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The Walking Dead returned to the matter at hand in this week’s “Arrow at the Doorpost,” which saw Rick and the Governor sit down to talk peace. “Arrow at the Doorpost” offered some bonding between Rick’s right hand men (Daryl and Hershel) and the Governor’s (Caesar and Milton) and the prison readying themselves for war. Unfortunately the episode felt pieced together and unfocused making the actual talks between Rick and the Governor lack the importance they rightly deserved.
The episode itself came on abruptly. Even though Andrea did visit Rick and the prison just a few episodes ago it was surprising the show decided to come upon these peace talks without any hints. In a show that usually plods along towards monumental occasions – the entire second half of this season has been “building” towards a show down between the prison and Woodbury – having these peace talks come on all of a sudden felt strange. Since Andrea was the mediator and the harbinger of these peace talks not seeing her work the Governor to convince him to even attend was a lost opportunity. Andrea convincing the Governor over an episode or two would have not only made the peace talks feel grandiose but also would have given the chance of peace more credence. Although perhaps The Walking Dead didn’t want the audience to even feel like that was an option.
Instead of the peace talks actually offering a chance for peace what the conversation between Rick and the Governor actually did was finally reveal the Governor’s cunning, planning, and manipulating. At the very beginning the Governor offers to take his weapons off as a show of good faith, only to sit down next to a gun he has taped under the table, it is evident that the Governor has been planning things out for quite some time. Even Andrea, Milton, and Caesar are surprised that the Governor has already arrived.
The way the talks unfolded left a lot to be desired. After some initial banter between Rick and the Governor, ending up with Andrea being thrown from the proceedings, the peace talks were only delivered in snippet form. Not allowing the audience to be in the moment entirely, or at least until the conversations ended at an impasse, made the meeting feel less important and dramatic than it could have been. The conversation never had any ebb and flow.
The pieces of the conversation that were shown felt more like a Governor highlight reel. Nearly every time the talks were shown it seemed as though the Governor was pushing another one of Rick’s buttons. First he tells Rick that surrender is his only option and kicks Andrea out. In the next snippet the Governor blames Merle for everything and calls Rick’s judgment of character into question by bringing up Shane. Then he plays at Rick’s sympathies, and possibly trying to get Rick a little tipsy, by telling Rick a story of how his wife died, whether it is true or not is unclear because the Governor certainly doesn’t seem too choked up about it afterwards. In the next bit the Governor tells Rick that his proposal for boundaries is fair but he can’t let his people think he’s weak. Finally, he casually lets Rick know that he has surveillance on him at all time while offering up a trade of Michonne for peace. Rick, after basically trying to make himself look more powerful than he is, calls the Governor out about revenge against Michonne being too simple a motive. What should have felt like the Governor completely mastering Rick in these talks instead felt empty and vapid due to the show’s unwillingness to focus specifically on the talks and presenting them in this herky-jerky fashion.
Even worse was that the conversation between Rick and the Governor was broken up with completely innocuous banter between the two posses and unneeded drama back at the prison. As the talks were happening the intermingling and initial bonding between the two sides was useless. Caesar and Daryl, after respecting each other’s zombie killing skills, even made sure to comment that the talks would lead to nowhere. Even if the preliminary bonding that went on between Hershel and Milton end up swaying Milton to inform Andrea of the Governor’s plans (which seems to be what will happen next week if the preview of next week’s episode can be trusted), there has been more than enough evidence of Milton’s wavering trust in the Governor for this week’s bonding scenes to hold much significance.
Meanwhile in the prison the big hubbub is between Merle and Glenn. Merle believes, and is probably right, that they should attack the Governor now, while they know where he is. Glenn refuses to listen to Merle’s plan and they end up fighting. Later, Merle tries to convince Michonne to go with him to kill the Governor right now but is shot down again. Maggie and Glenn reconcile as well. Otherwise those left at the prison continue to load up guns and wait for the peace talks to end.
When Rick and the Governor return to their respective settlements is where things finally get interesting. The Governor tells Caesar, in front of Milton, to kill Rick and his posse when they arrive to give up Michonne. Milton tells the Governor how dishonest this is and the Governor basically tells him tough beans. Rick conundrum is more intriguing. Upon returning to the prison Rick withholds the Governor’s deal from his group and tells them to prepare for war. In a private chat he reveals to Hershel the Governor’s deal in hopes of Hershel being able to talk him out of the deal. It seems the Governor was spot on calling out Rick’s inability to judge character as Rick is seriously considering this proposition, despite acknowledging to Hershel that the Governor will probably kill them when they show up anyway. Rick’s ultimate decision will end up showing his true worth as a leader.