RECAP: ‘The Walking Dead’ – S03E13 – “Arrow on the Doorpost”

NOTE: Let’s be mindful of all the new viewers participating in this conversation and try not to spoil plot points taking place deep into the run of the comic series. Mild speculation is fine and encouraged, as well as talking about things that have happened in the comic up until the point they are at in the show, but don’t get too explicit with regard to future surprises. They will be deleted. Thanks!

The Walking Dead_Arrow in the Doorpost

“Arrow on the Doorpost”


“All Quiet on the Zombie Front”

Rick, Daryl, and Hershel pull up to a some industrial tankers in a car. Rick and Daryl jump out and immediately take off running while Hershel stays behind in the car nervously checking and re-checking the pistol he has strapped to his leg hidden under his pants and the assault rifle in his lap. Rick and Daryl make their way wordlessly through the grounds until they come upon a giant barn. Rick directs Daryl to the go around the side of the barn while he enters the front. It’s quiet and dark inside. Rick makes his way up to the hayloft where The Governor emerges from the shadows, holds up his hands to show that he is not holding a weapon and says, “We have a lot to talk about.” Rick, for some reason, does not immediately shoot The Governor in the face.

Roll creepy credits!

In that calm and tense way that tough guys sometimes face off, Rick and The Governor disagree about who got them into this whole mess. Rick says he and his people were attacked by The Governor and his people and The Governor says that if he really wanted them all dead they would be dead already. As a show of good faith, The Governor offers to begin negotiations unarmed and unhooks his holster and hangs it on a nearby post. He implies that Rick should do the same but Rick only goes so far as to un-cock his pistol and put it back in its holster. The Governor chuckles and sits down at a small wooden table and gestures to the seat across from him. Unbeknownst to Rick, The Governor has another pistol taped to the underside of the table.

Outside the barn, Hershel drives up to meet a clearly skittish Daryl. Hershel tells Daryl that there don’t seem to be any other cars in the area and Daryl says that The Governor is inside the barn already meeting with Rick. Both men look like they are about ready to jump out of their skins. Unconcerned with the precious state of fuel, Daryl tells Hershel to leave the car running. This doesn’t feel right. No sooner does Daryl utter those prophetic words than an SUV comes barreling into the picture. It comes to a stop near Daryl and Hershel and out jump The Governor’s lieutenants: Milton, Martinez, and Andrea. Daryl demands to know why The Governor is already inside and based on Andrea’s surprise and Martinez’s smirk, this clearly wasn’t was agreed to.

Andrea enters the barn and immediately does her best Rodney King impression, imploring Rick and The Governor to get along and worry about the real (undead and hungry) threat out there. Time for more macho posturing! Rick tells The Governor that he knows all about him and the things that he has done (including an unexplained reference to Maggie that immediately intrigues Andrea). The Governor tells Rick that HE knows the things that HE has done but that it’s time to put that in the past and move forward.

Speaking of macho posturing, outside the barn Daryl, Hershel, Milton and Martinez all eye each other suspiciously. Hershel wants to go inside to join the “peace talks” but Milton says no. Daryl calls Milton a butler and Milton calls Daryl a henchman. It’s all very amusing. Until Martinez and Daryl square-up nose to nose because they are clearly the opposing alpha dogs in these packs. Hershel tells everybody to cool it and reminds them that they will surely be trying to kill each other soon enough.

Back at the prison, the remaining members of the group and Merle are gearing up for war. Ammo is checked, weapons are loaded, and plans are made to defend the prison. Merle thinks this is all a waste of time: he thinks that they should just roll up on the barn and kill The Governor right now. The rest of the group wants to abide by Rick’s plan and Glenn says down the law with Merle and says that they won’t put Rick, Daryl, and Merle in danger and that’s final.

Andrea continues to speechify about how she knows that both Rick and The Governor are both good men just trying to protect their people in hard tim— and they are completely ignoring her. Rick offers Woodbury the territory west of the river while they take the east. No one crosses the river and no one bothers anyone else. The Governor chuckles—he’s not here to negotiate territory, he’s here to accept Rick’s surrender. Rick reacts about how you would expect and they eject Andrea from the meeting so that they can talk man-to-man. Andrea, annoyed, leaves the barn and Martinez closes the giant door behind her.

During the commercial break we learn what Chandler Riggs’ favorite lines of dialogue from the show are. Admittedly, they are pretty good.

