This episode features no Rick Grimes leading his troops. No Carl getting in trouble and annoying hapless pregnant mom Lori. No T-Dog or Carol or Maggie or Glenn.
They get the week off.
This week, it’s all about Woodbury, the “alternative” safe haven from the prison.
And on the surface, it sure looks purrty. (Thank you, Senoia!)
Michonne and a very ill Andrea stumble upon a helicopter wreck. But so do the men of Woodbury. Michonne’s two armless, jawless pets start getting noisy so she ruthlessly cut their heads up to quiet them. But it’s too late. They were found. And guess who finds them hiding behind a tree?
Yes, Daryl’s nasty, racist brother from season one, last seen alive handcuffed on the rooftop of a roasting hot Atlanta skyscraper rooftop. Merle had cut off his hand before the walkers got to him and somehow escaped.
Everyone in the Grimes crew probably assumed he was marked for dead. (We only saw him once as an apparition in Daryl’s mind season two.) Instead, he’s got a sharp knife to replace his amputated right hand and is part of the Woodbury fight crew. “How ’bout a big hug for your old pal Merle?” he asks Andrea. And the very weak Andrea does what people in bad farces do: she faints.
When Andrea and Michonne awake at Woodbury, Merle arrives again, noting the coincidence: “The world gets a little smaller toward the end. Ain’t so many of us to share the air.”
He explains that Woodbury’s folks found him after he had almost bled out, starved, ready to die.
Andrea gives Merle the skinny on his brother Daryl stepping up as a leader, how they ended up on Hershel’s farm but were run off by a zombie herd. She was separated and has no idea if Daryl & Co. are still alive or not. The Governor arrives. They get antsy and demand they get their weapons back.
Andrea asks why the men killed a couple of the helicopter military guys despite the fact they were not bitten. The Governor, who comes off as reasonable and benign, explains that everyone turns after they die so they had to do that. “We put them out of their misery,” he says. They did find one survivor and brought him back to Woodbury, along with the two women.
The ladies still want out but the Governor offers them food, fresh ammo and a place to stay for the night. (Opening the gate after dusk is too risky.) He even says they can have a vehicle. “No hard feelings,’” he adds.
It’s a walled-in city. The pair watch Governor’s men pick off three walkers outside the walls. He says the dead walkers will be cleaned up because the odor will bug the survivors in the city.
The next morning, they meet some of the survivors. There are 73 total. One woman explains that the wall has not been breached in a month and there had been no deaths in several months. There’s even a baby on the way. There’s a strict curfew and people have to stay quiet at night.
The surviving helicopter man said his camp was doing well. They were fenced off, too, and had supplies and food. But once one person was bit, chaos broke out and the place was a wreck within hours. About 10 of them escaped. A few of them flew the copter to see what was going on, then crashed. The Governor promises to find the remaining military men and bring them back.
A dorky-looking guy who has some sort of scientific background is checking out Michonne’s now-headless pets. He figures she kept them around as camouflage and since they lacked arms and jaws, they lost interest in eating and became “docile.”
Woodbury residents call the walkers “biters.” “Walk with the biters, they think you’re a biter,” the Governor muses. I presume he might find this nugget of information useful in a later episode.
Later, Andrea and Michonne have dinner with the “scientist” and the Governor. They listen to the leader warily. Michonne says nothing.
So far, the Governor seems awfully benevolent. “People here have hope,” he says. “Medical care. Kids go to school. Adults have jobs to do. We have purpose. We’re a community.”
“We will rise again,” he adds, “except we won’t be eating each other.”
Michonne does not trust him.
And for good reason. The Governor and his men find the helicopter guy’s surviving soldiers and acts at first like he’s going to bring them back. Instead, he and his crew kill them for their trucks and supplies. Cold blood. No mercy.
The Governor returns to Woodbury and tells everyone a big whopper, that the men he had just killed were dead already, that they should “honor” them and thank them for the supplies they bestowed upon the town. Andrea seems to buy the hokum, as does the rest of the townsfolk.
Later, you see he had a family in a photo. Then he goes into a private, locked room. There’s a reason it’s locked. He has fish tanks packed with dead heads. Former walkers? Friends? Family? We don’t know. We don’t even know why he’s doing this. Perhaps it’s a way to keep their memory alive? This doesn’t appear to relax him in any way but he just sits there, pondering morosely.
This is the man who’s going to face off against Rick in a future episode. Be wary. Very wary.