“She ain’t running, she’s hunting, and so are we.” — Merle
Michonne might be one of the newest members of the cast of The Walking Dead, but she’s the one we can’t get enough of. Any episode that’s bookended by epic Michonne scenes is a win in our book, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that “Hounded” is one of our favorite episodes this season.
No, no one major died this week (although rest in peace, Neal, or whatever the spelling of his actual name was). Yes, we did get a sex scene that we don’t think anyone really wanted ever. But the character insights in this episode were some of the best of the season, and the interactions were all emotionally charged.
It seems as though Michonne was right to think The Governor wasn’t going to let her walk out of Woodbury without any repercussions. The episode opens with Merle and three other men tracking Michonne through the woods. Instead of finding her, they come across walker body parts arranged to spell out “Go back.” Not long after that, Michonne leaps out and decapitates two of Merle’s lackeys before being shot in the leg and stumbling into the woods.
Merle and the other surviving Woodbury resident, who our favorite one-handed redneck dubs “Neal” because he can’t pronounce his actual name, chase off after her, but not before Merle can call out, “Are we having fun yet?” Then he and “Neal” proceed to destroy the brains of their two dead allies because they “never let our own turn.”
Back at the Prison, it doesn’t take long for us to find out whether someone’s actually on the end of Rick’s phone call. A woman claims she’s with a group somewhere safe, but won’t tell Rick where it is beyond that it’s “away from them.” Hmm, wonder if this could all be in his head? At least it’s the first time he’s acknowledged he has a newborn baby, which means there is some growth happening here.
Rick cleans up and heads to the rest of the group, seemingly levelheaded again. But it’s not long before he heads back to the boiler room to wait for the woman to call him back.
Meanwhile at Woodbury, Andrea and The Governor have their first post-zombie fights meet-up, and it becomes clear she just can’t let that little incident go. It’s also clear he has a soft spot for Woodbury’s newest citizen, and that it’s reciprocated. She tells him she wants to contribute to Woodbury society, and asks for a job guarding the wall. When she heads there, though, it doesn’t go well. It turns out Andrea has missed killing walkers, and jumps over the wall — against the rules! — to knife a zombie through the face. That gets her off wall duty, and (sort of) on The Governor’s shit list.
At the Prison, Rick finally receives another phone call, although it’s not the one he wanted. This time it’s a man saying he’s hesitant to allow Rick into their community because, “You could be dangerous. Have you killed anyone?” Rick admits he has, but won’t talk about how he lost Lori. The man on the phone abruptly hangs up and Rick has a mini-tantrum. While he’s waiting at the phone for another call back, Hershel arrives and reveals that Lori planned to apologize to Rick but couldn’t. Rick responds that the Prison isn’t safe enough, and that this mysterious group who called promises somewhere better.
The look on Hershel’s face when he said he got a call is only rivaled by Rick’s expression with the reveal at the end of this episode, but he still offers to stay and wait with Rick. Hershel picks up the phone and listens, and it’s unclear what’s on the other end. Rick says this is something he wants to do alone, and Hershel nods and leaves.
Merle and Neal finally catch up with Michonne again, but this time they are set upon by a pack of zombies. Michonne slashes open the stomach of one walker and its insides pour over her in one of the more gruesome scenes of the season. By the time Merle and Neal kill the walkers, Michonne is long gone, and Merle is ready to stop chasing her.
Neal, who previously wasn’t so hot about hunting down Michonne, now is itching to find her, and won’t let Merle hear the end of it. We never doubted that Merle’s cruelty was still boiling beneath the surface, but it comes to the forefront when he shoots Neal in the head for his defiance and heads back to Woodbury. As it turns out, Michonne wasn’t as ill-fated as Merle had hoped. She might have been injured, but the zombie guts covering her act as camouflage – something Rick and Glenn discovered early in Season 1 – enabling to walk around without attracting walkers.
