Andrea pays a visit to her old friends. They aren't too happy to see her.

By Darren Franich
Updated February 27, 2015 at 07:16 PM EST
Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead

S3 E11
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There are a ton of interesting characters on The Walking Dead. A widower sheriff driven mad with grief and impossible responsibility. The sheriff’s son, who had to shoot his own dead mother in the face. A half-mute female samurai. A half-crazy racist survivalist who cut off his own hand and replaced it with a bayonet knife. Daryl Motherf—ing Dixon. I mention all these people because last night’s episode focused on none of them. Instead, we got an episode that focused largely on Andrea, who has weirdly become the co-lead of the show. Like Rick, Andrea is experiencing some kind of combination identity crisis/long dark night of the soul. Should she trust the Governor? Should she stay in Woodbury? Should she help her friends? Who is Andrea, really?

It’s a difficult question, but an important one. Someone in the Walking Dead writers’ room clearly thinks Andrea is an important character for the TV show. She is an important character in the comic book — but at this point, TV-Andrea bares only a passing resemblance to Comic-Andrea. (They share a name and a hair color; like her comic book counterpart, TV-Andrea was briefly the Grimes Gang’s sharpshooter last season, but that character trait has mostly been handed off to Carol this season.) And the problem is that most of Andrea’s arc this season is a bit boring at best. At worst, she suggests the post-apocalyptic version of Marissa Cooper: Constantly falling for the wrong man, refusing to believe all her friends when they tell her “Hey, you’re falling for the wrong man!” and inevitably making things worse just because she tries to make things better. (ASIDE: In this metaphor, Shane is Oliver, the Governor is Volchok, and if we’re lucky Andrea will be killed off and replaced with a character played by the lovely and talented Autumn Reeser. END OF ASIDE.)

Last night’s episode got off to a promising start, with Rick holding a colloquium in the cellblock. The subject matter: The Governor, and what to do about him. Hershel was firmly in the “Run and Hide” camp. Lounging in a locked cell, Merle told them it was already too late for that: “We shoulda slipped out last night.” He noted that, at this point, the Governor could just starve them out. Rick told everyone not to worry. They would armor up; they would fortify; they would be prepared. “You’re slipping Rick,” said Hershel. “We all see it.” Rick walked outside and took a long look at the yard. The Walkers had invaded. They couldn’t risk clearing them out: There might be snipers, and they need all the ammo they can get. Remember back in the season premiere, when clearing out the yard was the first step to the Grimes Gang’s new home? Now, that yard is full up again, and they’re trapped.

All in all, it was a rough morning for ol’ Rick Grimes. Then his son walked outside and told him, bluntly: “You should stop. Being the leader. Let Hershel and Daryl handle things.” Carl Grimes has officially lost faith in his father’s ability to lead.

Speaking of child soldiers! Over at Woodbury, the Governor was making a list with Milton of all the able-bodied men and women in Woodbury. Milton counted 26 total. The Governor told him to lower the age restriction to 13. “Adolescence,” said the Governor. “It’s a 20th century invention.” It’s interesting to think that, at the start of this season, Woodbury was a recognizably modern civilized society, while the Grimes Gang was a pack of hunter-gatherers just trying to find some protection from the local wildlife. Now, in order to fight Rick, the Governor is happily marching Woodbury backwards in time. The count stood at 35 people. “Give them sidearms and plenty of ammo,” he said.

Then Andrea walked in. Andrea was not happy. If you wrote a summary of every episode of The Walking Dead, each summary would probably include the sentence “Andrea was not happy.” She heard about the shootout at the Lori Grimes Memorial Prison. The Governor genially explained that he had gone there to negotiate, but Rick & Co. had immediately started shooting. “They’re not the people they used to be,” said the Governor. “They’re bloodthirsty.” Andrea offered to make a trip over to the prison, to reason with her old friends. “You go to that prison, you stay there,” said the Governor.

NEXT: How do you solve a problem like Merle?

