Walking Dead Discussion Thread: S3 E13, “Arrow on the Doorpost”
Spoiler Alert: Do not read this post or the comment section if you have not seen the show. Also, for those who have read the comics, please do not discuss plot elements not revealed on the show.
Guest authored by Pat
Apologies for the day’s delay. This week is brought to you by the game, Poker.
The episode opens with Rick, Daryl, and Hershel scouting out what we find out shortly is a parlay point. As the previews alluded to last week, Andrea has arranged a meet-up between Rick and the Governor to discuss the state of affairs.
The Governor, it turns out, is early to the affair, arriving before Rick and his team and even before his own entourage. He greets Rick in an abandoned peach store while the others are outside. The Governor’s first words before the commercial break: “We have a lot to talk about”.
We come back from break with a scene framing the next stretch of the show as”two very cautious but very suspicious alpha males circle each other”. Rick and The Governor, after putting away guns, sit at a table. A camera pan reveals that the big G has taken the opportunity of his early arrival to duct-tape a handgun to his side of the table. Will the episode erupt into violence? Outside, Andrea, the Governor’s lieutenant Caesar, and the still too caricatured Milton arrive. Daryl informs Andrea that the Governor is already inside, surprising her and letting the viewing audience know that although she was the conduit for the meeting, the Governor is in charge.
The discussion inside starts with Rick rattling off a quick list of accusations, deflected by the Governor’s response which consists of no denials, but a statement that “You know all about me, and I know all about you, but I don’t care about any of that. We’re here to move forward.” Eminently reasonable? We’ll see. Outside, Daryl and Caesar immediately get into the other’s face, defused by Hershel.
We break back to the prison. Michonne, Maggie, and Glen are arguing with Merle, who wants to go to the meet and put a couple into the Governor. There’s some discussion setting the table for later, and then we cut immediately back to the meeting room.
Back there, Rick is proposing a DMZ, with each group controlling its own area. The Governor rejects this out of hand. And here, the Governor decides to push hard (spoiled by last week’s preview), “I’m here for one thing… your surrender.” Rick bristles and starts to talk tough, but Andrea interrupts with an attempt to be diplomatic, saying they’re not here for that, they’re here to settle this. The Governor agrees and immediately asks Andrea to step outside, Andrea refuses, but Rick tells her to he’s here “to talk to him” and she storms out. (Pat’s impression) The Governor has succeed in calling opening stakes. “Rick,” he’s saying, “I hold the table, I’ve got the deck, and if we’re playing, I’m setting the stakes.” Andrea, then, in the Governor’s eyes, is just in the way. He doesn’t want to play a game with someone else dogging his play. He’s talked to Tyreese’s group, he thinks Rick is brittle and ready to crack. “I’ve got this guy, I can juice his chips into the pot, and then make him fold.” (/Pat’s impression).
Rick takes a seat at the table, assisting my poker metaphor. Caesar closes the door, and we cut to commercial.
We come back from commercial with a view of the negotiating table from above, peeking down through a skylight at Rick, who is facing away from the skylight. Is the director signaling an ambush point? A gun stashed at the table, and now Rick from above and behind? We’ll see.
Rick tells the Governor basically that he’s a sick man with unwarranted delusions of grandeur, comparing him to the town drunks he used to deal with, and the Governor returns by talking about Rick’s failures. Cut back to the skylight (selling the potential ambush), cut back to the Governor holding up his hands and announcing, “I brought whiskey.” He leaves the table briefly (presumably to fetch the bottle), Rick has a brief resigned facial expression.
(Pat’s impression) Is Rick on the ball? We know he’s been cracking lately. But I’ve already signed onto the poker metaphor, and it fits at this point that Rick knows what’s going on, and he knows what the Governor’s trying to do, and he’s not impressed but he’s willing to play it out. The Governor, on the other hand, thinks he’s got the rube nibbling and he’s going to get him to bite and reel him in. Good poker players don’t mind pulling out the liquor, because it usually makes bad poker players a lot worse than it impairs your own play. Bad poker players pull out the liquor because they think they’re better poker players than they are. The Governor thinks he’s the shark, and Rick’s a feeder fish (/Pat’s impression).
