The Walking Dead Season 4, Episode 8 recap

The showdown. It happened. But That Thing DIDN’T. Legit disappointed. We’ve been cheated out of our Red Wedding!

I Skype-watched this with my buddy RB, who is a fighter pilot in the Navy. I wanted his tactical assessment of the Governor’s attack on the prison. He said, “He sucks. How does anyone with actual military training follow this guy? How is that tank operator firing on the place he wants to occupy? That’s Tank 101. You don’t tank-blast the walls of a place you intend to occupy.” On Rick’s side, RB said, “Rick is kind of a wimp, but look how well-trained his people are. They have multiple exit strategies, mobilize quickly, and have gun stashes everywhere. Very well done.” And that’s basically what the episode came down to: Rick vs. the Governor, round 2. This is the mid-season finale, and we’ve once again left Rick & Co. scattered to the four winds, separated after an attack.

Let’s deal with everything that wasn’t The Showdown. First we finally get to see Daryl’s reaction to Carol being expelled from the prison. He was upset but choked it down, and we never really get closure on that thread because the Governor shows up almost immediately and then everything is The Showdown. This has to be a major plot point in the second half of the season as, despite his many protestations otherwise, Rick is now back to full-time making decisions and he’s made one that puts him in direct conflict with Daryl, who has stuck with him through some heavy sh*t. But Daryl isn’t buying Rick’s, “She’ll be fine” line, and, frankly, Rick doesn’t seem to be buying it either. Odds on Carol returning in the second half of the season? I’d say they’re pretty high.

Second, Tyrese discovers the flayed body of a rat, displayed in true Silence of the Lambs serial killer style, inside the prison and thinks it is connected to both the rat-baiting at the fence and the murders of Karen and that other guy. Definitely it’s connected to the rat-baiting, but Rick doubts the connection to Karen, because Carol. However, it’s pretty clear that Lizzie is a goddamn psychopath and she’s the one that has been messing with the rats. And I am officially on board the “Carol didn’t kill those people, Lizzie did, and Carol is covering for her” train. We now know courtesy The Showdown that Lizzie is capable of killing actual human beings, and Carol covering for her seems more in character than Carol murdering sick people.

And then there’s the Governor’s new family, Lily and Megan. It’s the zombie apocalypse—do you know where your kids are? Because if you look away from your kid for even a second, they’re going to get eaten by a zombie (see also: Judith). Lily is clearly not comfortable with the Governor as he plans to take over the prison, and she seems to be wising up to his true nature (much faster than Andrea ever did). She stays behind during The Showdown, waiting at a riverbank with Megan, which is supposedly safe because it’s not like zombies can swim. But in a clever bit of staging, we learn it’s a floodplain and Megan, happily digging in the mud, accidentally unearths a zombie buried by flooding. She is bitten, and even as The Showdown at the prison begins, the Governor has to double-tap Megan to prevent her zombiefication—something he never did for his actual daughter, Penny.

As much as the director (series veteran Ernest Dickerson) wants us to draw meaning from the chess piece being crushed underfoot as The Showdown ends, what really stands as the testament to the Governor’s futility is Megan’s death. The riverbank is supposed to be safe, but no place is truly safe, and the zombie rising from the mud is the best symbol for the horror that constantly lurks just out of sight. Likewise, losing Megan just as he’s trying to take the prison shows clearly how pointless the Governor’s actions are. His whole plan was to try and force Rick & Co. out by threatening to kill Hershel and Michonne (captured at the beginning of the episode), but he had no real backup plan. Rick won’t give up so easily and the Governor’s people end up destroying the very place they wanted to inhabit, drawing in scads of zombies as they do so—RB is right, but you don’t need to be a trained military tactician to see that the Governor’s plan is capital-S STUPID.

Which brings us to The Showdown. On the whole, it was handled very well. The action was clear even as chaos descended as Rick & Co. tried to flee while under fire from the Governor’s people. There was some nice camera work, particularly Hershel’s POV shot as the Governor attacked him with Michonne’s katana. We’re supposed to feel sad about Hershel but he was clearly doomed throughout the flu episodes, so the moment wasn’t shocking when it came. He’s not even a particularly vital loss as Rick’s speech to the Governor about change demonstrates that he has circled back to a place of leadership, and doesn’t need his Hershel-crutch anymore. Even Hershel is down with it, smiling understandingly before we switch to his POV.

Much bigger is the loss of Judith. We don’t see it happen, but she does die during the prison battle in the comics, so I’m assuming she’s been killed in the show, too. Like the muddy riverbank, the bloody baby carrier is a reminder that death is constant and unmerciful in this world. The final shot, of the prison on fire and zombies (including the tourist zombie from first episode) swarming it as Rick says, “Keep walking,” begs the question: Are the “walking dead” really the zombies, or are they the survivors, those that have to keep walking until they are, inevitably, killed?

Status Check:
Officer Rick—Beaten to a pulp by the Governor, survives with Carl.
The Governor—Mortally wounded by Michonne, finished off by Lily.
Daryl—Stone cold badass, survives with Beth.
Glenn & Maggie—Survive, but separated.
Tyrese—Survives with Lizzie and the children, probably flayed alive by now.
The Bus—Who drove it away? Glenn? Sasha? CAROL?

Worst thing seen/heard this week: Megan and Judith’s deaths.

Zombie kill of the week: Daryl with an arrow to the eye, creating ZOMBIE SHIELD.