The episode starts off with a few quick shots of silent landscapes, then, out of nowhere, a helicopter flies in. The disruption of what we have to come to know as the muted normality is quite striking. It is also relatively confusing and, at first, you may believe this to be a flashback scene. The helicopter struggles with turbulence and eventually plummets to the ground. We see the smoke waft up from a distance, with the camera behind Andrea and Michonne looking at it with disbelief – confirming its presence in the current story-line. They venture toward it with Andrea seemingly more enthused about the notion of survivors.
Michonne is more concerned about what the wreckage may mean and goes to inspect it. The first casualty found has been split in half by the helicopter blade. As the remaining episode will include only a few gruesome special effects, the SFX team emphasise their great work with moments like this. Michonne barely has time to look over the crash site before a few cars pull up. She dashes back to Andrea and they watch from behind the bushes as men step out of the vehicles and clear the space around them. Any zombies shuffling towards them get taken out instantly by the 5-men-strong crew.
They are an efficient bunch, but their motivations are unclear. Andrea and Michonne are even more uncertain as to what they want and how violent or helpful they may be. As the divided dead soldier turns into a zombie, the two women watch as the leader of the group plunges a knife into his/its skull. They are unaware of the virus that brings any dead person back to life and so seeing them kill what they think to be a severely injured man has them petrified.
The two chained up zombies of Michonne’s cause too much noise and she is forced to cut off their heads. The men look into the bushes to look for where the noise may have come from before deciding to “roll out.” Just as Andrea and Michonne think they’re safe a familiar voice emerges from the trees behind them. Andrea knows the voice and anxiously turns around. She comes face to face with Merle Dixon, Daryl’s brother, last seen on the rooftop of an Atlanta building sawing his hand off. As a zombie comes from his behind he thrusts his knife (attached to his metallic stub on his handless right arm) under its mouth and into its brain. He stands before them asking Andrea for a hug, smiling satanically with his gun and bloodied bayonet.
Andrea and Michonne are taken back to hold-up where a nurse is on hand to help with any sickness. Andrea has little energy left and thankfully accepts the aid. Merle comes in and explains what happens to him and asks about his brother. Andrea only tells him so much – she is still clearly worried about him. Michonne says nothing throughout this interaction. The mystery of Michonne is highlighted throughout this episode, along with many of the new characters – incentives and agendas are foggy. The man who was calling the shots at the helicopter wreckage comes in to tell them how things are run. Both women are put off by the exaggerated authority but are told they are free to leave if they choose. Curiosity gets the better of Andrea and it’s mostly her decision to find out more that keeps them in the new sanctuary.
The next morning we see a bustling town deemed as a “work in process” though it certainly seems perfect. At times it all appears too perfect, like a Truman Show or Pleasantville pastiche – and as those films showed, a perfect community has some skeletons in the closet. Michonne is the most sceptical, consistently frowning at every sight.
The pilot of the helicopter lies in one room with the nurse and the Governor watching over him. He tells the Governor the story of his society’s outbreak and mentions the few soldiers remaining close by. The Governor reassures the wounded man that he will find them and bring them to safety. The shot of this scene is mostly a low-angle take that makes the Governor seem foreboding. The other is a high-angle shot that has the pilot looking weak and vulnerable. In each case, the camera is telling us more about the Governor character and how he has power and control – perhaps a dangerous amount.
Before the Governor seeks out the pilot’s colleagues, he joins his friend Milton in examining Michonne’s zombie pets. The inspection of the zombies proves insightful – not only for the Governor but also the audience – mentioning how they lack of jaw leaves them with little motivation to feed, and “docile”. They also act as “repellent” and camouflage for Michonne – something we may have guessed but now give extra credence to her ingenuity, finally verified by other characters. As Milton and the Governor “impose logic on the chaos”, the world of the The Walking Dead begins to make more sense.
Andrea and Michonne have breakfast with the Governor and Milton, the latter two obviously wanting to learn more about their history and their experience in the outside world. Milton tries to ask Michonne about her two walkers but is given a silent stare as a retort. She understands that something is wrong about the entire situation and the constant questioning is worrying. Breakfast finishes and Andrea and Michonne discuss Woodbury and its controlling inhabitants – the latter is still distrustful whilst Andrea can’t understand why.
He and his team return to Woodbury to inform the community of the ill-fated troop that were killed by zombies. His ability to lie openly to 73 people is innate – he tells them a tall tale to keep them willing to stay within the Woodbury walls. The townspeople have no idea of what type of man he is other than his helpful guise. Andrea is also enamoured by his apparent hospitable nature and some flirting takes place, making the audience wonder if she will stay in Woodbury. The final scene shows the Governor walking around his apartment after sleeping with some random female civilian. He takes a short glance at a photo of him and what we imagine to be his wife and daughter – he shows little emotion upon looking at it, further adding to his mystery. That is before he steps into a dark room that he lights up with aquarium tanks full of severed heads. The top one is belonged to the pilot whilst two others were Michonne’s chained-up walkers. Why he has them is not explained but one can read into it as his trophies. He sits in front of them captivated by their ghostly eyes.
The Walking Dead’s third season is getting off to a tremendous start. Episodes like this where an alternate plot-point can be explored is a staple of great TV, especially when it entertains you as much as the regular narrative crux. The Governor looks to be a great villain and the point where hopefully Rick and him meet will make for some excitement.
Piers McCarthy - Follow me on Twitter.