It’s been a while since I have blogged about The Walking Dead (well, since last season). So, half of season 4 has come and gone and it’s time to review what, I think, has been the most consistent thread of the show: its misogyny. Fear not, unlike most of the human population, in TWD, misogyny is alive and kicking and it was on special display this half-season.
Last season ended with one of the best and most mistreated female character, Andrea, dying after the collapse of Woodbury. The Governor decided to evacuate, then massacred most of his followers and took off with a bunch of his lieutenants. The survivors were rescued by Grimes group and brought to the prison. That is where the new season picks up. We don’t know what happened to the Governor but Michonne is looking for him. Ok. So, now the prison has a bunch more people and children. It is pretty obvious that they are all non-entities, therefore, most likely, they will meet a red shirt fate.
But there is this thing: Carol plays teacher to the bunch of kids the group has inherited. But in addition to storytime, the kids (boys AND girls) get training in weapon use, because, you know, it’s a useful skill to have in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Enters the sociopath-in-chief, Carl, and Carol is quick to tell him “don’t tell your father”… Why? Grimes (whose death I would pray for at every episode if I were the religious kind) would, of course, not approve, and even though he’s no longer technically in charge, well, the patriarch’s opinion still matters more than a woman’s action (more on that later).
Of course, we all remember that Grimes did not want grown women to have guns, in the earlier seasons, but was ok for Carl to learn to use them (with the results we know). It’s the men’s job to do the protection thing, as Lori used to remind Andrea in Season 2. And, of course, we all know that Carl will tattle. At the same time, it is pretty clear that Carol is in love with Daryl. Whether that’s fully reciprocated is not clear.
As you remember, when the show started, Carol was a battered wife, weak and submissive. At the show progresses, and after the death of her daughter, and especially this season, Carol has become a much stronger character. She seems to have figured out what times like these require and is no-nonsense about it. She’s becoming a leader, preparing the kids for their future when the current adults are gone, one way or the other.
Well, of course, we can’t have that.
Some flu-like bug infects the prison and secondary characters die like flies, including Karen, Tyreese’s girlfriend, who gets attacked by post-infection zombie after refusing to have sex with Tyreese (see what happens to women who don’t submit their male superiors?). Karen will later be murdered by some mysterious killer (along with another sick and close to death “patient” and their bodies burned. The fate of his
property girlfriend will drive Tyreese to a fit of rage (even though the super-flu was guaranteed to kill Karen and turn her into a walker). Note: when Grimes discovers the crime scene, he sees a bloody handprint that is child-size (hint!!).
But, he confronts Carol and she confesses to the murders and provides a very rational explanation: they were going to die anyway, they were contagious and putting others in danger. But that’s a problem because the other men have promised Tyreese swift punishment for whoever committed the murders.
But, and this is one of the most vile moment of the show, even though it’s pretty clear Carol is taking the wrap for someone else, Grimes is an idiot, and, on their next supply run, he makes the unilateral decision to send Carol into exile, back into the zombie apocalypse, on her own (but she has a car and supplies!).
That is one of the most disgusting patriarchal plot of the show, and it is pretty clear that Carol is being exiled as potentially competitive leader, what with all her work with the children. And in TWD, women can’t be leaders. Even if Carol had killed the sick people, Grimes and the others have done way worse (including, for Grimes, killing Carol’s zombified daughter).
Throughout that supply run, Grimes keeps quizzing Carol. And when they run into a couple of other people, young man and woman who offer to help, Carol is the one who accepts and Grimes refuses, but she prevails. That means, of course, that decision will necessarily turn out to be a bad one, for which Grimes will blame her. And, as they wait for the young man to return, it is Carol who is rational about the fact that they need to leave, he’s probably dead and they need to get back to the prison. After all, if the young man and woman had listened to Grimes instead of Carol, they might have survived (how did they survive all along??). But Grimes uses that as his final reason to exile her.
Interestingly enough, somehow, he, alone, gets to make that decision, without the council that was created at the prison and that was supposed to handle all the decision-making. What follows is even worse: as people at the prison learn of Carol’s exile, none of them basically care, not even Daryl. No one question’s Grimes prerogative to have made such a unilateral decision. No one wants explanations beyond Grimes’s version of events. Patriarchal words carry all the power and no questions are asked.
So, that is the first patriarchal and misogynistic thread of this half-season. The second one has to do with the return of the Governor.
When last season ended, the Governor and his acolytes just drove into the sunset. When we pick up, the Governor has been abandoned by them. He wanders all alone, long hair, beard, etc. Until he meets a small family of two sisters (Lily and Tara), their elderly, sick and dying father, and one of the sister’s daughter (Meghan, can this be even more heavy-handed).
We might as well name that storyline “the miracle of the patriarchy”. For instance, obviously, these two sisters have done pretty well for themselves so far, what with surviving this whole mess, keeping their father alive, and living in relative comfort. But somehow, as soon as the Governor (renamed Brian) shows up, the sisters become all powerless to do the things they obviously had to have been doing all along, like putting the disabled old man to bed, getting him a re-supply of oxygen, etc. All of a sudden, they need a man to do all the basic survival stuff (kinda reminiscent of the young man and woman in the previous thread). Not only that, but the little girl, Meghan, is described by her mother as not very talkative, but opens to the Governor. Is there anything that a patriarch can’t do?
Anyhoo, even though, they seem to have a stable situation, the sisters decide they need to leave and have the Governor guide them to wherever, after the old man’s death (you would think that would make their situation easier, but go figure). No surprise, Lilly and the Governor start having an affair. And, of course, the sisters turn out to suck at walking away from a decent place, one twists her ankle, so, of course, the Governor has to save the little girl. Really, women can’t do anything right.
As they meet the former acolytes of the Governor, and a group of survivors they have teamed up with (how original), the Governor returns to his murderous, pathological self and takes over the crew because that cannot be left to a bunch of Latinos. Long story short, the Governor wants the prison and riles up the crowd to get them to agree to go take it.
They go, mini-war starts where the Governor’s group uses a tank, thereby demolishing the very prison they want to occupy, which makes a lot of sense.
Interestingly enough, Tara, the soldier sister, turns out to be lesbian (and her lover is also ex-military… geez), but, despite her military experience and training, turns into a puddle of fear at the first exchange of shots. It’s so ridiculous.
But the main point of this whole plot is this: CLASH OF THE PATRIARCHS, that is, Grimes and the Governor having themselves a real man fight, with no weapons, just fists, dammit, because that is how real men fight each other. That is what this entire half-season has been about.
The only good thing about this half-season: Hershel is dead, thank goodness. No more pompous pontificating.
But as I mentioned, the misogyny of the show, unfortunately, is alive and well.