A review of tonight's "The Walking Dead" coming up just as soon as I'm sent home to do some knitting...
"Prey," co-written by Glen Mazzara and Evan Reilly, feels like an episode intent on doing some self-correcting. On the largest level, Andrea finally accepts that the Governor is a bad, bad man who needs to be stopped at all costs. But the episode also pauses to recognize that it's past time to fill in some backstory on Andrea and Michonne's relationship, on Milton's history with the Governor, and even on what Tyreese's group was up to before they wound up at the prison.
The episode definitely succeeds as a whole thanks to a narrower focus — the only member of the prison group we see is Rick, and only for a few brief moments — and a good thriller structure(*) that brings back some of the urgency from the first half of the season. But most of what I mentioned above feels like a case of closing the barn door after the zombies have already escaped — and not even closing it all that firmly.
(*) Mazzara noted on Twitter on Friday that one part of the script — which I later found out was the entire cat-and-mouse chase through the warehouse — was written by Sang Kyu Kim, who was responsible for this season's outstanding "The Killer Within."
It's long past time, for instance, that we get another glimpse of what life was like for Michonne and Andrea when they were on the road together, The flashback in the teaser offers up some hints of their dynamic (joking about a girls night with some wine) and about Michonne's pre-apocalypse life (she knew her two arm-less pets, and did not like them very much at all), but I still don't feel like I have a strong enough sense of their bond and what was driving the tension between them when they first arrived at Woodbury. It also might have been nice to have an idea of her relationship with the zombie pets before she casually decapitated them both after encountering the Governor's men.
Milton's acknowledgment that he knew the Governor back when he was still Phillip sheds some new light on their relationship — and makes Milton's eventual stand against his friend and leader feel like a bigger deal — but mainly makes me want to know a lot more about what they were like before the plague, their survival in the early days, etc. Maybe if the show occasionally borrowed the "Lost" flashback structure for its new additions, these characters would become more vivid and easier to understand, but instead it feels like we're constantly playing catch-up.
And a flashback or three certainly would have been more artful than the backstory info dump we got about the tensions between Tyreese and Allen over Allen's dead wife. I like Chad L. Coleman a lot in this role, and Tyreese feels like a very necessary ingredient for the show: someone caught up in the middle of the action, but who doesn't have the personal investments and is just trying to survive. (To continue the neverending "Lost" references I seem to make in these reviews, he's Hurley if Hurley could also kick ass like Sayid.) But listening to him and Allen have an argument about this old bit of business didn't really work — even if part of it took place while Tyreese was holding Allen over a zombie pit.
And on Andrea's change of heart, we've already discussed the bad path the show took the character down. Even if we had a more global view of the series that she did, she still had plenty of evidence — the gladiator fights, Daryl and Merle being ordered to fight to the death, Glen and Maggie's injuries, Hershel confirming what the Governor did to Maggie — that this is a bad, bad dude she's hooked up with. The torture room is eyeball evidence as opposed to testimony from others, but the others are all people she's known and cared about for far longer than she's been in Woodbury.
All of that having been said, the Governor's pursuit of Andrea worked as an episodic story, particularly that moment when he caught up to her when she was a few footsteps away from Rick being able to see her through his rifle scope. The conclusion would have been even stronger if the Governor had just killed her then — imagine Rick or Carol walking the prison's perimeter and suddenly realizing that one of the walkers lunging against the fence is Andrea — but the writers clearly have plans for her in the season's final two episodes. And at least now there's more unrest inside Woodbury, with Tyreese, Sasha and Milton all feeling different levels of unease with their fearless, one-eyed leader.
Once again, let me remind you again of this blog's No Spoiler rule and how it applies to this show, as I've had to delete a bunch of comments the last few weeks that violated it. Basic things to remember before commenting:
1. No talking about the previews for the next episode.
2. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources — and, yes, that includes anything Mazzara and Kirkman have said in interviews.
3. No talking about anything that's happened in the comic that hasn't happened in the TV show yet. (Or anything that's been revealed, like character backstory and motivation.) As with "Game of Thrones," the goal is to treat "The Walking Dead" TV show as exactly that, and not as an excuse for endless comparisons with the comics. If you want to talk about the comics, feel free to start up a discussion thread on our message boards.
With that in mind, what did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at email@example.com