Image credit: Gene Page/AMC
THE WILD BUNCH Oscar looks a bit nervous. Maybe because he's walking to a climactic midseason-finale confrontation, and his teammates are The Cool Chick With The Katana, The Cool Dude With The Crossbow, and The Protagonist. I'm not saying that Oscar is going to die, but I am saying that you never want to be the guy wearing a red shirt on an away mission with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. In this metaphor, Rick is Kirk, Michonne is Spock, Daryl is McCoy, and Woodbury is The Klingon Empire. Or maybe Woodbury is the Romulans and the zombies are Klingons? The point is: Pause to imagine Leonard Nimoy holding a katana sword.
There have been plenty of theories about the Milton character, mainly focusing on just to what extent his experiments would turn out to be inspired by George Romero's Day of the Dead. On this week's episode, the Governor convinced Andrea to help out with Milton's latest experiment. It involved a dying man, Mr. Coleman, who offered up his cancer-ridden body to science. Before he expired, Milton went through the motions of his curious experiment. He played a specific record, rubbed the side of a brass bowl, and asked Mr. Coleman three basic true-false statements. "Your name is Michael Coleman. You were married to Betty Coleman. Your children were Michael and Emily Coleman." Each time, the dying man raised his right hand.
Then the waiting began. Milton explained that he was trying to discover if trace memory maintains in the undead after they expire: If some strain of humanity somehow lingers in the zombie's unconscious mind. Andrea was skeptical. She asked Milton if he had ever seen a walker transformation before. Milton admitted that he hadn't. He was an only child with parents long-dead; he telecommuted to work. He sounded like a man who had barely interacted with people pre-apocalypse.
Elsewhere in Woodbury, Dr. Merle Dixon was conducting his own scientific study: The Effects of Attacking Zombies on Prisoners Duct-Taped to Chairs. Merle brought a walker into Glenn's room and asked where the Grimes Gang was located. When Glenn refused to tell him, Merle let the zombie free. There followed one of the great zombie-wrasslin' scenes of the show's history. Glenn kicked the zombie and fell backwards; then he pulled a Reverse Statham and started running around, still tied to the chair. He threw everything he could find at the Walker; when that failed, he broke the chair against the brick wall. The walker bit him, but hit duct tape. Then Glenn stabbed the walker through the face with a leg of the chair, earning himself an exultant Zombie Kill of the Week award, though his suffering was just beginning.
At this point, the Governor moved in to take over the interrogation. He paid Maggie a visit and sliced off her duct-tape cuffs. He gave her the same soft-sell that he gave the helicopter pilot a few episodes ago. Tell us where your friends are; we'll bring them here, and live together happily in Heavenly Woodbury. Maggie refused. The Governor sighed. The soft sell wasn't working. "Let's try somethin' else," he grimaced. "Stand up. Take off your shirt." Maggie wouldn't, and the Governor offered to bring in Glenn's hand. She stripped down, removing her shirt and her bra. The Governor removed his gun belt, rubbed her hair, and pushed her down onto the table. Maggie wouldn't break. "Do whatever you're gonna do. And go to hell." The Governor cackled...and (apparently) backed off.
A few miles from Woodbury, the Melee Squad got out of their car and went on foot. There was a nice moment between Rick and Daryl. Rick thanked Daryl for taking care of his baby "while I was working things out [by talking to my dead wife on a telephone]." Daryl Motherf---ing Dixon shrugged. "It's what we do." A horde of walkers suddenly emerged from the forest; they killed a few, and then made for a cabin in the woods, which is always the best strategy when you're running away from the undead. There was a dead dog in the house. "Guess Lassie went home," Daryl deadpanned. As fate would have it, the dog belonged to a Crazy Old Hermit, who screamed a few things at the Melee Squad. I couldn't really make out what he said, but I think it was something like: "'Detective, there's no going, and you tell me do things! I done RUN-ning!?" Then he tried to open the door and Michonne stabbed him through the heart. They threw his body out to the walkers and made their escape while they munched on his crazy bones.
The Affair of the Crazy Old Hermit is probably the most random out-of-nowhere sequence in The Walking Dead's history. In an episode that was heavy with meaningful incident -- the inescapable who-watches-the-watchmen terrorism allegory of the interrogation sequences, the vaguely philosophical and ultimately nihilistic nature of Milton's experiment -- the cabin in the woods felt suddenly beamed in from a wackier version of the show. But I liked it for two reasons:
First: It provided further evidence that the real uber-narrative of The Walking Dead is how Rick Grimes brings death with him everywhere he goes. (How did that hermit survive so long in a forest filled with zombies? Answer: Because he hadn't met Rick Grimes yet.
Second: More than a few people have pointed out that the geography of The Walking Dead is extremely confusing. Woodbury and the Prison are simultaneously very close and very far from each other. Actually, as near as I can tell, there are no roads that lead to the prison -- just a single dirt road, which seems unlikely for a state penitentiary. I'm not criticizing -- I kind of like how this season is turning into a mystical undead remake of Into the Woods, with characters constantly running into the forest and getting lost, and occasionally coming across helicopters or samurai women or crazy old men with dead dogs.
NEXT: The experiment is a success. The point of the experiment was to fail, right?