The Boob Tube Review: The Walking Dead Parlay by Alex Snider

I spent some time last weekend re-watching the first season of TWD. I hadn't watched it since it aired and while I remembered it being immensely more compelling that season two – most of my memory is taken up by 90s top 40 lyrics (how bizarre!) – so there was a lot that I'd forgotten about. The characters in season one were carefully constructed but then all development was dropped during their jaunt in purgatory at the farm. What we got in season two was stagnation broken up by moments of pettiness. I don't know if we're supposed to assume that the entire cast of characters suffered from perpetually low blood-sugar or they all just needed a nap but the camaraderie and understanding built over season one was lost in favour of bad-faith and testiness. I see it as a major misstep on the writer's part because now a number of the characters, motivations and relationships have been soured thanks to the time (and aggravation) between season one and three.

Re-watching those first six episodes it was the characterization of Rick and Andrea that stood out the most. I was reminded of Andrea's devastation over the loss of Amy, of her sadness and nostalgia, of her fierceness and dedication to justice. Her role this season has been seemingly relegated to horny turncoat but revisiting her arc helped to understand her blinders. Andrea is desperate for normalcy and comfort and her losses have left her vulnerable. She wants to be taken seriously, she wants not power but respect. At every turn, Andrea has seen her agency strangled by the men surrounding her. Dale wouldn't let her commit suicide, she was denied her own gun and she was not permitted to be a part of the decision making at the farm – forced instead to do laundry with the other women.
Whoa, that time of the month, Andrea? lol
At Woodbury, the Governor invited her into the executive ranks. She was asked to provide knowledge and backup to Milton, she helped the guards, and she took the reigns when the Governor threw them up and calmed down the frantic townspeople. Andrea has proven herself capable time and time again but only one of the two groups has ever acknowledged her strengths. It's no wonder that in a short time she has such loyalty to the Governor and Woodbury. This week, when she was once again denied a place at the negotiation table, her frustration, disappointment and hurt was painful to witness.

It makes me wonder what the writers are trying to say with Andrea and how she is rendered powerless over and over. Is it a statement on the depths of misogyny? That without policy to ensure equality, men will just continue to oppress women? Is it an oversight and just the writers not seeing their own privileged blind-spots because of course men are the leaders? Given the treatment of the women (and African American men) I don't have a tonne of faith that this is an intentional statement on gender relations.
Chicks, amirite?
There was absolutely no reason outside of sexism for the Governor and Rick to eject Andrea from the negotiations. She engineered the meeting, she knows them both, she was a human-rights attorney and she was doing a great job of mediating. If it had just been the Governor asking her to leave because he was about to pull out his master manipulation skillz it would have been one thing but Rick backing him up? That's cold. Serious props to Laurie Holden for perfectly showing Andrea's myriad of emotions:

Rick has been just as, if not more, infuriating with the lack of attention given to his character. In the first season, what is obvious but I had forgotten, was his hero-complex. When he found Lori and Carl after waking up from a coma post-zombie outbreak, it seemed miraculous. The odds of them being alive and of him surviving Atlanta and then that he'd stumble upon them were unimaginable. But what was the first thing he did? WENT BACK TO EFFING ATLANTA TO SAVE MERL. What the hell? It's been alluded to that Rick and Lori had problems before he was shot and it becomes clear that his compulsion to be the hero had been straining their relationship for a long time. Every decision he makes from being a sheriff's deputy to wanting to leave his bullet riddled son to go help recover medical supplies points to his not-so-altruistic desire to save the day. Whether it's a fear of intimacy or just that he's totally hooked on the hero-high, Rick's saviour impulse always comes with a high-price. I am finding his character that much more interesting after re-watching the early episodes that outline his character because what had often seemed like moral leadership now feels more like psychological drive. If it's not his ethics guiding him but a foolhardy hero-complex then the show becomes less a morality tale about a pure but damaged leader than a story about a nihilistic world.

