The Walking Dead recap: Barbarians at the Gate

Nothing happens. And then, suddenly, a lot of things happen.
Ep. 10 | Aired Feb 17, 2013

DUCK, YOU SUCKER! I have met Andrew Lincoln. He has piercing blue eyes, perfect Don Johnson scruff, and an impossibly charming schoolboy-British accent that reminds you that his given surname is "Clutterbuck." (He introduces himself as "Andy.") I don't say this to brag, but to illustrate a point: It takes a lot of work to transform that guy into a scraggly, half-crazy, PTSD-ing apocalypse-surviving widower with a thousand-yard stare, and even more work to make you believe that that guy could bludgeon a couple zombie skulls with the blunt end of a Magnum Revolver. So here's to you, Andrew Lincoln, for turning Rick Grimes into the Great American Hobo Superhero.

AMC

There are many different perspectives on The Walking Dead. Some people think it's brilliant. Some people think it's terrible. Some people think it's a failed attempt at an epic TV drama -- a coulda-been-Lost. Some people think it's best running action movie in America -- a gleefully gory, brain-bashing, hard-R corrective to the kid-baiting PG-13 digital extravaganzas currently filling theaters. Pretty much everyone agrees it's a bit of a mess. It's had too many showrunners to not be a mess. (ASIDE: Although The Wizard of Oz had at least five different directors and still turned out great. I don't make that comparison lightly, or randomly. Wizard of Oz is another quest narrative, half-western and half-horror, about a ragtag gang dodging monsters and trying to find their way home. And don't forget: The Walking Dead, like Wizard of Oz, begins with the hero waking up in a strange new world. In this metaphor, Rick is Dorothy, Carl is Toto, Daryl Motherf---ing Dixon is the Cowardly Motherf---ing Lion, and Lori is that munchkin that hung himself. END OF ASIDE.)

If you want to figure out where you stand on The Walking Dead, last night's episode provided a handy and telling moment. Ask yourself: How did you react when Axel got shot in the head? Were you scared? Surprised? Offended by the fact that the show had yet again introduced a character, done essentially nothing with him, only to kill him off unceremoniously? Me, I laughed out loud. I think I even clapped. There are plenty of modern TV dramas that delight in killing off regulars, but The Walking Dead seems to take a particular sociopathic relish in taking out its leads. How else to explain why, after eight episodes of scarcely any character development, we finally got to learn a little bit about Axel -- got to like the guy, even -- just in time for him to get a bullet in the head? Lest we missed the joke, the show put a couple dozen more bullets in his flailing corpse. I'm not sure how the science works, so I'm not sure that Carol's Axel-Shield method could've actually held off so many machine gun rounds. But it sure looked great, didn't it?

Last night's episode of The Walking Dead provided a handy glance at what makes the show great and not-so-great. The first two-thirds of the episode were slow, and seemed to indicate we were in for a gradual build-up in the back half of season 3. We began with Rick Grimes setting up some anti-Governor fortifications. He picked up his binoculars and looked around the perimeter. He saw Michonne, who's taken up residence in an overturned prison truck. He also saw a woman...a woman in a white dress...a woman who couldn't drive further than 10 feet without getting in a car accident. Yes, it was Ghost Lori Grimes, out of the shadows. (Even in death, Lori still maintains her superhuman ability to drag the show to a halt.) I thought the whole sequence with Rick following Ghost Lori out of the prison was eerie, and even moving -- the show does great with quiet atmospherics. Unfortunately, that opening also left Rick out of commission for the episode, wandering through the forest in search of...something.

We flipped over to Woodbury, where the Governor had something to say to Andrea. "That was quite a speech you gave," said the Governor, referring to that time that halftime speech Andrea gave the citizens of Woodbury last week. The Governor promised that he would not retaliate against her old friends in the Grimes Gang. (ASIDE: He also provided some apparent explanation for Milton's experiments, explaining that he was hoping Milton could cure his daughter. Unless there's some added twist to come, this might be the last we hear about Dr. Milton's Zombie Laboratory. END OF ASIDE.) But the Governor also asked Andrea not to leave. "I'm not fit to lead these people. But you are." The Governor is retiring. Long live the Governess!

NEXT: The Ballad of Daryl and Merle

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