“Arrow on the Doorpost” was never going to be as good as “Clear,” and, of course, it wasn’t. But it was a lot better than the last few episodes. Thing is, “Clear” was as good as it was because it functioned as a standalone. It tied into the main arc only barely—Rick needed to build up the armory, Michonne needed to get in good with the group so Rick’s eventual/potential betrayal would mean something—but it set out to tell a complete story about three people on an adventure in the zombie apocalypse. “Clear” was a palate cleanser after several bad appetizers, and “Arrow” is the first glimpse of the main course.
Not sure how much time has passed between “Clear” and “Arrow,” but at least a few days, enough for Andrea to get her boys to agree to a sit down in a neutral location. Rick, Daryl, and Hershel scouted out the barn, but the Governor was already lying in wait. He made a big show about disarming, then sat himself on the side of the table where he’d stashed a gun. What the point of that was, I haven’t a clue. It’s a literal Chekhov’s gun, and nothing came of it. Same with the whisky. Why make such a big deal about getting Rick to drink a bit of moonshine if there’s no meaning behind it? The Governor never even attempted to reach for the gun, and the whisky turned out to just be whisky. Rick never gets drunk, irrational, or overly emotional, nor was the liquor poisoned. The Governor seems as pleased that he drank it as he was that Rick maintained his faculties, so what was the point? Why waste screen time with lingering shots of the empty glass and the hidden weapon?
The Governor’s little speech about his wife’s unexpected death was sweet, and probably sincere, but that doesn’t automatically mean her death meant anything at all to him. It’s all a smoke screen. He’s trying to confuse and distract Rick, but he’s also toying with him. The Governor doesn’t have anyone he loves back in Woodbury or anywhere, now that Penny’s re-dead. He doesn’t have anything to lose by betting everything. Rick left out info to his group about the Governor’s intentions toward Michonne, but not out of any malice or Ricktatorial manipulation. Michonne is family now. As Hershel said, “she’s earned her place.” Rick may have decided not to give her up, to stay and fight, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t secure in his choice.
Anyway, the Governor and Rick’s chit chat was only part of the story this week. Merle put aside his racism and sexism to stall in a failed attempt to sneak attack the Governor. Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, and Beth put the kibosh on his one-man coup and he spent the rest of the ep whinging about it. Glenn finally admitted he was an ass for his behavior toward Maggie, though I’m not sure we needed to see them go straight from “I’m sorry I was a jerk about your sexual assault” to “let’s get naked for sexy fun times.” (Not to mention their violation of one of the most blatant horror movie tropes.) Good news is now that he’s over his issues, Glenn is proving to be a pretty good lieutenant.
At the meet-and-greet, Andrea is the worst in the meeting, then the worst outside the meeting, then the worst in general existence. Her getting kicked out of the meeting was awfully amusing. She and Hershel had a much needed heart to heart, and though she left with the Governor, her nod to Hershel made it clear she isn’t playing on her lover’s team anymore. Too bad she doesn’t realize the Governor doesn’t care which side she’s on. She’s meaningless to him, and that makes her nothing more than a tool he can use to put the squeeze on Rick. Daryl and Martinez tried to out macho each other and ended up getting to know each other over a lovely date of zombie guts and menthol cigarettes. Andrea’s eye roll at Daryl and Martinez’s zombie killing pissing contest was the first awesome thing she’s done in an aeon. But she’s still the worst.
Like I said, this ep wasn’t bad. Comparatively speaking (not counting last week and the pilot), it was quite good. At least it wasn’t boring. The episode wasn’t filler or wheel-spinning. People weren’t shuffling around in groups yelling at each other about who should go where. Everyone had a purpose and every scene had a point. The pawns have been placed and now the final moves are being made. This is a very good thing. The Walking Dead never fails harder than when it can’t decide what it wants to do. War is inevitable at this point, no matter how much Andrea hopes the two leaders can work out their issues as if they were two middle school boys fighting over a toy. The only things left to sort out are who will attack first and how.
Which brings me to my biggest problem with “Arrow”: the Governor. At first, I thought David Morrisey, while a great TV actor, was woefully miscast, but once we got a look at how the show was developing the character and how different he initially was from the comic version, Morrisey made more and more sense. Now, I genuinely enjoy him as the Governor, and like what he brings to the table. My problem lies not with how Morrisey portrays the character but how the writers have written him. Some weeks he’s a parallel dimension Rick. They have interesting and conflicting ideas about how to survive and thrive in the zombie apocalypse, and both men are wrong as often as they are right. Under this model, the Governor serves as a cautionary tale for Rick. It also allows him to become Phillip, a real person with real concerns and real issues. Other weeks the writers decide he needs to be a psychotic Bond villain. He watches heads in fish tanks like regular people watch television, keeps his undead daughter chained up in the closet, and threatens to rape and torture kidnapped women. While this version makes the Governor a lot more frightening, it also makes him two dimensional and predictable.
The writers did the exact same thing with Shane. Sometimes he was a bullying, rape-y, cockwaffle and other times he was a decent guy trying to survive the only way he knew how. You could extend my complaint about inconsistent character development to everyone on the show. Andrea used to be a capable, intelligent woman and now she’s little more than a mewling idiot. Michonne can either glower or make silly jokes about cat statues, never anything else in between. Lori was alternately Lady MacBeth or a nice woman who did a lot of laundry. The only ones who don’t float with the tide are those who aren’t shaded enough to show any dimension (Carol, Beth, Tyrese, etc.) and Daryl. There’s character development/growth, and then there’s inconsistency. The Governor isn’t a complex person but a Big Bad the writers haven’t figure out how to make work with the story they want to tell. I wish they’d veered from the comics a little more. It would’ve made it easier to create their own villain rather than trying to mimic Robert Kirkman. There’s no way AMC would allow Mazzara to replicate in any way the consequences of the Woodbury/Prison arc from the graphic novel, so why bother heading down that path at all? Why not forge a new one and do something interesting with it?
- “So you’re the Governor.” Yes, thank you, Captain Obvious.
- “I thought you were a cop, not a lawyer.” “Either way, I don’t pretend to be a governor.”
- “You’re the town drunk who knocked over my fence and ripped up my yard. Nothin’ more.”
- “They need to be scared.” “They are.”
- The smart thing would be not to fight but to sabotage. Rick could launch a stealth attack on Woodbury using zombies and sit back and watch as the town falls apart. No reason they can’t use the Governor’s own Trojan horse plan against him.
- We’re nearing the home stretch, so please be extra cautious with your spoiler warnings…let’s not ruin it for the virgins.
Alex Brown is an archivist, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.