Nov 5 2012 12:30pm

The Walking Dead, S3 E4: “Killer Within”

A review and recap of The Walking Dead season 3 episode: Killer Within

Just when I thought this was going to be a dull episode....

And a good chunk of it was. Honestly, I can’t decide if I liked this episode or not. On one hand, the whole Woodbury nonsense is just last week’s leftovers reheated, while the prison stuff feels forced and undeserving of the sympathy it demands. On the other hand, Woodbury is moving some important pieces around the board to set up for November sweeps, while the prison scenes are tragic and devastating. After watching the ep twice, I still can’t decide on which side of the fence I sit.

I’m starting to get Michonne’s frustration with Woodbury. Looks like a seriously boring place. Residents seem to have nothing better to do than walk up and down Main Street. No one is ever doing anything in particular except aimlessly wandering around. But that’s neither here nor there. Of greater import are the murky relations between Merle, the Governor (aka Philip), Andrea, and Michonne. Tensions flare as Michonne wants to get the hell outta Dodge and Andrea wants to settle down and have all the Governor’s evil babies (can’t blame her, he is drop dead sexy).

What I don’t understand is why Michonne doesn’t ditch her and take off on her own. Her plan to wait out the end times on an island sounds like heaven—I have the exact same plan for when the zombie plague hits—but isolation isn’t Andrea’s thing. I get that. Living alone in a tropical paradise isn’t for everyone. Woodbury fits perfectly with her world view, in that she can live somewhere nice and clean, where men do all the hard work and she gets to sleep with the hottest guy in town and pretend the end of the world didn’t really happen. It’s not a fantasy that will last; the Governor’s dictatorship will eventually squeeze the life out of the town and the whole thing will crumble. Might take a few years, but with or without Michonne and Rick’s help, the town will fall. Michonne’s smart enough to know she doesn’t want to be around when it does.

Not that any of that went on in the actual show. What really happened was Michonne and the Governor had a staring contest to see who would flinch first. Andrea got hit on by creepy perv Merle after she told him everything that ever happened to her because no hard feelings, man. Andrea then put the moves on the Governor who, in turn, put the fake moves on her and got her to vomit out even more important clues. And the Governor stood around looking damn fine in those tight pants while planning out all the horrible things he wants to do to Michonne and Andrea. The way David Morrissey shifts incrementally from good guy to bad guy...dude, this guy is so much better than the show he’s stuck on. He inhabits his character in a way no one else does. Gives me the chills.

Woodbury may have a menacing undercurrent, but the real hellscape is Rick’s newly polished up prison. The whole gang made their way into the yard where they enjoyed two whole minutes of sunshine and happiness before it all went awry. And here’s where my biggest issues with this ep lay. I get what the writers were going for, and, as I said above, sometimes I think it worked. It was fraught, visceral, and gut-wrenching—literally. But at the end of it all, T-Dog’s death is kinda pointless. He was killed off for the same reason he was kept on in the first place: just ‘cause. He never held a vital role in the group beyond token black guy. He had some choice lines he delivered with witty aplomb, but never developed much in the way of a personality. In the short run, killing him off buys Carol a minute or two to crawl into an air duct until the chaos dies down. In the long run, they’re one good fighter short when they’re eventually set upon by the Governor (which looks like it’s finally gonna happen next week). But group dynamics wise, his death is about as meaningful as Jacqui’s.

Worse still is Lori’s death. I couldn’t watch a single frame of Lori’s impromptu C-section. Hell, hearing it was bad enough. Now I feel kinda bad about Lori. She was a terrible character, sure, but even she didn’t deserve to go out like that. But, of course, that was the only way her pregnancy was ever going to turn out. And Carl having to pull the trigger on her corpse to prevent her from rising later on was absolutely horrible. She got her tearful farewell, her closing monologue, and went on her merry, bloody way. From a story point it was terrible and wonderful all at once. But it was also frustrating.

