Well, this is more like it. When The Walking Dead came back from its mid season hiatus, I don’t think anyone was gushing or raving about last episode as much as the insane ratings had promised. The show spent an hour backing away from a cliffhanger, with an absolute bare minimum of Walking Dead filling the gaps between arguments.
In the latest episode, “Home,” the arguments come from characters expressing conflicting outlooks on how to carry on, and for once it isn’t a no-brainer deciding who’s in the right or in the wrong. The best way to survive is what’s on everyone’s minds, except Rick’s. In his own eloquent words, he’s dealing with “stuff.” Meaning Lori’s (thankfully) silent apparition.
In Merle and Daryl’s brief adventure on the road, we see the extent to which the brothers have grown apart. Daryl calls Merle on his racist bullshit, and rankles when big brother helps himself to some supplies after coming to a woman’s rescue. It’s not hard to see how this can be an agreeable arrangement. We save your ass, we get some supplies. Robin Hood has no place in a world where the dead walk the earth.
The two come to blows, and when Daryl’s shirt rips in just the right way, we are given an important but somewhat unsurprising revelation about what the Dixon home life must have been like. In what was clearly an abusive household, the twisted expectations that must have been placed on Merle as the elder brother turned him into the gleeful misanthrope we know and love.
Hershel has his mind made up on the prison, telling Glenn that it’s time for the group to move on. Glenn, still obsessed with getting revenge on The Governor, disagrees. He has bought into the notion that the prison is a self-contained society with its own pecking order. With Rick hallucinating and Daryl gone, Glenn reasons that the mantle of leadership falls to him.
Glenn believes that the safety the prison offers against the Dead outweighs any potential risk. When the Governor attacks, and Axel takes one in the head (plus dozens post mortem), the fortress’ vulnerability against human attackers becomes clear. A van crashes the gates and deposits a dozen Walkers into the courtyard.
For a moment, Rick is surrounded, and it looks like his luck has finally run out. Of course, it wouldn’t be The Walking Dead without a perfectly timed rescue. The Dixons arrive just in time, after Daryl changes his mind about splitting up with Merle, and both brothers decide that the prison’s the right place to be after all.
At the start of this season, Rick’s group had finished surviving a hard winter, and the prison seemed like the answer to everyone’s prayers. What could be more tempting than a secure place with high walls after the day-to-day looming threat of being out on the road,with the Dead always one step behind? People have continued to die, however, in spite of the presence of chain link fences.
There’s bound to be a lot of noise on the subject of what to do with Merle, now that he’s back and has shown his usefulness in protecting the group. I can see Glenn and Maggie having nothing of it, Daryl and Carol arguing for amnesty, and Rick being required to take sides. And with the governor not going away anytime soon, decision time is fast arriving for our heroes.
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