I labeled episode 4 of Season 3 “arguably the ‘best ever’” which I still stand by. However, in terms of the direction and editing of action, “Home” is superb. We pick up from the end of “The Suicide King” with Rick still hallucinating. One may wonder if it will become an episode dealing with the psychological trauma that Rick is undergoing; in a sense, it is. Whenever the scene focuses on Rick we are analysing his fragility, his strength and his sanity.
The opposing Woodbury group are similarly shown in a meditative light to begin with; Andrea, Milton and the Governor under close scrutiny as to who is loyal. The Governor stays loyal to Andrea, promising her pacifism toward the prison group. Though, to the ever-wary audience, this just appears to be another one of his Machiavellian statements.
Cut to the newly formed third-narrative strand and Merle and Daryl are wandering the woods looking for food. This, at least for me, is what I wanted to see. Daryl is one of the best characters (if not, the best) character in the series and any chance of him disappearing would quickly sour the show’s sensationalism. And whilst seeing the two brothers up to very little is not everything we expect and desire it’s still better than nothing. Luckily, uproar and tension arrives with an isolated incident on a bridge with a group of survivors under attack from a hoard. In this brief but bloody scene Daryl shows off his independent, heroic, bad-ass persona – freeing the viewer from any worry about his future as a dullard double-act with Merle.
This scene’s violence and effects is top-notch and only a mere burst of energy compared to what’ll come later. One zombie drops to the ground, head by the wheel of a car, and has his head explode under the force of the tyre. It’s a small but excellent example of the effects team’s skill.
Balancing out the drama and action we return to the prison where Axel and Carol are having a friendly chat. This is the first instance where Axel’s character has been explored. He has never appeared malicious or unfriendly. The moment you finally say to yourself, “I’m liking this guy” his head snaps back with a sniper’s bullet. Sudden and completely unexpected it’s a bold move from the writers to kill off a character just about to be properly introduced. However, it was the case with Oscar and the original prison leader – dead within the space of an episode – and the no holds barred approach to story-telling is what makes The Walking Dead (and other hits including Breaking Bad and The Wire) so damn thrilling.
And so to the aforementioned action...
Axel falls, Carol lies behind his body; Rick, out in the fields trying to capture the Lori phantasm, leaps to safety under a bridge amidst the barrage of gunfire; the rest hide in the prison fortress, desperate to provide some cover fire. As unexpected as it seems, this is the Governor with a definite plan. With bullets aiming to hit as many of Rick’s group as possible, he adds walkers to the equation by driving a van through the gates and releasing a small swarm (followed by walkers surrounding the building). This has all happened within the space of two or three minutes and ends as quickly as Axel’s life. Speaking of Axel, the poor bastard is riddled with bullets as Carol shelters behind him – a weirdly noble sacrifice.
Just as each of our hero’s lives seem in dire jeopardy, the Governor leaves. Danger is not absent however, and the walkers still surround and invade the territory. No one is more vulnerable than Rick on the outskirts of the forest. He shoots and whacks his way through a few but looks surely to get injured. It’s here where the episode could likely end – leaving us with a spectacular cliff-hanger. Still, what happens next is even better. A close-up shot of Rick and a zombie’s gaping, biting mouth inches apart and then the beautiful sight of Daryl’s arrow piercing its way through the undead’s forehead. It is a moment of pure joy knowing our favourite has returned, and with such brilliant timing. Of course Merle is with him but in that moment it’s not an issue; just to see Daryl back where he belongs is divine.
The episode draws to a close with Daryl, Merle and Rick dashing back to the security of the prison walls. Nothing much needs to be said (that’ll be the next episode’s job), it’s a simple declaration of war.
By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on Flickering Myth