The show is veering very close to misery porn territory. The comics reached a similar spot a few volumes in where I couldn’t take anymore pointless, violent death. It never stopped coming. Yes, that’s what the world would be like if we were trapping in a zombie hellmouth, but you know what? I’m not stuck in a zombie hellmouth. I live in sunny California where I can go to the beach when I want and eat candy for dinner and not have to worry if that guy I’m on a date with wants to rip the flesh from my face to get to my juicy, delicious brains. The deaths at the end of the prison arc were my tipping point in the comics, and if the TV show decides to keep piling on gruesome death after gruesome death without justification I might have to bow out of it, too. The downside to a never-ending apocalypse is that it all starts to become meaningless. We’re not even mid-way through the third season and all hope seems well and truly lost. If there are no stakes, if there’s no hope, then what does it matter?

Final Thoughts

  • “You coming?” “What?” - Daryl’s 10 year old boy giggle at this joke was adorable.
  • “Whose blood would you rather have on your hands: Maggie, Glenn, or theirs?” “Neither.” Fare thee well, T-Dog. We hardly knew ye.
  • It’s a good thing Carol wore that scarf today that she’s never worn before, otherwise how would they identify her?
  • It’s been almost a year since the zombie outbreak yet the prison has cut grass and Mr. Drug Bust has a perfectly coifed handlebar moustache.
  • Goddammit, Andrea. Shut your frakking mouth. Stop spilling out every little personal detail to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who asks you for the time of day.
  • I don’t know that I take Merle’s definition of “good” as something worth staking my life on.
  • Andrew Lincoln is an awful fake cryer. Give that man the Tobey Maguire Award for Overly Dramatic Sobbing.
  • Sorry about the lack of interesting photos. Last few seasons AMC was so good at uploading stills that they ended up spoiling future eps. This season I’m lucky if they post 2 the night of.

Alex Brown is an archivist, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

Sara H
1. LadyBelaine
If I were to start a club for Governor fangirls, what would I call us? I need suggestions, because I am seriously contemplating it... because day-um.

In related news, bye, Lori. Although you were dreadful, I actually felt bad for you at the end. Yikes.

I am so en edge watching the prison stuff that:
a) I flinched when Hershel was roused from his bunnk because if he died in his sleep.. zombie fun! and
b) I am actually so twisted by this show that I thought that maybe Lori's baby would be stillborn and thus Maggie was cradling a little zombie baby to her bosom..... yikes again.

I did miss what happened to Carol; can someone enlighten me? Also, what was the point of having her do her little c-section practice if she wasn't needed? This show needs a refresher in the Art of the Chekov's Gun (or do they?)

Lastly, how exactly did that zombie horde wander into the prison? Didn't these idiots think to secure the perimeter or something? I doubt that they were another pocket of home-grown prison zombies because too many women. They must have just staggered in through some huge open hole somewhere.

(unrelated thought - eventually the walkers would have actually start to decompose, right? So that instead of hordes of walkers, they'd eventually have to just cope with the freshly deceased, right?)
2. sofrina
The downside to a never-ending apocalypse is that it all starts to become meaningless. We’re not even mid-way through the third season and all hope seems well and truly lost. If there are no stakes, if there’s no hope, then what does it matter?

it matters because they're still human beings. their lives are defined by the choices they make, even in the worst of circumstances. the debate between rick and t-dog shows that. the governor's true methods prove that. just because chaos has taken over doesn't mean that people have to submit to savagery and cruelty. it doesn't mean they have to be proactively selfish or mercernary. and it doesn't mean they have to abandon mercy and generosity of fear and desperation.

the one thing they have to hold onto is protecting the essential aspects of humanity. lori asked for this in the end and t-dog exemplified it.
3. Improbable Joe
Clearly, this week is Team KKK. As soon as they let black convict guy follow them, T-Dogg was dead dead dead. That, and he got a couple of lines in the beginning and that means he's said enough for the rest of the season. It is like that scene in Not Another Teen Movie where the token black guy sees another black guy and goes "I'm supposed to be the only black guy at this party" and the other guys says "Really? That's wack! Sorry about that" and then he leaves. This show is so very racist. They are in Georgia, the show shoots in Georgia, Georgia is 30% black. This show has never had more than two black people until now, and balance had to be restored?

