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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Walking Dead 3x04: Killer Within


Well played, show, well played. Lori's death was genuinely shocking. Lord knows she's been a troubling character for awhile now, inconsistently written with ever-shifting motivations. Yet up until this season (which is quickly shaping up to be the show's most consistent, if not best), there was no indication that anyone involved in the production of the show viewed Lori that way. Couple that with her proximity to the main character (and the potential for drama that proximity created), and even on a show that has arguably the best claim to the notion that "nobody is safe", it felt like Lori was near the top of the short list of safe characters.

Looks like that thinking was wrong, as Lori sacrifices herself for the life of her baby. Kudos then, for the show's biggest surprise since Dale's exit, and more importantly, kudos for making me care about Lori in her last few minutes. Sarah Wayne Callies' potrayal of the character has always felt a little inscrutable, but she knocked it out out the park with her final scene. By the time Maggie sliced her open, I was hoping someone would arrive with a last minute rescue, some implausible way of saving both her and the baby. Considering not two episodes ago I was contemplating the idea of Lori getting eaten by her zombie baby with a certain amount of perverse glee, that's quite an accomplishment.

Other Thoughts
My initial take away from this episode is the relative surprise (and gruesome nature) of Lori's death, but once that's passed, it's worth pointing out that for as emotional and well-executed as that moment is, it's another case of the show just piling it on the characters. I've complained for awhile that this show needs to be about something more than just waiting around until everyone dies (and the opening scenes of this episode, with the group continuing to work towards making the prison more hospitable, was a brief, small step in that direction). As suggested above, I've been largely surprised and impressed by the relative quality of this season, but at the end of the day, there needs to be a reason to watch other than to find out who dies and how gruesome that death is each week.

Stylistically, it was good to see the show toggling between Woodbury and the prison, something it's never really been able to do before, though I can't decide if the cuts away to the relatively mundane events in Woodbury lessened the impact of the drama at the prison, or provided a much-needed slackening of tension that made the return to the prison all the more intense.

A further sign of how much the show has improved: the debate between Rick and T-Dog over the remaining two prisoners was raised, discussed and settled before a commercial break, whereas a similar debate dominated almost the entire back half of last season. 

Kudos also to Carl, who was more or less the laughing stock of last season and the Internet's favorite punching bag, but has really come around. Lori's final scene was as strong for him as it was for her.

After coming on strong last week, the Governor felt a little bit off this week, his meetings with Michonne and, curiously, Merle, aside, his air of vague menace replaced with smarmy charm as he worked to seemingly pick up Andrea. I'm curious if there's a reason he wants her to stay so bad, if he's genuinely smitten with her, or if he just enjoys manipulating people for the sake of it.

Andrea's insistence to stay, and her falling for the Governor's charms, continues to underline what an idiot she is.

So the Governor's name is Philip. As I thought, that amounted to nothing (though it amounted to nothing a lot faster than I expected).  

Something I totally missed until I read about this episode online: the prisoner who set the trap and turned on the generators was the one Rick left locked in the yard full of zombies. #SometimesNotTheSharpestTool

Oh yeah, T-Dog died too. While I never disliked his character as much as I did Lori, I was still only marginally sad to see him go, in part because the show never really developed his character and he's always felt like he was just hanging around until he died. Heck, even his arguing for compassion when it came to the prisoners at the beginning of the episode felt like a case of the writers saying, "well, we need someone to argue with Rick. Let's say...T-Dog? He'll be dying soon anyway". 

I'm not convinced Carol is dead, though I won't be surprised if she is.

So are meant to assume that the person watching Carol from the bushes two episodes ago was the prisoner who let hell break loose in this episode, or was that someone else?

Speaking of the generators, assuming they could kill the sirens, it might not be a bad thing to turn them back on at some point.

I'm curious why Michonne doesn't just leave Andrea in Woodbury? One of the few negative effects of the between-seasons time jump is we have no idea what happened to form such a strong bond between the two women. 

