After a three-month hiatus, The Walking Dead returned to AMC last night with Episode 9, "The Suicide King." Kicking off directly where it left off last time, we were back in the arena with the Dixon brothers about to fight to the death at the behest of the newly cyclopian Governor. Throughout the cold winter months that the show had been off the air, we were inundated with teasers and promo clips hinting at the danger that Daryl and Merle were in and it was a genuine mystery as to how they would escape the Governor's murderous clutches. All these months of tension evaporated within the first five minutes though, as Rick and Maggie unleashed a barrage of bullets on the people of Woodbury and the brothers were able to escape. Before we really had chance to feel that Daryl's life was truly in danger, he'd already escaped and was shooting walkers in the face without a care in the world.
This was only one of a handful of problems that I had with this episode, which although not bad, never really scaled the heights that we've come to expect from this thrilling show. About halfway through the episode, Andrea sees the Governor for the crazy psycho that he truly is. He dismisses her complaints about him torturing her friends by saying she's simply "a visitor passing through" and is not important to his plans. Having had previous experience with less-than-savory boyfriends in the shape of Shane, a look of "oh no, it's happening again" crosses Andrea's face as she realizes that history could be repeating itself.
This is a little bit how I felt, too, if I'm being honest.
Although the opening of the "The Suicide King" was thrilling (if not somewhat short), the rest of the episode reverted to the default Walking Dead tactic of small groups of survivors arguing with each other. We had Rick and Daryl argue about the fate of Merle, Rick and Michonne argued about her abandoning the group, the people of Woodbury argued about what to do next, Tyreese and his group argued about taking the prison by storm, Rick and Tyreese argued about staying in the prison and finally Rick argued with his dead wife, who appeared on the gantry wearing her wedding dress. It was like a post-apocalyptic episode of Jerry Springer, just with less violence.
That's not to say that the episode was without merit. Daryl deciding to stick with his brother and abandon the group is a really interesting development and one that means 99.5% of viewers might have quietly wept themselves to sleep last night.
There was also Rick's very public meltdown at the episode's climax. It's one thing to talk to your dead wife on the phone, but another thing entirely to see her wraith-like appearance on the platform above you. We shouldn't forget that he's had no time yet to grieve the passing of Lori, so it's no surprise that he's a little messed up in the head. Promo trailers for the upcoming episodes have hinted that Rick might consider giving up the leadership of the group and that might happen sooner rather the later. That man is in desperate need of a holiday.
For a show that normally only deals with the the here and now, this episode was very much about people confronting their past. Carol poignantly reflected on what she would do if her abusive and very-much-dead husband Ed walked through the door and demanded she come with him. She hoped that she'd be able to say no, but wasn't sure. The same went for Daryl. Despite being Rick's deputy, he chose his mouthy brother and a life on the run over the sanctuary of the group at the prison. You can't escape the bonds of blood. The past is also weighing heavily on Rick's shoulders. His reluctance to take in Tyreese and his people comes from his negative experiences with Shane and Tomas. However, with the Governor planning an attack on the prison, Rick needs as much manpower as possible, so expect Tyreese to be down in the trenches fighting alongside him before too long.
"The Suicide King" take-aways:
- Glenn may have avoided broken bones when he was worked over by Merle, but perhaps something else is severely broken: his relationship with Maggie.
- Carol looked truly devastated when Daryl didn't return. For her sake and ours, let's hope his absence is only temporary. The big question is: When will Daryl return to the group?
- Andrea is stepping up to the plate over at Woodbury. It will be interesting to see the power struggle between her and the Governor.
- Michonne continues to be the most frustrating character on the show. At some point she'll have to do more than scowl and point her sword at things. It's starting to get boring.
- No matter how despicable Merle is, he's hugely entertaining. I love to hate him.
- Rick looked really uncomfortable holding Judith. Does she look more like Shane than him?
I've told you what I thought about the "The Suicide King", so now it's your turn. Was it a good episode? Drop your thoughts in the comment section below.