Last week’s episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead…well, let’s just say I had some serious issues with it. The first episode of the second half of the third season, it felt like “The Suicide King” took every issue I have with the show and built an entire episode around them. Up to that point, season three had been my favorite of the series, so it was extra disappointing.
Can they right the ship this week with the episode entitled “Home?” Find out below, but beware, you’re about to encounter some serious spoilers.
“The Suicide King” ends with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) having a meltdown in front of everyone and chasing off Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) and his group. A few extra hands sure would have come in handy this week, but we’ll get to that.
The source of Rick’s freak out was, of course, a hallucination of his dead wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). Such an experience is certainly more than enough to send someone off the deep end, or “wandering crazy town” as Glenn (Steven Yeun) says. That’s where “Home” picks up, with Rick, on his own, following Lori’s ghost around all around the interior and exterior of the prison. At one point Hershel (Scott Wilson) approaches him, and all Rick can say is, no joke, “I’ve got…stuff out here.”
He really couldn’t have picked a worse time for a solo walkabout. You get it, he needs time to grieve, something he hasn’t had the chance to do, but his people could use a hand too. With the Governor (David Morrissey) and Woodbury looming out there, they have to work out a strategy to repel a potential attack. The prison is also deteriorating around them, the building is in dire need of repair, and walkers have started penetrating the perimeter they thought was secure.
Rick’s emotional and physical absence poses an important question for the future of The Walking Dead: how is anyone going to take him seriously as a leader moving forward? Can he come back from this frazzled mental state, as both an individual and as the one his fellow survivors depend on for guidance? Especially when he puts the entire group at risk bumbling about after his vision, leaving gates open in his wake. It’s not going to be an easy fix. Everyone, including himself, questions his abilities, and he can barely take care of himself, let alone a son, daughter, and a bunch of needy zombie apocalypse survivors.
While Rick’s story of personal tragedy is getting repetitive—mostly because neither the show, nor he, is doing anything to resolve it—he’s largely off doing his own thing, out of the picture, for big the bulk of “Home.” This is good for a couple of reasons. First, it gives you a break from his crushing depression. Secondly, it gives you a chance to catch up with some of the other characters.
Glenn, in particular, is all in a tizzy. He feels guilty about what happened to Maggie (Lauren Cohan) at the hands of the Governor, but doesn’t know how to broach the subject. Who does? In addition to that—because that’s not traumatic enough for one couple to deal with—he feels compelled to step up and fill Rick’s shoes, something else he has no idea how to do. At every turn the survivors are faced with big issues and questions they haven’t the foggiest idea how to tackle.
The big debate of the day is whether or not to stay or go. Hershel wants to hit the road, post-haste, but Glenn wants to stay and hold on to what is theirs. In fact, he wants to head right out and hit Woodbury before they can show up at the prison walls, a preemptive strike if you will. They hem and haw about it for a while, but, coming to no concrete decision, stay put for lack of a better option. No one seems happy about it, but that’s how it is for the time being.
Meanwhile, over in Woodbury, the Governor and Andrea (Laurie Holden) have serious talk about their relationship. She wants to go visit her friends, he doesn’t want her to, she bristles, he says that he’s going to step down as leader of their town while he gets his head straight and asks her to take over the throne, as it were. For a second you think he may actually be serious, but then you realize who we’re talking about, and that sentiment dissolves.
He’s playing an angle, as you see a few moments later when he asks Milton (Dallas Roberts) to keep tabs on Andrea while he and some of his more violence-prone cronies step out for a moment on a mysterious errand. That doesn’t bode well, does it?
And how can we forget about Daryl (Norman Reedus)? After heading out with long-lost brother, Merle (Michael Rooker), the two are wandering around the woods, looking to shoot a squirrel for supper, or some other bit of wildlife hapless enough to cross their path. When they come across a Mexican family besieged by walkers, Merle, using the opportunity to be as racist as ever, wants to keep on moving because, as he puts, they’ve never cooked him dinner or played with his dingaling. Nothing but class, that Merle. Daryl, however, steps in and risks his own life with nary a thought of reward. That’s the kind of man he has become.
After holding his own brother at crossbow point, we learn just how much Daryl has changed, or at least what a horrible influence Merle is on his brother. The elder Dixon lets it slip that, before he got handcuffed to a roof and hacksawed off his own hand, the two planned to rob the group of anything they could run off with. Whether or not Daryl would really have gone through with the heist we’ll never know, but knowing what we know, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
Even Daryl doesn’t like his brother, and after he’s taken as much as he can, he heads back to where he belongs, to the closest thing he’s ever had to a home: the prison. There’s a moment, one that they don’t talk much about, one that you suspect they never will—the Dixons are none too keen on expressing their feelings to one another—where you’re offered a glimpse into their traumatic shared past, and you get a sliver of why they stick together.
There’s a lot going on in “Home,” including a budding romance between convict Axel (Lew Temple) and perpetually beaten-down wallflower Carol (Melissa McBride). All of the various threads come to a head in what you get the feeling is the first of many skirmishes between the prison and Woodbury.
The only real casualty is Axel—poor Carol, she can’t catch a break, but she does use his corpse as a shield—though their sense of safety, not to mention the front gate and ammunition stores, take a serious hit. Watching the Governor spray bullets around in a cocky show of bravado, and Maggie blast off clip after clip at the invaders, you can’t help but wonder exactly how many bullets to each group have left.
“Home” doesn’t really address any of the larger thematic issues, or answer any of the lingering questions, but it was a pretty fun ride. There was legitimate tension, characters are being pushed closer and closer to their breaking points, and it all ends in a good old-fashioned zombie slaughter. Not perfect, by any means, but a definite step in the right direction for The Walking Dead.
With the arrival of Merle at the prison, you know things are about to get interesting. And as the episode ends with a close-up of Rick’s seething revenge face, the future looks bright indeed.