A little detail I appreciated: the sound of empty shells hitting the pavement as Rick reloaded his gun offscreen. 

Questions for the comic readers out there: is this roughly analogous to how/when Lori died in the comics, or did the show go way off book? Is the Governor's name Philip and did he reveal it to Andrea, or is that something the show invented as well?

11 comments:

yourblindspot said...

Lori was killed during the prison story line in the books, but not during childbirth, and the baby died with her. The complications inherent in suddenly having a motherless infant to care for are staggering -- medically, practically, emotionally -- and I can't imagine exactly how they plan to pull it off. But I bet it makes great tv.

As for the Governor, I am hesitant to go into specifics just because I can't quite imagine how to do so without hinting at or giving away pertinent details of upcoming events, so I'll just say 'Philip' is, in fact, canon and let the rest reveal itself over time.

Paul Zenisek said...

LIGHT SPOILER ALERT!

At this point, the TV show is its own thing. Other than character names and locations, things are handled quite a bit differently now. Lori's death isn't the same; most characters are completely different even if you line up prison time in the comic and the show.
This is probably the best comic adaptation I've ever seen, because they're not worried about sticking to the original story beat by beat, I'm sure it helps to have Kirkman plotting the scripts out. Austin, READ THE COMICS!

Matt said...

I'll admit that I got a little misty-eyed when Lori died, though I think I was distraught more by her son being forced to watch and ultimately finish her off, than by her actual death. That was the real heavy part of the episode for me.

T-Dog, like you say, was basically a non-entity for a very long time. His death didn't move me really at all, though I was glad to see him at least go out in a moment of heroism, unlike poor Dale.

I think Carol's still alive. We saw no body, and I can't see them making T-Dog's sacrifice totally pointless so quickly.

Phantomas said...

Like others have mentioned Lori dies later on after the baby is born. She dies in a part of the story that is just a punch in the gut. I had borrowed the TPBs to somebody at work and after he read that part he came in work all mad at it. :) The show did it very well though and I'm not sure which I prefer.

I don't recall the Governors name ever coming up in the comic so if it did it must not have been very important. Or it got mentioned in the prose novel "Rise of the Governor" which I haven't read. Also if I recall I don't think Andrea ever came face to face with him like she is in the show. Michone definitely did though. I am curious to see just how much of the Governors story the TV show uses but will leave it at that to avoid spoiling.

I thought it was to bad that they offed T-dog just when they started to develop his character. If it had happened last week I could have cared less but they finally gave him interesting things to say and think rather than just hang out.

Regarding Andrew, didn't Rick watch for a few seconds when the zombies got him? When he first got locked out I remember thinking that they didn't show him die but then Rick kind of lingered for a few seconds and we heard the screaming.

As for Carol she is most likely alive since they have kind of established that if we don't see them die they most likely aren't. Like with Andrew and Sophia. Oh wait...

It's really to bad to see Andrea as kind of stupid and bitchy in the show because in the comic she is one of the best characters and really contributes to the group.

Yes this is an excellent adaptation of the comics. It follows a rough storyline of the comics and has enough of it's own divergences to keep everybody interested. If it was a straight adaption I would probably be bored with it by now.

Sarah Ahiers said...

How awesome is Carl this season? So awesome. And such a huge step up from last season.

I kept forgetting T-Dawg was even on the show, and so while i felt bad that he got bitten, it doesn't actually change any sort of dynamic in the show.

We're excited that maybe the prisoners will now be allowed to join the group.

I still didn't overly care about Lori, but, like said above, i did care about Carl having to shoot his mom in the head. And also, Maggie, WTF? Grow a goddammned pair. I can't believe she just let a 12 year old kid shoot his own mom because he knew it was the right thing to do, instead of just leaving her there to reanimate and come after them all later on her own. Complete Maggie fail. What a coward.

