Oh, my God! Did Beth just achieve something other than appease the tribe by singing campfire tunes in the middle of the night? Granted, all she did was fire a gun in an enclosed space filled with the last vestiges of humanity, apparently unaware of the risks of ricochet, but, you know, baby steps. Besides, it makes sense that The Walking Dead’s more passive characters like Carol and young Miss Green here would get sidelined, seeing as “Arrow on the Doorpost” pertains in its entirety to confrontation.
We get roughly seven face-offs this week, each either prompted or made possible by Andrea giving Rick and the Governor the opportunity to finally stare each other in the eye. See what I did there? No? Philip makes about half a dozen more eye patch jokes in “Arrow on the Doorpost” alone. Anyway, what with twelve full episodes setting up the confrontation, their parley, while tense, provides surprisingly little insight into the nature of the conflict, serving instead as a mere framing device for some more intimate character beats.
Most of us expected the two tribe leaders to see right through each other’s machinations, but I appreciate that Rick is at least tempted by the Governor’s offer, even as he feels the proverbial blade pressing against his back. This speaks both to his growing desperation as the sole decision-maker at the prison and to his unconditional heroism in trying to keep everyone safe. It seems Deputy Grimes has already learnt from his encounter with Morgan last week, seeking counsel from his entourage instead of bearing the responsibility on his lonesome. The man needs wise advisors like Hershel if only to remind him of what he already knows.
“Arrow on the Doorpost” turns out a good episode for the old veterinarian. I particularly like the scene in which he and Milton bond over philosophical concerns that most would view as bygone luxuries. Of course, the latter’s inquiry about his amputated leg does raise some questions regarding the overall mythos of The Walking Dead. If every human being already carries the disease, as established in “Beside the Dying Fire”, then what difference does it make how quickly a limb gets cut off? In fact, why do our heroes (and the show runners) still treat the living dead as a plague, keeping track of bite wounds and infections when we’ve all known since “Better Angels” that these things don’t really matter?
Sometimes it’s best not to ask too many questions. Take Daryl and Caesar for example. I love their heart-to-heart about their leaders’ hypocrisy and the absurdity of the situation. It reminds me of a conversation I once had on an online poker table. I was with two anonymous players: one from Israel and the other from Palestine. In a cautious but friendly tone, they started talking about the war in their neck of the woods, confessing their woes as youths in the military service. “It’s all wrong and messed up,” exclaimed the Palestinian before playing his last hand. Then they prayed for each other’s longevity and logged off. To this day, I still can’t make up my mind whether I’d witnessed the most beautiful display of human camaraderie or the most tragic.
All right, back to The Walking Dead: Merle faces off against pretty much everybody this week, taunting young Carl about his death mother, wrestling with Glenn over whether to follow Rick’s instructions, and arguing with Michonne about abandoning the group. The most important confrontation at the prison, though, pertains to the resident lovebirds and their rocky relationship since the Governor’s sexual assault. In a fantastic twist, Maggie and our favourite Korean pizza delivery boy resolve their issues with a mature and caring discussion that hits the nail on the head right from the start. Is it any wonder why Glenn remains my favourite character?
That leaves only Andrea, who, having no one left with whom to spar, is forced to face her own reflection or rather the person she’s allowed herself to become since hooking up with Philip. After a dozen episodes devoted to the The Walking Dead’ most iffy character arc yet, the writers are finally consolidating the strong-willed civil rights lawyer we got to know in the first two seasons with this year’s naïve nincompoop. I like where this storyline is heading, but it seems to me Blondie’s chances of making it past the finale are decreasing by the second. Then again, I feel the same about Beth.