The Walking Dead has been doing such a good job of handling two or more different plotlines in different settings every week that it is almost disappointing to know the stories are nearly set to converge. On one hand, it would be interesting to just watch as these two storylines played out, almost like the people of Woodbury were characters in a spin-off series, but there'll undoubtedly be some (hopefully) interesting conflict to erupt from the eventuality of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the Governor (David Morrissey) finding out about one another.
At any rate, 'Hounded' manages to balance three fairly major storylines, with a smaller (but no less impactful) bit featuring Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carl (Chandler Riggs) and the newly-welcomed Oscar (Vincent Ward), as they go skulking around the prison, clearing out walkers and basically listening to Daryl try and help Carl cope with what transpired during 'Killer Within.' The rest of the episode is spent watching Rick's journey into brief, but seemingly therapeutic madness, while Michonne (Danai Gurira) hunts a group of Woodbury's finest lead by Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker). Elsewhere, Andrea (Laurie Holden) finally succumbs to the gravel-voiced charms of the Governor – admitting that she only feigned repulsion at the sight of Woodbury's brutal games, and that, yes, a part of her is attracted to the "fighting" necessary to live in this new world.
While watching 'Hounded,' it became clear that Rick's miraculous turnaround would be as inevitable as Merle bumping into and capturing Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) – who had to make another supply run on account of the newborn. Despite the utter neatness of it all, the phone calls Rick had been getting were handled with a surprising amount of finesse. In what can only be considered a good sign on behalf of the writers, Hershel (Scott Wilson) chose to say nothing when confronted with the fact that Rick had clearly gone off the deep end – and instead left the room when it was time to leave. Admittedly, there're not a whole lot of conversational options left in the world of The Walking Dead; the writers are often stuck with having the characters talk about death, or endlessly spell out how disconcerting their situation is. So, during moments like this – or earlier in the season when it became evident that Hershel wasn't going to die as a result of his walker bite and subsequent amputation – it's nice to see that the writers understand saying nothing can also be a powerful and dramatic option.
And as easy as Rick's recovery was, from a storytelling point of view, it's good to see the character is neither completely awash in madness and sorrow, nor is his stoicism such that he can remain unscathed by the passing of an individual from his group – even if it was someone as divisive as Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies).
Once again, though, the person who understands that silence is golden and that a katana never runs low on ammo manages to steal the show. Michonne also discovers that a quick bath in walker viscera is as effective as her pets were, and that any enemy of Merle is likely a friend of hers. It may be something of a stretch to believe she could find the prison from what little clues Glenn and Maggie's conversation held, but all that can be forgiven on account the lady knows how to make an entrance.
Given some of the dour intensity of the last two episodes, there was a lot of ground to cover in 'Hounded.' Thankfully, much like the improvements to some of the character's dialogue (or lack thereof), it's clear the writers have a firmer grasp on how to keep the pace of The Walking Dead as brisk as possible. This should help make the next two episodes before the midseason break rather interesting.
Highlights from the episode:
- "I'm gonna keep calling you Neil, all right?"
- Oscar is a man who clearly enjoys the finer things in life; things like second-hand slippers from a dead inmate.
- Daryl is doing a better job of being a dad to Rick's kids than Rick is. That being said, sharing the story of how he lost his mother seemed like something of an emotional gamble.
- After a set-up, which looked like Daryl would have to deal with a zombie Carol (Melissa McBride), it was a treat for him (and the audience) to find her still alive. Considering everyone on the show exists primarily as zombie chow, or to go out in some other miserable fashion, it's nice to see a life thought lost be reclaimed by the living.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with 'When the Dead Come Knocking' @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview of the episode below: