Michonne, played by Danai Gurira, triumphs over some walkers. (Gene Page / AMC )
I've debated whether to call “The Walking Dead” an apocalyptic show or a post-apocalyptic show; is it a series about the end of civilization, or about what comes afterward? The question that divides the two is whether we are still watching the catastrophe happen or whether we are seeing its aftermath -- whether the worst is over or still yet to come. The answer probably depends on who you ask.
The Governor seems firmly in the camp of post-apocalypse, what with all his speeches about seeds and harvests and civilization rising from the ashes. You could easily be forgiven for thinking the opening moments of the episode are a flashback to the world Before Zombies (B.Z.), as children frolic with dogs on green lawns in the midst of a block party celebration complete with street musicians, colorful umbrellas and even ice. Dr. Stevens complains about the Governor's impractical use of the generators, but the psychological impact is obvious as Andrea holds a cold lime-green plastic cup to her neck and sighs that it's “kind of amazing,” little cartoon hearts practically floating over her head.
Rick, meanwhile, seems to be in the “apocalypse now” camp, given that his world is currently ending all over again. He's in full-on psychological-breakdown territory after learning about Lori's death, sitting around in a quasi-fugue state and totally ignoring his new baby daughter. What he does eventually notice is an ax on the ground, which he grabs right before heading into the prison on a mission to maniacally smash every zombie skull he can find. While Rick is busy acting like the deranged hero of his own first-person shooter, Darryl takes charge and heads off to find baby formula with Maggie, determined not to lose another Grimes.
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Back at Woodbury, the festivities continue, and there are only two wrenches in this party machine: Michonne, who continues to glare and shoulder-check passersby while Andrea drinks her precious lemonade, and the ominous implication that there is a major Mystery Event capping off the party that no one can tell Andrea because it cannot be described adequately with "mere words." Or alternately, because they want to set up a last act reveal that I am sure will be in no way creepy or disturbing.
You may also remember the Governor making an oblique reference to a daughter in the last episode, and today we finally meet her. And she's a zombie! Yes, the Governor is keeping his secret zombie daughter in a hidey-hole and bringing her out from time to time like some sort of undead keepsake so he can brush her hair and tell he loves her while she hisses and writhes and tries to eat him. It's really sad and gross, like most of this show, but a little bit humanizing for a man who likes to put people's heads in jars.
That's not his only secret, either. After Michonne breaks into his house to take back her katana, her snooping not only reveals the Governor's journal, which turns into endless rows of “////////” after the death of his daughter, but a pen of captive walkers out back. Michonne lets them out of the cage, unsheathes her katana, and turns into a stone-cold killing machine, slicing all five walkers into pieces in a positively elegant display of violence. It is one of the best things I have ever seen on the show, hands down.
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The Governor is less enthusiastic, since he was saving those walkers for what he assures us was a totally legitimate and not creepy purpose, and he has a whole conversation with Michonne that feels a lot like getting called to the principal's office. Except that it ends with her holding a sword to his throat, and that's usually the sort of thing that gets you kicked out of school. Andrea takes one last shot at bringing Michonne into the fold, but ends up facing the same brick wall of a question Michonne has been asking her since the moment they arrived: Are you leaving with me or not? After tasting the delicious lemonade of not dying all the time, Andrea can't seem to wrap her head around going back into the wilderness, and so she watches Michonne walk through the gates without her.