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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: The Walking Dead, "Prey"

Season 3, Episode 14

Grade: C
Verdict:  Choo choo!  It's the freight train to silly town on this week's episode of The Walking Dead.  While the final 10-15 minutes are quite nice, it ultimately cannot save the first 25-30.  The first two-thirds of this episode were either terrible or terribly boring in terms of pacing, writing, and acting.  The Governor is really the only consistently good thing this week.  Only two episodes left this season and yet another one was 75% wasted on set-up.

Beginning perhaps only a few hours after the previous episode, "Prey" shows us the preparations being made at Woodbury for the impending war with the Prison group.  Tyreese and friends are eager to help out, even if it means feuding among themselves.  Andrea and Milton, however, discover something sinister about The Governor that causes Andrea to run away...and the Governor to chase after her.

This episode begins with a decent enough flashback to the winter that took place between Seasons 2 and 3.  In this scene we get a little taste of what life was like during that time for Michonne and Andrea.  While this initially seemed like a worthwhile diversion from the main story, we ultimately did not learn anything new about either character.  We already knew Andrea and Michonne did not know much about one another despite spending so long together.  Fans of the show who don't read the comic may have been desperate to know the identity of Michonne's zombie companions and Andrea comes right out and asks her.  Michonne's answer is one that is not satisfying for Andrea or the audience and makes the flashback pretty useless.

When things move back to Woodbury it took quite a few minutes to adjust to the fact that this episode takes place right after the previous one.  The reason you ask?  Everyone is suddenly wearing jackets.  I'm not talking "oh there's a bit of a breeze, put on a light coat" jackets.  I'm talking "it could snow any day now, bundle up" jackets.  How, then, did the weather go from Spring/Summer to Fall/Winter in a matter of hours?  As a Southerner, I have quite a bit of experience with bipolar weather, but this was strikingly odd.  Season 3 began, very clearly, in the Spring (possibly early Summer).  While I don't mind the writers telling us this season has taken place over the course of a year, the relative pace of each episode makes me highly doubt this happened.  It may have been cold when the cast filmed this episode, but such drastic alterations to the continuity could have gone with a little explaining.

The rapid change in the weather should have been a bit of a warning that this episode would not fair much better.  After an episode of almost nothing but set-up for events to come, this episode spends two-thirds of its time setting up additional story threads.  Tyreese and company are seemingly wanting to be a part of any group that will have them, but they are having a bit of an internal conflict.  Their own development in story sadly comes at the price of over-acting and bad writing.  I don't mind Tyreese and his friends being part of the show, in fact Chad Coleman does an excellent job of playing Tyreese.  In light of the number of episodes left, however, this development felt a bit too sudden and, at the same time, too late.

Woodbury has never seemed like the ideal community.  This week we got to see more of the things this group has ready in case of attack.  At first, it seemed their collecting of walkers had more to do with finding a cure for the virus.  Now the walkers have become the only use they are good for: biological warfare/willing soldiers.  It was interesting to see the ways this group is preparing for war, but the episode falters in giving Woodbury 100% of its focus.  Perhaps the preparations of both sides could have made for a nice side-by-side comparison to continue with the way the previous episode ended.

I will give this episode some credit in that it at least took the time to try and have some forward movement during all of this set-up.  Andrea making the decision to finally abandon Woodbury is a development that was long overdue.  The majority of the second half of this episode deals with The Governor attempting to chase down Andrea and bring her back before she can warn Michonne and the others of his plans.  With any other character this could have been an extremely tense and fantastic story.  As it had to be Andrea that this happened to, it is doubtful that many viewers cared whether or not she even made it to the prison alive.  Her being chased through a field by The Governor driving a truck felt more silly than tense.  While the climax of this story in the warehouse attempted to borrow a few horror movie cliches, it did actually come together in a satisfying way.  Andrea does a few things during this scene that are smart and were entertaining to see, but such developments in her character are too little too late.  It is clear Andrea will be one of the characters to develop in some way in the remaining episodes and, frankly, one wonders if she will make it to Season 4 at all.

Pretty much the only consistently bright spot during this episode would be The Governor.  While David Morrissey does not have a lot to say this week, he was still delightfully creepy.  Getting a peek at the torture chamber he is preparing for Michonne (his "workshop" as he calls it) was a great look into The Governor's state of mind at this point in the story.  We do not see him use a single one of the instruments he sets up in this episode, but the action of him pulling each tool out one by one brought more than enough suspense.  They often say the best horror is that which you have to imagine yourself.  For once The Walking Dead takes advantage of this tactic in this sequence.  Although The Governor almost boards the silly town express with the rest of the cast in the warehouse scene of this episode, he does a good job of avoiding it.  It has been interesting to see the way this character has evolved separately from his comic book counterpart while also remaining just as insane.

Overall, if it were not for the final 10-15 minutes of this episode, it would have received a D+ from me.  Everything leading up to these final minutes was either too forced, too badly acted, or just too boring.  The Walking Dead is known for having some intense season finales.  If the lack of tension in these past two episodes is being saved for the final two, this should be an interesting end to a very bipolar Season 3.
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  1. You make many good points. Between my disdain for Andrea and the inconsistent episodes of this season, I'm quickly reaching "don't really care" zone about this show. Certain decisions in the direction the show is taking just make no sense.

    1. I think it's mostly because there are too many episodes in a season. They need to take it down to around 10 and we would have less fluff episodes like this one.


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