Cut to outside. Milton suggests they all have a chat. Daryl and Caesar are dismissive, Hershel and Milton start to get along as men of wisdom. Walkers are heard approaching. Hershel and Milton stay put, Caesar, Daryl, and Andrea go investigate. There are a few walkers nearby. Daryl and Caesar start jawing, so Andrea kills the first walker while expressing obvious disgust with male posturing. The boys then trade insults as they show off their badassery, Andrea leaves them in a huff. They dispatch a couple of walkers and Daryl scrounges a pack of smokes. Caesar offers a two sentence summary of his backstory (losing wife and kids), Daryl responds with, “Sucks”. Instant bonding moment, Caesar confesses that he thinks the whole parlay is a bunch of hooey and they’ll probably be trying to kill each other in a couple of days. Daryl confirms that’s how he thinks it’s going to go down, too. Caesar asks for a smoke. Cut back to Hershel and Milton discussing Hershel’s leg amputation. Quick joke. The nerds are getting along, too.
We get back to the poker game. The Governor opens with, “I care about my people and I don’t take their deaths lightly, and I know you don’t either.” See, Rick, I’m a reasonable guy. I can’t just declare a truce, my people would think I’m weak. Rick responds with, “Well, that’s your choice.” The Governor responds, “Now isn’t that why we’re here? Choice. If we choose to destroy everything we fought for over the past year. We’re gonna kill every one we know. At your prison, back at Woodbury.” The Governor then tells a story about being at work before the Zombie Apocalypse, and taking a ration of crap from a young boss, but finding out just then that his wife died. He’s obviously intending this to be a humanizing moment… see, Rick, I lost my wife, like you. I have feelings. (Pat’s impression) Not buying your attempt to look like a person, Mr. Sociopath. Your poignant story about the death of your wife is predicated by the young boss giving you a ration of crap because you care more about not getting rations of crap from anybody than anything else. Rick’s not buying it either. He takes a sip of whiskey (apparently his first), and the Governor smiles a bit to himself where Rick can’t see, confident that he’s sold a bill of goods. I think you’re overestimating how clever you are, Mr. G. (/Pat’s impression) Back to commercial.
Back from commercial, we return to the prison. Merle insists he’s going to kill the Governor and rescue his brother, Glenn is refusing to let him to leave. Fight ensues. Merle gets Glenn down, but Michonne and Maggie pile on and Beth breaks it up with a gunshot. Back to the parlay point, Andrea and Hershel talk about how conflicted he is. Andrea asks what happened to Maggie, and Hershel returns with, “He (the Governor) is a sick man.” Andrea is conflicted, “I can’t go back there.” Hershel tells her she belongs with the group, but once she decides the die is cast. Andrea can’t decide anything, so it’s clear (Pat’s impression) that barring a conflict at the parlay point, she’s going back to Woodbury again (/Pat’s impression).
Back inside, The Governor plays the humility card, the people picked him because there was nobody else. Again, Rick, I’m just like you! The Governor reveals that he knows about the gun stash coming back to the prison, meaning he’s got the place under surveillance. And he concedes that Rick has combat-tested people, but the Governor has numbers. “Let’s not do this,” he says, “we can walk away.” He doesn’t want the prison, he doesn’t want Rick to move on. All he wants is Michonne. “Is she worth it? One woman worth all those lives at your prison?” Cut to commercial.
(Pat’s impression) Well, now, we know that the Governor isn’t really a good poker player. See, he’s been trying to convince Rick that the pot is too big to play, that Rick’s only move is to concede Michonne and fold, or lose the pot. But it’s apparent from his framing of the discussion that there are no choices here for the Governor, there are only choices for Rick. Which means that all his attempts to play at “just folks” have failed. The Governor isn’t a leader like Rick. He doesn’t care about his people. He cares about being The Governor. And if he doesn’t care about his people, and all he cares about is not getting pushed around by that young punk boss that led his former life, he’s got a serious inability to let any challenge go. Which means, if you’re reading him right, that you know that if you give him Michonne, he’s just going to kill everybody anyway. How good of a player is Rick? (/Pat’s impression)
Back to the prison, Merle is trying to convince Michonne to go with him. She’s not buying it. Oh, she agrees with Merle’s assessment of the Governor. She agrees with the tactical upsides of going after him now. She won’t stop Merle, she agrees with him, maybe, but she’s not going against the group. Ah, a sign that Michonne is no loner no more! Cut to Glenn and Maggie, who work out their post-capture stress finally and abandon watch to go get busy in a storage room. I’m not being entirely fair, here (it’s nice to see them work things out), but with rape being the subject that it is, and the near-rape being the source of the tension, this seems a little too, “And then they get along again”. It’s kind of a cowardly dodge by the writers. To be fair, I’m not sure I’d want to tackle it myself, but then I wouldn’t have brought it into the storyline if I wasn’t willing to go there. Ah well. Glenn and Maggie are both “horray rootin’ for ya” characters in a world where almost everybody has to be taken with a lot of tarnish, so I’ll let other people throw those stones.
