The Walking Dead Post Mortem: Killer Within
Greetings fellow zombie lovers, and fans of fighting off zombies with crutches, a huge, big, and shocking episode this week as T-Dogg and Lori Grimes have both joined Dale, Shane, Sophia, Jim, and Amy in being no longer being alive. I suspect Lori’s death will be met with much rejoicing by most fans whereas T-Dogg’s demise will elicit a kind of neutral ambivalence. Either way, whatever I felt about these two people before last night’s episode was dampened by the fact that the writers and actors did a fairly tremendous job sending them off and making the audience feel the weight of their deaths. So without further ado, let’s begin exhuming this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Killer Within”.
A lot of critics and fans have yammered on and on about how much The Walking Dead has improved in these early episodes of season 3, and I thought tonight’s episode perfectly illustrated how these improvements are genuine and not mere hyperbole fueled by the blogosphere hype machine. For instance, the decision to break up the action in the prison with scenes in Woodbury throughout the hour created a very well-balanced episode. Last year, they could only cut from happenings on the Herschel’s farm….back to…happenings on the Herschel’s farm. It created such a narrative monotony that whenever a crisis was introduced to the story it seemed artificial and ultimately hollow attempt to create action and suspense. Here, all the action in prison scenes flows from a (somewhat) logical and organic place: the prisoner Rick left to die a couple episodes back returns with a sinister plan for retaking the prison. He then breaks into the prison and leads zombies into the interior. The zombies descend on the group just as they are having a happy moment watching Herschel get back on his feet and learn to work his crutches. And then it’s all chaos and destruction from there on out.
Poor T-Dog, we barley knew thee….
The prison scenes were both riveting and harrowing at the same time. They also featured tons of great zombie kills with Glen’s sideways mini-decapitation being my personal favorite. Once again, echoes of all three original Alien movies (even Fincher’s much maligned Alien 3…which was set in a prison no less) are on display as the characters weave in and out of tight corridors with flashing lights and alarm sirens going off, as the zombies are partially obscured in shadow. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff, and it’s executed so well visually, with a flare and craft that is sorely missing from most cinematic horror movies these days. The action in the prison culminates in the two big deaths I mentioned earlier. I have to confess: I didn’t really give a shit about T-Dog; he was a grossly under-cooked character, and while I think Iron E. Singleton is a decent enough actor, he was never really given good material to work with. His death, sacrificing himself to save Carol, ends up being his defining moment as a character. T-Dog professes to be a man of deep spiritual faith as he’s racing down the corridors to meet his end, which as far as I can recall, was something that was never explored about character before this moment. Even though the show is improving, it’s also paying for past mistakes. Maybe there’s an alternate universe where this was the gut wrenching death of a much beloved, fully rounded three-dimensional character…but in this reality, it was a grisly end for someone who was cannon fodder with an extended life-span. T-Dog, I can’t say you will be missed, but I never actively hated you… unlike the other character that perished in this episode.
RIP Lori Grimes.
What can you say? Lori is by far the most disliked character on the show by legions of fans and TV critics alike. Similar to T-Dog, Lori sacrifices herself to save someone else: her unborn part-Shane love child. But unlike T-Dog, her death actually affects the show, and is a definitive paradigm shift for the narrative. She gives Carl a nice little pre-death pep talk, and then allows Maggie to perform fatally amateur surgery on her. It was an intensely emotional and graphic scene, and a high point for The Walking Dead in the artistic/dramatic department…which, admittedly, isn’t saying too much, but progress is progress. This is all topped off by Andrew Lincoln’s high quality work throughout the episode as well, Rick’s anguish over his wife’s death in the episodes closing moments made me wince. The show hasn’t been this emotional involving for some time, and it’s not over yet, we know that there’s going to be even more hard stuff coming down because….
Meanwhile, in the town of Woodbury
Merle is going to come looking for Daryl, and Daryl is going to have choose a side. The action in Woodbury this week focused closely around The Governor, Andrea, Michonne, and Daryl. All these character want something from the other. Michonne wants The Governor to feel intimidated by her. The Governor wants Michonne to become a good little solider. Merle wants to find Daryl. And Andrea doesn’t know what she wants. I had an issue with Michonne’s behavior here: it’s clear the show is trying to establish her as tough, smart, and resourceful character. However, her making it abundantly clear to The Governor that she is wise to his BS, is not smart at all. She is in the Governor’s town, surrounded by people who are extremely loyal to him, she’s outnumbered and outgunned. The smarter thing would’ve been to not let the Governor know she is onto him. A minor nitpick, but the writers need to fine tune her characterization in future episodes. Also, the show could probably pump its breaks now a little bit now. The narrative malaise of season 2 has been replaced with propulsive narrative momentum, that’s drastically improved the show, but I could use a slower, more nuanced, episode every once and while.
Horror Movie Recommendation
An American Werewolf In London (1981). Another all time classic. If you’ve not seen this. Remedy immediately. It’s on Netflix. Fun fact: this is my personal favorite horror movie of all time.
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