While Rick Grimes lurked outside, probably mumbling to himself and imagining Dead Ghost Lori making out with Dead Ghost Shane, the rest of the Prison Population debated policy. First and foremost: Glenn is decidedly not happy to be living alongside Merle, since Merle recently Abu Ghraib’d Glenn. Hershel noted that Merle has military experience; Glenn countered that Merle could be a useful bargaining chip. Maybe they could send Merle to the Governor as a peace offering.

Hershel decided to go and meet Merle for himself. This led to a nice little scene between the Three-Limbed Duo. “How’d you lose it?” asked Merle. “Was bit,” said Hershel. He noted that Rick chopped off his leg — something else they have in common, since Rick’s actions indirectly led Merle to saw off his own hand. Merle and Hershel quoted scripture to each other — the line about “If the right hand offends you.” (Merle explained that Woodbury had a damn fine library.) Then Merle explained exactly what was going to happen. The Governor was going to kill them all, one by one. “He’ll save Rick for last. So he can watch his family and friends die ugly.”

I’m inclined to say that the whole Question of Merle could have filled a complete episode. Merle is a valuable commodity in the post-apocalypse: A violent man with military-grade tactical prowess, skilled in armed and unarmed combat. But he is also a volatile natural resource: Anti-authoritarian, deceitful, possibly sociopathic. On one hand, with the Governor preparing to attack, keeping Merle makes sense: That’s one more gun on your side. On the other hand, who’s to say that Merle wouldn’t just shoot everybody in the back as a peace offering to his old master?

But the whole Problem of Merle seemed pretty much solved at that point. To paraphrase The Simpsons: Nobody who quotes the Bible could be an evil man!

Instead, we zipped back over to Woodbury, where the Governor was inspecting the new recruits. An old lady with arthritis; the Governor kindly told her they would find another place for her, probably riding on the bumper of the Governor’s car. The mother of a teenager complained that he had asthma. But hey, so did Teddy Roosevelt, and he turned out to be the 20th Century’s first superhero. Watching the Governor build up the Woodbury militia felt like an echo of last season, when Shane started teaching the Grimes Gang how to use firearms. Again, there’s a sense of a push-pull between the Governor and Rick: In order to fight each other, they have to use each other’s methods.

That’s the kind of complicated post-apocalyptic logic that Andrea can never seem to grasp. She told Milton, in horror, that Woodbury was becoming “An armed camp with child soldiers.” She told him that she needed his help sneaking out of Woodbury. Milton went to talk to the Governor. The Governor told Milton to help Andrea get out of Woodbury. He had a plan, probably. I should note that the Governor was sporting a very snazzy eyepatch, just like the Governor from the Comic Books. Question to Debate: Is season 3 all about TV-Governor slowly transforming into the Comic-Governor? Important Thing To Note: David Morrissey can grow a totally sweet ‘stache.

NEXT: Oh, Tyreese, hey!Can we all just agree that the Walking Dead forest is supposed to be magical? Like, this is the same forest where A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Watcher in the Woods and The Blair Witch Project took place, right? Andrea and Milton caught a zombie, but when another walker attacked, Tyreese suddenly emerged from the forest and bashed the zombie’s head in. Now that I think about it, “[Insert Name Here] suddenly emerged from the forest and bashed the zombie’s head in” is a plot point in half the episodes this season. Turns out that Tyreese and his crew actually did leave the Prison after Rick’s freakout. (When they didn’t appear last week, I figured they were just lurking in their locked cell.)

I’m going to just ignore the utter unlikelihood of Tyreese randomly coming across Andrea — because, again, the forest is magical, and the only really surprising thing is that nobody has come across Puck yet. (Unless Merle is Puck? Shakespeare!) Anyhow, Milton offered to bring Tyreese back to Woodbury. Meanwhile, Laurie took her captured zombie to the prison after a totally, totally, totally gross and awesome curbstomp dental surgery.

Back at the prison, Merle continued his winning streak of Having Fun Interactions With Other Characters. He came across Michonne doing some sit-ups. “Don’t leave out the cardio,” he joked. But he wanted to get serious with her. Trying to kill her was nothing personal; “I was just carrying out orders.” “Like the Gestapo,” Michonne snapped. “Exactly!” Merle said happily. He asked her if they could just let bygones be bygones. Michonne regarded him the way that a tiger regards a particularly annoying chipmunk. Yeesh, get a room, you two!