Cut back to the parlay table. Rick confesses he doesn’t quite understand. “You could have a statue of yourself in the town square, killing Michonne seems beneath you, doesn’t it?” The Governor returns with, “You could save your son, your daughter, everyone you know. It’s your choice.” Rick returns, “If I give you Michonne, how do I know you’ll keep your word?” The Governor says, “You can have everything you want, I told you I don’t care about you. You think about it. Two days, I’ll be here at noon.” Parlay over. (Pat’s impression) The Governor may not know it, but he lost the poker game. Rick even slipped a bit, showing that he’s not as all broken as the Governor may think that he is, but we all see what we expect to see. The bit that the Governor communicated there was the “I don’t care about you” part. He said something different than what he intended. (/Pat impression). Outside, the two groups get in their vehicles and leave. I’d give myself points for predicting Andrea stays with the Woodbury group, but again the only thing she’s ever done in the entire series is not decide to do something (even the unwillingness to leave the soon-to-explode CDC was more about deciding not to go back out into the world than it was a decision to kill herself), so this is kind of like predicting that the world won’t end tomorrow. All the situations these people have had to deal with and Andrea’s managed to survive this long without making any reasonable, coherent decision… if they don’t kill her off but have her actually make some monumental decision that saves the group, that’s a potential shark-jumping moment. Better to have her not decide to do something, and have somebody get killed, and maybe that could be justification to turn her into someone interesting without exploding my credulity. Anyway, cut to commercial.
We come back from commercial and the Governor is returning to Woodbury, confident that in two days Rick is going to show up with Michonne, confident that he’s read the broken man correctly, and Rick will grasp at straws to save the baby and Carl. He orders Caesar to ambush the group and kill everybody but Michonne. Milton objects (as strenuously as Milton can object to anything) that this will be a slaughter. The Governor claps Milton on the shoulder as he states that killing Rick is necessary, no problems here Milton, you pet dog you.
One day, somebody is going to make a television show where there is a smart character who isn’t obviously crippled by his horrendous upbringing as a nerd but is actually confident and possesses some leadership qualities, but who isn’t just someone straight out of a Heinlein novel, and the shock will stop my heart.
Hell, at this point, I’d settle for someone out of a Heinlein novel. Must the smart people always lack courage?
Striding away, the Governor feeds Andrea a pack of obvious baloney about coming to agreement with a fake smile, Andrea says, “I hope it works out” and strides away. Cut to the prison, Rick engages in what can only be described as propaganda. The Governor said he wants to kill us all. He’s not going to negotiate. He wants the prison. (All of these things are true, more or less, except for the fact that the Governor never actually said them). Why is Rick doing this? “We’re going to war”. Everyone gives Meaningful Glances to other people in the group. Ending scene is Rick and Hershel outside the cell block, overlooking the grass (nitpick: why is everyone walking around where snipers can blow their heads off, especially as the Governor has revealed he has the prison under surveillance? Double nitpick: how are you keeping the prison under surveillance when there are zombies everywhere? The season’s getting a little bit too blase about how accustomed everyone is to the zombies around. We need some zombie horde action to re-instill respect for the undead, here.)
Hershel says some people think they should leave, some think they should fight it out, but they’ll go with Rick’s decision. Rick confesses that the Governor just wants Michonne. Hershel objects, “He’ll kill her”, Rick agrees, “and then kill us anyway…” but then second-guesses himself, “but what if it’s the answer.” Hershel asks why he didn’t tell the group this, Rick fesses up that he needs them to be scared, because that’s the only way they’ll accept it (the decision to go to war, presumably). There’s some more discussion about what it means, who might be killed, and the cost, and Hershel asks, “Why’d you tell me”, to which Rick responds, “Because I’m hoping you’ll talk me out of it.” We pan out over the courtyard filled with zombies (again, seriously, why is everyone out in the open where you can get shot by anyone at the tree line?)
Final impressions: it’s nice to see Rick back. One problem with the ensemble nature of the cast is that they’re not spending really enough time on anybody given the stress and the individual storylines, so the transition of Rick from “barking mad” to “effective leader” in the space of two episodes isn’t sufficiently explained by the brief sojourn into “more-barking-mad-than-you-land” courtesy of last week’s episode with Morgan. But it’s a drawback of the show’s total cast, so for the sake of keeping the story moving, I’ll give it a pass. He obviously really doesn’t want Hershel to talk him out of it, because Rick’s got the Governor pegged, and he’s doing the right thing. He just wants Hershel to know the truth about what’s going on, because Rick still values the truth, even when it doesn’t suit his purpose.
Showdown probably next week? There are three episodes left in the season. Official Pool now open in the comments: call the episode where the Governor gets killed, and who does the killing. Predict method of dispatch to break ties.