Did you think last week was dark? Because this is finding out who killed Laura Palmer dark. This is “What’s in the boooooox?” dark. This is Javier Bardem flipping a coin dark. This is as dark as the closet Kyle MacLachlan was trapped in as he watched Dennis Hopper beg Isabella Rossalini for “Mommy.” This is Sylvia Plath’s oven inside the smoke-filled Deliverance pig-hut, jammed up underneath Marlon Brando’s “Colonel Kurtz’s” cot straddling a pile of amputated baby arms dark. (Oh, the horror! The horror…)
THIS IS SOME DARK STUFF, IS WHAT I AM GETTING AT. So grab your Shake-n-Shine (the #1 flashlight for End Times!) and let’s go spelunking into the hellscape in which our gang now finds themselves.
But first, grab a nice cool glass of freshly squeezed lemonade at Woodbury’s bi-monthly block party celebrating…who the hell knows, grab that icy cold cup and down it! Young children toss a ball for a Golden Retriever, ladies are dressed in their nicest summer frocks, and I half-expected to see a young boy pushing a hoop with a stick while wearing a tweed pageboy. Idyllic! Something extra special is happening tonight, and I’ve got a five on a Poetry Slam, any takers?
Governor “Phillip” (just doesn’t have a menacing ring to it, does it? I’ll stick with Liam Neeson.) has some lovely piano music on the Real-to-Reel playing as he begins to brush someone’s hair. Someone small. His daughter, Penny? Seems like it. He brushes the thick, luscious dark hair that apparently can detach from her skull, and good lord, you know she has a tender scalp! Use the wide-toothed comb for crying out loud! Naturally, she fusses (I mean, her daddy just snatched her bald-headed) and tries to bite him.
Oh, that’s because she’s dead. Undead-dead. And Gov is seriously Section 8 here, wrapping his arms around her (all the better to secure her straight-jacket with) and shushing her, like she’s a fussy toddler who won’t go down for a nap. Well, if she won’t stop that biting, he’s going to have to discipline her! Or as Grady, the helpful barkeep, would say, “You need to…correct her.”
[Seriously, if you're not up on your scary movies, you're going to miss a lot over here. You're gonna have a bad time.]
He puts her in the naughty chair and takes away a privilege. Like being able to see. Um, you’re supposed to bite them back to stop their biting, right? Or is it ignore bad behavior? WWJJD? (What Would Jo-Jo Do?) He goes the strict dad route by binding her arms and tying a sack over her head. I guess she’ll learn the hard way that you don’t bite Daddy when he’s trying to make you look nice for the company party. Meanwhile, Gov glances out the window and sees Michonne there, staring up at him. Oooh, you in trouble, Gov!
Back at the prison, Rick is obviously in shock. He stands frozen as Daryl tries to snap him out of it. The baby cries and cries, and Doc confirms that she’s actually a live baby and not a zombie. Whew. But let’s face it: they are not prepared for this. No mom to feed the baby, and no formula at a prison. (Too bad they didn’t have a women’s prison there.) Daryl is going to make a run into town to find what supplies he can. Maggie goes with him, because she feels she “owes” it to Lori.
Glenn wants to come, but only one person can ride on the hog with Daryl. Glenn kisses Maggie, says he loves her (aww) and watches as Daryl turns himself into Sundance with his schnazzy Navajo Pancho. Maggie hops on, and they race to the town to find – I hope – a truckload of disposable diapers and some corn starch or Gold Bond Medicated Powder.
Protip: Barbasol shave cream (the original kind) is fantastic diaper rash cure. It has anti-bacterial qualities that nip that in the bud. Spray on, leave for a few moments, wipe off with a dry cloth. Voila!
Rick, meanwhile, switches gears to KILL-KILL-KILL. He grabs up the ax and races to Yosemite Sam and T-Dog 2.0, slicing them in half. Wait, no, he goes inside the prison, ready to kill the remaining Walkers. He is on autopilot as the Ultimate Zombie Killing machine, slicing them in half as easy as a hot knife through butter. Holy Gore. He gets through about seven or eight of them like it was nothing. Achievement Unlocked! Ultimate Brain Splatter trophy has been awarded! (He now has Endless Beheading for 70% of battles.)