It was all I could do not to jump up and cheer when Lori died, but I did throw a fist in the air when Carl shot her. Team Carl?

Gotta say, with the complete lack of development in Woodbury, they sure as hell could have done what I suggested with stretching out the suspense a little more. This just felt like filler, like they are all going to have the same conversation over and over again while being slightly more intense about the delivery, and then Michonne will start taking heads and the fans will pretend that she's an awesome character on the show.
Alex Brown
4. AlexBrown
@Lady: I think that Team Governor question needs to be put to Tumblr. They'll come up with something fab in no time.

The hoarde was attracted by the noise, the blood, and all the other roamers (as in what happened with the zombie hoarde that took out the farm last season). The escaped con undid the locks and opened the prison. Not a great idea, frankly. Even if they did kill off the interlopers, the cons would still have to deal with several hundered HUNGRY lamebrains. That prison was lost the moment he axed the lock open.

Carol went AWOL the same way Andrea did. I'm sure they'll abandon her at the prison and she'll turn up at Woodbury in the last ep - if she doesn't drag herself out by next ep. It's horror movie law: if you don't die on screen and in a spectacularly bloody fashion, then you're not dead.

@sofrina: Yes, it matters if they were human beings. But they aren't. It's TV. They aren't real people, they're poorly written fictional characters. Maybe if they were better written, if TWD was a far better show, I'd be less dour about the prospect of 5 more seasons of death and destruction.

Your point about T-Dog and Lori's deaths makes sense and is exactly what the writers were going for. But there's little tragedy in watching a nobody with no personality and no real name die a senseless death anymore than there is when a cipher who I've spent the last 2 seasons loathing finally gets booted off the show. The only way to care about what happens to the characters is to have characters worth caring about. And TWD has failed miserably in that aspect.
Sky Thibedeau
5. SkylarkThibedeau
The Comics lost me too after Woodbury. Life is void and without Hope and its the Living who are The Walking Dead moving from place to place until Death relieves them of their Walking.

Its the same with the Reimaged Battlestar Galactica and game of Thornes. Hopelessness and depression can only be entertaining to a certain extent. After awhile the whole thing becomes pointless.

I like how they shown Woodbury so far. There are things they just can't do even on Cable TV. This version of the Governor is much more menacing than the one in the comics.
Bill Capossere
6. Billcap
It was stunning just how much I didn’t so care about these deaths. Just as bad, I felt like the writers knew I probably wasn’t going to care and so they dressed them up in as manipulative a fashion as possible. Mom giving birth so we got the whole life-death-simultaneous-aint-that-cool thing? Check. Son has to watch? Check. Son has to kill mom after? Check. And so on. Didn’t matter. Didn’t care.

Same with T-Dog. Seriously, had he been killed off 10, 5, 3 episodes ago, would anybody have even noticed? Worse though is they killed him off just after for the first time he started to look like there could be some lurking interest there. Going against Rick on the prisoners—could have done something with that. Heck, should have been doing something with that. Race as an issue? That would have been an interesting road to travel down—“what, you guys worried about having two black men around?” But I guess having an interesting T-Dog was too tough to write? Is it an allergy? An aversion?

And I confess, the logistics were all just too muddy for me and seemingly too manipulative. The old guy just off his deathbed and on crutches could get to a safe cage but the others couldn’t? Despite being armed? They couldn’t run toward the others, while they picked off any close ones through the fence? C’mon—they’ve been doing this how long now? And they’ve just shown us these guys working like a well-oiled team at times. The whole “they panicked” thing is wearing thin as an excuse. Meanwhile, the hordes all crept up real quiet until just that moment? And somehow managed to infiltrate the interior earlier without being noticed? They can be lured by blood and noise by the bad guy, but they’ll just wonder outside the not-wholly shut door obliviously while Lori bleeds out and screams? Lori can’t move, can barely talk, is panting and gasping, until she starts to bleed and then that means she can be all come and deliver a very peaceful, fluid speech to her son? It all felt half-assed and very, very forced.

