Contains spoilers -- do not read unless you've seen "I Ain't a Judas."
At the start of this week's episode, both Rick and the governor's leadership abilities are being questioned by the ones they trust the most. This sets in motion an hour that focuses on the different pairings that have been created in the world of The Walking Dead and for my fellow fans, it's important to examine these "couples" and the shifting dynamics of each of them. Mind the spoilers!
Even in this week's group scenes, the drama funnels down towards two key players talking it out. When our group in the prison argues over their next steps it's Hershel who closes the gap Rick creates by walking away. Hershel moves away from the group and pulls our attention from their arguing to his direct confrontation with Rick.
Where Rick had a volatile, argumentative partner in Shane, he has a seasoned and brave counterpart in Hershel. He's a perfect second in command -- willing to follow orders but unafraid to speak up and disagree with Rick if he feels passionate about it. This has made Hershel the best voice of reason this show's had yet, even more successful than Dale, whose righteousness could occasionally have the opposite effect and cause the others to tune him out.
Both Rick and Hershel are part of many pairs -- the father/son relationship between Rick and Carl is changing as Carl grows up and becomes more confident in his own abilities. This confidence allows him to ask permission to speak freely to his father, and he quietly suggests that it's time for Rick to consider handing the reigns of leadership over to someone else. I don't know that anyone else, even Hershel, could suggest that and have Rick actually listen.
In addition to the family ties surrounding Hershel, he reaches out and takes the first step towards bringing Merle into the fold. The Dixon brothers are trying to get settled back into the group, but so far the others are (justifiably) avoiding Merle. Despite both his daughter and Glenn being tortured by him, Hershel reaches out to him all the same, identifying that they'll need his strength and military experience.
The scene between them was one of my favorites of the night -- two men, missing pieces, discussing this new world they're now a part of. Hershel may become the only person besides Daryl that Merle will open up to.
Daryl too has formed a friendship outside his relationship with his brother. His reunion with Carol this week was touching, and she may be the only person in the entire group who could warn Daryl to be mindful of his brother without offending him in the process.
At Woodbury, the governor's partnerships are also given focus. His reliance on both Milton and Andrea play important roles this week. Here too we get another example of the writers controlling the action to make it clear that one-on-one relationships are the focus this week.
At the start of the Woodbury storyline this week, the governor speaks to Milton about how capable the townspeople are of defending themselves. Notice that after this exchange, when Andrea enters the room, Milton leaves as soon as she gets heated -- this keeps the focus of the story on the two different relationships the governor has with both of them as opposed to their relationship as a triad.
Milton leaving so he doesn't hear the argument is another sign of his growing relationship with both of them. Uncomfortable being put in the middle, he walks away; but Andrea confronts him later and asks for his help. It was silly of Andrea to think Milton wouldn't return to the governor and tell him of her plans, but it highlights that she believes the two of them are friends and that Milton is someone she can trust.
Neither Andrea nor Milton is completely confident in their relationship with the governor. Andrea's told if she leaves for the prison she'll be cast out of Woodbury, but is allowed to return after sneaking out. It's unclear if the governor's faith in her is restored by her coming back to him, but their hold on each other is so strong he goes back on his word and takes her back, and she's unable to kill him in his sleep as Carol so cunningly suggests she do.
Even the pairing of Andrea and Michonne is highlighted this week when the two of them finally confront one another after Andrea appears at the prison. Michonne is wrestling with her feelings of betrayal, while still trying to break through Andrea's cloud of denial around the man she's sleeping with.
The Walking Dead's "I Ain't a Judas" did a fantastic job of taking the wider storyline and using it to showcase the different pairings that have formed. The relationships between the different characters are constantly shifting, and we're left with few answers about how each "couple" will pan out.
But here are a few things we know for certain after the last few episodes: Tom Waits is permanently on our collective zombie-apocalypse playlist, watching a zombie get curbed on a rock is brutal, and no one who flirts with Carol makes it out alive.
For more of my coverage of "The Walking Dead" come visit me at The Donnybrook Writing Academy and tune in every Sunday with your TVii app to watch live with me on AMC!