After months of waiting, The Walking Dead finally returned last night. It opened where the season left off, Daryl and Merle Dixon pitted against one another in a fight to the death. However the writers tried to convince us one of the brothers would die I think we all knew, on some level, they wouldn't; Daryl is a fan favorite, and Merle is an antagonist we love to hate. They both bring interesting dynamics to the group. Though I would be shocked if Merle survives beyond this year's finale, we'll be seeing them again as soon as next week in a splintered tale much like Michonne and Andrea's at the beginning of the season.
Last night's episode did have me scratching my head. Why in the world is Andrea still in Woodbury? Aside from the fact she has the worst taste in men I've ever seen in a female character, she has no fear of the Governor, a man that kept the heads of walkers in fish tanks, his undead daughter locked in a closet, confessed to numerous lies and betrayals, including the capture of Glenn and Maggie, tried to kill both Michonne and Daryl, and shot a man in cold blood without a word. Are the people of Woodbury, whom she barely knows, more important than her friends?
After the events at Woodbury, where the prison group killed seven people and inadvertently created an entrance for walkers, Rick and company are in dire need of new blood. As Beth said, "We're weak without Daryl," and there's no doubt in my mind the Governor plans to seek revenge. Somehow, Michonne needs to be accepted into the fold, Daryl and possibly Merle need to return, and the group introduced in the mid-season finale, need to prove themselves. Perhaps retaliation from Woodbury is in order, giving Tyreese the opportunity to save a main character from certain death?
I read earlier this week that Tyreese is a character from the comic book, so I am hopeful Rick didn't scare him and his wife, Sascha, away permanently. Smart and adept at killing zombies, Tyreese reminds me of the old Rick, the calm, morally-driven Rick willing to take charge yet maintain the civility he had before the outbreak. When his group suggests killing Carl and Carol, he said, "That's not what we do." In prior seasons, Rick made similar arguments to Shane, and I can envision a storyline where Tyreese being at the prison reminds Rick of the humanity he has lost, helping him cope with tragedy while they become close friends and share leadership--it's obvious Rick can't lead on his own.
At this stage of the show, he trusts no one. Despite the number of his group dwindling and a serious enemy nearby, Rick has dealt with too much betrayal to accept new members. Last night, it seemed he was about to come around and listen to Herschel's advice; then a hallucination of Lori appeared and he snapped. In the mid-season finale, we also saw Rick cost the life of the inmate Oscar, because he saw Shane walking toward him with a shotgun rather than a random grunt from Woodbury. While I find Rick's shattered sanity interesting I'm dubious the other members of the group do not see or understand what's happening, especially Herschel, who is somewhat of a doctor. Did no one in the room notice Rick yelling at the balcony, back turned to the newcomers? I fear the writers are digging themselves a hole that might go too deep to claw out of. If Rick has post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), at least one character needs to address it and soon. I don't like this version of Rick; he's weak in mind and body, tyrannical, and vulnerable. There are parallels to be drawn between the Governor and he, yet I suspect Rick will recover while the Governor becomes extreme.
The pace slowed last night, and I understand it was necessary, the characters recouping. I expect the show will ramp up again in coming weeks, gaining speed for the finale. I also expect Michonne, Daryl, and Tyreese's group to be present in the prison (most of them) for that battle. How the writers get their characters there is anyone's guess, especially when they have no fear of slaying fan favorites (R.I.P. T-Dog) or straying from the source material, and that's what makes this show tense yet fun week after week.