You could tell things were getting serious because Daryl Motherf---ing Dixon was wearing sleeves. Rick, Daryl, and Hershel had driven out to a remote location. They looked nervous. They scouted the perimeter. Rick walked into a shack and found a table under a spotlight, with two chairs awaiting. Out of the shadows walked a man with a smile on his face and murder in his one eye. "We have a lot to talk about," said the Governor. Protagonist: Meet Antagonist.
This season of The Walking Dead has been about a lot of things. The Forced Colonization of the Prison. The Brilliant Death of Lori Grimes. The Annoying Afterlife of Lori Grimes. Rick's Descent Into Madness. The Dark Secret of Wonderful Woodbury. The Reunion of the Dixon Brothers. Carol's Remarkable Ability To Avoid Being Killed. Michonne Swinging Her Sword Real Good. But the uber-plot of this season has always been the clash between the Prison and Woodbury -- and, more specifically, the clash of kings between Rick and The Governor. It has taken a long time to get here. In the Dead graphic novels, Rick met the Governor right away...and, without spoiling anything, let's just say that it didn't take very long for the two to become blood rivals. The TV show has taken the slow burn approach. If their relationship resembles anything, it's Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat: Two men on separate but similar tracks, marching towards an inevitable showdown.
Last night's episode was their Café Scene. It didn't get off to a good start. Rick didn't think there was much to talk about. The Governor attacked the prison, killed poor Axel. But The Governor noted that that attack was really just a message. "I coulda killed you all," he said. "I didn't." The Man Who Was Philip wanted to negotiate in good faith. He set his weapons down. Rick kept his gun. A good call, since The Governor had a gun hiding under the table.
Outside, Daryl and Hershel faced off against an arriving car from Woodbury. Martinez and Daryl moved into Standoff mode immediately. Andrea emerged from the car, already out of her element. She didn't know that Governor had already arrived. She ran into the room where Rick and the Governor were deliberating -- let's call Appomattox Shack -- and gave a speech about the importance of Andrea. "I asked you to come here," she said. The Governor ignored her. He told Rick, "You know all about me, and I know all about you." The time had come to move forward.
From there, the episode played out in two main arcs. Inside the Appomattox Shack, the Governor and Rick tried to hash out their differences. Outside, their respective soldiers waited, maybe treasuring a nice moment of peace before the war. What happened inside the Shack felt purposefully momentous, but if you ask me, the real fun was outside. The best moment of the episode came when Daryl asked who Milton was. "Milton Mamet," he said. "Great," retorted Daryl Motherf---ing Dixon, "He brought his butler." But that was only a bit better than when Martinez referred to Daryl as Rick's henchman. He's not wrong: Daryl might have his head together better than Rick, but half his life is spent firing arrows wherever Rick points. (ASIDE: Did you all notice Daryl's new crossbow, lifted from Morgan's armory last week? The old crossbow was named Daryl Junior; let's call this one King Daryl III. END OF ASIDE.)
Inside the Shack, Rick started negotiating. He pulled out a map. Woodbury would own West of the River; the Prison would take East. "Nobody crosses," he said. "Nobody trades." The Governor laughed. He wasn't here to carve up the landscape of Apocalypse America; he wanted Rick's surrender. Andrea started to say something, and both Rick and The Governor blessedly cut her off. "Step outside, Switzerland, the grown-up countries need to talk," is basically what they said. Andrea stormed off. Rick looked at The Governor and said a hilarious line that only really worked because Andrew Lincoln can make anything sound like an angry plea from a desperate man with his finger on the trigger: "So. You're the Governor."
NEXT PAGE: The Whiskey Summit