In the last few recaps, I’ve talked quite a bit about my Magic Forest Theory, an idea/argument/rationalization which attempts to explain how — in the middle of the zombie apocalypse — people on The Walking Dead just keep on randomly running into each other whenever they walk through the forest. The Magic Forest also explains why walkers — creatures which, from all we’ve seen, spend their life loudly drooling and mouth-breathing and generally just bonking into trees — seem to just suddenly appear from behind trees in the forest, usually in packs. Not to mention the fact that it’s never been clear just how close Woodbury is to the Prison; it took Andrea a couple hours to hike there a few episodes ago, but last night it seemed more like a day trip. I worry that the Magic Forest theory sounds like a snarky critique of the show, but it’s really just an observation. Some TV series, like the superficially similar Game of Thrones, pay close attention to the show’s internal setting. (Other shows — like the extremely similar and way more boring Revolution — pay lip service to geography.) Walking Dead is much simpler. This whole season has been about the clear-cut dichotomy between the Prison and Woodbury; it’s not like Dr. Seuss needed to draw a map The Butter Battle Book.
Still, last night’s episode pushed the Magic Forest Theory to its breaking point, throwing one character into the woods and sending another character after her, constantly popping up from around the corner like a ghost or an annoying older sibling. It was a well-filmed episode — at its best, it felt like one long unbroken chase scene. But the chase ultimately didn’t go anywhere; the characters started right back where they began.
We began with a flashback to Michonne and Andrea’s winter in the wilderness. Michonne chained up her pets. They ate some grub. Andrea made a joke about wishing they had some Cab. “Girls’ night,” mumbled Michonne. Andrea asked her silent partner where she found her pets. Did she know them before? Michonne responded directly: “They deserved what they got. They weren’t human to begin with.” There was a world of hurt and emotion and repressed memory lingering behind that statement. For a second, I almost though we were being set up for an extended double-flashback: A look at who Michonne was, before the fall. I even thought we were going to get something like “Walkabout,” the famous fourth episode of Lost which revealed that survivalist superman John Locke was a boring, emotionally impotent cubicle drone in a wheelchair before the plane crash.
But the show did an impressionistic cut from Michonne’s chained walkers to the present day. The Governor was setting up chains tied to two poles. It looked like a prison chamber, and his face indicated that he was planning to do something…unsanitary. Now, this is one of those moments on The Walking Dead where it’s hard to know how we should talk about it. Fans of the comic book know exactly what that is, and what it portends: Indeed, it almost seems to exist specifically as a nod to fans of the comic book. But if you’re just watching the TV show, you probably had no clue what that was, or why the show was treating it like such a Big Moment. It’s a classic Thanos Scene: All reference and no recognition.
That opening, weirdly, also seemed to have nothing to do with the episode that followed, which was focused almost exclusively on the relationship between Andrea and the Governor. Andrea was confused about why Woodbury was arming up for war. “Isn’t there a deal on the table?” she asked, because for some reason Andrea is literally the last human being left on earth who thinks that a one-eyed man who keeps zombie heads and undead daughters in his mancave would prefer to opt for a diplomatic solution. Exasperated, Milton took her to the Governor’s “workshop,” where she saw her beloved Gov preparing a torture chair with lots of torture tools and record himself whistling a happy little tune.
NEXT: Tyreese’s sniper practice