Stars: Andrew  Lincoln, David Morrissey, Laurie Holden, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, Michael Rooker, Melissa Suzanne McBride, Scott Wilson, Emily Kinney, Dallas Roberts, Lew Temple, Chad Coleman 
Writer: Evan Reilly
Director: Lesli Linka Glatter
Network: AMC, airs Sunday nights 
Original Telecast: February 10, 2013

In the ninth episode and mid-season premiere of THE WALKING DEAD Season 3, “The Suicide King,” Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and company interrupt a Woodbury arena battle between Merle (Michael Rooker) and Daryl (Norman Reedus)…but where do Merle’s loyalties really lie…or Daryl’s? And as Andrea (Laurie Holden) finds herself stepping up to draw a fracturing Woodbury back together while the Governor (David Morrissey) prepares for war, Rick brings Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) home only to discover some newcomers that may help in the upcoming conflict…if he can bring himself to trust anyone again.

When we left the show last year, the Governor had suffered the loss of his daughter (again) and an eye at the hands of Michonne (Danai Gurira), and then pit brother against brother in battle to the death while Rick and his team struck the first blow against Woodbury in a battle that…well, hadn’t really begun until our ‘heroes’ attacked first. I know it’s often unpopular to say, but in this TV version at least, not only is the Governor far more sympathetic as a character (more on that in a minute), but Michonne is irrationally against him based on little evidence. She would have had to read the WALKING DEAD comics to hate him as much as she does or to do the things she did to him in the mid-season finale. But here we are, with Rick and Co. starting a war with another survival community that some might argue has it a hell of a lot better than a few folks holed up in an old prison. No matter how we got here, we’re here. Now what?

Well, first we get what feels like a rather weak resolution to the cliffhanger, and then a very slow and almost uneventful episode. While it does move things incrementally forward on several character fronts, it feels more like one act in an episode than an entire installment; at some points it almost feels like the episode is working really hard not to have anything happen. That might not be horrible in the middle of an ongoing run, but as a mid-season premiere, it lacks excitement and punch and doesn’t do much to reinvest us in that world. Granted if you’re already a fan, you don’t need much help, and arguably despite the modern marketing move of making these “mid-season” breaks such a big deal, this is just episode nine.

Our reunion with everyone might be summed up by one word: loyalty. In all of the relationships and associations explored in this episode, it all comes down to loyalty and who sides with whom. For Daryl, blood is still thicker and Merle means home, even if that also means abandoning the group with which he’s become so close. For Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and his group, it means staying together while trying to forge a new bond in a world that’s “making the living less like the living” (one of the series’ better all-in-one thematic quotes). Michonne hasn’t done much to instill trust in Rick, and he’s ready to cast her out, but he also faces rebellion from Glenn, whose anger at recent events overflows (finally!). And for the Governor, his fragile Woodbury community threatens to collapse as zombies attack in the aftermath of Rick’s terrorist attack.

So…the Governor. If he’s supposed to be anything like the villain he was in the comics – and yes, he’s clearly been seen doing some questionable if not flat-out unsavory things in past episodes – he just isn’t coming across that way. Even the worst things he’s done only seem bad from our perspective, in our cozy homes watching our cable TV and living in a pre-apocalyptic society. There in the world of the walking dead, the Governor has made hard choices intended to keep Woodbury safe and yes, perhaps to keep his position of power as well, but the results speak for themselves. And even at his lowest ebb so far, he still emerges from his self-imposed exile in his apartment, puts a bullet in the head of a suffering zombie attack victim, and walks back in without a word. The man gets the job done, and I have no problem (given her own emotional background) with Andrea’s devotion to him and to the community he’s created. One might argue that as the intended antagonist of the show’s ostensible lead and hero, Rick, the Governor just might have been written with a bit too much nuance in this incarnation, since I find him often more compelling and sympathetic than our 21st century cowboy. The comments are below where you can yell about how crazy that is.

Strong character moments are largely owned by the female characters this time, especially Andrea, who steps up with a leadership moment when she rallies Woodbury under the watchful – and perhaps approving? – eye of the Governor. Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride) not only has a nice quiet bit with Carl (Chandler Riggs) about the silence of the new world but one with Beth (Emily Kinney) about memories of her former family and the legacy of abuse. And as further evidence that this show excels at the simple touches that make a series so emotionally resonant, Hershel (Scott Wilson) has a touching scene with Glenn where he tells him that the young man has become “like his own son.”

We also get a tense finale as Rick attempts to fight Hershel on accepting Tyreese and his friends into the group, only to freak out completely as an apparition of Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies…yes, it was her) shows up and everyone thinks he’s yelling at the visitors to leave. But as Rick takes out his frustration and rage and doubt on the image of his dead wife, where will that leave him psychologically as war with Woodbury looms?

I’m putting money down on the Governor now; any takers?

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  1. The governor sexually assaulted maggie, and killed an entire army platoon just to preserve his power. How can you possibly consider him an even mildly sympathetic character?

    The show is really showing signs of crashing hard head first into cement. The last three episodes were awful, just awful. How quickly things change. The characters are less interesting, and the storylines are ludicrous (I know they are adapted from the comic but so have the previously intersting ones) I hope the writers can turn things around because it is a monumental dissapointment. I looked forward to these shows every sunday. I will still watch, but I have my doubts as to whether they can make this an intersting show again

    losing interest
    • I know I’m walking right into it, but sigh, here goes:

      Yes, he killed that army platoon. And it made sense from his perspective in that post-apocalyptic world. He is responsible for (and you could argue, personally invested in, sure) maintaining the stability and security of Woodbury. If he had let those army guys in, they could very likely have attempted to assume some form of authority or exert influence based on their pre-apocalyptic standing as soldiers and representatives of a government that probably no longer exists. Therefore, in that specific situation, you can argue – and I do – that the Governor made a logical (if not desirable, likable, or morally/ethically savory) call. True, they could also have been valuable additions to his community, but given the threat they might have represented to his authority – and by extension to Woodbury itself – he went that way. Would I? Would you? Maybe not, but I can see the logic in the choice.

      OK, the tough one. Maggie. Yes, he violated her psychologically, he was physically violent, but he also did not actually do anything to her after he saw she would not talk. He threatened, he still broke boundaries that were horrible and sexually charged (for power of course), but he did not rape her. His actions were calculated to demean and intimidate, and they were also interrogation tactics in a situation where – once again as the sole person responsible for that community – he was dealing with an incursion of complete strangers that behaved (from his perspective and Woodbury’s) like terrorists. He was trying to find out how loyal she was, how far they would go, and he did not actually follow through once he realized where her strength resided.

      Again, does that make him a great guy? Hell no. Does that make him sympathetic? No, but that’s not why I think he occasionally is. All I’m saying is, when you look at his behavior, it’s the behavior of a man keeping a community together in what is virtually a war-time scenario. And sometimes in war, you have to make terrible choices. I’m not saying I agree with any of what he does, but I also don’t think he’s inexplicably horrendous as he is in the comic, where there is NO way to justify that Governor’s behavior.

      The comic book Governor is a loathsome monster. The TV Governor is a man that lost his wife, still loved his daughter and hoped that maybe she could even be cured, tried to build a community of the past for people in the present, and made hard – and bad – choices to do it. They’re just different men.

      Sorry for the long-winded response. But thanks for commenting too. :)

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