Outside, Carl and Maggie saw something coming out of the forest. It was Andrea. She slowly made her way through the yard. Rick let her in…but then immediately pushed her to the ground, taking away her weapons and asking her if she was alone. Inside, there was a nice moment when Andrea saw everyone again. She hugged Carol. She asked where Shane was, and Lori. Everyone looked at her, and nobody said anything.

On one hand, this was an intriguing interaction, because bringing Andrea back to the Grimes Gang was a nice reminder of just how much the Grimes Gang has changed. Last season, they weren’t too far removed from the Woodburyites. They were peaceful people who just wanted to find a home. They welcomed outsiders. They had family dinners. Time has changed. Winter hardened them. Everyone in the Lori Grimes Memorial Prison is a fighter. They’ve all killed zombies. Many of them have killed the living. Yeesh, if you think about it, even Baby Judith is a killer.

Our sympathy is with the Grimes Gang, because they have been the stars of the show from the beginning, because we have seen them suffer, and because — unlike the Governor — they only kill in self-defense. (Although you could argue that the Governor’s killing of soldiers was a precaution not dissimilar from Rick killing Tomas. The Governor just eliminates threats before they become threats: Like all good politicians, he’s a fan of pre-emptive strikes.) But to Andrea, who’s had long lazy days of warm showers and electric lights and smooth bourbon and warm beds, Rick and his crew look like what they are: Human beings reduced to their bare essentials, cavemen with boomsticks.

But if she didn’t think much of the Grimes Gang, they definitely didn’t think much of her. They dismissed her pleas about diplomacy. “There’s nothing to work out,” said Rick. “We’re gonna kill him. I don’t know how, or where, but we will.” Daryl was more precise: “Next time you see ‘Philip,’ you tell him I’m gonna take his other eye.” And Glenn sealed the deal: “He wants a war? He’s got one.”

NEXT: Lost so much alreadyThe arrival of Andrea was a good thing, then, in one sense: It provided a bit of perspective on our main characters. And in a weird way, when you look at the Grimes Gang, they are a fascinating semi-superteam Dirty Dozen of people. They’re the very definition of a motley crew — trained warriors like Rick, Michonne, and Daryl mixing together with former milquetoasts like Carol, Glenn, and Maggie, who’ve all become different variations on badassery. They’re the Seven Samurai, except they’re not defending a town; they’re just trying to live another day.

The problem, though, is that by showing them interact with Andrea, the show uncovered a very basic truth. While the rest of the Grimes Gang has spent the season spiraling, Andrea has…well, not done very much. She’s still whiny and self-important; weirdly, she’s taken over the role that Dale used to serve, as the unwanted and much-despised Moral Authority On Freaking Everything. This isn’t Laurie Holden’s fault; no one’s gonna make fun of Covarrubias on my watch. I think the problem is that the show has muddled Andrea’s motivations: She kinda loves the Governor, and she kinda just wants a comfortable life behind the Woodbury wall, and she kinda really loves killing zombies, and she likes giving speeches, and it all adds up to a person who feels less like a character than a misplaced Tetris block.

Michonne said the same thing, in fewer words. Andrea challenged her old traveling companion, saying that her bad influence on the Grimes Gang was leading to war: “You poisoned them.” Michonne threw it back in her face — she knew that Woodbury was a bad place, and tried to tell Andrea, but “You were under his spell.” Andrea said that they were building something beautiful in Woodbury. “I did not realize the Messiah Complex was contagious,” said Michonne. She undercut Andrea’s high-falutin’ justification: “You chose a warm bed over a friend.” (ASIDE: It was a good, sharp scene — one of many in the episode, which was directed by Walking Dead effects guru Greg Nicotero. There was one shot in particular that stood out, with Michonne staring offscreen left while Andrea looked back at her. It looked a little bit like one of those awesome confessional shots that pepper the filmography of Ingmar Bergman, see also The Simpsons. Actually, if you think about it, Bergman might’ve loved The Walking Dead, with its vision of a dying world abandoned by God. If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, go watch The Seventh Seal and Persona right now. END OF ASIDE.)

