How do you even begin to recover from the traumatic events of last week's episode? When you watch Lori die without reconciling with Rick, and see him collapse in anguish, an empty shell of a man, upon hearing the news? This week's episode addressed how we deal with the death of those we love, and the ways in which various people in The Walking Dead delude themselves in order to stay sane.
Composure is pretty hard to maintain when you discover the love of your life has passed away, so it's not surprising to find that Rick isn't taking things too well. In his shell-shocked state he runs back into the cellblock to exact some revenge on the zombie hordes that inadvertently brought about Lori's demise. There's always a danger in The Walking Dead for the violence to become gratuitous as fans each week are eagerly expecting gore. But here every hack to the head or blow to the brain is done with such brutal savagery that it becomes an intense expression of his pain about what has happened. Things take a dark turn when he stumbles upon what appears either a fat or heavily pregnant corpse and begins to repeatedly stab the cadaver's womb, a clear signal of his anger at the baby that Lori sacrificed herself for. Lurking in the darkness and covered in blood, you fear that this may be the end for Rick, until he receives a lifeline when a phone in the prison begins to ring. Agonisingly, we'll have to wait until next week to see who's on the other end of the call.
Michonne all alone
Who knows, it could be someone from Woodbury, as I'm sure the two separate storylines will be connected in the future. Andrea and Michonne find themselves still living in the town, with the latter deciding to take action. Feeling trapped in the idyllic surroundings, she says to Andrea, "This place is not what they say it is". Similar to Rick, she vents her frustrations later on when she finds some chained up walkers in a storage house. Utilising her katana to devastating effect, each zombie is mercilessly obliterated until only a pile of corpses remain. An impressed Governor says, "You're not afraid of biters," and asks her to join his research team. But Michonne isn't buying The Governor's lingual snake oil, and leaves the town as soon as she has the chance.
All that Heaven allows
Her departure dismays Andrea who desperately tries to convince her to stay. "There's food, there's shelter, there's people for god's sake," she says to her friend, hoping that she'll listen. But Michonne is stubborn in her convictions, and so the partnership they've held for the past few months is broken when she walks out of the heavily fortified gates. We as the audience know that she's in the right, and that as long as Andrea stays near The Governor she is in real danger. But it's easy to see why Andrea would want to stay. After being on the road for so long, living every day in constant fear of death, it must be heavenly to wake up and find yourself embedded in a pre-apocalyptic community that appears isolated from the outside horrors. But this illusion could be shattered at any instant. The group at the prison were not even granted a few minutes of communal happiness at seeing Hershel walk before the zombie onslaught claimed the lives of Lori and T-Dog. Little does Andrea know that she's already living in a warzone, and that those inside the town she's beginning to trust could soon be her enemies.
Penny for your thoughts
The Governor is proving to be an incredibly complex figure. Making grand speeches about maintaining a 'normal' life in the town, we've seen how ruthlessly the lives of others are used to fuel this illusion of paradise he has created. This fantasy is for him just as much as those that he rules over. In his home we see him brushing the hair of his zombie daughter Penny, gruesomely peeling some of her scalp away in the process. The maintenance of ordinary activities in the town along with the creepy undercover experiments are beginning to make sense. Woodbury is a world The Governor has created in the hope he can return his daughter to, and pretend the collapse of society never occurred. As he declares to Michonne, "I'm just a guy trying to do right by the people I care about".
"People need entertainment"
Andrea begins to see through the subterfuge as well come the episode's end, as the festivities going on throughout the town culminate in a gladiatorial battle straight out of Mad Max. Merle and another of The Governor's men fight one another in a pit circled by shackled-zombies. The shocking recklessness of the spectacle disgusts Andrea, who decries "This is sick, it's barbaric". The Governor points out that the zombies have had their teeth removed, and so are unable to bite, and that it shows the people not to fear the undead. Speaking like a Roman Caesar, he curtly declares, "People need entertainment". By entertainment he means a distraction, escapism, an 'opiate of the masses' that will take their minds off the desperate struggle of their lives. In the world of The Walking Dead, it is easy to reject your current situation for a world you want to believe in. But as we've been shown time and time again, these illusions never last forever, and sooner of later the people in the town are going to be brought crashing back to reality.