It’s been a while since I mentioned The Walking Dead’s funny book roots, but episodes like “I Ain’t a Judas” exemplify the sort of pacing one might expect from a ninth art ongoing epic. Ask any group of X-Men fans which is their favourite moment in the series, and they’ll invariably point to a quiet epilogue in which the mutants have a picnic or play baseball. Since Chris Claremont introduced the formula sometime in the eighties, comic properties have kept up the proud tradition of punctuating every major confrontation with a modest one-off in which the characters take stock of what just happened and where they need to go next.
As such, the writers of The Walking Dead have opted to pay off last week’s carnage by bringing the whole family back together for a moment instead of ramping up the bloodshed. This strikes me as a more sensible approach both in terms of budget and long-term drama. So-called filler episodes like “I Ain’t a Judas” help create a sense of consequence to all the mayhem surrounding our protagonists. They serve a crucial role in the narrative, that of keeping the show from turning into NBC’s Heroes.
Consider Andrea’s assertion that Rick has grown colder this season. The woman obviously didn’t spend too long catching up with Carl, whose stern talk with his father made for a fantastically chilling scene. More to the point, we’ve all noticed how much the tribe has changed in the last ten episodes, but I appreciate having one of the cast members acknowledge it outside of a crisis. I also like the civil rights lawyer’s reaction upon learning that Shane, Lori, and T-Dog all died while she was away. She doesn’t spend much time mourning them, but that in itself proves an interesting reflection of the new world order.
In a way, Andrea’s time in Woodbury seems to have shielded her from the soul-sucking culture of survival that befalls every scavenger of the apocalypse. That’s why I never believed for a second she could kill the Governor after making whoopee with him (I did think he was going to kill her, on the other hand). What I find most interesting about this thread, though, is the notion that Carol could even concoct such a sordid plan. It makes for a stark contrast with the motherly advice she offers Daryl about his older brother.
The hillbilly Hawkeye would do well to heed her advice, though it’s worth noting that the new show runners of The Walking Dead have toned down Merle’s destructive behaviour quite a few notches. Again, Woodbury, or at least its library, seems to have provided the structure and spiritual shelter necessary to bring back a bit of civilisation in even its most hardcore of residents. To some extent, that makes the small town, for all of its corruption, more valuable than Rick’s ragtag band of isolationists.
Then again, the whole community might crumble under the weight of Philip’s increasing blood thirst. Though I understand Andrea’s attachment to Woodbury, which represents far more to her than just a “warm bed” as Michonne puts it, there’s no denying its population largely consists of human-sheep hybrids who have trouble standing up for themselves: “I don’t want my son to join a militia. Why isn’t the new girl doing something about it? Whine, whine, whine…” The only exception to this is Milton, who knows enough to fear his master but clearly has aspirations of his own. In fact, I suspect he’ll end up killing the Governor before the end of the season. That is, if Tyreese doesn’t beat him to it.
It seems the new kids on the cell block were indeed chased away in between “The Suicide King” and “Home”. I use the word “seems” because I believe Tyreese and his posse struck a deal with Rick to spy on the Governor and give him faulty intelligence. That certainly would explain why their departure from the prison was kept off screen, how they found their way so close to Woodbury in such a short time, and what motive they might have to turn on our heroes so quickly. Lest we forget, shocking reversals are the stock and trade of modern comic book properties.