Our Home Is Our Prison: Walking Dead’s ‘I Ain’t a Judas’ (311)

The Governor (David Morrissey)- a literal symbol of the revenge concept, "An eye for an eye." (AMCs the Walking Dead) Photo: AMC
The Governor (David Morrissey)- a literal symbol of the revenge concept, "An eye for an eye." (AMCs the Walking Dead) Photo: AMC /

Let’s look back at the Walking Dead’s “I Ain’t a Judas,” which was full of awkward, tense moments between Rick’s crew and certain folks related to Woodbury.

The Prison

Much of season 3 centers around the issue of the prison itself. Some regard it as a potential permanent residence. Others regarded it as a temporary refuge at best. Staying or leaving is a tough decision, as either choice could abandon all hope.

Of course, there’s another hand guiding their fate — the Governor. Merle, who by this episode has rejoined Rick’s group, is confident that the Governor plans to take them out without mercy. Then, of course, you have the walkers, who inadvertently started this whole mess. While the prison gives the appearance of safety from walkers, appearances can be deceiving. Hershel’s farm also seemed safe, if not idyllic, yet a walker herd dashed those dreams against the rocks.

More generally, Rick’s followers — including his own son — increasingly doubt his ability to lead them, given his apparent failing mental state (lashing out at people, seemingly hearing voices that are not there, etc.). Even Rick himself seems reluctant to take charge, given the struggles lying in wait, both outside and inside the prison. Given the prospect of total war, the group has been floundering, and dwindling in number, and there seems to be no ready answer.

Woodbury/Andrea’s Quest for Peace

The Governor – a literal symbol of the revenge concept, “An eye for an eye.” (AMCs the Walking Dead)
The Governor – a literal symbol of the revenge concept, “An eye for an eye.” (AMCs the Walking Dead) /

While the Governor is hungry for combat, his town isn’t. Neither is Andrea, the Governor’s current love interest and former associate of Rick’s group. As always happens in such affairs, nothing goes exactly as planned. In fact, when she offers to negotiate peace on his behalf, the Governor tells her firmly that she won’t be welcomed back if she leaves.

Of course, Andrea demonstrates some backbone anyway and sneaks out of town, finding her way to the prison and into the unique position of unwanted negotiator. To complicate things, the Governor advises his pet scientist, Milton Mamet, to help her escape. No doubt he regards Andrea as a close link to Rick and Michonne, and thus a strategic asset to manipulate.

As expected, walkers still surround the prison as Andrea approaches — a sure sign that it’s not some paradise on earth. Understandably, Rick is hesitant to trust Andrea, due to her close proximity to the Governor and other assorted letdowns. It becomes a unique Walking Dead episode, as it focuses on flimsy attempts at appeasement. No matter how she tries, she can’t seem to win Rick over, and she knows the Governor is not a fan of her actions, either. Then, of course, there’s the awkward exchange between Merle and Michonne

Merle and Michonne

What happens when enemies try to make peace? There is almost no guaranteed outcome, which is what makes Merle’s situation so precarious. Put yourself in Michonne’s shoes, too. How easily would you forgive someone who tried to kill you, and for no particularly good reason? Would you accept their Gestapo-like justification that they were just following orders? Most people wouldn’t. In fact, that may be even worse than other justifications, as it implies the person is virtually amoral and therefore a potential threat to anyone and everyone.

Merle may be a dumb redneck in many ways, but he’s smart enough to realize the trouble he’s in, and even reflect on why he’s in it. Of course, Michonne is smart enough to detect his fear of deadly consequence, and she knows that she could potentially defeat him in battle. At the same time, Michonne is probably smart enough to understand the benefits of acceding to Merle and — for lack of better wors — letting bygones be bygones.

Defiance: The Prison’s Best Weapon

By this point in the Walking Dead, it seems the prison can hardly defend itself, due to lack of people and lack of weapons. This is definitely a reason for seeking a truce, especially as Merle warns them of their scarce options. Still, anyone who knows Rick knows that, when possible, he will refuse to be under another person’s control (though, apparently, his control over others is fine). This trait is only strengthened by his current ordeals, no matter how life threatening they are. So, if the Governor comes to take them out, he’ll have a fight on his hands.

Andrea’s Dilemma

At this point, it’s not just about who gets to keep the prison, or even who lives and who dies, but about who gets to flex greater control. Anyone reluctant to join this fight is a mere obstacle, perhaps expendable not only to the Governor but even to Rick.

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Sensing the danger to this buildup of tension, Carol attempts to convince Andrea to kill the Governor in his sleep. Obviously, this places an additional unwanted burden on her, as another classic “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.” Were she to assassinate the Governor, it would surely be discovered. Plus, of course, she’d have to live with being a sleazy assassin. Also, if she doesn’t assassinate him, she knows it will likely allow total war.

For better or worse, Andrea decides not to kill the Governor, thus knowingly endangering the prison and the town of Woodbury itself. Still, one can hardly blame her. Despite everything she’s been through, she is still not a savage killer. This aspect of her character perhaps relates to her previous inclination to “opt out” with Dr. Jenner at the CDC. Though she can skillfully and eagerly direct weapons against walkers, killing antagonistic humans is still too much for her in general.

This is why Andrea is, in many ways, one of the Walking Dead’s most refreshingly human characters. When faced with real tough choices, she still does her best to create a moral outcome. While it could be perceived as flawed thinking in such a world, it’s clear that she’s a product of the world as it was, not as it is. If she can avoid violence, she will. We can’t say the same about everyone, and not just on the Walking Dead.