Rick and The Governor discuss the latter’s culpability in the actions of his people, namely Merle and whether or not The Governor is the town drunk or the Devil next door. That sounds boring but it’s actually very tense and layered with sub-text. At any moment these guys could rip each other’s heads off. After a brief stare-down, The Governor tries to lighten the mood with an offer of whiskey.

Milton tries to break the ice by offering to engage Daryl and Merle in their own peace talks. He shows them his little note book where he been recording everything that has happened around him since the zombie apocalypse and Hershel seems interested but the good vibes are broken by the approaching sounds of the undead. It’s business time: Andrea engages her switchblade, Daryl readies his crossbow, and Martinez grabs a baseball bat and they head out towards the noise. They find a pack of zombies amongst the tanks which leads to a very peculiar game of peacocking as Daryl and Martinez both compete to show who is the more badass zombie killer. It all ends with Daryl and Martinez commiserating over a smoke stolen from one of the zombies. Martinez reveals to Daryl that zombies killed his wife and kids to which Daryl is sympathetic. Martinez then says that these peace talks are a waste of time because sooner or later the order for all-out war is going to be given. “I know,” Daryl says.

Merle tells Milton about getting bitten by a zombie and having had to have his leg cut off. This piques Milton’s nerdy interest. He’s got a million questions and wants to see the stump. Hershel tells Milton to a buy him a drink first. They laugh.

Sipping whiskies, The Governor tells Rick that he cannot allow them to go unpunished for the people of Woodbury that have been killed. He will look weak as a leader if he lets them alone and he can’t have that. He then tells Rick the story of his wife’s death from before the zombie apocalypse and how before she died in an accident she had called and left him a message to call her back. He never did and now he’s haunted by not knowing what she wanted. They drink more.

Glenn works on fortifying positions around he prison, using a torch to cut a vertical hole in the fence to shoot through. He comes back inside and finds Merle loading up for battle. He is going on his own to go kill the Governor and no one can stop him! Glenn tackles Merle and they role around on the floor. Michonne and Maggie grab his arm before Merle can stab Glenn in the face with his sword-hand. The straining and grunting is cut short by Beth who fires a gun into the air and then points it at Merle. Everyone let’s up and backs off.

Merle excuses himself from Milton and goes to talk to Andrea who is sitting alone and looking forlorn. She’s none-to-pleased after getting kicked out of the peace summit that she organized. Then Andrea asks Hershel what happened to Maggie to which Hershel can only say, “He’s a sick man.” Andrea looks over at Milton and suddenly realizes she can’t go back to Woodbury.

The Governor decides the meeting is over and while he re-attaches his holster offers up some false modesty about his leadership and how he didn’t ask to be put in charge he only answered the call. Then he abruptly switches gears and tells Rick that he knows that they just amassed a lot of weapons and ammo and the he knows that Rick’s group is more battle-tested than his, but he also knows that his numbers vastly outweigh Rick’s. The Governor sits back down at the table, takes off his eye patch, and tells Rick that if he hands over Michonne then all the hostilities between their groups can cease.

At the prison, Merle tries to convince Michonne that he is right and that they should just go kill The Governor right now. She seems to consider it briefly until Merle seems unconcerned if Andrea would make it out of the attack alive. Michonne tells him that if he’s going to attack he’s on his own.

Maggie joins Glenn out on watch, which honestly seems kind of soothing. Glenn apologizes for his behavior since their escape from Woodbury and they start to make-up in the way that couples do until the sounds of zombies put a damper on the mood. They retreat into a storage room for a quickie leaving no one on guard.

Rick doesn’t understand The Governor’s offer. Why risk everything on a vendetta against one person? Doesn’t seem very smart, Rick reckons. The Governor drops the kid bomb and tells Rick that his two kids will be killed in the war and wonders if Michonne is worth that. Rick asks a few more questions that indicate he’s at least considering the deal and then The Governor tells Rick that he has two days to think about his offer and abruptly walks out of the barn. The two sides load into their respective cars and Andrea seems conflicted as to which side to choose. With a sad glance at Hershel she leaves with The Governor.

The two sides return to their respective camps. Rick wants everyone inside the prison while The Governor instructs Martinez to immediately kill everyone but Michonne should Rick show up to hand her over. Milton is appalled that The Governor would break his own deal and engage in slaughter. The Governor tells Milton that sooner or later they are going to have to eliminate Rick if they want to stay safe. He then spots Andrea and goes over to thank her for setting up the meeting and he tells her that he has offered Rick terms for peace and that they are going to meet again in two days. When Andrea asks for details on the terms The Governor just smiles. Rick tells his people that he met with The Governor and that The Governor wants the prison and he wants them all dead for the attack on Woodbury and that “We’re going to war.”

