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

So there were Daryl and Merle, back in the forest, having a moment that can only be expressed in song:

Daryl D. and Merle D. screamin' through the forest
Snappin' back and forth at what the other'ne has to say
Tank top-tearin', Scar-uncoverin', bitchin' bout their pappy,
Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally, having an open dialogue about their shared history of domestic abuse...ay!

They let out all their feelings. Merle chastised Daryl for leaving him behind. Daryl pointed out that he went back for Merle. Then, a revelation: Merle reminded Daryl that they were planning to rob the old camp. And anyhow, how could Daryl defend the man who took his older brother's hand. "You lost your hand 'cause you're a simple-minded piece of s---!" Daryl exclaimed. It was a powerful moment -- you got the sense that it was the first time Daryl has ever talked back to his brother. In response, Merle knocked Daryl to the ground, tore off his tank top...and revealed a whole network of scars on his back. (Plus some groovy tattoos.)

That stopped Merle cold. He hadn't realized their father had abused Daryl the same way. He had left while Daryl was still young -- he would've killed their father, otherwise. It was a moment of shared hurt for the brothers. Daryl stood up, tried to put his shirt back together, and set off back to the prison. Merle pleaded with him: "I tried to kill that black bitch. Damn near killed that Chinese kid." "He's Korean," said Daryl, who resolutely turned away. And so it was that Merle Rooker Dixon, with nowhere to go, followed his younger brother right into the lions' den.

Back at the prison, Glenn set off on his mission to Just Close The Back Door Already on his own, ignoring the advice of Hershel. Perhaps Hershel really felt like he was on a Being Ignored roll, since he chose that moment to wander out to the fence and talk to Crazy Old Uncle Rick. Hershel put it bluntly: "Glenn's on a warpath. We need you now more than ever." Rick tried to explain. He had been seeing Lori. "I know it's not really her. But it's gotta mean somethin.'" Hershel was skeptical. We were all skeptical. "I'm waiting," he continued. For what? Rick tried to explain, and in the process, summed up The Walking Dead at its worst:

"I dunno. Somethin'. I know it doesn't make sense. But in time, it'll make sense."

This strikes me as the broken promise of some episodes this season: Characters waiting around for something to happen, with the clear intention that it will all mean something, and the sneaking suspicion that it actually just doesn't make sense. Fortunately, this sequence was immediately followed by an example of The Walking Dead at its best. The rest of the Grimes Gang walked outside. Why not? It was a sunny day, and their leader was going full-on cuckoo bananagrams cray cray. Axel offered his theories on the problem. "In here, I seen plenty of dudes crack." But Axel didn't crack. Axel actually liked it in the prison. Life was simple. "But didn't you miss your brother?" asked Carol. Brother? Please, woman. Axel's brother owed him money, and wasn't worth anything, and OH MY GOD AXEL JUST GOT SHOT IN THE FACE.

Suffice it to say: The Governor had decided to retaliate.

NEXT: Walker Delivery, toot-tooooot!

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