In Slate's The Walking Dead TV Club, Chris Kirk will IM each week with a different fan of The Walking Dead. This week, he discusses “Arrow in the Doorpost” with Nate Rawlings, who reviews The Walking Dead for Time.com.
Chris: "Clear" started with Rick, Michonne, and Carl already on the road instead of the group debating the sense of retrieving the weapons. Similarly, sometime before "Arrow in the Doorpost," Andrea organizes a meeting between Rick and the Governor. The Walking Dead rarely skips forward in time like this, but I can't say that I mind the time compression. The "in-between" moments of The Walking Dead are not always compelling; they often involve Andrea. Then again, other viewers might consider it a jarring way to escalate the pace of the season. What do you think?
Nate: By skipping the administrative scene where, we assume, Andrea set up this meeting, we go into the situation not really knowing what exactly is going on. That's a good device to take us back to the times when things were scarier, when we didn't know as much about walkers. I thought it was a really powerful opening scene.
Chris: Over the course of the episode Rick fills a good amount of potential backstory time staring at the Governor. In their initial conversation, the Governor tries to play “misunderstood,” blaming Merle for kidnapping Glenn and Maggie.
Nate: But Rick was having none of it.
Chris: Rick says he knows about the Governor’s misdeeds, including the raid on the national guardsmen, and gives the man a piece of his mind: "You're the town drunk who knocked over my fence and ripped up my yard, nothing more." Accordingly, the Governor brings out the whiskey.
Nate: The Governor played the innocent card, while trying to intimidate Rick. "All I want is your surrender." It's an interesting negotiating tactic. And the entire time, whether he’s offering whiskey or talking tough or opening up about his past, The Governor is sitting by a hidden pistol taped to the table. I kept waiting for a Han Solo in the Star Wars cantina scene if he tried to shoot Rick.
Chris: At the prison, a stir-crazy Merle wants to crash the negotiations and take the Governor out while he’s exposed. Glenn gets in his way and the two brawl. Maggie joins the melee and it's only when Beth fires a handgun that everyone chills out. Their restraint is commendable; everyone in that room has a compelling reason just to kill him. What’s ironic is that Merle might be right—maybe an assassination would have been the best thing to do.
Nate: He knows better than anyone what the Governor is capable of. He's seen how ruthless the Governor can be and participated in plenty of his crimes. He doesn't want someone like Rick negotiating on his behalf. He wants to confront the threat and either defeat it or go down swinging.
Chris: Glenn apologizes for being an ass, and he and Maggie reconnect. But the real sparks are flying between dreamy Daryl and Woodbury head thug Caesar, who are sizing each other up outside the negotiations shack. Caesar sure knows how to twirl a baseball bat.
Nate: That was definitely the best zombie kill of the episode. He made the walker's entire head explode with a pretty sweet swing!
Chris: For the whole season, Caesar has basically just been one of the Governor's anonymous henchmen, but we finally get to know a little more about him. Turns out he has no military background; he's just really pissed off at zombies.
Nate: I like it that the hardened soldiers are a little more three-dimensional and have a reason for their rage. But no matter how well he swings that bat, Daryl's crossbow skills would take him out.
Chris: I’d be more concerned with Daryl’s knife-throwing.
Nate: That was the second best kill of the night.
Chris: Meanwhile, the exceptionally less cool Milton is bonding with Hershel. We learn that Milton not only considers himself chief Woodbury scientist, but as the Herodotus of a new, post-zombie epoch.
Nate: I love Hershel's sense of humor when he says, "I'm not showing you my leg. At least buy me a drink first." That's a pretty funny joke for Hershel, a tried-and-true alcoholic, to make.
Chris: At the negotiations table, the Governor opens up about his wife. What's his play? Or is he, who must continuously maintain his "level-headed leader" persona in Woodbury, sincerely confiding in Rick?
Nate: It might be a negotiating tactic, but we know that he's a seriously (and delusionally) sentimental guy. He kept his zombie daughter locked up and brushed her hair every night.
Chris: Maybe he's trying to prove that he really doesn’t care about Rick—that he’s just a damaged, petty man who simply wants to get back at Michonne for defacing him. Rick tries to get him to back down from his vendetta, appealing to the Governor's megalomania. "This is beneath you." But this isn't effective. Does the Governor want a statue of himself in the town square?
Nate: I'm not entirely sure what the Governor wants. He clearly enjoys the power and the prestige that comes with his position. But right after the battle when the town needed him to step up as a leader he sort of sulked away for a few days. Clearly Rick's attempt to appeal to the Governor's ego didn't work.
Chris: Maybe it's because of that ego that the Governor can't let this go. He's too affronted by Michonne's attack on him and his zombie daughter and by Rick’s attack on Woodbury. Maybe only in his own eyes, but the attacks make him seem weak. “Warm Shadow” from English guitarist Fink plays as the groups return to their home bases. Actual music is something we’ve been seeing a lot recently.
Nate: I'm glad that they're including more music. The Sopranos, The Wire, all of those shows had awesome music, and it was missing from The Walking Dead for a while. All we've really heard is a never-ending soundtrack of bugs.
Chris: Not to mention the generic suspense music we hear whenever zombies approach (as if zombies are suspenseful anymore). At the prison, Rick hopes Hershel will talk him out of surrendering Michonne. Hershel is silent as the episode ends. All I could think was, “Good luck trying to kidnap her.” I didn't think the inevitable face-to-face between the Governor and Rick ultimately lived up to my (possibly too lofty) expectations, but it did the job, which is to prime the show for the final showdown.
Nate: They're two hard dudes, so nothing short of a final toe-to-toe throw-down will really do the trick.
See Nate's full take on the episode at Time.com.