Opening with the very first face-to-face meeting between Rick and The Governor, AMC's The Walking Dead took an unexpected turn in this week's episode, entitled "Arrow on the Doorpost." Although it wasn't explained exactly how this post-apocalyptic summit was arranged, contingents from both the prison and Woodbury accompanied their respective leaders to an abandoned feed store to discuss a non-violent resolution to their issue. Like last week's encounter with Morgan, this meeting was the focus of the episode and featured some excellent acting from the principle participants, David Morrissey and Andrew Lincoln.
Milton and Martinez, the two most prominent (and only) members of the Governor's inner circle, also received more screen time to develop their characters as they interacted with Daryl and Hershel outside. Meanwhile, back at the prison, Merle was unsuccessful in his attempt to head out on a mission to assassinate the Governor and was unable to convince Glenn or Michonne to go with him. In hindsight, he probably had the right idea and could have saved everyone a lot of trouble, but Glenn physically prevented him from leaving.
Claiming that the title of Governor was "their term, not mine" (notice he doesn't suggest an alternative name), Gov uses the scraps of information gleaned from Andrea about Rick to frame himself in a similar fashion. He says he never wanted to be Woodbury's leader and it was a role forced upon him by the group, similar to Rick's current crisis, and tries to humanize himself and gain Rick's sympathies by telling the story of how he lost his wife. Prior to the zombie plague, Mrs. Governor died in a car accident before he had the chance to respond to a voicemail she had left asking him to call her.
This seemed to resonate with Rick because he gave Lori the cold shoulder the final time she tried to talk to him before she died, and the sly grin on the Governor's face as Rick lifted a shot glass of whiskey was framed beautifully to display Gov's advantage in this battle of wits. He also casually dropped his real surname (or is it?) "Blake" into the tale, a tactic that he used to gain Andrea's trust when he revealed his first name was Philip. Whether or not his backstory is entirely true is unclear, but the Governor has been masterful in the information he chooses to disseminate about himself and always has an ulterior motive.
David Morrissey was suitably charming and conniving in his delivery of the Governor's subtle psychological offensive, striking a perfect balance that contains hints of the manipulative madman depicted in the original comic book series. When he brings up the topic of baby Judith's paternity and says that Andrea told him it might be Shane's child, and later when he mentions Carl's safety and how Lori died in the prison, the Governor clearly takes great delight in pushing Rick's most sensitive buttons. He also adds to Rick's paranoia by noting that he saw him bring back a sizable cache of weapons, referring to the events of last week's episode.
Initially dismissing Rick's offer that they divide the territory and keep to themselves, the Governor's final tactic involves removing his eyepatch and revealing his disgusting lack of eyeball, presumably to gross Rick out. He claims he doesn't care about Rick's group or the prison, but in exchange for peaceful co-existence, the Governor demands only one thing: Michonne. Rick attempts to mindfuck him right back by suggesting that a personal vendetta is beneath a Governor, but he completely disregards the comment and gives Rick two days to make his decision.
Andrew Lincoln provides his usual underrated steely performance as a broken man trying to do the right thing and in doing so, lies to the group upon his return to the prison. Instead of telling them about the offer, Rick announces that the Governor wants to kill all of them and take the prison, which is actually closer to the truth than he realizes. Stepping into political allegory, Rick privately tells Hershel about the Gov's offer and explains that he lied because "they need to be scared" and it's the only way they will accept whichever decision he makes. When Hershel asks why Rick is telling him, he replies that he wants Hershel to talk him out of giving up Michonne in a last-ditch effort to avoid all-out war.
The political allegory continues over in Woodbury, as the Governor shows that he was lying too, informing Martinez and Milton of his plan to wipe out everyone except Michonne when Rick arrives for the next meeting. The Walking Dead has ventured into a situation that mirrors the Middle East conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, with the leaders of the feuding factions lying to the people they're supposed to be representing and brokering deals they don't intend to honor. The metaphor could go even deeper, considering Andrea's pleas to the Governor a couple of weeks back about the poor living conditions at the prison sounded similar to a description of the Gaza Strip.
However, now that Milton and Martinez have had the opportunity to get to know Hershel and Daryl, they may not be so gung-ho about massacring them in cold blood, and in fact Milton is already questioning the Governor. As the keeper of records for historical purposes, it makes sense for Milton to develop a friendship with Hershel, who represents living history as one of the few elderly survivors. They also shared a creepy laugh together when Milton expressed an interest in seeing the old man's stump to collect "important data," but Hershel pointed out that they just met and deadpanned, "At least buy me a drink first." Milton could definitely be welcomed into the group if it turns out that way, but I fear that he won't survive the season.
Daryl and Martinez shared some male bonding time during the Rick/Governor summit as well, engaging in a metaphorical dick-swinging contest when confronted by a small group of walkers that wander into the area. Along with Andrea, they take turns dispatching zombies and sneering at each other, but the sheer testosterone drives her away and a bromance is born. Daryl shares a pack of cigarettes he found and Martinez reveals that his hatred of biters is related to the loss of his wife and kid. Adding to the political undertones of the episode, Martinez astutely observes that the two leaders will "do their little dance" at the negotiating table and then turn around and send them out to kill each other.
After hearing about the Governor's session with Maggie, Andrea has finally realized what a sick man he truly is and returned to Woodbury with him even after telling Hershel she couldn't go back. She knows she has been deceived and must have a plan to stop the Gov, while everyone else in his inner circle and even the citizens of Woodbury may also be prepared to turn on him if the right situation presents itself. However, he is so focused on revenge against Michonne that he can't see the stormclouds forming around him that may lead to his downfall.
FINAL GRADE: A