ll go after them in the morning. The Governor gives him a chilling one-eyed glare.
Michonne finds Rick and his group again. Rick asks where Michonne was, as she and Maggie point their guns at Michonne, who is obviously beaten up. “Get what you came for?” Rick asks her.
Michonne asks where the others are, and Maggie says Oscar is dead and Daryl is missing. Rick threatens Michonne if anything happens to Daryl, as Michonne reminds him that without her, they wouldn’t have rescued Glenn and Maggie. “Thanks for the help!” Rick says, and Michonne goes on, pointing out that they’ll need help whether they go back to the prison or choose to stay and rescue Daryl. (I think this might be a record for the number of words she’s said in a scene.) “You need me!” she reiterates. Rick twitches his nose and chin, which I think means he agrees, but under duress.
In Woodbury, the town has gathered around the zombie fight arena, awaiting the entrance of the bandaged Governor. I wish Michonne had also stabbed his tongue, because I’m really tired of his lying, self-serving speeches. The culmination of the speech comes when the Governor fingers Merle as a traitor, accusing Merle of leading Rick’s group into Woodbury. In a weird way, the Governor is actually right; if Merle hadn’t kidnapped Maggie and Glenn, Rick wouldn’t have tried to rescue them, and none of this would have happened. On the other hand, if the Governor weren’t an insane, cruel, power-hungry creep who doesn’t tolerate any other group’s existence, then he wouldn’t have created a situation in which Glenn and Maggie would have died but for Rick’s rescue. So there’s that.
Meanwhile, a bound, hooded man with arms attractively gleaming in the firelight is dragged into the arena and the Governor reveals that Merle’s own brother was one of the “terrorists” who attacked Woodbury. Merle and Daryl stare at each other, and then Daryl catches Andrea’s eye as well. To her credit, Andrea looks horrified as the Governor asks what they should do with the Dixon brothers and the crowd chants for their deaths.
And then the credits roll on our “mid-season finale” which are words almost as scary as “Wall of Heads.” I can’t believe I have to wait until February to find out what happens next!
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current TV shows, and a hopeless romantic.