Rick's selfishness helps explain how he forsakes every single outsider despite the numourous times strangers took him in. Every newcomer represents a threat to his leadership and a new person to control. His leadership skills in Atlanta set him up as the leader at the prison and he can't give that up no matter how many times Carl begs him. His decision to hand over Michonne aligns with that hero-complex. He gets to save his own people and get rid of a threat to his tenuous hold over the group. I'm not saying that he's a villain or a monster, I think Rick is a good person but his hero-complex in combination with trauma has clouded his thinking. He believes that he is the prison group's only hope of survival and he has burdened himself with sole responsibility for their lives. He doesn't share information with the others and he doesn't invite them into the decision making. When he asks Hershel for advise it's only after he's made up his mind. There is no democracy left in his world.
Rick's scenes with the Governor enforces them both as dictators. Once again, the audience is asked to see the two men as opposing figures, with Rick representing good and the Governor representing evil. The problem being that we do not know anything about the Governor. Who is he? How did he come to be the man they call the Governor? Was he always cruel and bloodthirsty and manipulative? Does he actually care about the people of Woodbury? What is his end game? Is he just a more far-gone Rick? I know that flashbacks have been over done in other series but I really feel that a couple of them would do TWD a world of good. There were two previous flashbacks in season two, both exploring Lori's psyche and her relationship with Shane, which helped a little bit to understand her motivations. A glimpse into the Governor's backstory would help the audience to understand his positions. Right now his character is barely more than a Bond villain. I enjoy the ambiguities of TWD but there is a point when ambiguity fades into laziness.

Other thoughts:

I am so bummed that Rick is giving thought to betraying Michonne. First of all can he not see that the Governor is not to be trusted? I was so excited when he seemed to see through his BS and gave his speech at the prison because I thought it meant that we could avoid the annoying dance of mistake –> realization of mistake –> reconciliation –> victory.

If only Rick had any idea of the quality of the Woodbury militia. Boy, is he in for a pleasant surprise when his rag tag group of hardened survivors meet the soft, lemon-aid swilling townsfolk who's eyes have never stung from the sweet sweat of a hard day's work.

TWD has had a real dearth of sex scenes so while Glenn and Maggie's sexy sex was uncomfortably enjoyable to watch with my roommate, I was on edge the entire time waiting for a walker to interrupt. More sex please. It's the end of civilization – what else are you gonna do?
I can't... you know when they're watching
Where is Carol? She's not still stuck under Axel's lifeless body in the prison yard is she? Did she twist her ankle and lock herself in a closet again? Miss her.

Merl is the Cassandra of TWD. Poor racist goon! Why won't anyone listen to him?! Probably because he's a racist goon but, boy, is there going to be egg on their faces when it turns out he's right about the Governor!
Beware a Trojan horse
I'm noticing that I have more and more in common with the Governor: we're both into eyepatches, we both believe in the sartorial power of men in vests, and we both like to get places early just to wait, lurking in the shadows before emerging menacingly. I find it to be a fun way to enforce my fun but mysterious persona; it keeps my friends on their toes.
Totally worth hanging in this dark barn for hours
The music the last couple episodes has been great, both the selection and the way it's being used. This week Warm Shadow by Fink playing as the two leaders prep their people for battle gave the scenes an epic and sprawling feel. Got me pretty amped for whatever happens next even the following interaction between Rick and Hershel was a bit of a buzz kill.

An adorable meet cute between Daryl and Martinez! "The first time I saw him knife-throw a zombie in the face, I knew it was love!" I demand a bottle episode of just Daryl and Martinez; their sexual tension mingled with barbs was so Sam and Diane. I'm envisioning a shirtless Rosencrantz and Guidenstern are Dead but with more flirting.
And don't even get me started on the potential Hershel/Milton bestie situation!
Woodburians: They're just like us
There are three episodes left this season. Not totally sure how they're going to fill them all up since the battle seems imminent but my trust is slowly being restored so I'll just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Previous The Walking Dead recap: 'The Walking Dead's' Bottle Episode

Alex Snider apologizes for writing this recap five days after the episode aired. Her website is What Fresh Hell is This and her Twitter handle is @what_freshhell. 


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