***SPOILERS for episodes 9 and 10***
It came back on our screens (the second half of season 3) two weeks ago but I didn’t write about the first episode because there wasn’t much to write about. It was a bit of a non-episode, it was instead a scene-setting episode. It allowed us to be reminded of where we left the characters. The residents of Woodbury were brought under control by Andrea, we saw that the evil side of the Governor was now more prominent, Daryl and Merle branched out of their own and Rick’s madness was finally allowed to take hold.
The second episode, on last Friday, had a lot more bite.
I’m going to focus on the exciting moments for me. Let’s start where my heart lies; the Dixon brothers. Over Christmas and January I waited with bated breath to finally see Daryl and Merle on screen together. The two brothers who are now firm fan favourites despite never appearing in the original comic books and who had never before shared a scene (apart from a hallucination in season 2 but that hardly counts).
I was excited to see how my two favourite characters would interact and how much more we will get to learn about the brothers.
I wasn’t disappointed. The majority of the interaction was about showing how Daryl has grown and changed since he was parted from Merle and, despite him declaring that he would stand by his brother, he refuses to let Merle walk all over him. This comes as quite a shock for Merle who seems to expect their relationship to go back to how it used to be.
The true conflict moment for this interaction is when Daryl hears the now familiar cries of a baby and rushes to its rescue while Merle stands idly by and proceeds to attempt to rob the family once the area has been cleared. Hearts over the UK and US would have leapt with pride when Daryl lowered his crossbow and aimed it at his brother.
The conflict reaches an interesting climax when Merle turns on Daryl to reassert his dominance, tearing at his clothing and revealing the whip scars over Daryl’s back left by their father.
“He did it to you too?” Merle says in shock. The pain from the realisation that he abandoned his little brother to the abuse of their father is evident. As Daryl storms off, havig decided to return to the prison, Merle makes an important and possibly character altering decision; he refuses to abandon his little brother again and he follows, resulting in them both saving Rick’s life.
In one episode, Merle Dixon has gone from a disgusting, piece of filth who would happily watch a baby and its family die and then rob them to a protective, older brother who may even be remorseful (almost begging Daryl to stay, claiming he can’t go to the prison having already tried to kill Michonne and Glen). This storyline wouldn’t be anything without the writers (naturally), or the strong acting abilities of Michael Rooker (Merle) and Norman Reedus (Daryl) who are amazing.
So what about the others? The Governor seems to have regained his senses enough to hide his ruthlessness from Andrea and Milton, gaining control of the town once more. They aren’t privy, however, to his outburst of violence on the prison. We don’t learn anything new about the Governor, he’s still vicious and angry, but his actions are a turning point for another character.
Since rescuing Glen and Maggie from the Governor’s horrific grasp, Rick has spiralled out of control. The loss of his wife was the last straw after her cheating on him with his best friend, her becoming pregnant by one of them, having to kill his best friend and then not being able to forgive his wife before her death. Who can blame him? He’s begun to see Lori everywhere and believes she’s trying to tell him something. She leads him through the prison and outside the safety of the prison fences when The Governor attacks. As bullets are fired into the compound, Rick is left alone on the edge, unable to help. His people (including his two children) are fired upon haphazardly, the salt in the wound then being the truck of walkers driven into the compound and left.
We don’t suffer many loses, we only lose the one person, but this act by the Governor and his men is a catalyst. Not only does it give Merle a small chance to begin his redemption as he pulls a walker off Rick but it makes Rick angry. Praise must be given to Andrew Lincoln here. In only a few seconds and with one expression, he conveys all of the rage that has been building up in Rick over the last two and half seasons. So much so that I half expected him to turn green and explode out of his shirt.
Rick and the Governor, protangonist and antagonist, hero and villain, are actually painfully similar. They’ve both lost their wives, although one before the disease hit and one very recently, they’re both fathers, one having lost his only child and with it all of his hope. The only difference is that Rick has something to lose, and therefore more to protect.
The episode left me exhilarated. Just when I thought we might be losing Rick, he too has turned a corner, and I can’t wait to see what he will do when he gets hold of the Governor.