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Recap: The Walking Dead, Episode 3.04, “The Killer Within”

It’s so easy to do the wrong thing in this world. So if it feels wrong, don’t do it, all right? If it feels easy, don’t do it. Don’t let the world swallow you. You’re so good, my sweet boy. You’re the best thing I ever did. I love you.

Goodnight, love.
First, last week Sandy robbed us of my Walking Dead E3 recap, so let me say a few words about it. Michonne is awesomesauce, Andrea remains a character I’m not sure if I like or not, and the Governor, while I know he’s a bad guy that keeps severed heads in his fishtanks, is so smexy. So very, very smexy.  And while I understand that we’re supposed to get that the Governor is a duplicitous fascist from his ambush of the National Guard, I just can not get over how ridiculous it is in the post-zombie apocalypse landscape to waste such fantastic resources as a group of high trained army men who might, you know, be able to help guard your Podunk little town from the undead. Short sighted!

Andrea and the Governor in a nice house, drinking
So that was episode 3. Let’s move on to the emotional fucking gut punch that was episode 4.

I don’t do spoiler warnings as a rule, but if you have not scene this episode yet, don’t read this review. This is an episode whose emotional weight is well-served by viewing it ignorant.

Now, four episodes in, with one of the darkest, most brutal outings in the show’s run under our belts, I am convinced that Walking Dead is committed to putting out a quality season. AMC seems to have learned that gutting the show’s budget last year had disastrous affects on season 2, forcing the lengthy sit-down at the farm and the zombie-sparse episodes. The writing is tighter. The themes are darker. And the show runners are finally committed to sacrificing members of the cast in ways that are unfair, upsetting, tragic, and true to the kind of desperate life these people are leading.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the crumbling of Rick’s moral center in these recaps. The man who started out as the very caricature of the noble lawman ““ he wore an actual white hat, in case we ever were mistaken of his place in the mythology ““ has become a dark, desperate man who is hanging onto sanity by his fingernails. We saw him surrender his hat and his badge to his child as the first step away from the old world. And we saw him struggle with his internal morals and the bleak survivor mentality that Shane represented. At the end of last season, Rick rightly ranted that he gave up everything for the group, killed his best friend for the good of the group, and that they didn’t deserve the humanity and democracy he had tried to show them. This change of plan got the group through a bleak winter and into the prison. And it also killed T-Dog and Lori.

T-Dog gets bitten by a zombie

When Rick slammed the door shut on Andrew two episodes ago, it was a betrayal of every scrap of morality he had tried to hold onto. You could see it blink out behind his eyes. He didn’t kill someone in the heat of battle, he wasn’t defending his group. He allowed an unarmed and frightened man to be eaten alive by walkers. This was the viewpoint that Shane espoused. This was what Shane’s rule would have been. And there’s a direct line from Rick locking that door to him collapsing in the courtyard at the end of a “Killer Inside.” His friend eaten by walkers. Carol missing. Lori gutted so the baby could survive. Carl, his child, having to shoot his mother so she wouldn’t resurrect.  In the apocalypse, a lot of things happen that are awful and out of any one person’s control. But this ““ this is directly, irrevocably, Rick’s fault.

T-Dog, always a background character but a massive fan favorite, goes out as a warrior. He’s injured fighting to close the yard gates and refuses Carol’s offer to put him out his misery ““ the pact, remember? ““ because he felt it was his responsibility to get her to safety. Out of ammo and cornered, he used the only weapon he had ““ his body ““ to shield Carol to the end. That’s a hero’s death. It’s a fitting death for this character. But it’s also hard not to notice that it’s a death whose timing coincides with the introduction of another physically imposing black man to the cast. I’m positive the show would deny doing this on purpose, but it sure as hell felt like they were swapping T-Dog for Oscar.

