Episode 14 - Prey
22 March 2013
Synopsis: The Governor loads up a truck full of weapons and prepares a torture chair for Michonne. Milton shows Andrea the full horror of it all and she flees Woodbury. Tyreese lets her go and he and his friends are led off to help gather Walkers. The Governor stalks Andrea to an abandoned factory where she escapes and seems to leave him surrounded by Walkers. He manages to get to her though and stop her from reaching the Prison.
The Good: The Governor is good at lying. The excuses he had ready for Tyreese were convincing and couched in moral terms. Milton's resistance seemed to make sense. He doesn't want to kill his old friend but can't ignore the fact that torturing Michonne benefits no one. "How does that help Woodbury?" was exactly the right question. Of course the Governor sidesteps him but Milton's secret protest is to burn the Walkers at the pits.
The Bad: I've spent the last few episodes shoving large portions of my critique into The Unknown. I just couldn't do that here. On paper this should have been an exciting episode. Finally the moral ambiguities are thrown aside and Andrea sees the Governor for who he is. He hunts her down. It should have been tense and gripping.
Instead I found it derivative, dull, poorly staged and directed. More worrying than all of that though was the utter impotence of the Walkers. The Walking Dead has largely survived because of how deadly its zombies are. The Walkers in the factory were no more threatening than the other stationery objects which Andrea hid behind. That is a desperately worrying development.
That impotence began when Andrea first fled into the woods to avoid the road. The lingering shot of her breathlessly taking refuge was such an obvious setup for an unsighted Walker attack that when an arm grabbed her from behind I didn't flinch an inch. When multiple Walkers appeared out of nowhere and descended on her I was already annoyed. Gone was the creeping desperation that the show's producers have excelled at presenting. Instead they just seemed to mass Walkers around her until she found a way to slice through them.
Once inside the factory Andrea dispatched two more like they were Mario villains who just needed a quick bop on the head rather than the mortal threats they should have been. Her final destination was a stairwell where she discovered the disturbing sight of a dozen Walkers staring dumbly at the walls. She swiftly closed the door behind her and leant against it. The Walkers made no attempt to storm the door nor to stick their hands or heads through the rather large and broken viewing window! The Governor now appeared and so Andrea stepped through the door and the Walkers obligingly waddled past her to attack him. Despite running out of bullets and seemingly being overwhelmed I never believed for a second that the Governor had actually just met his end. The direction and music never even tried to sell that obvious lie. To demean the threat of Walkers in this way was a major blow to the show. Perhaps next week a different director will bring that threat back to life but I was seriously worried by this pathetic display.
The Governor-Andrea chase felt very strange throughout. I never felt that Andrea seemed desperate enough. She always seemed to be trotting rather than sprinting across the fields. Once inside the factory she seemed to tip toe slowly around corners like a damsel in distress rather than the capable survivor we know. Why wasn't her knife always poised at head height ready to tackle the next Walker. Why wasn't she shifting around quickly, eyes darting, seeking an advantage? I do understand that darkness meant Walkers could be anywhere so caution was necessary. I also appreciate that the Governor is scary. But her performance never communicated the sense that she was developing a plan. Instead she seemed like the victim in a horror movie. Once she left the Governor for dead she seemed to stroll away rather than burst into tears of relief or run for safety. I wanted some sign of what this moment meant emotionally. She finally emoted something upon seeing Rick at the prison but that moment was cut short by the clichÃ© of the Governor catching her at the last moment.
The direction of the factory sequence was clearly derivative of horror movies. That isn't a criticism. Why wouldn't you imitate the genre whose business is tension? But something about the style of this episode didn't feel like The Walking Dead. It seemed like an imitation of something else. Instead of creating an original scenario for Andrea and the Governor the creative team just borrowed a standard trope and threw a few Walkers into the mix. Even the music, which I don't often comment on, seemed like a horror score where perhaps silence would have added tension.
The Unknown: The tension between Tyreese and Allen felt a bit cookie cutter. That might be a harsh judgment given our lack of information but it seemed like a story designed to make us cheer for Allen's death. Allen is jealous because Tyreese saved his wife's life and she looked at him like a hero for doing so. Tyreese seemed perfectly sympathetic till he rubbed it in Allen's face when they were besides the Walker pit. Allen is clearly a jerk but I don't like it when a minor character seems so blatantly being positioned for disposal. I did like Tyreese's disgust at the plans to unleash Walkers on Rick's people and his position on the walls worked nicely to facilitate Andrea's escape.
The flashback to Andrea asking Michonne about her chained Walkers was interesting. It suggests that the producers aren't set against any kind of presentation of the past although this was brief. Apparently Michonne's taciturn distrust of bad people began long before the Apocalypse and the men she chose to drag round with her are representative of her sense of justice. I hope we find out more.
Best Moment: Tyreese's disgust.
Conclusion: I was really disappointed by this. On the page I am in favour of an episode that focuses in on one moment as this did. However the execution failed on every level. It wasn't aided by a season long weakness in the presentation of the Governor and Andrea. But that doesn't excuse the total absence of tension or the strange lack of urgency.
Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.