As for Pleasantville, it’d be nice to get a sense of the actual community so it doesn’t just feel like that Western town at the end of Blazing Saddles; I keep waiting for someone to have to go back to get a sh--load of dimes. The Governor is a great character played great, but what a waste in those scenes with Michonne and Andrea—not subtle at all, overly played. It mostly felt like placeholder material—“Under Construction”

I’ve always said this show gives and takes in equal amounts, and maybe with the culling last night and the governor it can start doing more of the former and less of the latter. And if not, well, I’ve already purged Once Upon a Time and Revolution from the viewing cycle—another hour of reading time might be nice . . .
Alex Brown
7. AlexBrown
@Skylark: The way Morrissey is handling his character, it's mighty impressive. He's definitely more sinister than in the comics.

@Billcap: Almost all of my opinions on TWD start with "I get what the writers were trying to do, but..."
9. monkat
I haven't read the comics, so I have no idea where this could be going. Much like the writers seem to be having a hard time bringing this puppy together, I am having a hard time caring. The town is ominous, but not particularly threatening unless you're a National Guard dude. If you're a chick, they give you off-the-shoulder duds and scrambled eggs. Meanwhile at Camp Prison, Rick gets his comeuppance for being an unnecessarily cruel bastard to those convicts. Not sure why T-Dogg had to be eaten alive, except, as has been pointed out, we pick up a new black guy thereby fulfilling the show's quota. Despite the over-the-top gorey drama, the only person I felt for in this episode was the scraggly con who was trying so hard to make friends. I'm sure he'll be killed off or have no lines next week.
John Ginsberg-Stevens
10. eruditeogre
As usual Alex, I am in broad agreement with you because writers. You can see what they are trying to do, but it is so improbable, EVEN FOR A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, and effects characters who are mostly cardboard, that it is hard to feel for whats going on. Does Daryl figure out a cool new way to brain a zombie every time? Yes. Should Rick and the gang reconsider about the prisoners? Sure. But there are so many holes in the story and so many characters we have only sporadic, if any, investment in that intention only echoes in the execution.

David Morrissey is the best thing to happen to this show since Norman Reedus came to the fore. This Governor is much better than the one in the comics, and there is just delicious tension oozing from many of his scenes. He is so smooth, ruthless, edgy, and, weirdly, sensitive that it's a pleasure to watch him at work. He is not a stompy beast of a villain; he is firm, perceptive, controlling, and mutable, able to sense how to respond to someone to get what he wants out of them. So evil, yet so well done. The Pleasantville storyline needs some twists worthy of the character.

I am a bit saddened by the death of T-Dogg solely because a character that was just starting to be a character was tossed away. Laurie's final scenes were somewhat affecting because it made me think of my own daughter's difficult birth. I'm curious to see how Maggie and Carl change, if at all, in the next few episodes.
Alex Brown
11. AlexBrown
@monkat: The town has that nefarious Stepford Wives thing going on...and no one that hot and wearing that much black as the Governor could ever be a good guy.

@erudite: I second everything you said. Lori's death hit me on cliched levels (I'm a chick, giving birth is not on my list of things to do with my life, a kid watching his mother die, a kid having to re-dead his dead mother, etc.) but out of the two deaths in this ep, only after T-Dog got bit did I shout "Fuck no!" at the screen.
Bill Capossere
12. Billcap
Alex, that would be a great tagline for the show: "Fuck no!" You may have given me a new drinking game . . .
13. monkat
Alex, call me cynical, but after all the gore, Stepford Wives vibes (say that five times fast!) just aren't bothering me. "Sitting pretty at the end of the world," as was tossed out and then ignored (d'oh!), is a subtle kind of horror that I doubt the writers can manage or can hold narrative attention when we've got people-bits flying on a weekly basis.

