Our TV Roundtable on suspense, post-apocalyptic politics, and what to make of Season 3, Episode 14, "Prey"
The creative team behind The Walking Dead is clearly listening to the fans, because tonight, we finally got what everybody has been begging for: a whole episode about Andrea!
But I suspect that even the most ardent Andrea haters -- I'm looking at you, Jeff -- will find something to like about "Prey," a solid episode that started to set the table for the big prison/Woodbury showdown that show has been building up to all season. It's clear by now that The Walking Dead is just maneuvering the pieces into play before the main conflict actually begins, though I like that the show gave us another Woodbury-centric episode -- even if this entry doesn't live up to "Walk with Me," the episode that introduced the Governor last October.
The Walking Dead's latest act of character rehabilitation came in the form of Milton, who proved to be more interesting and sympathetic in "Prey" than he's been all season -- which, knowing TWD, means he'll probably be killed off next week. Though the show hasn't done much until now to establish a bond between Milton and the Governor, the hints we got about the longevity and depth of their partnership in "Prey" rang truer to me than the unconvincing "bond" between Andrea and Michonne. I can see why a milquetoast nobody like Milton would cling to a charistmatic leader like the Governor, and why the Governor would ally with a forward-thinking brainiac like Milton. The back half of The Walking Dead's third season has turned the Governor into a snarling cartoon, but "Prey" offers some reminders about why people would have followed him in the first place. The episode could really have used another flashback at its end, to bookend the look we're given into the early days of Michonne and Andrea; I'd love to have seen a younger Milton teaming up with the Governor when he was a hopeful, two-eyed man who called himself Philip, strategizing about how they could "beat this thing" and "claw their way back" together.
But I can talk about the show I want The Walking Dead to be all day; let's talk about the show it is. If The Walking Dead isn't going to give us a believable, three-dimensional Governor, it should at least give us a sinister, scary one, and "Prey" certainly delivers on that count. The extended, almost dialogue-free action sequence in the abandoned warehouse is among the series' best in both concept and execution. I like that the Governor has found a way to make the walkers just another sadistic tool in his box. It's a smart, legitimately interesting strategy to pull a Hans Gruber and smash all the glass, drawing any walkers in the area to do his dirty work -- even if Andrea does end up turning the tables and escaping.
But her escape is short-lived. In the end, "Prey" offers its own variation on Chekov's gun: The torture chair introduced in the first act is used by a sadistic maniac in the third act. As the episode ends, Andrea is at the mercy of the Governor, who recaptured her just as she reached the prison -- and in the episode's final moments, we learn that she's locked up in his private dungeon.
Which left me thinking: Would this suspense show benefit from a little more mystery? I was a lot more interested in the question "What did the Governor do to Andrea?" which the episode teased us with for about 5 minutes, than I am in the question "What will the Governor do to Andrea now that she's strapped into his torture chair?" -- perhaps because the answer is almost definitely "torture her." Say what you will about the infamous "Where's Sophia?" plot line, which dragged out over the first half of Season 2; I didn't know she was in the barn, and I wouldn't complain if The Walking Dead kept us guessing every once in a while.
What did you think, Jeff?
Scott, you're right -- I almost, nearly, not-quite loved this episode. I didn't even mind Andrea's dominating presence, because, at least for a long moment, she was a fully animated character, even more than the most animated walker. What we experienced over the preceding weeks was a tortuously long vamp; the stretch marks on this season are frighteningly visible. The apparent need to delay the final confrontation between Woodbury and the prison forced the writers to turn Andrea into a contradictory mush of a character. In "Prey," she has purpose.