At the end of the half-season finale, Rick and his groupies had successfully stirred the proverbial hornet’s nest as they exfiltrated Maggie and Glenn from the evil clutches of the Governor and waged war in the process. Somehow (maybe it was shown but I don’t remember), Daryl is taken by the Woodbury folk and pitted against the lying liar Merle in their famous ‘zombie ring.’ In spite of the fact that Merle is a dick and an overall terrible person, he decides to band together with Daryl to escape the town. Fortunately for them, Rick and co. are standing by with automatic weapons and little hesitation as they mow down members of the unruly mob. Unsurprisingly, this does not sit well with the now one-eyed Governor.
For all that was accomplished in the first half of this so far superior season, The Suicide King does not really advance the story that much since you would have a good shot at guessing how things turn out from the jump. After the assault, Rick and Glenn especially are distrustful of the tag-a-long Merle and decide to cut him loose to fend for himself. Shockingly, Daryl does not approve of this approach and threatens to walk with his brother which causes Glenn to reconsider his stance. Rick though is no fan of second-guessing himself or worse, having someone else undermine his power so he lets them depart. What’s the over/under on the Dixon brothers returning to the fold in the next three episodes?
For the past eight episodes having been so unpredictable in their execution and ballsiness, the midseason premiere seems to exist more to reconfirm who the characters are, what they stand for, and to merely allude to the skirmish that will likely populate the rest of the season. While he was mostly a no-show after Rick’s clan escapes, the Governor is certainly not going to take an attack on his oasis or the dispatching of his zombie daughter lightly. Instead, it’s up to Andrea (really, her?) to keep the peace between the restless ordinary folk and the heavily armed militia of Woodbury. And it is her rousing and inspirational speech to the town that convinces them to stay strong. Or at least I assume it was meant to be rousing and inspirational. In reality, it was rather weak.
Of course, Rick’s distrust of anyone outside his core isn’t new but it is a trait that will pose problems when the Governor comes banging on his door. Perhaps he is right to be suspicious of Michonne and her intentions since she hasn’t proven herself to be anything other than capable and probably emotionally unstable. And we know that the new group can be a problem as the two white guys were plotting how to overtake Carl and Carol to get their weapons. But Rick otherwise has no tactical advance to create even more enemies than he already has as should be evidenced by the returning prisoner earlier this year. Trust is something that must be earned, especially in such a bleak and unforgiving world but for Rick to continue to be so strong-willed even when every other reasonable voice is directing him otherwise feels like merely a way to wring even more drama out of a situation. But then again, Rick is obviously continuing a downward slide with his paranoia and hallucinations so maybe it will pay off in time.
Just like a pilot episode or a season premiere, it’s easy to make give this episode a pass since by default it has to reestablish the world that the show resides in. I trust that the chronic wheel-spinning of the second season will not resurface as there is a viable threat looming but things have to move beyond the established character traits and existing stakes to do so.