Given that this is the penultimate episode before the mid-season break, its probably fair to cut the show’s writers some slack as they maneuver all the players into place for what is shaping up to be a spectacular finale next week. However, that doesn’t mean that this is anything other than another thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking episode.
This season has revolved around two parallel storylines in two very contrasting settings and last week’s episode featured the first crossover between the two groups as Merle took Glenn and Maggie back to Woodbury as hostages and Michonne arrived, much to Rick’s shock, at the gates of the prison bearing news of the abduction.
The tagline for the season has been “fight the dead, fear the living”, and this is one episode where that sentiment is most apt. Firstly in Woodbury, where Merle takes great delight in getting “reacquainted” with Glenn while both sides of The Governor’s character come to the fore as he romances Andrea one minute before threatening Maggie the next. Rick’s group, heading off in pursuit of their lost comrades, don’t come off much better as they find themselves in the middle of difficult situation with a rather unfortunate hermit. It serves as a reminder that while the zombies remain the chief threat, everyone is being pushed to some very dark places in order to maintain their own survival.
Writer Frank Renzulli, a veteran of The Sopranos, does a good job providing enough small character moments to go with the necessary placing of pieces on the board to set up the next episode. It is an episode where Glenn in particular gets the opportunity to shine and show how he has developed as he is forced to stand up for himself with Rick not alongside him.
Ultimately, it is an episode that acts as an appetizer for what is to come next week with a lot of the character’s personal arcs about to come to a head. This includes Merle, who has his loyalty tested by The Governor, and Daryl, as the two brothers look set for a reunion. It may also prove testing for Andrea who is likely to be torn between her new community and her former allies.
This season has delivered in ways that were unexpected given the disappointing nature of season 2, but everything is in place for something truly special next week to see the series out until the New Year.
Review by Jonathan Gray