Episode Title: "Hounded"
Writer: Scott M. Gimple
Director: Dan Attias
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
The twin worlds of “The Walking Dead” are finally coming together, as the inhabitants of the prison and Woodbury forcibly become aware of each other. This season has been moving along so quickly that the inevitable conflict between these two groups of survivors wasn’t a priority. Obviously, that’s no longer the case.
Full spoilers are ahead for “Hounded.” Hopefully we don’t have to spell that out for you in zombie body parts.
I’ve been waiting for the face-off between Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Merle (Michael Rooker) for weeks and it did not disappoint. Michonne correctly read the Governor (David Morrissey) from the start and she realized that he wouldn’t simply let her walk away from Woodbury. I doubt that the Governor would have behaved any differently if Andrea (Laurie Holden) had gone with Michonne.
At first, it seemed plausible that the Governor considered Michonne a potential security risk for the town or that he wanted payback for the sword that was held to his throat. But the Governor’s stated reason is even more chilling. He wanted Michonne’s sword AND her head. That dude is just crazy. There’s no way around that conclusion... except if you’re Andrea.
There’s a lot of fan backlash against Andrea at the moment, particularly because of her romantic interest in the Governor. But keep in mind, Andrea hasn’t seen the side of him that we get to see.
The only thing about “Philip” that unsettled Andrea was the way that he set up the fights to appeal to the baser instincts of the Woodsbury townspeople. Except Andrea eventually admitted that she liked the fights too.
Admittedly, the weakest parts of this episode dealt with the Governor’s continued seduction of Andrea; which had some pretty weak dialogue. But I would still love to see Andrea’s reaction when she finally figures out what a huge mistake she’s made... again.
Meanwhile, the hunt for Michonne was an easy highlight for the episode as she tore through the walkers and Merle’s men to make her escape. It wasn’t just Michonne’s ability to kick ass that made the action sequences work. It was also the hilarious way that Merle conducted himself and led his men, including Gargulio; whom Merle dubbed “Neal” because he could at least remember and pronounce that name.
Gargulio and Merle actually swapped mindsets during the chase for Michonne. After seeing two of their group fall to her, Gargulio wanted to run away and Merle essentially told him to man up (all over himself). But by the time their second encounter with Michonne was over, Gargulio had a taste for blood and Merle simply wanted to limp back home. And when Gargulio refused to go back and lie to the Governor, Merle killed him.
The thing is, Merle owed Gargulio his life. And he still killed the young man to protect himself... or because he could. Merle is a grade A psycho who just can’t be trusted. His one misstep in this episode is that he finally lied to the one man who may be even crazier than he is. The Governor isn’t likely to be amused once he learns that Michonne is among the living.
I was curious how Michonne would eventually be introduced to the survivors at the prison. In the original story, she stumbles across the prison during a crisis very similar to the one that took place a few episodes back. But here, a wounded Michonne stumbles upon Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) doing a supply run for the newborn baby and it’s immediately clear that they aren’t like the Woodbury folk.
Before Michonne even considers approaching them, Glenn and Maggie have the misfortune of seeing Merle first... and good ol’ Merle promptly takes Maggie hostage and forces Glenn to drive them back to Woodbury as his prisoners.
Back in the prison, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) answers the ringing phone and he hears the voice of a woman telling him that there are other survivors out there who are completely safe from the zombie apocalypse. And it gives Rick the hope that he can bring Carl (Chandler Riggs) and his new daughter there to give them a better life.
Unfortunately, this is all in Rick’s head. A point which is driven home when his dead wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) calls and says that he was speaking with Amy, Jim and Jacqui... all of whom died months ago under his watch. By that point, Rick doesn’t even care that he’s not really speaking with his wife. It’s his only chance to apologize and say goodbye, so he takes it.
It’s been very satisfying to see the bond between Hershel (Scott Wilson) and Rick develop this season. Hershel is the only one who has any hint that Rick is losing his mind. But rather than call Rick out over the phone line and whether anyone was really calling him, Hershel simply offered to stay with Rick as a sign of support. When Rick finally comes out of his stupor and holds his newborn daughter, it’s a moment he shares with Carl, Hershel and the other members of his extended family unit.
While Rick was sidelined, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) continued his quest to become one of the most awesome characters on TV. Daryl bonded with Carl over the grim fates of their mothers in way that wasn’t condescending or patronizing. Daryl also seems to be going out of his way to welcome Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Axel (Lew Temple) into the group with small touches like hanging out with Oscar during their meal or inviting him to come along on a zombie killing run.
Daryl’s confrontation with Merle may be in the near future, but the moment he was truly dreading came when he located Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride); whom he had assumed to have been killed or turned. It’s wasn’t explicitly stated, but it seemed like Daryl had figured out where Carol was and then he delayed opening the door because he didn’t want to put her down. Yet when Daryl finally worked up his nerve to do it, he found Carol alive and he got another big hero moment when he carried her to safety.
The closing moments of the episode finally brought Rick and Michonne face-to-face through the prison fence, while she was surrounded by walkers oblivious to her presence. That was a great visual and I loved the shocked expression on Rick’s face. It’s clear that Michonne will fill in Rick and the other survivors about what happened to their friends. But I wonder if Michonne realizes that they are Andrea’s friends as well.
Compared to the first six episodes of “The Walking Dead’s” second season, this season has been going nearly full speed ahead. But that’s just the way I like it.