We left off in the gladiator ring. It’s brother against brother, a heroine begging for mercy, and lions (walkers) brought in for extra suspense. Caesar (the Governor ) rules – the people have spoken – thumbs down. A fight to the death. Except that Caesar has clearly not grasped yet that Merle never really follows directions.
Merle throws out some punches for show, plans a trick defense, but it’s Rick’s group that saves them, with a clever light show and mysterious smoke effects. The brothers get away.
Of course no one wants Merle, but as Merle astutely points out, that’s a discussion for later.
That conversation does resume later with Glenn: “What the hell is he doing here?” In the exchange that follows, Rick and group learn that Andrea is in Woodbury and that Andrea and Michonne are friends, or more. Michonne doesn’t seem surprised that Rick and co. know Andrea, so that sort-of addresses one of my questions from last fall – was Michonne at least in part motivated to find Rick’s group and bring them to Woodbury because she put two-and-two together (with both Andrea and Glenn knowing Merle), and thought Rick could help her convince Andrea to leave Woodbury?
But back to the woods. Merle spills that Andrea is sleeping with the governor, and Maggie is understandably creeped out. After three shut ups, Rick finally makes Merle shut up. And I just love the next part. Daryl to an unconscious Merle: “Asshole.” Daryl, you had me at “Shut up.”
Back at the prison, Hershel wraps limbs, and the newbies meet baby Asskicker (I like that better than Judith). The groups bond, but Hershel spoils the mood when he tells Tyreese to not get too comfortable. Uh oh. We’ve heard this before – during most of last season – and while I get the concerns, do we really have to do this again?
Meanwhile the group in the forest have a similar conversation. They debate whether to integrate into their group the two outsiders – Merle and Michonne. They land with “no” (Rick is firmly on the side of “no” to both), and we lose Daryl, who opts to stay with Merle. Not good, but I’m confident he’ll be back.
Back at the prison, we intuit that two of the newbies’ group will soon be walker food when they suggest taking out Carl and Carol. Tyreese and Sasha steal the scene with a not-so-subtle maneuver to put themselves in front of the walker food and our group before the walker food do something stupid and get them all kicked out. Nice! I like Tyreese and Sasha.
Back in the forest, Glenn takes out his frustration on a walker. We’re learning that Glenn isn’t moving on quite yet and is out for revenge against the governor. He should be, it’s a human response, but revenge-driven vs. rational responses never fair well in TV Land. The discussion shifts to Merle, and Rick stands firm on his resolve not to bring Merle back with them.
At Woodbury, Andrea plays peacekeeper with a panicking public – an admirable leader-like reaction – until it turns creepy. Andrea gives a motivational speech to a whiny crowd and afterward glances up to where the Governor is to look for approval. Hold it a sec. I get why Andrea was initially drawn to Woodbury against Michonne’s protests. Andrea wanted to believe in a better future, and she was willing to try to make it work – and to look the other way at times. But at this point Andrea has seen too much – Penny, the Governor’s fishtank pets, and Daryl being forced into a gladiator fights.
She knows the governor sanctioned the kidnapping of Glenn and Maggie, and that Rick and co. attacked the town to rescue them. She knows the Governor knew Glenn and Maggie were her friends and hid what he was doing from her when they had sex. She should be questioning her relationship with the Governor and distancing herself from him. Instead she reacts by telling him to not shut her out. OK, if Andrea was suffering from Stockholm syndrome, I might be more likely to cut her a break, but it wasn’t that long ago that she was out scavenging with Michonne. Could it be some kind of white knight rescuer syndrome? She used to be an independent character. I’m still trying to keep an open mind, but I’m not buying it.
Fast forward a bit. Carol and Beth are talking, and Carol compares Daryl’s relationship with Merle to her abusive one with her late husband. Interesting. I hadn’t thought of the Merle/Daryl relationship as abusive, but that does explain a lot about Daryl and Carol.
Elsewhere in the prison, Hershel tells Glenn he’s become like a son, and we see that Glenn doesn’t seem to be coping well with what happened at Woodbury. He’s pushing Maggie away.
Rick stays firm in his resolve to push away any new people – first Michonne and then Tyreese and co. And right when it looks like Hershel might be getting through to Rick when he tells him, “You’ve got to start giving people a chance,” Rick sees angel Lori. A force of good or evil? When Rick last heard from angel Lori, she seemed to be pushing Rick back toward life, but now she seems to be having a detrimental effect. Her timing really couldn’t have been worse. So what does she represent in Rick’s subconscious? A death wish? Paranoia? Any other suggestions? I don’t know, but I’m curious now to see what role these visions will have on Rick. What a great way to dig into Rick’s subconscious. Should give me lots to write about.
Self-Destructive Choices All Around
The episode was named The Suicide King, and most of these episodes seem to have a theme. I had to Google this, but apparently term The Suicide King is in reference to the King of Hearts in a deck of cards.
The king looks like he’s stabbing himself in the head with a sword.
We saw two characters move toward abusive – or at best unhealthy – relationships (Daryl with Merle and Andrea with the Governor). We saw two characters push away people they shouldn’t (Rick with Michone and Tyreese and co., and Glenn with Maggie).
The question throughout most of last season seemed to be, “What type of person do you want to be?” Do you become like Shane? Shane was portrayed as a survivor, who adapted to the new world and took a kill-or-be-killed stance. At the other end of the spectrum was Dale – a man of principle who wouldn’t surrender his humanity. And floundering somewhere in the middle was Rick, who wrestled with doubts on whether he could protect his family.
The message seemed to be that Rick needed to become more like Shane to survive. Yet Shane didn’t survive. And in 18 Miles Out, as Rick begged Shane to come back to them, we saw Shane look out toward a lone walker in a field – alone and dead. It seemed to be Shane’s path, and it foreshadowed what was to come. But then again, Dale didn’t survive either.
In this episode, pushing strangers away suddenly seemed less smart. Rick has become more like Shane and has stopped giving people a break. But acting defensively toward outsiders now means pushing away good people who the group need to rebuild their ranks. In short, it means committing slow suicide.
The group can’t survive unless they continue to trust. Michonne and Tyreese and co. were attracted to this group because, unlike others they have encountered in their travels, Rick’s group still retain relationships and their humanity. So the question for Rick now is can he heal – can he come back from a suicidal track and start giving again – or will he become a mirror image Shane, or the Governor?
Is the suicide king Rick, who is pushing everyone away? The governor who is further gone than Rick? Or a lot of people including Rick, the Governor, Glenn, Andrea, and Daryl – all of whom seem to be heading on self-destructive paths that can’t end well?