There are ways to be subtle even in the Zombie Appocalypse. Rather than showing us the end of the National Guard, show us the Govenor looking kind and benevolent...except for his room full of fish tanks. Pan to the familiar head and let the audience stew for at least a week as to what the hell happened. That's ominous. Show us people asking about the farm, etc., but do not show us the bit where the Govenor orders them to gather intell. Let it come together slowly, perhaps as a flashback after the big betrayal. That's subtle creepy. Have the one female in the town with a speaking role not know anything about the zombie hanging from a tree. Instead have her gush about how good it is to be safe and how grateful everyone is to the Govenor. That's Stepford Wives vibes.

This show doesn't do subtle. This show splashes latex guts against a poorly lit prison corridor wall.
14. Kirshy
What is with all of the hate towards this show? Are we watching the same thing here? I read these reviews of the episodes and have to wonder. If you don't like the show stop watching it, or stop complaining about it. Can we not just enjoy the fact that there is a show about Zombies on TV right now, with a decent budget that doesn't look or sound like low budget crap from the 90's?

Is this the best thing on TV right now, no probably not, but I think given that this is a cable show without the big budget of a hollywood blockbuster they are doing a pretty solid job of producing this show. I think the acting accross the board has been pretty good. Could the writing be better? Of course it could, but that is true of any show and any movie. Is the writing terrible, or cring worthy? No, I don't think so.

It's an ensemble cast, now with multiple story lines. They can't focus on eveyone, so they choose a few characters to be central. Even in the comic, it's the Rick show, everyone else is a bit player. Some have bigger bits than others, but that's just the way it goes. I liked T-Dog. He didn't get to say much or have too much of a story, and yes, I would have liked to see more of him. He was a bit wasted and underdeveloped, and so his death, although heroic, was less impactful than if Glenn or Maggie had died, but still not worth complaining to this extent.

I'm not sure where all of this hate for Lori is coming from either? Can someone explain this to me? She thought Rick was dead, so she hooked up with this best friend at the end of the world. This is understandable. She fessed up to it, and they moved on. Has she been the best mother/wife on earth? No, probably not. But given the situation, and what she's been through, at least she's still there. She hasn't shut down. She's trying, or was trying to be useful.

I'm just not understanding where all of you are coming from. Just sit back and enjoy the show.

ps. I will say one thing that bothers me a bit. Can Carl please stop running off on his own in a zombie infested world, please? First rule of a horror movie, never go anywhere alone, sheesh.
Alex Brown
15. AlexBrown
@Billcap: I shout "Fuck no!" fairly regularly at TWD, it seems...

@monkat: People are a lot more frightening than disasters. Zombies are what they are. They don't act maliciously anymore than a swarm of locusts do. But people, they're the real threat. Everything the Governor does is personal, eg: putting Michonne's sword on his trophy shelf then seating her in the one chair that faced it. But you're so right, the show doesn't just not do subtle, it has a severe allergy to it.

@Kirshy: I don't hate the show at all! If that's what you're getting out of it, then maybe take another look at my reviews. It is possible to like something and also have grave concerns with it. For example, I absolutely looooove Doctor Who (to the point that I have 1 DW tattoo - BLAIDD DRWG - and am getting a second this winter - "Carry on my Wayward Son" written in Gallifreyan), but even though I have disliked most of Moffat's reign I still watch every ep. You and I seem to have the same problems with the show. And complaining is part of the television experience. If you only want to read fannish recaps, I can recommend some sites for that. But I choose to do an actual review, and that entails disecting the good, the bad, and the ugly. If it was really that bad I would opt out of civering the show. But it's not. It's not good by any means, but I don't loathe it either.

The hate on Lori isn't because of her circumstances but because she had absolutely no personality. She was a cipher. She behaved in whatever way the writers needed her to, usually resulting in her taking the opposite opinion to whomever she was conversing with at the time, regardless of whatever opinion she expressed not 30 seconds before. She also managed to cause a nearly fatal accident alone on a completely emptry stretch of straight highway while looking at a map of an area she was totally familiar with.

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