Back at Woodbury, the Governor welcomed Tyreese and his crew with open arms. He offered them a warm bed, and told them they could stay until they were rested; after that, he advised them to head west, and not north. No need to worry about that, Tyreese said: They just came from north, and ran afoul of a lunatic in a prison. “He was screaming like an idiot,” added Tyreese’s friend Meatbag #1.

The Governor was suddenly intrigued. He asked them if they could describe the layout of the prison. He asked them if, by any chance, the people who lived in the prison had quite stupidly left a gaping hole in the rear of the prison, just big enough to let an invading army in. “As a matter of fact, yes!” said Tyreese. And he made it clear that he was willing to sing for his supper. “We don’t wanna be out there. Whatever we gotta do to earn our keep.” This is, to put it mildly, an unexpected development — but I’m intrigued to see how the Tyreese/Governor team-up turns out. (Previously, Tyreese seemed like more of a faceless do-gooder — but his willingness to strike back against Rick proves that he’s learned how to operate in the post-apocalypse.)

NEXT: Give him the best night of his lifeAndrea wanted to say hello to L’il Asskicker before she left. While she cradled Baby Grimes in her hands, she asked Carol: “What happened to Shane?” “Rick killed him,” said Carol. Andrea couldn’t understand; Shane loved Rick, didn’t he? I really wish that, when Andrea asked that, Merle had suddenly appeared and screamed, “You’re out of your element, Andrea! Shane is not the issue here!” But no. Instead, Andrea kept talking. She said Rick was becoming cold, unsteady. Carol had some advice for Andrea, girl to girl, regarding the Governor: “You need to sleep with him. Give him the greatest night of his life. Then, when he’s sleeping, you can end this.” (Y’know, just a couple gals talkin’ about guy trouble.)

It was time for Andrea to go. This was a good reminder that the Grimes Gang hasn’t gone full barbarian. They gave her a car; they gave her back her weapons; Rick handed her a knife and said, “Be careful.” Back at Woodbury, Andrea had a long talk with the Governor. She told him that her old friends were broken, “Living in horrible conditions.” The Governor asked her why she’d come back, and then answered his own question: “‘Cause you belong here.” Then they totally started mwaking out.

Back at the Superfriend Cellblock, the Grimes Gang lurked around a dying fire. Beth decided that it had been a full ten episodes since she serenaded everyone. So she started singing a little song — I believe it was “Hold On” by Tom Waits. It was an awful pretty song. Rick whispered a message to Daryl and Hershel. He was going on a run. He was going to bring Michonne — might as well see if she’s trustworthy. And he was going to bring Carl: “he’s ready.”

Meanwhile, over in Woodbury, Naked Andrea got out of bed. She grabbed the knife. She held it over the Governor’s head. Now, I wasn’t really expecting her to kill him. What I was expecting/hoping for was that she’d try to kill him, and the Governor would reveal himself to be A) awake, and B) holding a gun. But now — Andrea just held the knife up, seemed to really consider the meaning of existence for awhile, and then put the knife away. (I want to give the show credit — it didn’t do the expected shot of Andrea walking away and the Governor suddenly revealing he was awake all along. But by not doing that, it gave the impression that the Governor was actually totally comfortable sleeping next to somebody who would absolutely be a candidate to assassinate him — not exactly a smart move for a military dictator.) And so it was that Andrea started the episode useless and ended the episode useless.

Am I being too harsh on Andrea, gang? Does anyone out there want to make an argument for her not being one of the least interesting people on the show? Also, what did you think of the rest of this episode? It was relatively action-free, but I thought the show finally created a nice sense of simmering tension — the scenes at the prison really did feel like a squad in the trenches, unsure if they could survive the upcoming battle. Also, what do you think of the Governor’s eyepatch? Would you describe it as Plissken-esque, Chang-ish, or von Stauffenberg-worthy?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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