Monday, March 18, 2013

TV Review: 'The Walking Dead'-3.14-"Prey"

Last week’s episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead, “Arrow on the Doorpost,” has been almost universally recognized as a total piece of shit. In a show that has often been criticized for nothing happening, it was by far the most egregious offender. The hope of most of us who watch the wildly popular zombie drama was that the follow-up, “Prey,” would right the ship. Any progress would be a step in the right direction. Were they successful? Find out below.

Season three of The Walking Dead has been frustrating from a fan perspective, especially after the show returned from its midseason break. For every strong episode, like “Clear”—one of the best episodes of the franchise—there’s a mediocre, or worse, installment. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen how good and how terrible the show can be.
While not a great episode, “Prey” is better. At this point the best I can hope for is middle of the road. While the episode starts of slow, it ends on a high note, with something of a twist, though a twist that is good and earned. To paraphrase Lisa Simpson, this week’s episode is meh.
Like “Clear” a few weeks ago, “Prey” is an episode that follows only a part of the overall action. The producers don’t try to fit in little nuggets from every separate thread, which more often than not leads to a jumbled feel. This week the focus is on the happenings at Woodbury. And there is a lot to take in. Whether the citizens know it or not, they’re making preparations for war.
After an Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) in the woods flashback, we see the Governor (David Morrissey) setting up what he calls his “workshop,” which is a glorified torture chamber. You assume that this whole setup is intended for Michonne, and with the presence of the speculum among his tools, there’s a definite implication of impending sexual violence.
With his recent descent into darkness, the Governor is finally becoming the villain we all hoped he could be. Whereas before he was just kind of a dick and a piece of crap, now he’s become fully psychotic, sadistic, and straight-up evil. With only two episodes left in season three, it’s about damn time.
Andrea knows she needs to do something. She almost shoots him in the head, but Milton (Dallas Roberts) stops her. In the end she chooses to go, and Milton chooses to stay. Both seem determined to attempt to make things right, but in their own separate ways. Andrea runs, after trying to convince Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) and his sister Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) that all is not what it seems in Woodbury. Skeptical of this frantic, nearly hysterical woman they barely know, they go straight to the Governor, who goes after her on his own.
The remainder of the episode is taken up in two ways: with the cat-and-mouse game between the two former lovers—it’s safe to say that their romantic entanglement has hit a rough patch—and with Tyreese having mixed feelings about the things he learns about Woodbury.
See, while the Governor is hunting his human prey, Tyreese goes with Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) on an errand, laying the groundwork for when they’ll be slaughtering the survivors at the prison. They show the zombie trap to the new guy, and collect some walkers to unleash up on their enemies. You can understand Tyreese’s reluctance to unleash flesh-eating monsters on women and children.
For most of “Prey,” things are going on, but you’re not sure they’re going to amount to much. You have the sneaking suspicion that, for all the bells and whistles, you’re going to end the episode in the exact same place as you started. But then, out of the blue, unexpected things begin happening.
Big revelation number one is that someone, conveniently never shown above mid-chest and wearing gloves, douses a trailer full of zombies with gasoline and sparks them off. The resulting mass of twitching, barbecued corpses is some of the best and most gruesome special effects work of the season.
However, the question presents itself: who torched the walkers? The obvious suspect is Tyreese. After all, he had a strong reaction to seeing what was going on, one that led to a violent confrontation. When challenged with the accusation, though, he doesn’t appear to know anything. Also, he doesn’t really have access to the vehicle used in the caper, or even the gasoline. Milton, on the other hand, had access to all of this and more, plus he knows about the zombie pit. It’s never explicitly stated, but the implication is that Milton lit the fire, his way of fighting back. At least the Governor seems to think so.
Surprising development number two is that, after ditching her pursuer, Andrea manages to make it to the prison. In fact, in eluding the Governor, she gives you a few things that make you like her way more than you have in a long time. You get glimpses of the badass fans always hoped she would be.
It’s not all sunshine and roses. As soon as she spies the prison walls, she gets ambushed and taken by the Governor. That’s not going to end particularly well for her. No one at the prison knew she was coming, so there’s no one out looking for her. In an ironic twist, the last shot of “Prey” shows her handcuffed to the seat intended for Michonne.
Things are definitely ramping up for the ultimate collision between the two groups of survivors. Of course we’ve been saying this exact same thing since the very first episode of season three, but with only two weeks left, the clash really is right there, looming on the horizon. Finally.
Not the greatest episode, of the season or the series—and roughly half filler —“Prey” at least pushes the narrative along towards the conclusion of this arc. The episode ends well, with a cliffhanger that makes you want to tune in next week.

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