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

Now, I want to make something clear: The Walking Dead isn't only good when it does a big action scene. The show's had plenty of great quiet episodes -- one of the best hours of last season, "18 Miles Out," was pretty much just Rick and Shane taking a long, sour road trip. But this season especially, the show seems to just positively burst to life during its action scenes. I think that's because, although this season feels constructed like a war movie, it hasn't quite figured out how to make the stuff around the war interesting. (It could take a lesson from Game of Thrones, a show that's about 90% composed of "Scenes With Characters Making Plans" and is never less than gripping.)

Anyhow, I don't want to say the show should just do big action scenes. But boy, this sequence was glorious. It was the first official battle in the great Grimes/Governor War, after the ninja terrorist attack in Woodbury which wasn't really a battle, though it definitely Franz Ferdinanded everything. Carol spent half the battle lurking behind the dead Axel, using his body as a shield. The Governor manned a machine gun and fired towards Rick and Hershel, who dove into the tall grass on either side of the fence. Maggie and Beth ran out, armed with AKs, and tried to take down the Governor's men. (He had a guy stationed in the watchtower. Seriously, Grimes Gang: I love you, but you need to watch your freaking perimeter.)

They heard a car approaching. Could it be Glenn? No: It was a van. A huge van. Which crashed through the entrance to the prison. It went to the middle of the yard. It sat there, motionless, for some of the most tense seconds in TV this year. The back door opened...and a flood of zombies poured out. (A person in full body armor left the car and ran out of the prison -- I'm open to theories that Mr. Body Armor was someone surprising, but I'm guessing it was just Governor Minion #24601.

Maggie managed to take out the man in the watchtower. But the Governor wasn't the problem anymore. He fired a few more rounds, but he didn't even look like he was aiming anywhere; he was just attracting the walkers, and maybe reminding everyone who listened that he was a man who didn't need to worry about wasting ammunition. He drove off. Rick expended the last of his rifle ammo on a horde of zombies. Then he fired the last few rounds from his Colt Python. Then the walkers swarmed him against the fence of the prison. His life was running out, and suddenly Rick wanted more. He held off the walkers; he cried out; he begged whatever god might still exist for a miracle.

And god send Daryl Motherf---ing Dixon.

Daryl D. and Merle D. rescuin' the prison
Savin' Cousin Rick's behind and keepin' death at bay
Undead-squooshin', Arm stump-swingin', recyclin' some arrows
Oo-de-lally, Oo-de-lally, Dixons saved the day!

Now, was it convenient that the Magic Forest coughed up the Dixon boys just in time to save Rick's hide? Sure. But you have to remember that some scientists theorize that the Dixon Brothers are direct descendants of the angels who rescued Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah (though other scientists theorize that the Dixons are actually descended from the last survivors of Sodom and Gomorrah.) Anyhow, the arrival of the Brothers Dixon turned the tide. Emboldened by the power of friendship, Rick bludgeoned a few zombie heads with his empty revolver. Glenn arrived back from the Great Backdoor-Closing Mission, just in time to save Hershel.

But that wasn't the end of the Grimes Gang's problems. Not by a long shot. The front door was wide open. Walkers were entering the yard -- attracted the gunshots, probably, and also the smell of fresh meat. (Remember: Earlier in the episode, we heard some theories that there's a herd about.) Rick watched them come in. The final shot was of Rick, on the wrong side of the fence -- though, from where we were standing, he looked like a man imprisoned.

Fellow viewers, I thought this episode got things moving in a big way. We lost a non-essential member of the cast in the best way possible -- and this is where I take some pride in selecting Axel as the third-most-likely cast member to bite the dust this season. (The Reaper is coming, Carol! All the headscarves in the world won't stop him!) The war between Woodbury and the Grimes Gang has officially started -- even if the citizens of Woodbury are blissfully unaware, the Governor clearly has no qualms about taking some police action for the good of his community. What did you think of the episode? Are you intrigued to see how Merle fits in with the Grimes Gang? Are you humming the Ballad of Daryl and Merle to yourself? Theoretically, who would play their father? Jon Voight? Nick Nolte? Sylvester Stallone?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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