Also Rick's reaction to Lori's death was excellent.

I still pretty much can't stand Andrea at all, so the scenes at Woodbury are very hit and miss for me. I like Michonne okay and i'm sure i'll like her more as she's developed. And i'm loving Merle. But a scene with Andrea and the Governor? Blergh. Pass.

And yeah, i don't know why Darryl finding Carol's headscarf is enough evidence for him to declare her "gone". Also, how convenient is it that she was wearing that scarf in this episode when she's never worn anything else on her head before.

Still, the season is a HUGE step up from last season. I hope they keep the show going in this direction.

Anonymous said...

It occurred to me that we never saw Lori's body. It is possible Carl couldn't bring himself to shoot her.

@ Phantomas,

I liked how the show handled Lori's death better. She died sacrificing herself for her child, and actually gained sympathy in the process. One of the biggest faults of both the show and the comics is poor handling of female characters (Michonne is cool because she's a badass but she's a major exception). Lori has been unlikable in both versions of The Walking Dead, but at least tv Lori went out strong.

Plus, the baby lived.

Alas, poor T Dog. I'll miss his silence, standing in the background while other characters carried out tedious arguments, and surprising me more than any zombie attack every time he had a line of dialogue. "Aw, hell no!" my friend. "Aw, hell no!" indeed.

- Mike Loughlin

Teebore said...

@yourblindspot: The complications inherent in suddenly having a motherless infant to care for are staggering -- medically, practically, emotionally -- and I can't imagine exactly how they plan to pull it off. But I bet it makes great tv.

Ditto. Mrs. Teebore was already talking about how impossible it would be for the baby to survive w/o Lori and/or some kind of infant formula, even before the baby was born. Thankfully, Hershel made mention of that fact in the preview for the next episode, so she was placated.

@Paul: Austin, READ THE COMICS!

I know, I know. I have the first two hardcover collections; I just need to make reading them a priority (I was waiting to be sure the show advanced ahead of them, but I think we're past that point now).

@Matt: though I think I was distraught more by her son being forced to watch and ultimately finish her off, than by her actual death.

Yeah, that's what affected me the most too. I was just impressed that even in that context, I wasn't like "die, Lori, die"!

though I was glad to see him at least go out in a moment of heroism, unlike poor Dale.

Agreed.

We saw no body, and I can't see them making T-Dog's sacrifice totally pointless so quickly.

I know the "no body, no death" isn't quite as ironclad on this show (where the body could, you know, get eaten), but I agree that she'll likely turn up again.

@Phantomas: It's really to bad to see Andrea as kind of stupid and bitchy in the show because in the comic she is one of the best characters and really contributes to the group.

I've heard tales of Andrea's comic book awesomeness, which just makes me dislike this iteration of the character even more.

I thought it was to bad that they offed T-dog just when they started to develop his character.

In hindsight, it probably should have been a dead giveaway. "What? T-Dog has meaningful lines? He's a goner." :)

@Sarah: How awesome is Carl this season? So awesome. And such a huge step up from last season.

Seriously. Most improved character, hands down.

We're excited that maybe the prisoners will now be allowed to join the group.

SOMEBODY has to join the group, right? They're running out of characters, even if the point of the show is nothing more than to see who gets killed off how.

Complete Maggie fail. What a coward.

Maybe I just have more sympathy for her since I like the character, but she seemed pretty shell shocked. She did just have to cut a baby out of Lori, after all. I might not be thinking clearly either.

Also Rick's reaction to Lori's death was excellent.

As Alan Sepinwall said, Andrew Lincoln is always at his best when Rick is at his worst.

But a scene with Andrea and the Governor? Blergh. Pass.

Ha! Indeed. Still not digging Merle though; don't trust him, and I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Also, how convenient is it that she was wearing that scarf in this episode when she's never worn anything else on her head before.

I thought she'd worn it before (like last season maybe?). At the very least, I recognized it as "her" head scarf even before the show made a point of it, but maybe I'm just imagining things.

