Much like “Clear”, Episode 14 of The Walking Dead focuses on a specific story arc. The third season is heavily reliant on the conflict between Rick and the Governor, and since we know a great deal about Rick already, the writers are developing the Woodbury foe with terrific care.
Major spoilers follow
Of course, at the moment, any spotlight on the Governor involves his right-hand-man, Milton and his lover, Andrea. The latter has slowly been edging herself away from the eye-patched menace, seeing his Machiavellian ego for all its worth. So for a lot of “Prey”, Andrea is the centre-point.
We start off, rather bizarrely, with a flash-back to Andrea and Michonne during their time together. The question of who the two jawless, armless, chained-up zombies are is something we as an audience have wanted to know for a while. Still, in comparison to the rest of the episode, the flashback and its content barely matches the tone and theme of the episode. We are finally told that they were people Michonne once knew, and not people she liked it seems. The other quick scene before the credits start up is of the Governor preparing a torture chamber (and enjoying it a little bit too much).
Audience’s concerns about the Governor’s “sanity” have been there from early on. Now it’s Andrea, and even Milton, questioning his morals and his actions habitually. Showing Andrea the torture room from a space above, Milton implores Andrea to tell the prison group to leave before war and in time, the Governor will move on. Andrea is more adamant about killing him, however, and we witness another perfect set-up for just that. As the Governor works beneath them, Andrea aims her gun at him. We know that the chances of him being killed this unassumingly are slim so the tension is never quite there in this moment. But, the interaction with Milton does add something to the scene; he still protects “Philip” but also considers the ramifications of Andrea’s decision.
Andrea understands Milton’s apprehension and leaves on her own (before confronting the newbies who want no trouble and let her pass). Andrea out on her own is an interesting choice of direction for the episode as we haven’t had much chance to follow her singularly since her entering Woodbury.
The friction between Andrea and the Governor lurks under the surface of their face-to-face interaction but as this episode shows, it’s about to become truly unmistakable. After she leaves the Governor starts asking questions about where and why. Milton is one such person questioned – his answer of knowing she was leaving finally erodes their friendship, with the Governor aggressively pinning Milton up against a rail.
The hunt begins after Andrea departs – the Governor seeking her out himself and Caesar showing the new lot the ropes. Tyreese and co are a pretty dull bunch, in all honesty, and their spats and discussions bring hardly anything to the show. Tyreese is the strongest character out of them but only due to some discord with Andrew Lincoln 2 (Daniel Thomas May – a southern accent and deranged mind away from being Woodbury’s Rick). Fortunately, not so of the episode is devoted to their story and we cut back to Andrea, the Governor and Milton.
Andrea on the run contains one of the best moments of The Walking Dead, but not before a clichéd crack at some scares. Dodging the Governor’s car by running into the woods, Andrea leans back on a tree with no apparent danger in sight. Out pops a walker’s arm followed by two other walkers walking over. It’s not a terrible piece of action, but just too formulaic for the maturity of the show. However, it may have been an excuse for some weekly blood-lust which it provides once Andrea stabs the zombies and snaps the arm of the walker behind her.
Some may find the next scene slightly familiar (No Country for Old Men, anyone?) but it still creates quite an atmosphere of dread. The Governor hooting the horn as Andrea runs for her life is a strange action, calling her out like a madman. Nothing compares to the following chase – arguably one of the series’ finest moments.
Looking and sounding like a scene from Halloween (with Jonathan Ortega’s chilling composed music), the eight-minute hunt is superbly directed and acted. The Governor may still be out of harm’s way for the season’s climax (expectedly) but Andrea’s fate is not certain. That’s why her creeping around the factory, cautious of not making any noise and escaping biters along the way, makes your heart pound.
It’s almost too wonderful not to need analysis but if anything has to be said, Andrea’s escape is fantastic. Opening the door onto herself (and therefore protecting her from any walker’s contact) and letting a flood of walkers come in through an adjacent room into the Governor’s path is such a crowd-pleasing instant. He fires off rounds of ammo and thwacks the skulls on the oncoming hoard and is left to fend for himself.
Andrea finds the prison and is almost caught in the sight of Rick’s scope. That’s before the Governor grabs her and pulls her down (confusing poor old Rick, leading him to think it’s another hallucination).
The penultimate scene shows the walkers who have been trapped by Caesar and his crew being burned in a blazing fire. It could either be Tyreese (who expressed distaste to the idea of using them as weapons), but it’s most certainly Milton. This is his way of getting back at his old friend – and after questioning a naive Tyreese, the Governor knows it’s his spectacled companion. So for Milton, the end could be near.
Speaking of end, the last shot we see is Andrea tied up in the Governor’s formidable torture room, giving us another brilliant cliff-hanger.
By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on Flickering Myth