The good news is that AMC’s The Walking Dead closed out 2012 with another fantastic episode; the bad news is that they won’t return until February 10, 2013. The mid-season finale didn’t leave us with a bombshell of a cliffhanger exactly (ie it was no hatch in the middle of the island), but rather an anticipatory ending which will give fans plenty to talk about and argue over for the next month or so. The episode also happened to feature the introduction of a fan-favorite character from the comics and a brief cameo from the show’s former cast member.
Starring Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, Chandler Riggs, Melissa McBride, Laurie Holden, Danai Gurira, Michael Rooker, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Scott Wilson, Dallas Roberts and Emily Kinney, AMC’s The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9. Hit the jump for my review of “Made to Suffer.”
The two groups finally collided together in an epic clash of smoke grenades, automatic weapons and blood. But before we get to that, the mid-season finale introduced us to yet another group of survivors, led by comics fan-favorite, Tyreese (Chad Coleman). After (mostly) surviving an attack by Walkers, the group heads into the prison and makes their way to a Walker-infested boiler room. Carl helps them out and leads them to a safe place within the prison. Meanwhile, Rick and the crew storm Woodbury and rescue Glenn and Maggie, but lose Oscar to a gunshot, as well as Darryl, who is taken prisoner. Michonne ditches the group for a time to handle her own business with the Governor, exacts her revenge and comes to a stand-off with Andrea.
Props to the writers for this episode because there are a lot of plot lines to handle, yet they do it exceedingly well. It would have been easy to just focus on the big action piece for the entirety of the episode and leave it at that, but they manage to up the stakes for our major characters while including the minor characters in a bit of development of their own. We’ll start small (Axel) and work our way up (Merle and Darryl).
Axel (Lew Temple) had the only bit of levity in the entire episode, though it was certainly done in a creepy fashion. While hitting on Beth and asking how old she was like a chat-room pedophile, Carol pulled him away and chastised him. At this point, we learn that Axel is all about helping to repopulate the planet…we also learn that he thinks Carol is a lesbian due to her short hair. While Carol finds this funny (and seems to forget about Axel’s advances on Beth for the moment), she’s not interested. If Axel isn’t careful, he’ll have Carl and Darryl to contend with.
Speaking of Carl, I’ve been impressed with Riggs’ maturity this season, as I’ve mentioned before. He’s done quite well with the material he’s been given and, in tonight’s episode, finally got some proper respect within the framework of the show itself. After leading the survivors to a secure area and giving them food and water (and even offering to put down their injured/infected comrade), Carl locked them up to keep his own people safe. While one of the group protested, Tyreese said to “let the man go.” Let the man go! Much respect for Tyreese. Oh, but don’t let him put you out of your misery (a hammer, man? really?).
Well it looks like Glenn and Maggie are more or less safe and sound. This episode featured one of those great transitions for The Walking Dead where Glenn is all “Love ya, Maggs!” one second and then all, “Now let me go make a shiv out of this dead Walker’s forearm,” the next. Ingenuity! Of course the plan was doomed but it gave Rick and the crew time to flashbang the room, fill it with smoke and get their people out of there, minus poor Oscar and Daryl.
In a great cameo, Shane (Jon Bernthal) walks out of the smoke and is about to put Rick down. Rick manages to shoot his former best friend once again, but realizes that the man is just another Woodbury guard. Rick may be over his wife Lori’s death thanks to a creepy call from beyond the grave, but apparently he’s still got issues with Shane’s death at his hands, no matter how much he tries to rationalize it.
Let’s talk about Michonne for a bit. I knew she was going to go rogue and do her own thing as soon as they got within the compound! What I didn’t know was that she would kill the Gov’s daughter, smash his head-tanks and give him a shard right in the old eyeball! She had a great samurai moment of sitting and waiting for the Gov to return with a naked blade across her lap. Good stuff! And the stand-off between Andrea and Michonne? Pretty intense. I’m assuming we’ll see that conflict resolve itself in the coming episodes.
And now, the minor interest that has turned into a major debate: Merle vs Darryl. Many have wondered where Darryl’s loyalties lie when it comes to Darryl and the group. Darryl sure wanted to go talk to Merle once Glenn told him he was the Governor’s lieutenant. And now, he’ll get the chance. Sort of. Did not see this coming, but the Gov put Merle up as a scapegoat and is now pitting him against Darryl in the “screaming pits” to further test his loyalties. Or to just kill the both of them outright. Another great realization on the part of the writers to recognize that the dramatic conflict between Merle and Darryl needed to be resolve in a satisfying way. I think they’ve managed to do just that!
Want a sneak peek at February’s episode nine, “The Suicide King,” that teases an answer to this contest? Check out the video below:
Musings & Quotes:
- I don’t know much about this Tyreese character at all, but I like how he treats his group and I especially respect how he treats Carl.
- Gov to Andrea: “Woodbury’s starting to grow on you?”
- Gov to Penny: “Look at me!”
- Apparently Woodbury does not have very competitive vision insurance because these guards are the worst lookouts/shots ever!
- Gov: “I failed you. I promised to keep you safe. Hell, look at me … I’m afraid! I’m afraid of terrorists who want what we have! Worse, one of those terrorists is one of our own.” The Governor points at Merle. “He led them here! He let them in! You betrayed us all!” Merle is escorted to the center of the arena along with a hooded figure. The man is unmasked, revealing Daryl. “Merle’s own brother!”
- Oh hi, Shane!
- Gov to Merle: “Take ‘em to the screaming pit.”
- Gov: “There’s no need to panic.” Screaming woman: “Someone help!”
- Gov to Guards: “Shoot to kill.”
- Glenn: “Darryl, this was Merle.” Darryl: “So my brother’s this Governor?” – Great bit of fan service here, whether intentional or not, because many had suspected Merle of becoming the Governor character.
- Gov to Andrea: “Just do as I ask.”
- Did I miss something, or did Maggie not put Oscar down completely when she had the chance?
- Carl to Hershel: “Right now, Judith is the only family I got.”
- I was mortally terrified for Michonne when she let Penny off the chain…
- Andrea to Michonne: “What have you done?”
- Tyreese to Carl: “We take care of our own.” ::raises hammer::
- Tyreese to his second in command: “Back away from that door and let the man go!”
- Gov to Andrea, in regards to the heads in the tanks: “I make myself look at them…prepares me for the horrors outside.”
2 – The woman from the newly introduced group of survivors who is bitten and probably Oscar, who was shot by a Woodbury guard and left behind.
Gotta be Michonne’s katana through the mouth of Penny, the Governor’s daughter.
Best Zombie Effect:
Has to go to Glenn “disarming” the dead Walker to make a shiv from the wrist bone. However, one wonder’s why he didn’t go for the humerus attached to the scapula (which makes a nifty hand-ax) or the femur, which is the largest/longest bone in the body and would make for a nice, dense club. #science
Check back with us next year when we review the next of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Don’t forget to check out AMC on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day as they’ll be hosting a marathon of every episode of The Walking Dead up to and including the mid-season finale!