Animate gif of Lori crying while hugging Carl

Lori is a character I have wasted no ink criticizing. The show screwed her over just as much as it shorted T-Dog a story arc. They couldn’t decide if she was the straying wife or the good mother or the symbol for home and security. One week they had her playing Lady MacBeth and the next acting shocked and horrified that her husband actually acted on her murderous suggestions. Fans hated her. I felt bad for the actress, saddled with the impossible job of making this woman a sympathetic figure. So of course, the best scene she was ever given is her death scene. Lori always knew her pregnancy was her death sentence, Callies claims, which gives a different take on Lori’s desperate consumption of the morning after pill last season, and the revelation that Carl was also a c-section birth meant that there was almost no other way the pregnancy could end.

Backed into an awful corner, Lori took the only graceful way out. She told her son she loved him and she absolved him of anything he’d have to do after her death. Their relationship had be contentious since the farm, but her last act was to give him the love he needed. Childhood is over. It was time to be brave. And then she told Rick she loved him and let Maggie cut her open. It was the first time since I started watching the show that I cried. I find it difficult to believe that Maggie would try to leave without dispatching Lori ““ it seems wildly out of character for her ““ but I am willing to overlook it because it was important that Carl was the one who put the bullet in his mother. Like Rick taking care of Sophia, it’s an act of ultimate kindness. It’s empathy in the face of ugliness.  And his hard, set face after he walked out of that boiler room? That was the face of his father two seasons before. It is the same face he wore when Rick called out for Lori in the courtyard ““ though if you watch carefully, as Rick collapses in the background, Carl moves towards Maggie and Glenn, looking for comfort. Giving and taking sympathy is important in this new world. It keeps you from getting hard.

Maggie cries while holding a newborn; Glenn holds her face in his hands

After all this, it seems almost disrespectful to discuss what happened in Woodbury, so let us wrap up with a few observations. Merle is a racist POS, but he loves his brother, and if there was a chance that Daryl was still alive out there, he is going to take the chance to find him. Michonne doesn’t believe the smoke the Governor is trying to blow up her ass. Mayberry never had a place for women like her in it, and this weird 1950s throwback town isn’t ever going to accept a woman like her. And Andrea, beautiful, blonde, Andrea will never understand why Michonne is actively distrustful of this little fake-paradise, because it’s the kind of paradise that loves beautiful, blonde, “spirited” women like Andrea, as long as they know their place. Besides, Andrea is panting after the Governor like a teen-aged boy in heat. After Shane, maybe she should stop and give some consideration to the type of men she’s attracted to.

Michonne

By [E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of powderroom.jezebel.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at slay@persephonemagazine.com.

She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

18 replies on “Recap: The Walking Dead, Episode 3.04, “The Killer Within””

I love the recap, but I disagree about the level of Rick’s culpability. To blame Rick entirely for the events of Killer Within is to rob Andrew, Lori, Maggie, and even Carl of their dignity as thinking creatures of free will.

Lori, Maggie, and Carl all chose where they went, and what they did, too. Lori could have hung on and risked the baby dying from hope that they could reconnect with Herschel. Maggie could have refused to cut her. Carl could have refused to shoot her.

But the biggie is Andrew. No one made Andrew come back and decide to kill everyone. He could have gone his own way. He could have snuck back in and contacted his prison mates for help overthrowing Rick. He chose to open the door and lure the zombies in.

Was Rick ruthless? Sure. Does he share the blame? Totes! But all his fault? Not hardly.

I think the choice to show it off screen was because it wasn’t about Lori anymore, it was about Carl. He did what had to be done (re: Become a Man) because no one else could face how ugly it was. That’s a hard, grown up decision, and I think you see that reflected in the cowering way Maggie was standing with the baby and how tough Carl’s face was when he walked out.

Lori’s dunzo.

Now T-Dog. We might see him as a zombie. They didn’t give him a headshot that they showed.

I wonder if a lot of that disparity has to do with the people with whom Merle comes in contact? It’s not unreasonable to think someone like the Merle presented in S1 would be incredibly hard on a younger brother, not is it strange for me to think that same man would be smart enough to fall in line when met with someone who obviously has more authority like the Governor. I think at the moment Merle seems so palatable because he exists in a system where he couldn’t possibly improve his station; he is elevated over pretty much everyone but the Governor, so he can skip any disparaging remarks or epithets he might otherwise make and play the part of magnanimity.