In the Prison, Daryl, Carl and Oscar spend some quality time together as they make sure all the walkers are dead. They pass a blocked door that has something pushing against it on the other side (uhh, Carol?), but Daryl insists on coming back to it later. He instead tells Carl the story of how his own drunken mother, who liked to smoke in bed (Virginia Slims), died after she accidentally set their house on fire, and talks about how it didn’t feel “real.”
“I shot my mom. She was out. Hadn’t turned yet. I ended it. It was real. Sorry about your mom,” Carl tells him. “Sorry about yours,” Daryl responds.
There’s been an increasingly obvious sexual tension between Andrea and The Governor all season despite our best efforts at ignoring it, and that tension paid off in “Hounded.” After a conversation that ended with The Governor telling her, “I think I’m growing on you,” the duo shared whiskey and double entendres (“How long has it been?”) in his private garden. He asks her to call him “Philip,” and she does just that. This little rendezvous ends with them locking lips, proving again that Andrea has the absolute worst taste in men.
Rick continues to be hounded by phone calls, but this time it becomes clear (as fans of the comics already knew) he has lost his connection to reality. The woman who calls up this time refers to Rick by name, and when he questions her, she hangs up.
Speaking of bad situations just getting worse: Michonne stumbles across an abandoned town where, it turns out, Maggie and Glenn have shown up to find supplies. As she watches them with the mother lode of baby formula, Merle arrives and pulls a gun on them. And no, if you were thinking that Merle recognizing Glenn would be enough for him let the two of them walk away safe, then you’d be wrong. Instead, after checking to make sure Daryl is still alive, Merle grabs Maggie and makes Glenn drive them to Woodbury.
Meanwhile at the Prison, the phone rings again and this time it’s Lori. It doesn’t matter to Rick that he’s clearly lost it, because this is finally his chance to say goodbye to his wife. “I loved you. I loved you. I couldn’t put it back together,” he tells her over the phone.
“I made a deal with myself. I would keep you alive, I’d find a place, I would fix that and then … I couldn’t open that door. I couldn’t risk it,” he continues. “I loved you. I love you. I couldn’t put it back together. I should have said it.”
She tells him to live on, but Rick puts down the phone and lies down on the floor. We’re glad this storyline didn’t drag on, because this is about as much as we can take of Rick’s descent into madness.
But we all go a little mad sometimes, as it’s clear that Andrea has when we see her lying in bed naked with The Governor. She seems happy now, but we can’t wait until she finds out about his dirty little secrets. And how pissed would she be if she knew The Governor’s first question to Merle is where are Michonne’s head and sword? Our guess is not too pleased. After seeing “nice” Governor this week, we’re terrified to think about what he’s going to do with Glenn and Maggie.
As for that personal growth that we were talking about earlier, it’s clear Rick has come to terms with himself a bit when he walks back in to the cell block and takes his new baby into his arms. This if the first time we’ve seen him hold the child, and we’re glad it only took him two episodes to realize he needs to care for his daughter. Meanwhile, we find Daryl sitting outside of the previously mentioned blocked door; it’s clear he also assumes Carol is behind it. Instead of finding her as a zombie, though, Daryl discovers a very weak but very human Carol. He carries her out, hopefully leading to some adorable moments during next week’s episode.
But The Walking Dead wasn’t set to leave us on that note. Instead we cut back to Rick in the Prison yard, gazing at something in the distance. He walks toward what we discover is Michonne standing outside the fence, surrounded by walkers and holding the basket of baby formula Glenn and Maggie abandoned. The look on Rick’s face as he sees her has to be one of the best moments of the entire series.
So there you have it. Six episodesin to Season 3 of The Walking Dead, and the worlds of the Prison and Woodbury have finally overlapped. Just how long will it take for Rick & Co. to go rescue Maggie and Glenn? Your guess is as good as ours, but we can’t wait to be there for the moment when Michonne reveals to Daryl that Merle is still alive.