He gets to the end of the walkway and stands there, not even checking his 9 or 3. Come on, Rick! That’s Sweep 101!
Protip: Always slice the gee dee pie! Back to the wall, pick left or right, but target a narrow slice and thoroughly sweep across your field of vision. And always have someone at your 6!
The Gov has a Mayberry Moment at the block party, “Aw shucks”-ing the crowd with, “Why when we first started it was just nine humble folk with some Spam and Saltines, and now just look at us! Heat to fry the Spam, and all the canned cheese in the world! Everyone raises a cup,” (of POISON, it has to be!) and Michonne takes this brilliant opportunity to sneak into the Gov’s place.
She walks straight to the curio cabinet and reclaims her sword. A journal sits on the table, and she flips through it seeing a list of names that end with: Penny. After that are a series of tightly-drawn hash marks. She turns the page and there’s more. And more. It practically reads, “All work and no play makes Gov a dull boy.” But Michonne is no Wendy, and no one is going to “bash her fucking brains in,” thankfully.
A rustling behind a locked door grabs her attention, and before she can jimmy the lock with a letter opener, she hears voices approaching. She hides behind a curtain in another room – I love that she caught the fabric in her hand to stop it from swinging – and the Gov, Merle and Milton walk in. Milton hates the waste of electricity (smart), but it’s because he wants to perform experiments (dumb). He makes his plea, the Gov turns him down, and Milton agrees that he can start his research over tomorrow. Eesh, what is his research?
Don’t worry about Michonne getting caught – she’s already slipped out of the window. She makes her way towards the “research” building and sees a chum splattered cage. Inside are trapped Walkers. Oho! She breaks the lock off the cage, stands back, cracks her neck, flexes her arms, and smiles. Why, Miss Michey, you got a beautiful smile!
Let’s take a moment to applaud both the actress and the special effects team on making this quick and violent battle look so damn real, it’s hard to believe this is a television show. She cuts one guy literally in half, and head-stomps another like his skull was a rotten persimmon. Damn. (Zombie Killing Level: EXPERT.) And then some guy walks around the corner with a bucket of chum, and she is caught literally red-handed. Shit.
With Merle as a guard in the background, the Gov comes in, lets Merle leave, and has a little chat with Michonne about manners.
Gov: You get off on that? Poking around in other people’s things? We got nothing to hide here.
Michonne: People with nothing to hide don’t usually feel the need to say so. [I love you, Michonne.]
Gov: Fair point. We all have our secrets.
Michonne: Like Penny?
Gov: [gasps!] You know about Penny? Then you know I loved her.
Michonne: I bet you say that to all the girls.
GAH. You just gave up your hand, Michonne. Now he knows you don’t really know who she is, and he bounces back from shock fast. He tells Michonne that she broke the rules, and why it just pains him to have to do this: he might have to make her leave. Otherwise there would be anarchy. Well, he could keep a lid on her outburst as long as she joins the research team tomorrow? (What the hell….) He tries to Mansplain to her, to intimidate her physically as he circles where she sits. Big mistake, buddy.
Protip: Never get within reaching distance of a WARRIOR, ffs.
He’s holding her sword as he towers over her but she moves faster than he can follow, grabs the sword, knocks him back and unsheathes it, getting the tip to his throat in the blink of an eye. You were saying something about a lid and an outburst? Yeah, that’s what she thought.
She backs out of the room while the Gov catches his breath and rethinks his life choices. Merle comes in, and the Gov sends him to find Andrea. Uh oh.
Back at the prison, Glenn is digging a grave, presumably for T-Dog. TD2 and Yosemite approach, feeling bad that they played a part in killing some good friends of Glenn’s.
“They were family,” Glenn says, glaring at them.
TD2 realizes that he’s only ever had one person in his life that truly had his back, and Glenn has a whole group. They ask to help; Glenn gives in, tossing them the shovels with instructions to make two more (Waah, one for Carol??) and approaches the fence where Doc watches. They share memories of T-Dog and his awesomeness (really? That’s Tell, writers, not Show.) and mourn the loss of friends.
Doc holds his hand through the chain link, because he gets it. Trade those prisoners for any of their group? That’s reasonable. Glenn goes back to work.
