And now for something completely different. Michonne and Andrea have apparently had all manner of adventures between seasons, and now they get to have one on-screen.
We open, however, with a helicopter stocked with soldiers, offering hope that there’s still some kind of officialdom out there, piecing things back together. Then, it crashes. Converging at the wreckage, witnessed by Michonne and Andrea, are a team of guys in jeeps. We have no reason to think ill of them, they look for survivors, pull the pilot out of the wreckage, but we’re immediately suspicious because there’s Merle. His appearance didn’t come as too big a shock, since I saw his name in the opening credits, but the show has been dangling this possibility for over two years now. Either it’s been the master plan all along, or Michael Rooker needs to pay some bills.
Hiding behind what looks like one tiny branch, Michonne and Andrea are unsurprisingly caught (though not after Michonne beheads her zombuddies to keep them quiet). They’re brought back to a fortified community called Woodbury, where everything seems perfect. Houses, showers, tended lawns, we’ve been trained by decades of pop culture to find anything that seems pleasant to be immediately suspect, and this is no exception. Likewise, any leader of this kind of community is automatically assumed to be eating his subjects or breeding robots to kill. Thus we have The Governor.
We have to refer to him as The Governor, because he refuses to give his real name. There’s only two reasons someone on TV will refuse to give their name: a) it’s one we’ll recognise (or will hear in a different context and not realise who they’re talking about) or b) it’s a really silly name. It looks like he’s being set up as the main antagonist for this side of the story, where A&M slowly discover his horrifying secret, it gets out of hand, lots of people die and a few survivors hit the road to the next place. Bookmark this and come back to me in a couple of months. We don’t learn much about The Governor beyond his collection of decapitated heads, more on that later.
Andrea seems cautiously optimistic, like a reasonable person would, and Michonne is outright hostile and paranoid, like a TV audience. Andrea gets some medicine and a shower, Michonne wants her sword back. Every time she asks, and was told she could have it but would have to leave, I thought of the cult episode of The Simpsons, where anyone could bail out on the indoctrination video, but had to stand under a spotlight and explain why. Andrea will probably convince her to stay for a while, just to see what it’s like (actually I vaguely remember her saying that, so it might not be my most startling prediction).
It’s good that the Walking Dead crew have invested in another set, and I realise I’m judging it after one episode here, but it feels like we’ve seen this nice appearance/seamy underbelly story too many times. It definitely feels like the Others’ village in Lost with people in a crazy situation trying to maintain this weird Stepford-like normality.
Anyway, what’s with the heads? If you decapitate a zombie, it properly dies, no? The Governor had electrodes sticking into one of the heads and it continued to move. It seems awfully like he’s trying to maintain some kind of shambling, meaningless life after death, which I recall being the whole problem for humanity in the first place. Maybe he just likes having a wall of heads. I’ve always wanted one of those walls from movies where you have a map with pins in it, some photos and newspaper cuttings. That would make me look like a serial killer, so I can’t judge a guy who just wants dozens of fish tanks with rotting human heads in them.
Will we be back to the prison next week? Maybe! The Walking Dead is a fun show, but it hasn’t inspired urgency in me. The first episode this season was really good, and it’s been decent since then, but it’s never going to be a DVD box set marathon at this rate. It sets up its stories and then plays them out more or less how you’d expect. That said, I will return next week, anxious for Michonne to get her sword back. She seems worth watching.