This week’s episode of The Walking Dead gives us the long awaited reunion of Andrea and the people who drove off thinking she was dead. Ironically, they’re the ones to wind up in a decrepit prison surrounded by zombies, while she ends up in Woodbury, where they have lemonade. When life gives you lemons, right?
Let’s spoil some Beef…
Consequences are an essential aspect of any serial drama. It isn’t enough to get a character through 44 minutes of screentime, wrapping the plot up nicely each time the credits roll. They are pulled in many directions because of their loyalties to different people and responsibilities, and the show needs to reflect that. What makes for good drama is when our heroes and villains come to a point where no matter what they do, there will be a consequence to their actions. You can’t blame them if the show makes a strong case for their decision, but if the show doesn’t, it leaves you with the question, “Why?”
Rick: Tyreese and his flock arrive at Woodbury, and much to the Governor’s joy, they have inside knowledge of the prison. If you’re a reader of the comics, you know that Tyreese at this point is good friends with Rick, but after Rick’s freakout, it’s not really a surprise that they would be willing to pledge their loyalty to Woodbury. I’ll admit, though, that I didn’t think they were going to interpret Rick’s manic shouting as a full on “leave this prison” – I was thinking they would just stay somewhere else in the prison while Rick cooled off. But that’s only what I imagined; What happened here is perfectly reasonable.
I’d say this episode was the first time the prison really made an impact on the tone of the characters. They do feel imprisoned, but what’s ironic on so many levels is how they weren’t sentenced to live there, but are doing so anyways. That they never committed any crimes, but their actions lead to imprisonment. Let’s not forget, prison does appeal to some as a viable alternative to the current state of affairs (just like it did at the beginning of this season): it’s a roof, and it’ll feed you, clothe you, bathe you and (sort of) keep you safe. It’s only once you’re in there that you realize how many of your freedoms you truly lose, that you realize the true horror of being in jail. People go mad in there, you know.
Andrea: Not all consequences are by choice; some are consequences laid out for you in spite of your best efforts. At the end of Season 2, Andrea rescues Carol from getting killed by the zombies, and while Carol gets away, Andrea is separated from the others. This results in her ending up in Woodbury, where she finds herself attached to its people. It’s all very fascinating, and it’s a strong reflection on the way life seems to play people like game pieces; Andrea gets to Woodbury because she was caught by Merle, who ended up in Woodbury because Rick and T-Dog’s combined idiocy meant Merle was cuffed and left for dead in Atlanta.
Of course, Merle: On the other hand, between being racist, ignorant, violent and a criminal kidnapper, Merle caused plenty of trouble for everyone. As much as I disliked his character for a long time, I’ll admit his inclusion added a unique character dynamic to the cast. I’d be really surprised if he didn’t get killed by the end of the season, seeing how he’s the only character right now hated by both sides of the conflict.
Governor: Ultimately, the Governor will fall the hardest, even though he’s got his share of personal torments. We saw what he did to the National Guard, we see how he intimidates those he can manipulate and we see what lengths he goes to maintaining his power. As much as Rick’s been slipping up a lot and making some lousy calls, he’s still trying to do right by those he’s entrusted with. Most of what his people have gone through could have been avoided if not for the Governor, not the other way around.
I, as an audience member, view this string of actions and reactions from an outsider’s point of view. While I certainly understand and relate to much of the reasoning for why these characters are choosing their paths, let’s not forget that the one true consequence that all others trace back to is that the dead rose and began to attack the living. And yet, a year or so later, those who banded together have continued to live on. Some, like The Governor and his people even flourish in this new world, living in a fortified town all to themselves. It makes you wonder how things could have been different if everyone didn’t panic and overreact like they did (dropping napalm on Atlanta, for example) and instead calmly and collectively took up arms against this plague and beat it down just like any other illness. Perhaps, when faced with the very essence of death and fear each and every day, man returns to its primal behavior, where it’s survival of the fittest and alpha males dominate.
If our world really does wind up in a zombie apocalypse, I’m not afraid of how people will change. I’m afraid of when they start to change back.