Andrea is delivered, wondering what the hell is going on, and Gov sad faces her with how naughty Michonne is. Why, she even stole her weapon back! Andrea even says: you can’t steal something that’s yours, and I want to thump her because EXACTLY. Red lights should be flashing all over the damn place, but Andrea just blandly smiles. Until the Gov mentions that Michonne killed a bunch of captive biters.
“Why would you have captive biters?” ALL GOOD QUESTIONS, ANDREA. And ones you should get the answers for miles and miles away from there. She leaves the room, not sure what to think, and finds Michonne staring at her empty knapsack and all of her gear spread out on the bed.
Protip: Keep that stuff packed, you don’t know when you’ll need to bug out!
Andrea asks Michonne to give Woodbury a shot but Michonne keeps insisting that Andrea should trust her, without elaborating. (Is she worried the rooms are bugged? And I’m guessing the red wires are the power lines for their solar energy.) Michonne wants her to get that there’s a rotten face under that nice siding, and Andrea needs to see the Jasmine for the Rapture. [Hey-o, Angel reference! I miss that show.]
Glenn heads into the prison to find Rick, but finds a trail of dead bodies instead. Finally, he sees Rick, blood-soaked, holding an ax, and breathing laboriously. He sounds like a Walker right then; His eyes are even glazed over. Glenn tries to calm him down, speaking softly and carefully, but nothing seems to get through to Rick until Glenn puts a hand on his shoulder. Rick shoves him violently, almost flipping him over. He is stuck in kill or be killed mode, and Glenn – ever smart – backs away to give him space. Rick moves on down the hall.
Meanwhile, Merle, Milton, and a few other grunts roll out to a creepy patch of land with the worst farm art I’ve ever seen: some spinning mini-silos with scoops out, like some 3rd grader’s version of a wind turbine. There are creepy noises, and then we see a giant pit. They’re trapping Walkers. (Wow, that’s actually smart. Light ‘em up and be done with it.)
Oh, they’re trapping Walkers for experiments or something else. They pull them out of there with a wench, Merle is way too hillbilly-excited by this, and Milton is told to get his hands dirty and help “sort.” Fortunately for him, he has a jacket made of mithril and is safe from bites. I would like to have an entire jumpsuit of mithril on hand for the End Times, if you wanted to know what to get me for Giftmas.
They pick the worthy ones, and Merle gleefully dispatches the rest with his knife-hand. The ones they’ve saved? Merle starts pulling out their teeth. Gah. We’ll find out why soon enough.
Maggie and Daryl roll up on an abandoned Day Care – smart! – and carefully make their way inside for supplies. Please load up on diapers, guys. You don’t need all of the empty bottles (you can wash that stuff!) because they take up a lot of space. You need DIAPERS. And food.
There are little construction paper hands on the wall, and they’re mostly done in reds and pinks, and it’s eery, like the bloody handprints at the end of Blair Witch. (Pbblt. That movie…) Daryl notices one that reads “Sofia,” takes a moment to mourn, then pushes on (after grabbing a little dolly). I wonder if he thought to get a Baby Björn so he can be hands-free with weapons as the baby rides up front. It would be very Scorcher: VII.
“Now the one man who made a difference six times before is going to make a difference again. Again.”
There’s a scratching noise, and raise your hand if you thought there was a baby zombie crawling around in there? Because think about it: people turned, and surely there were still children in day cares around the country. Surely there were babies in cribs, unable to protect themselves. And here comes the Shamblers like it’s the Golden Corral on Friday night, all of that wonderful, tender veal…. Remember how I said this was dark? Yeah.
Turns out to be a possum, which Daryl arrows. Dinner! My hope is they continued going through there pulling out more medical supplies and a few more cans of formula, because two isn’t going to get you very far, folks.
Back at Woodbury, Andrea and Michonne approach the wall, ready to go, it seems. Merle “Little Ladies” them, hemming and hawing about them not leaving. Michonne feels vindicated, but not so fast. Merle opens the gate eventually, and this convinces Andrea that see? They weren’t going to just keep them there! Now let’s go back to the BBQ. Michonne is not convinced, because she’s smart and canny, and gives Andrea one last time. In the end, Michonne walks through the gate and doesn’t look back. All she’d see was disappointment and worry on Andrea’s face as she peers between the slats, “safe” in Woodbury.
I would like to point out that Merle is Dwight Schrute with actual talent and sans morals.
