Even though ‘Arrow on the Doorpost’ puts the pace of The Walking Dead back into a more familiar mode, the episode manages to have something in common with last week’s better-than-expected episode ‘Clear,’ by delivering a concise episode that clearly defines the direction of the rest of the season.
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‘Clear’ was a much-needed break from the incessant infighting of the previous post-hiatus episodes, but more than that, it was intent on telling a complete story (within the larger framework of the season’s overall plot). And even with the intriguing character elements that were on display, it was that level of focus that might have been its greatest accomplishment.
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While ‘Arrow on the Doorpost’ doesn’t go in for the same kind of storytelling (it’s much more about setting up what is yet to come) the episode manages to move with a similar purpose from beginning to end, while still shifting gears between multiple character groups.
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To that end, the episode opens with Rick, Daryl and Hershel scoping out the proposed meeting place with the Governor, only to find out that he’s already arrived and made preparations in case the meeting with Rick goes south. So far, this season has invested a considerable amount of time comparing Rick and the Governor, and in this episode it seems one thing is certain: they both like tight-fitting, rugged man-jackets (though the Governor goes for the flashier look of a quilted vest).
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But more than that, season 3 has been intent on offering the audience two leaders at odds with one another, who also seem to be battling their own shifting levels of sanity. Strangely, the mental instability of either man tends to go on and off as the necessity of the scene (or episode) dictates, so the Governor is presented here in one of his more equitable moods, while Rick saves all his frowns and dagger eyes for his adversary, and not ghosts in white dresses.
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David Morrissey in The Walking Dead Arrow on the Doorpost
Despite the apparent psychological steadiness of each man, the meeting doesn’t go down nearly as smooth as a glass of the Governor’s never-ending supply of whisky. For starters, it turns out the whole dialogue was set up by Andrea, who appears to be taking her role as mediator quite seriously until she’s thrown out of the discussion entirely to join Daryl, Hershel and the others.
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