After starting the year with an untypically intense batch of episodes, The Walking Dead seemed to have gone back to old meandering habits in the last two weeks. However, “When the Dead Come Knocking” gets us back on track just in time for the mid season finale, as Merle tortures Glenn, the Governor tortures Maggie, Andrea punctures a cancer victim, Hershel nurtures Michonne, and the viewer conjectures about how someone can survive alone in the woods without knowing there’s a zombie apocalypse out there. Okay, that last one was lame. Whether I mean the alliteration or the subplot, I’ll leave you to decide.
In the meantime, let’s take a gander at all those plot-progressing threads, starting with Glenn’s. When we first met the former pizza delivery boy, the dichotomy between his gentle demeanour and bad-ass survival stunts made him an instant fan favourite. However, since hooking up with the farmer’s daughter last year, he hasn’t done anything unexpectedly awesome (aside from hooking up with the farmer’s daughter obviously), so I was delighted to see him open cans of whoopass on the walker Merle sics on him. Incidentally, could the writers be setting up a rivalry between our tied-up hero and his bigoted captor? After all, the Korean tough guy is the only minority remaining from the original group. I don’t count Prison T-Dog because he’s technically not the same guy.
Unfortunately, Maggie proves a bit easier to crack, presumably because she’s a woman and this is The Walking Dead. In fairness, she spills the beans to protect her boyfriend, not her own skin, and few of us would’ve kept the same composure when faced with the prospect of sexual assault. I wish Hollywood writers would stop drawing from that well when trying to get women in the fray. It betrays a depressingly limited view of the gender. Besides, I think we can all agree the scene would’ve made better water cooler conversation if the Governor had threatened to hump Glenn instead.
It certainly would’ve thrown Andrea for a loop. Despite my general annoyance with the character’s current direction, I rather enjoyed her subplot this week, the subtle manipulation involved in Philip asking that she assist with Mr Coleman. He’s got her all figured out, doesn’t he? The nature of Milton’s experiment plays into her background as a civil rights lawyer, its delicate context into her natural drive to nurture (as established in “Vatos”), and her specific role as walker executioner into her newfound bloodlust. Is it any wonder the woman’s fallen for Woodbury and its Governor? In fact, I might’ve been more receptive to her seduction if “When the Dead Come Knocking” had aired earlier in the season.
I also dig the contrast between Andrea’s hands-on tact with the living dead and Milton’s theoretical approach. The fact that many Woodbury citizens remain so naive about the walker plague hints at an extremely isolationist society. I’m surprised George Romero, creator of the political zombie flick, has never capitalised on a similar allegory, as one could draw more than a few parallels with US international relations. This, in turn, gives some intriguing connotations to Michonne seeking another community.
As many of you know, I haven’t been sold on her inclusion into the cast, but it occurs to me that’s because the character wasn’t designed to bounce off the Governor and his Woodbury sycophants, which, of course, turns out to be exactly what she’s been doing for the past six or so episodes. After only a few interactions with Rick’s tribe in “When the Dead Come Knocking”, Michonne’s hardcore idiosyncrasies seem to be gelling at last. I like the way she silently observes our heroes, evaluating their dynamic and worth as a community. The woman is weighing her options, if you know what I mean.
It’s all about taking sides, you see. “When the Dead Come Knocking” follows the tried and true formula on The Walking Dead of presenting independent threads linked by a single unifying theme: Glenn proves his devotion to his side; Maggie chooses him as her side; Andrea comes to the dark side; Michonne leans toward Rick’s side; and the guy who apparently slept through the apocalypse exits on the wrong side. Okay, that last one was a bit of stretch, but at least the shots of walkers scratching at his front door help justify the episode’s title.