Rick stands outside at a fence watching the zombies. Hershel comes out and says that even though opinions in the group are split—some want to preemptively attack Woodbury and some want to run—that everyone will come together and fight if that’s what he wants. Rick tells Hershel about the deal that The Governor offered and he seems conflicted. Rick wonders if this is the way to keep the peace and Hershel lists off all the reasons why that’s crazy. Rick then turns The Governor’s question on Hershel and asks if his two daughters are worth protecting Michonne. This clearly troubles Hershel and he wants to know why Rick is telling him all of this. Rick tells Hershel that he’s hoping the old doctor can talk him out of trading Michonne for their safety.


Last week was the best episode of the season but this was a close second and the two of them back-to-back was just tremendous. I love delving into these characters during the quiet moments before the storm comes; it makes everything that happens during the storm all the more poignant. It was very reminiscent of stories like All Quiet on the Western Front in which soldiers on opposing armies find out that they are not all that different from each other and that it’s the machinations of the generals and politicians that put them at odds with each other. Great stuff.




  1. Really dug this episode. It was another great character study and we got some great moments with just about everyone that had screen time. I think I am the only person I know that doesn’t hate Andrea, but it is getting very obvious she is being used as a plot device more than a character.

    • I don’t hate Andrea either. I kind of get where she’s at right now: clinging to the same idealism that Dale did, and trying to make peace more out of a desire to not have any more people die. Her only real problem seems to be thinking that her perfect, no-death scenario seems to involve the Governor staying in power.

    • At this point Andrea feels like this season’s Lori. She does essentially nothing but get in the way. Just my opinion.

  2. This was very, very tense. I enjoyed it. Daryl had a few nice moments.

  3. Had you accidentally missed this episode in your queue, do you think you would have noticed? Did it accomplish anything?

    • You might have wondered why Glen and Maggie weren’t fighting anymore. Might.

    • @jimski What is the best television show you’ve watched? No sarcasm, I’m just interested.

    • You could say the same thing about any number of series that feature a slow burn of character building so when the big explosion comes it’s all the more riveting/heartbreaking/surprising/etc. It’s like we’ve been saying about comics for years–you can’t just have the action without the character building. Otherwise, why would you care about what happens to these people?

    • Laugh if you want, but i think he Star Trek shows do a good job of character building while having a good dose of action/conflict in each episode. Sometimes they do bottle shows where its about one character and a more personal side, but for the most part they always build character through a self contained conflict which was what always drew me in (besides the Sci Fi trek stuff)

    • I have to agree. I don’t think this episode accomplished anything, but it had it’s moments, and I enjoyed it anyway.

    • @Tooloud Except that it did…

  4. Did anybody else cringe a little at the thought of smoking those zombie cigarettes?

  5. I felt this episode was just ok, and getting kinda frustrated that once again we have characters sitting around talking about what they’re going to do instead of actually doing it. Did this show get its production budget slashed? Seems like most episodes are a bit in ‘the bottle’. I didn’t think it was bad, but i feel like this show is becoming more about build up than paying it off, so don’t feel a great sense of danger or raising stakes for any of the characters.

    • I’m fine with the talking, as long as it serves a great purpose than hand-wringing. For instance, if we’re going to be treated now with an entire episode of Rick weighing whether or not to hand over Michonne, it’ll be stupid. But the episode was the first one on one with Rick and the Governor, and they acted their a**es off in it. Morrissey was great, in particular. For all that genteel southern charm, he lets just enough of the snake to come through as well. Awesome villain.

    • yeah i dunno, i just felt it was two guys at a table having a tough guy chat. I get the point of the episode. Some key players on both sides doing a “getting to know you” and we can already see that there are more friends being made then enemies which i think will lead to the Governor’s downfall.

      I’m not a huge fan of the Governor character in this show..can’t put my finger on it, but he’s not really “villain enough” for me or something. I just don’t’ get much from that character other than he’s supposed to be the bad guy.

  6. I’ll start making the “Merle was right” T-shirts for when this blows up in Rick’s face.

  7. Has anyone else noticed Morrisey has mastered the “Heh” condescending half laugh.