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Rick and the band of survivors at the prison were ditched this week as the story focused on what has happened to Andrea since she was left behind at the end of last season. Travelling with the katana-wielding Michonne, characters old and new were introduced as we saw Daryl's brother Merle for the first time since being left handcuffed to an Atlanta rooftop in Season One, and a charismatic and mysterious leader called The Governor. 'Walk With Me' was the episode where the world of the show exploded out from our usual group of survivors to reveal a post-apocalyptic community with an enduring dark side.
Up until this point The Walking Dead has always been shown from Rick's perspective, as we followed the sheriff's deputy from waking in the hospital to leading a band of survivors against the undead masses. 'Walk With Me' began with a completely new viewpoint as we followed a helicopter pilot flying over the American countryside. The rotorcraft stalls and crashes down to Earth, an event seen by Andrea and Michonne. Shown briefly in the first episode, the two form strange companions with Andrea sick and Michonne acting mute. They remain hidden in the bushes whilst another group of people come to survey the carnage of the crash. Led by a shadowy figure by the name of The Governor, the way they ruthlessly dispatch with the survivors is horrifying to the two, even though they don't realise that they had already becomes zombies. This moment highlights an important aspect of the show; that despite this episode opening up the universe of The Walking Dead and introducing a whole host of new characters, the perspectives of each individual remain fractured and isolated.
The two try to go unnoticed in the woods, but are revealed by the two zombies she keeps on a leash. With other humans in sight, the paroxysmal movements of the undead rattle their chains, and Michonne out of desperation silently dispatches the two undead figures who had acted as a deterrent up until this point. But the noises have already caught the attention of the group, and the two are taken at gunpoint to The Governor's stronghold. As it turns out, their base of operations isn't a shopping mall or an army base, the usual kind of claustrophobic environment you would expect in a Romero film, but a thriving community called Woodbury. The town deliberately evokes classic sci-fi fantasy show The Prisoner, where Patrick McGoohan wakes to find himself in a surreal and idyllic paradise from which he can never escape. Here women sporting nauseating pastel-coloured jumpers and weedy men in tight jackets populate the village; but the same unsettling vibe is still presented of the picturesque paradise.
Andrea is stunned to discover that one of The Governor's henchman is Merle, Daryl's older brother who she last saw chained to a rooftop back in Atlanta. His return to the show seems very strange. Forgotten throughout much of Season Two, his one appearance came as Daryl's hallucination in the woods during 'Chupacabra'. He's now even meaner with the blade attached to his new prosthetic hand, and still harbours a grudge against Rick, calling him the "pr*ck who cuffed me to a rooftop". But in the presence of The Governor he's willing now to stay quiet and know his place. As we soon learn, all those who challenge The Governor's supremacy meet a grisly fate.
The Great Dictator
Because the two are women, and therefore not seen by him as a threat, The Governor is cordial to Andrea and Michonne and explains his plans. "It's about getting back to who we were, who we really are; not just waiting to be saved". But the town's leader is far more sinister than they realise. When the injured helicopter pilot is taken to the town hospital, he is befriended by The Governor and confides to him the whereabouts of his national guard regiment. With ruthless efficiency The Governor's men locate the national guardsmen before massacring them and taking their weapons. Upon returning to camp, he tells the townsfolk the undead had already reached them, using his oratory skills to galvanise the people.
"We didn't know them, but we'll honour their sacrifice by not taking what we have here for granted," he declares.
Andrea asks The Governor at breakfast, "What's your secret?" The horrifying truth that he does not disclose is that Woodbury thrives because those that lead it eliminate all threats whether living or dead.
The gruesome reveal at the end shows The Governor return to his home after the day's bloody spoils to look upon a fish tank full of severed heads. Are they those of his enemies? The appearance of the helicopter pilot's head would seem to confirm this. He may be called The Governor, but he could just as well be called Uncle Joe or Mein Fuhrer. He is a tyrant willing to do whatever's necessary in order to maintain control. A clash with the group in the prison is sure to happen soon. Let's just hope that Rick's head doesn't also end up on display.