by Fashion and Entertainment Editor Joseph Lamour
The Walking Dead has returned! Huzzah! It takes quite a fan base for a TV show to come back in awards season. Competing with The Grammys, I made a night of channel flipping between my live-tweeting duties and undead counter programming: Bruno Mars crooning to zombies groaning; watching Rick’s sanity slip a little more to Jennifer Lopez’s slipping taste; witnessing Andrea’s desire for normalcy result in a huge case of denial (willfully ignoring fish tanks full of zombie heads?) to… nope. There’s really nothing like Andrea’s thought process.
Note: The Walking Dead Roundtable will be slightly different from now on: If you’ve read our Scandal roundtables, you’ll be familiar with the setup: each week, a Racialicious denizen will provide an episode summary the day after the newest episode airs. For The Walking Dead, that day will be Mondays. Then, on Friday a longer roundtable discussion of the episode is posted hosted by moi, Joe, accompanied by a circle of insightful fans.
So, now there will be two Walking Dead posts, or 2x the zombie fun.
Recap for The Walking Dead Episode 3.9: “The Suicide King” appears under the cut!
This mid-season premiere succeeded in doing two things:
- Illustrating the aftermath of the events of the mid-season finale which, among other things, destroyed the peaceful facade of Woodbury; and,
- Reminding the audience that most of the characters in The Walking Dead make terrible choices.
The mid-season finale’s rescue mission caused some survivor shuffling this episode. Daryl and Merle are together again, and both alive, thanks to Rick and Maggie saving the newly reunited brothers just in time from having to fight one another to the death (anyone living in Woodbury who doesn’t think twice about the Woodbury pseudo-Colosseum extreme zombie games–or The Governor’s now super hinky demeanor–is in complete denial.) After the rescue team gets out of Woodbury, everyone makes it clear to Merle that he is still (and always will be) unwelcome among the Atlanta survivors. Daryl won’t abandon Merle this time, so the Dixon boys are forced to break off from the group and start out on their own.
I think the Dixon brothers’ reunion will lead to some great moments–including a lot of arguments, I bet. There’s an appealing depth to these two now that time has passed, and we know so much more about each of them now than we did in Season 1, when they were last together. Daryl, in that time, has been steadily building confidence in himself apart from his brother: he’s been integral to the group, helping to lead as Rick loses grip. Merle can’t easily dominate or subdue this version of Daryl, not forever. I love to see an underdog stand up to their alpha. I’m guessing this duo won’t be the civil, cooperative alliance Michonne and Andrea were most of the time.
Perhaps this shift in power between the brothers could lead to some changes in Merle…to the benefit of Daryl? Most of the audience in Season 1 anticipated a scene for Merle and his bigotry. I was hoping a multicultural horde of walkers would get him on that rooftop, but his survival against those odds means he’ll be sticking around for now. My wishful thinking for his character: perhaps there’s a chance for Merle to grow? Maybe? He’s always been one of the more cold, heartless survivors, so finding a little sliver of humanity, tolerance, or kindness would be a welcome character development for him.
Rick, on the other hand–once virtuous and level headed–is steadily losing his grip on reality. (Not too tenuous a grip, however, to deliver a very familiar “Token Brown Guy is Dead!” speech. Second time this season, guys.) Oscar’s death serves as another reminder that death is constantly on Rick’s mind…that stress is now causing him to see “apparitions” and imagine sounds and people. He’s also starting to exhibit a shorter-than-short fuse. His shouting at Herschel and the newbies, for instance–Rick’s hallucinations are so frequent lately, I was unsure if he really ran into a zombfied Jim (welcome back!) or if he imagined it all, like he had Shane or Lori (the moments with her in her wedding gown)–holds equal footing in nostalgia and dementia.
Also, Andrea delivers a speech that was impassioned, passionate, and eerily Governor-like in tone (someone must have spent a lot of personal time with mister blue
eyes eye). It’s too bad we get a hint of strong Andrea (like the Andrea from the graphic novels) that fans have been asking for during this when she is just so wrong about Woodbury. Her inspiring words, however misplaced, succeeds in sustaining faith in the facade. We’ll be talking about the speech (and more) in the roundtable, so I’ll save most of my indignation for Friday. Stellar acting from Laurie Holden this episode, regardless of how much I would like to sit her character down and unleash so. Much. Real. Talk.
This zombie hour was mostly a refresher, but the story lines were tied together by various characters and their illusions–delusion plays a big part in the plot this week: the deluded townsfolk, so ready to cheer Merle and Daryl on while one brother kills the other; Glenn’s delusions (he now seems unable relate to Maggie, her victimization by the Governor changing the relationship dynamic for him); Rick’s guilt over Lori, Shane, and others’ deaths manifesting as hallucinations; Andrea’s willful delusion for love and safety; Ben and Allen* thinking that they can scheme against Rick and co., and not receive an axe to the head (someone really should tell them about that.) All delusions with serious consequence. In true Walking Dead fashion, these delusions will likely to come to light in spectacularly cataclysmic ways in the remainder of Season 3.
*This post mistakenly mentioned Ben and Sasha as the schemers. The two characters that will cause conflict (and probably their own demises) are Ben and Allen.