@Mike: I'll miss his silence, standing in the background while other characters carried out tedious arguments, and surprising me more than any zombie attack every time he had a line of dialogue.

I almost wish he'd stuck around for just that reason, and to see just how long a character could go without either having his character developed or getting eaten.

Blam said...


Holy Fuuuuuuuuuuuu... dge Ripple!!!

Well played, show, well played.

And well said, Teebore. I really don't have much to add.

Just a few bullet points:

I liked T-Dog more than you, I guess. Not a lot; I was frustrated by his lack of development, to be sure, but what we got was mostly sympathetic, and I wish there weren't such an even tradeoff of the group more-or-less accepting one black dude into its fold just as the other one bites it (or gets bit).

I do agree that we need a little more show vs. tell about the bond between Michonne and Andrea. Hopefully a flashback is forthcoming.

Carol being dead would actually surprise me — although I suppose I wouldn't put it past the show for T-Dog's death, staving off walkers so that she could escape, to have been in vain. I hope that she doesn't stay missing exactly long enough for Merle to come around and sway an embittered Daryl into leaving, because that's just the wrong intersection of unrealistic and predictable.

I like that this really is the entire group's child, both symbolically and practically, especially with its mother (perhaps both of its biological parents, if Shane was the father) being gone. The only problem is that they have to realistically find a way to care for it, because a lack of plausibility will be distracting and the death of the child will be unconscionable.

I was so prepared for the baby to be stillborn a walker and so glad that it wasn't.

I don't envy the talk Carl's gonna have to have with that kid one day. "Yeah, I shot our mom and the guy who might've been your dad in the head. They were both already dead, though."

Blam said...


I was so prepared for the baby to be stillborn a walker and so glad that it wasn't.

Of course as I reread that, I'm suddenly aware of how great the onslaught of The Crawling Dead jokes would've been.

Dr. Bitz said...

I was kind of upset that T-Dog died. He didn't have much personality so the only reason to keep him around was for his confrontation with Merle.

So Merle finally comes back and then they decide to kill T-Dog before they meet. Lame...

Otherwise, it was a pretty good episode...but I keep thinking Carl is going to turn into a sociopath.

Teebore said...

@Blam: I wish there weren't such an even tradeoff of the group more-or-less accepting one black dude into its fold just as the other one bites it (or gets bit).

I definitely agree with this sentiment. This genre already has issues with race, and I wouldn't say I believe anyone on the show was conscious of it, but it's problematic to say the least when this episode is constructed as if to say, "well, here's a new black guy. Gotta make room by killing the old one".

...because that's just the wrong intersection of unrealistic and predictable.


Well said.

The only problem is that they have to realistically find a way to care for it, because a lack of plausibility will be distracting and the death of the child will be unconscionable.

It's definitely going to require a tightrope walk that I'm not quite sure I believe the show can pull off, but I will say I'm more confident in its ability to do so now then I was before the season started.

I was so prepared for the baby to be stillborn a walker and so glad that it wasn't.

Oh yeah. I was totally waiting for those cries to turn into, I dunno, zombie moans or something. Glad they didn't go that far with it.

@Dr. Bitz: So Merle finally comes back and then they decide to kill T-Dog before they meet. Lame...

Wow, I totally didn't think of that, but you're right, it's lame. Now that I think about it, there was a line last episode from Merle about how Rick was the one who left him handcuffed to the roof, and while that's technically true, the real drama of that episode was whether T-Dog would leave him chained up, and then dropping the key and leaving him to die.

So in hindsight, I wonder if the line from the last episode was meant as a bit of revisionism to allow the show to have a "Merle gets mad at the guy who left him chained to a roof" confrontation while still killing T-Dog.

I keep thinking Carl is going to turn into a sociopath.

Right? At this point, it's probably the most logical outcome, as disturbing as it would be.