What were Rick and the gang up to at the prison in "Walk With Me," the third episode of the third season of "The Walking Dead"? Dunno, because they made nary an appearance in the installment. But lest you think AMC filled the hour with walkers stocking up on toilet paper and human body parts in preparation for the Frankenstorm, it's important to note that Mr. Grimes and company gave up their screen time so the "Dead" devoted could finally meet the Governor.
"Walking Dead" comic book fans have long awaited the introduction of the Governor (David Morrissey), a zombie apocalypse survivor who has been named one of the most villainous comic book baddies ever. What, you didn't get that from the drab dad duds he wears or the Pleasantville-like town he presides over?
But surely you suspected he was bad news when he killed all those military men, lied to his people about it, and then retired to his private chambers to gaze creepily upon his wall of zombie heads in fish tanks, right? But we're getting ahead of ourselves …
A new villain emerges …
The Governor welcomed Andrea and Michonne into his little post-apocalyptic utopia after one of his men snuck up on them hiding in the bushes. The Governor and his cohorts had been checking on the survivors of a military helicopter crash, and the ever mysterious Michonne had just beheaded Thing One and Thing Two, her zombie pets, in order to keep them quiet and avoid detection, but she didn't act quickly enough to avoid Merle.
… and a familiar one returns
Yes, that Merle (Michael Rooker), Darryl's older brother, who we last saw in Darryl's hallucination in season two. Merle escaped being ravaged by zombies in season one by chopping off his own hand, and he's compensated for the loss of his paw by fixing it with a gadget that covers his stump at one end and adding a bayonet at the other (a fine zombie-stabbing gadget, that).
Upon shepherding the women back to Camp Woodbury, Merle made sure the very ill Andrea was treated with meds and played a quick game of catch up with his former neighbor. Here's how the conversation went (we're paraphrasing, of course):
Merle: How've you been?
Andrea: Oh, me? Well, you know, just watching half the people I know get eaten by zombies, including my sister and that old guy who was sort of a dad to me, and like, well, enough about me, what have you been up to?
Merle: Oh, yeah, well, I had to chop my hand off, but I got this totes cool stabbing machine in its place, and now I'm hanging out with this guy, who, sure, has some control issues, but like, he completely saved me from bleeding out and shooting myself in the head and starving to death, so, you know, friendship is a two-way street, am I right? So anyway, have you seen my brah, Darryl?
Wait, is this 'The Walking Dead' or 'Dexter'?
Andrea and Michonne, who's suspicious of everyone and everything she's surrounded by, were then introduced to the Governor, who, pre-psycho behavior, seems almost charming.
He is trying to give his fellow survivors a safe little haven, he explains, where they can act as a community, where the children can go to school and the residents can roam within the confines of some very tall, weapon-protected walls during the daylight hours without fear of being zombie junk food.
In exchange, all the Woodbury residents must do is completely submit to the Governor's every rule. Like calling him "Governor" (he has a real name, which even a flirty Andrea can't get out of him).
But back to those soldiers, the Governor had questioned the helicopter pilot he rescued, the only survivor of the copter crash, about where his fellow soldiers were camped and promised he would rescue them and bring him into Woodbury.
He did find them … only to lull them into trusting him just long enough for his own army to ambush and kill them all and then take their supplies back to home base. Once he arrived, he told his loyal subjects the military men were already dead when he arrived, but assured the townsfolk they should be grateful for the additional supplies they now had and for the safety they continue to enjoy under his maniacal dictatorship, er, leadership.
And then he retired to his personal abode, ramped up a good brooding mood by looking at a photo of himself with two women and walked down into a basement, where his La-Z-Boy was pointed right at that collection of head-filled aquariums that looked like a DIY Damien Hirst art installation or the sort of scene Dexter Morgan might stumble upon while investigating his next target.
The Governor, to put it mildly, has some issues, and speaking of, so does his creepy lab cohort, Milton (Dallas Roberts).
Milton makes the Governor soothing tea (Lemon Zinger, perhaps?), performs experiments on zombie heads, asks a lot of psychological questions, and, in general, gives off the same vibe as, well, let's just say if Milton started talking about his daughter Alex and the Others, we'd have no trouble believing we were back on the "Lost" island (or purgatory or, you know, wherever).
The good news is, though we missed Rick and the prison gang in "Walk With Me," the episode was a necessary set-up for next week's installment, "Killer Within," in which the Woodbury survivors stop by to say howdy to the Atlanta survivors, and they don't come bearing gifts.
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 PM on AMC.