Rick and Daryl lead a rescue mission to retrieve Glenn and Maggie from Woodbury. Daryl is captured and faces his estranged brother Merle in the Woodbury arena.
It’s going to be a long wait until February. This season, The Walking Dead has mastered the art of the episode cliffhanger, leaving fans hungry to find out what happens next. This mid-season finale instalment is no exception, ending on a fan-baiting doozy.
This fantastic episode balances full-on action with brilliant character motivation. As Rick and company infiltrate Woodbury, Andrea is blissfully unaware it is them or what has been done to two of her former travelling companions, Glenn and Maggie, by the Governor. She even takes some pot-shots at Oscar, the new face in Rick’s gang. Poor Oscar doesn’t make it back over the wall, out of Woodbury.
Central to all this are the brothers, Daryl and Merle. They’ve both changed, Daryl seemingly for the better, Merle definitely for the worse. They’re wary of each other’s presence, but don’t meet until they’re forced to face-off at the cliffhanger. It’s a great use of characters’ diverging motivations in the service of the overall drama: this ain’t just a show about chopping up zombies (although there has been more than enough of that this season to keep the most rabid fan happy).
In the midst of all this, Carl is taking names and kicking ass at the prison, as he saves a new group of zombie fighters and looks out for his new-born little sister. It’s an interesting development for a character that has taken a bit of a back seat to Rick’s grief following Lori’s death. Rick’s guilt is still uppermost in his mind, as seen in his hallucination of Shane (who he killed at the end of last season) amid the battle in Woodbury.
The big problem with this episode (and much of this season so far) is Michonne’s motivation. She lays in wait for the Governor, with whom she really has no significant beef. This is clearly done so she can uncover the existence of his daughter and his creepy collection of zombie heads, and so Andrea can find out about them too. Although the resulting confrontations are ace (paving the way for the Governor’s trademark eye-patch look), the way she’s suddenly out to get him (what, was he too rude to her?) doesn’t really work…
Other than that, this ties up a lot of the hidden mysteries of the town of Woodbury: now Andrea knows more about the Governor (yet she still seems sympathetic to him) and she sees Daryl at the end, clueing her in as to who the ‘terrorists’ might have been…
It’s going to be a long wait until Feburary.
Verdict: Brilliant balance between drama and action, with a hugely teasing climax.
Episode 8 ‘Made to Suffer’, 9/10
Brian J. Robb