The Gov finds Andrea moping on a park bench, offers her his arm and a stroll to hear the Barber-shop Quartet sing at the town social. Mayhaps they could have a mint julep and pleasantries? Hey, Andrea? I would like you to go back to being in love with Michonne, please.
It’s now night and Daryl and Maggie roar up to the prison fence. They have a system in place where TD2 and Yosemite Sam bang and make noise to drive Walkers away, Glenn is on the tower as sniper, and someone else has the gate to quickly open and shut once they’re safely inside. I approve. Inside the jail, the baby is screeching. Maggie and Beth whip up a bottle (and can I? They made an 8oz bottle, and a newborn only needs 1 to 2 oz. You are on limited supplies, and you need to not waste food. That stuff doesn’t keep, even with refrigeration.)
Daryl takes the baby and gives it the bottle, and millions of women who didn’t know they wanted a Redneck’s baby feel a deep ache in their wombs. The baby instantly settles because Daryl is Good At Everything. He asks Carl if the baby has a name yet.
Nope. But Carl could recycle a name from all of the dead ladies he’s ever known so they’re constantly reminded of what’s been lost? Or better yet, they could call her Little Asskicker, Daryl supplies. Daryl? I love you. “You like that, sweetheart?” he asks. YES I DO, SUGAR BEAR.
Rick finally finds where Lori was cut open, but her body isn’t there anymore. Just some moist goo and meat, and a juicy drag trail leading away. Glack. He squints, bends down low and picks something up. Wedding ring? Nope. The bullet his son used to kill her. She’s been eaten, then. Good lord, that may be the darkest thing we’ve seen. But wait! There’s more.
He turns and sees a Walker slumped on the floor, its belly full and distended. And his face… Jesus Jumped up Christ, there is dark hair stuck in his teeth and the blood around his maw. It’s Lori’s hair.
Rick pulls his piece, jams the butt into this creature’s mouth (it’s still trying to bite around it) and pulls the trigger. Walker brains on the wall.
He then spies Lori’s knife. Uh oh…Oh god. Rick stabs the bloated belly (looking like Lori’s belly in the end) over and over, screaming and crying. This man did not want his wife to have a baby, my god. Folks? Until order is restored: abort.
In Woodbury, Andrea and Gov go on their date to the ice cream social. There’s patriotic music on the loudspeakers (Saturday Night Special), the crowd is cheering as they sit in bleachers, and then the flood lights come on to reveal chained Walkers making a ring with Merle and Brownie (the guy from the gate earlier) crowing and peacocking to the audience’s delight.
Well, this is NASCAR country, I suppose, where the fun is watching the cars blow up. Merle does a one-handed “push-up”, the two start dance battling just barely out of reach of the grabbing Walkers. Andrea sits horrified while the rest of the town whoops and hollers, Gov included. Are you not entertained?!
Uh, no, she’s not. She finds this whole thing barbaric, actually. Gov leans in with a secret: it’s just for show. Their teeth have all been pulled, you see, so they can’t really hurt anyone. Mm hmm, I doubt that. Blood infection, anyone? But he insists it’s just a way of shining the light on the boogie man, which Andrea knows is stupid. This makes them complacent and removed the very necessary fear of Walkers/Biters that people need to survive. Well, at least she’s thinking now. Too bad it’s too late.
The sun rises at the prison and we see Daryl walk towards the three graves. One of them has a C in rocks on the freshly mounded earth, and what the actual fuck, writers? You had better not have killed Buzzcut just when she was coming into her own and had chosen her man (and what a man to choose!) I just hope that this is a ruse. Daryl puts a freshly picked Cherokee Rose on the mound, looks bleak for a blink of an eye, then walks off. For Daryl Dixon, that’s a full-on sobfest.
Rick is startled from his stupor next to the very dead and disgusting Lori-filled Walker by the phone ringing. Huh? Rick agrees with me, given his shocked expression. He staggers to the old rotary dial phone and picks it up slowly. He answers with trepidation, “Hello?”
WHO IS ON THE OTHER END?!
Next week! We all catch our breath before the roller coaster picks up again. Andrea makes a run for it! Merle hunts Michonne! Daryl finds Carol’s knife and my faith is restored!
So what do you think? Was this the darkest damn episode yet?