You have to admire Andrea’s doggedly optimistic persistence.
No really, you do.
Even in the face of the Governor’s endlessly duplicitous behaviour, which she has witnessed firsthand but seems powerless to respond to in any meaningful ongoing way, and Rick’s unwillingness to cede an inch of ground in the face of a very real threat from across the river, she nonetheless thought it would be a good idea to bring the two adversaries together for a spot of good old-fashioned diplomacy in an old shed out in the middle of nowhere.
What she got instead of peacemaking, which surely was a far-fetched goal anyway, was Machiavellian realpolitik posturing from the Governor, who began proceedings as he meant to finish them by making a show of disarming while hiding a gun under the table they would share, and entrenched suspicion from Rick who was immediately on guard when he realised the Governor, contrary to the agreement they had reached, was inside the shed waiting for him (they were supposed to enter at the same time).
Her naivety was revealed for all to see when the Governor kicked her out of the room with all the subtlety of a jackhammer on asphalt so he could parlay one-on-one (read: threaten) with Rick, with Andrea not there to witness the naked power play.
(The Governor is well aware that if Andrea doesn’t see it, she usually chooses to believe it didn’t happen, despite all evidence to the contrary which means he can keep manipulating her as he needs to.)
Andrea, of course, who in her own bizarrely idealistic way actually believed something positive and worthwhile would come from the talks, and looked genuinely shocked when it all went south (at least when her involvement in it did) slinked out of the shed, her tail between her legs, and bruised and smarting, sat apart from the prison’s Hershel and Daryl on one side, and Woodbury’s Martinez and Milton on the other.
Not a good start in anyone’s books.
And frankly things didn’t improve from there.
At least not in the shed.
Outside the shed, apart from a few walkers that were quickly dispatched, one with the most creative use of a baseball bat I have seen, it was a whole other story with the interactions between the opposing camps warming up considerably once initial antagonism was dispensed with (in hindsight Milton calling Daryl and Hershel “henchmen” was not the most diplomatic of greetings).
The bonding that unexpectedly occurred between Daryl and Martinez, and Hershel and a much less bullish Milton in the aftermath of the almost inevitable walker attack, was a warm counterpoint to the deadlocked frostiness between the Governor and Rick and reminded me of the famous Christmas truce between German and Allied troops in 1914 at the height of World War 1.
Bitter enemies on the battlefield, troops from both sides mingled freely during the brief lull in hostilities on Christmas eve and Day exchanging food, souvenirs and even engaging in impromptu carol-singing sessions.
While it was highly unlikely we were ever going to see Daryl or Martinez break out into a jaunty version of “Deck the Halls”, these two men did admit to each other that the prospect of war was a wasteful notion that neither one had any time for (with the silent understanding of course that if war came, they would fight for their respective sides regardless of personal feelings on the matter), while Hershel and Milton bonded, rather humorously it must be said, over Hershel’s missing lower leg.
Asked by Milton if he could view his stump, Hershel feigns anger before grinning slyly and replying:
“I’m not showing you my stump. At least buy me a drink first.”
At which point, both men dissolve into laughter and a little less anger is coursing through the veins of our divided survivors.
It was this exchange that unexpectedly was the most instrumental in leavening what was for the most part a bleak and sobering episode.
And somewhere in the midst of all this much needed bonding, which alas probably won’t have much impact on the eventual hostilities between the two camps, Hershel and a much dejected Andrea, who acknowledged through a veil of tears that she couldn’t go back to Woodbury, talk over the events that led to the would be peacemaker being kicked out of the pow-wow, with Hershel reaffirming to her that she always has a place with Rick’s group.
Of course, come the end of the proceedings, Andrea couldn’t quite make the break, and behaving just like the emotionally-abused figure she is, hopped back into the car to Woodbury with the others.
Back in the shed of course, things went from bad to worse.
While there were glimmers of hope among the vitriol, with the Governor seemingly letting his guard down to relate how his wife’s pre-apocalyptic death almost destroyed him, and that together they could avoid the deaths of anything else they love, he didn’t so much negotiate as deliver an incredibly unpalatable ultimatum to Rick.
In the end, it all boiled down to a simple, petty vendetta with the Governor assuring Rick that potential war could be averted if he would simply hand over Michonne.
Surprised that this was all the Governor wanted, and knowing full well it was a ploy of some kind, Rick pushed the Governor to declare his real intentions, but devious to the end, Woodbury’s supposedly reluctant dictator – I almost laughed when he said to Rick he wore the mantle of leadership heavily, a burden he never really wanted; the insincerity was so thick you could have carved and roasted it for dinner – stood firm, telling Rick that if he agreed to deliver Michonne in two days time, there would be peace.
It is of course just a gambit to get the core of Rick’s group, the ones who pose the greatest threat to the meeting place in one place at one time so they can be killed off with merciless efficiency – he admitted as much to Milton back at home base who for the first time realised what a monster he had pledged his allegiance to; the look on his face as the Governor coldly discussed his intended slaughter of Rick and his team was chilling – and not one to be taken in lightly, Rick pretty much surmised as much.
So the episode ended with war imminent, Merle bristling with resentment that his call for a pre-emptive fight of epic proportions went unheeded – it was only through the determined opposition of Glenn (with brute force at one point) and Michonne that he didn’t launch an attack on the talks that would have resulted in the deaths of everyone there effectively – and Glenn and Maggie reconciled and getting down to business of making love mere metres from leering walkers.
While there were some light, sweet moments, it was largely an episode devoted to enmity, mistrust, and the almost certain march to a war that I suspect no one will emerge the victor from.
Well except for any opportunistic walkers in the vicinity anyway.
* Here are the trailers for the next episode, “Prey” (9/10C Sunday US/Tuesday AU) …