I too never really liked Lori, and though I understood and loved her emotional death scene, it didn’t make me emotional. I was far more emotional watching T-Dog sacrifice his life to save Carol.

Can I also just say that I really hate the way the show is painting Andrea’s reasons for wanting to stay at Woodbury? Initially – and this is from someone who hasn’t read the comics – I thought Andrea would be drawn to Woodbury because it’s a safe place and a respite from the real world she’s been running away from and hiding from since the show began. However, the show is making it seem like the only reason she wants to stay is because she wants to get in the Governor’s pants, and I absolutely hate that. I feel like they’re not doing her character justice. Not to mention the fact that they’re pitting her and Michonne against each other when they’ve relied on one another for 8 months! I would think Andrea would trust Michonne’s instincts after all they’ve been through. It would have been far more interesting to me to see Andrea battling the safety provided by Woodbury against the safety provided by Michonne.

T-Dog finally gets lines, and they kill him. Assholes.

I couldn’t stand Lori, so I’m not sad to see her go. I’m just wondering how no one (Daryl, mostly, because he seems like the one who’d say it) is pointing out that babies are screaming, zombie-attention-getting, resource-sucking little mobility hindrances in the zombpocalypse. Everything is going to be 100x worse and harder with a baby in the picture. Not that it would have changed anything, but the fact that they aren’t talking about it is weird.

Although I had my doubts about the show’s characterization of the Governor, I think they’re doing a really good job with his underlying creepiness.

I want more Michonne. More Michonne actually doing stuff.

I watched this whole episode on the edge of my seat. Emotionally drained by the end of it. I shudder to think of what the final episode or heck even the mid-season finally will do to top this one. One question I had, how did carol’s scarf fall off? That last we saw of her is was still wrapped around her head as she’s opening the door but it ended up on the floor inside somehow? I’m confused. Hopefully next week will clear that up.

As soon as I saw she was wearing the scarf in her first scene, I was like, yup, she’s going to lose that at some point and they’re going to think she’s dead. It’s like Chekhov’s scarf. Anything that seems out of place from the beginning of the episode: necessary for later plot device.

All the feelings. I has them. And these gifs are freaking KILLING me at my desk right now. I am totally choking back tears watching Rick fall and Lori cling over and over and over. Excellent punctuation to an equally fine recap. Listening to that shot ring out as Maggie clung to the baby (I am chalking her willingness to leave Lori up to being traumatized by her impromptu vivisection, but true that it was out of character) was haunting and horrifying. This episode proved what this show can be, what all of held out hope it would be. The baby, Rick’s grief, T-Dog’s sacrifice, Hershel fighting off zombies with his crutch like a boss, everything. Oy.

I did scream at the TV when Lori was insisting they kill her to save the baby “HOW THE FUCK ARE THEY SUPPOSED TO FEED IT?!?!?!” but I am glad they addressed it quickly in the “Next week on..” Here’s hoping it was a coed prison and they can find a stash of formula in the women’s section.

To paraphrase a recent Halle Berry quote, Andrea’s man picker is fucking broken. Straight up.

YES! I’m so glad we’re doing these recaps.

I stayed home from work on Sunday on the premise of wanting to watch this show (I really just didn’t want to work) and it was so worth it.

After seeing what they did with Lori’s character this season, it makes me even more disappointed with what they did to her last season. This could have been so much more if the audience had felt better connected to her. Honestly, I didn’t tear up when she died. I teared up when Carl had to shoot her and I teared up when I saw Rick break down…though now that I think about it, my lack of tears could have been due to the fact that I was too busy scoffing at Maggie’s attempts to resuscitate the baby.

“You call that drying and stimulating!?!?”

And T-Dog. Ugh. Really? I agree that it was probably not intentional, but it certainly feels like the show just didn’t want two token black guys.

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