Let's not waste any time and get right to what we all want to talk about from last night's absolutely insane episode of The Walking Dead, "Killer Within": How does Maggie's hair look so good after post-apocalyptic morning sex in a prison guard tower!? I think she may be starring in secret shampoo commercials while the rest of the group kills walkers.
In other news, OH MY GOD. "Killer Within" was so intense that we needed to go to Woodbury and hang out with a psychopath who keeps heads in fish tanks just for a breather. Chaos at the prison resulted in two major deaths, a character going missing, a newborn baby, a kid who growing up way too fast, and the rock-solid leader of our group of survivors crumbling into a crying pile of rubble. A bad day was had by all. The magnitude of everything that happened was so jarring that "Killer Within" felt like a sour season finale. But it was just Episode 4!
I don't want to give preference to one of the deaths over the other because dammit, T-Dog was my boy, but obviously Lori's passing will have more of an impact on the story, so we'll start there. I drove the "Let's kill Lori" bus for much of the past two seasons, but even I didn't want things to end like THAT. I mean, come on! Be careful what you wish for, I guess, because now I feel like the leader of an angry mob who didn't think his wish would be granted. Season 3 had been particularly great for Lori as she transformed from car-crashing selfish bitch to life-saving repentant mother and wife, and a very unscientific poll showed that many viewers recognized that change and embraced it along with me. But as Sarah Wayne Callies said, Lori's pregnancy was her death sentence. A zombie apocalypse is not an ideal time to get knocked up. Honestly, I have no idea what people are thinking when they have unprotected sex during the Age of Zombies. My pal Zombie Dr. Ruth says there are plenty of other ways to get your jollies without pairing the birds and the bees; perhaps spontaneous sex in the middle of the woods isn't the best tension reliever?
But it's the circumstances around Lori's death that made it emotionally crippling to watch. The choice had to be made, and it made complete sense. The baby wasn't coming out on its own without fatally loosening up Lori and putting its own life in jeopardy. If the baby was stillborn, they'd be looking at a hungry zombie baby sitting in a womb full of human Jell-O, and Lori would've died by being eaten alive from the inside out. Lori realized that she was going to die no matter what happened, so she asked Maggie to cut her open and yank the baby out. (I did graphically explain to my wife one way out that would've save Lori but not the baby, but it involved trying to stab the baby in the head through Lori's hoo-ha, which is something even Japanese porn makers wouldn't go near. And then it would've involved taking the baby out piece by piece, but that would've been asking a lot of Maggie and Lori had already put her out by requesting a C-section. Plus, imagine the mess! No thank you.)
The birth was a cakewalk compared to the next order of business, though. Kids grow up fast in a zombie apocalypse. One day they're crawling, the next they're saying their first words, and all of a sudden they're shooting their opened-up mom in the head so she doesn't come back to life and eat them. The Walking Dead isn't afraid to go dark, like Syfy's Total Blackout dark, and Carl shooting a passed-out Lori is about as pitch-black as it gets. Given the bloodiness of everything that preceded Carl shooting Lori, it was wise that the producers decided not to show the actual act. We know what happened behind closed doors, and our imaginations filled in the blanks more tragically than anything we could've seen. Carl's face as he brushed past Maggie said everything it needed to. I can't wait for the future conversation between Carl and his younger sibling when he tells the kid, "Oh by the way, I shot both your dad and your mom in the head," assuming it turns out to be Shane's.
As horrible as the scene was, the entire thing was handled majestically and I really appreciated the real-time panic of it all. Things had to happen so fast that we barely had time to register what was going on. There was only one way out, and everyone knew what it was, even if they didn't accept it. Lori was the strong one, telling Carl and Maggie what needed to be done, and the awkward chat she had with Carl that bordered on corny and sincere felt real, given the severity and suddenness of the situation. I don't have a death speech written, but I imagine it would be something like the blubbering, genuine mess that Lori unleashed. Not everyone on television needs to go out a grand orator with a goodbye that gets a standing ovation. Television loves to romanticize this kind of stuff, but The Walking Dead prefers to rub mud all over it. As a fan of gore and really shitty situations on television, I don't often squirm during anything, but Lori's last scene left me feeling unsettled more than anything I can remember in a long time. I'm not even sure I could watch it again, and I mean that as a compliment.
And just when you thought the worst had passed, Andrew Lincoln had to go and really elevate his acting resumé with some waterworks for the ages and a cry face from the Claire Danes School of Thespianism. I made it through T-Dog's death, I made it through Lori's speech, I made it through Carl's face, but I can't honestly say I made it through Rick's reaction. That destroyed me. You win, Lincoln! If any of you viewers didn't get misty during that scene, congratulations, your soul is already waiting for you in Hell.
On to lighter things! But not much lighter! Poor T-Dog. At least the man who lasted inexplicably longer than we thought he would went out a warrior, sacrificing his life for Carol. There was a lot of cursing and screaming going on around my household when he first got bit, but the man was living on borrowed time. I not-so-secretly hoped T-Dog would be the last survivor and the final scene of the series would be him chillaxin' on a beach with some honeys while drinking some fruity beverages, but T-Dog is now in that big doghouse in the sky, doing whatever it is T-Dog likes to do. Though we'll miss him dearly, he had the best death of the series so far.
So what does this all mean for the future of the group? One of the dangerous situations "Killer Within" presented involves a lot of pressure on Rick. If Rick really wants to feel bad for himself, he could easily say this was all his fault. He left Andrew out in the courtyard but never bothered to confirm his death. Next thing you know, Andrew (who understandably had nothing better to do than get revenge and try to reclaim the prison) was hatching a one-man plan that destroyed the group. For a man so obsessed with little details, Rick will see this oversight as a critical error that will spread inside him until he's completely broken inside. The group accepted his leadership, as harsh as it was, but now Rick's position will be scrutinized as his judgment is clouded with remorse.
"Killer Within" was a brutally monumental episode for the The Walking Dead, which continues to be fearless and unforgiving. Along with Homeland, TWD is ushering in a new school of storytelling in television that ignores conventional wisdom. People will die. This is a zombie apocalypse, after all. But can The Walking Dead develop characters faster than it kills them off?
– The revolving door of survivors scooted out T-Dog and Lori and added Axel, Oscar, and a baby. How will that change the dynamic of the group?
– "Killer Within" was about as accurately titled as can be, no?
– Babies and zombie apocalypses do not mix well. Good luck caring for that thing, guys. And Rick, it's probably not even your baby. Do you guys think the infant will last a month?
– I barely even remember what was going on with Michonne and Andrea over in Woodbury after all that happened at the prison. Michonne was snooping around and gathering evidence that the army men didn't go quietly, Andrea was getting a little too comfortable with The Governor, Merle wanted to go looking for Daryl, and The Governor said his name is Phillip and showed deadly accuracy with a three wood.
– Did anyone catch IronE Singleton (T-Dog) on Talking Dead last night? He was adorable!
– Readers of the comics, were you surprised about how this all went down? I never saw it coming.
This was an all-star team performance, but we have to name SOMEONE the MVP. Carl stepped up and put on his big-boy pants, Lori showed an incredible amount of bravery, Maggie answered the call of duty and performed a difficult task, and Rick acted his face off. But c'mon. We all know who deserves it. T-DOG!!!