Episode Title: "The Suicide King"
Writer: Evan Reilly
Director: Lesli Linka Glatter
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
Before the current season of “The Walking Dead,” Andrew Lincoln hinted that we would see Rick Grimes hit his breaking point. And it apparently happened in last night’s episode at the most inopportune time.
Just at the moment where it seemed like the prison survivors were going to get the help that they desperately needed, Rick demonstrated just how unstable he’s become. And there was fear, not only in Tyreese’s (Chad Coleman) eyes, but also in the faces of everyone else in the room. There’s no way for Rick to walk that back and if he tried to explain what he was seeing he’d only come off even crazier than he is now.
There are full spoilers ahead for “The Suicide King,” so if you haven’t caught the latest episode of “The Walking Dead” you should probably hold off reading this review or else the Governor will throw you in the arena.
I’ll say this for Rick and his group: they’re pretty brave to hit Woodbury again almost immediately after their first assault. Of course, the downside of their mission to rescue Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is that Merle (Michael Rooker) got out with them. And the subsequent confrontation with Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) managed to keep everyone reacting in character while finally delivering the exposition about Andrea (Laurie Holden) living in Woodbury to her former group.
It made perfect sense for Rick and Glenn to reject Merle completely and for Daryl to side with his brother before they struck out on their own. What else could they do? It would have been contrived for them to bring Merle into the prison. Merle wasn’t exactly trustworthy even before Rick cost him his hand. But if you think that the Dixon brothers are getting written out of the series, keep in mind that the producers of this show are well aware of how popular they are. In other words, they’re not going anywhere.
I’ve mentioned before that Tyreese’s introduction was probably pushed back because the TV series had Shane and Daryl to fill in as the second Alpha to Rick. Daryl’s departure seemingly created an opening for Tyreese to fully integrate his group into Rick’s and he proved his moral fortitude throughout the episode when he was presented with opportunities to seize control of the prison.
On the other hand, Allen (Daniel Thomas May) and Ben (Tyler Chase) are trouble. Even when burying Donna (Cherie Dvorak), they were making plans to jump Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) and Carol (Melissa McBride). Tyreese probably won the trust of the audience when he made sure that didn’t happen.
However, Rick’s freakout at the end may have irreparably destroyed any chances of bringing Tyreese and his group into the fold. It’s clear that Hershel (Scott Wilson) and the rest of the prison survivors were pulling for them to stay and Hershel had a powerful moment when he urged Rick to reconsider his decision. Hershel has become the show’s heart and his scenes with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glenn reinforced the idea that he’s holding the group together emotionally while deferring to Rick on everything else.
This episode could have ended on a really positive note had Rick not suddenly seen a ghostly vision of his dead wife, Laurie (Sarah Wayne Callies) in her wedding dress. Rick forgot the first rule of insanity: never let anyone see just how crazy you really are. It’s frustrating to watch that happen, because there’s a natural desire to see this group survive and overcome Woodbury’s forces. But if it was easy, where would the drama come from? That ending may have been over-the-top, but it stayed in my mind for hours afterwards. On that level, it succeeded.
“The Suicide King” also made time for the smaller character beats like Axel (Lew Temple) mourning Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Carol reacting to Daryl’s decision to take off. And no, Carol definitely did not understand why he left even though she later expressed admiration for his personal code. Daryl’s signature name for the Grimes’ baby on the side of the makeshift crib was actually a hilarious touch, and probably the only laugh moment in the episode.
Back in Woodbury, the Governor (David Morrissey) practically abdicated his leadership position in a time of crisis as his followers tried to abandon the town. Andrea’s speech to the townspeople may not have been a particularly well written one, but it was enough to placate them. I wonder if that makes Andrea valuable to the Governor, or if his paranoid mind will now view her as a threat to his authority. In the long run, Andrea may have inadvertently harmed her friends by keeping Woodbury together at the moment it was falling apart.
It’s also unclear why Andrea is sticking with the Governor without really challenging him about his crazy collection of zombie heads or the dead daughter he kept locked in his apartment. His willingness to make Daryl and Merle fight to the death should have sent anyone running in the opposite direction. But there’s Andrea, still trying to make life in Woodbury work.
It was a little surprising that the Governor told Andrea a half truth about why Rick’s group attacked... but what he said put the initial blame on Merle and it glossed over the Governor’s decision to have Maggie and Glenn executed before their timely rescue. But now the Governor has all of the justification that he needs to openly eradicate the prison survivors. And he’s got the numbers and the firepower to do it.
The storyline has changed from its original incarnation in “The Walking Dead” comic book series, but the buildup to a showdown between the two forces will likely be very similar. So there should be some dark and disturbing times ahead... just the way we like it.