A weekly analysis of (some of) the gory details in the latest episode of “The Walking Dead.”
After the first two episodes in this still-young third season of “The Walking Dead,” I needed a break. A break from the prison, a break from Hershel’s health issues, a break from the non-stop zombie murder spree, a break from the sheer Grimes-ness of it all.
Fortunately, episode three — “Walk With Me” — gave us just that, taking us out of “Prisoner: Cell Block Walker” and embedding us instead with Andrea, Michonne and the armless, jawless Zombie Wonder Twins.
Obviously, spoilers lie ahead.
The ill Andrea and the perpetually ready-to-machete Michonne witnessed the crash of a helicopter, at which point they were taken into custody by Merle, Daryl’s brother and America’s favorite long-lost racist TV character who was once handcuffed to the top of an Atlanta building.
Turns out Merle’s totally alive and living in a well-protected pseudo-town called Woodbury, which is basically the zombiepocalypse equivalent of Bedford Falls. This place has health care, cafes with outdoor seating, a school system, quaint shops, excellent security and ample parking. I was just waiting for Jimmy Stewart to come tearing through the place shouting “Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan! And merry Christmas to you, Merle, you wonderful old bigot with a knife-hand!”
Woodbury also has a decisive leader in the form of the Governor. Yes, the Governor — a character who plays a key role in the comic book and, as such, that fans of “The Walking Dead” have greatly anticipated meeting since the AMC series began — is finally here. And as played by British actor David Morrissey, he is, at this stage, a morally compromised, confounding freak show.
For the first half or so of this episode, the Governor seemed like a potentially likable guy, for several reasons.
1. He offered Andrea medical care and both she and Michonne a decent place to stay. I mean, it didn’t have Wifi or anything, since Wifi no longer exists. But it had four walls and a nice bed and electricity. In 24 hours, once Hurricane Sandy has knocked out power along the East Coast, half of the residents of the Mid-Atlantic region would probably be happy to shack up at Chez Governor for a couple of nights.
2. He insisted that both Andrea and Michonne could leave whenever they wish.
3. He nursed Lt. Welles, the pilot of the helicopter, back to health and promised to rescue the rest of his colleagues, all members of the National Guard. (There’s still a National Guard. So Rick was wrong — there could be people coming to the rescue.)
But pretty quickly, it became apparent that the Governor was probably not Capt. Warm and Fuzzy because:
1. Michonne was giving him fierce side-eye for nearly 43 consecutive minutes of broadcast time. And while she tends to always look like she’s giving someone fierce side eye, she seemed particularly convinced not to trust him.
2. He killed all the National Guard guys and stole their weapons and vehicles. Which was pretty harsh.
3. He lied to everyone in his community, claiming that the National Guards men had already been bitten by walkers when he got to them.
4. He refused to tell Andrea his real name.
5. Oh, and this is a big one: HE KEEPS DECAPITATED ZOMBIE HEADS IN FISH TANKS INSIDE IN HIS APARTMENT. That’s usually a tip-off that a person has some mental health issues. You know, if the Governor merged his aquarium walker-head collection with the apothecary jars of brains owned by Dr. Arden from “American Horror Story: Asylum,” they could create a heck of a traveling museum exhibit.
So is the Governor preserving all those craniums so he can Frankenstein himself an army? Or so he can, as he suggested earlier in the episode, create enough walker decoys to allow his little community to prosper forever under his rule? We don’t know yet.
What we do know is that the Governor is clearly not all he seems. He comes across as the darker, reverse mirror image of Rick Grimes, a man who — per that quickly flashed image of an old family photograph — may have lost his wife and child and, as a result, found purpose in the acquisition of power. He’s got secrets and shadowy motivations and a severely messed-up moral compass. And I welcome him to “The Walking Dead.” Because secrets, mysteries and complicated, psychologically twisted characters are exactly what this show needs right now.