'Walking Dead' recap and review: 'Killer Within' aims for the gut
Let’s get this out of the way first: HOLY CRAP. In episode four of its 16 episode season, The Walking Dead killed two major characters and drastically altered the shape of the show. For good or for ill, that is a bold, ballsy move at this point in the game, and I applaud them for it. The trick now will be making it feel earned and allowing it to impact the show moving forward in fresh and exciting ways. Last season, people complained about slow plot movement, and part of me can’t help but wonder if now, as a reaction to that, it’s moving a bit too fast. I’ll take ‘too fast’ over ‘too slow’ any day, though, and regardless of how it affects the show moving forward, ‘Killer Inside’ was an intense, gripping episode, so it’s hard to argue with results.
Let’s start out with the Woodbury stuff and work our way towards the crazy sh*t that went down at the prison. Over in Woodbury, things pretty much stayed the same, with Michonne being distrustful, Andrea buying into the whole thing, the Governor being shady, and Merle being, well, Merle. Merle hitting on Andrea was super awkward and creepy, although I’m actually finding Merle to be kind of likeable this season. I don’t know if that’s just in contrast to the total douchebag he was when we first met him, or if this really is a kinder, gentler Merle, but I’m digging it. It gives Michael Rooker more to play than ‘racist asshole who yells a lot,’ and it was evident from his scene with the Governor this week that Merle is back to be more than just a moustache-twirling villain.
Merle and the Governor have some tension now, since Merle wants to go find Daryl, and I’m sure that will pay off down the line. The most odd moment was the scene between the Governor and Andrea. It certainly seems as if those two are gonna get it on, which is a strange direction to take this storyline in, but I’m willing to withhold judgement until it happens. It’d be easier for me to be invested in this storyline if I knew anything about Michonne or cared about Andrea all that much, so for right now I’m mostly just waiting to see what crazy sh*t Merle and/or the Governor are gonna do.
Let’s jet over to the prison, where things started nice and jolly, and then took a sharp, dark turn. Maggie and Glenn get it on in a guard tower, Hershel is walking around on crutches, the prison is secure, and for a moment, it seems like everything is gonna be okay (even though we know from the opening scene that someone around the prison is messing with the place).
Axel and Oscar, the two prisoners from two weeks ago, say that they can’t live in the cell block that Rick cleared for them, and they wanna come live with the group. T-Dog, in a shocking bit of actual character development that should have been a dead give-away of what was gonna happen to him later, thinks they should let the new guys come live with them, but Rick shuts the idea down. Before this can really register, though, a horde of walkers rolls through, and everyone goes into survival mode. Hershel and Beth get to safety and stay there for the rest of the episode, and T-Dog gets bitten immediately.
Oh T-Dog. Poor, poor T-Dog. As much as I hate to say it, we should have known his days were numbered once they introduced another black guy. Fans have often complained that he has nothing to do, so of course this episode makes us really like him right before killing him. Fortunately, after getting bit, he gets a badass moment where he sacrifices himself to save Carol, and it’s a sequence that plays really well. The flashing green hallway lights that lead to it are wonderfully creepy and serve to really heighten the tension. It’s an expected moment, knowing that T-Dog is on his way out, but it’s an effective one.
Rick, Daryl and Oscar find the source of all this trouble, who turns out to be Andrew — the guy that Rick left for dead in episode two of the season. There’s a fight, and Oscar takes him down, essentially securing him and Axel a place in the group. There’s not a ton more to say about this bit, since all the nutso stuff is happening elsewhere, in a boiler room.
Maggie slices the baby out of Lori, and then Carl shoots her so she doesn’t turn. That was the big twist of the episode, and I certainly never saw it coming. The scene was gruesome and effective, and it succeeded in making me actually like Lori (the most consistently poorly-written character on the show) right before she died. I kept thinking there was some way out of it for her, but without Hershel or any of his supplies there, there wasn’t any way to save both her and the baby. The fact that Carl had to be the one to shoot her is super messed up, and I’m actually pretty interested to see what they do with him in the aftermath of this. I still think his crush on Beth is super creepy and weird, but at least that will probably take a backseat to the whole ‘I shot my mom’ thing.
The deaths of T-Dog and especially Lori are very significant to what the show is trying to do this season. By disorienting us and showing us that no one is safe, it’s certainly setting us up for a tumultuous season of television. It’s unpredictable and exciting to be sure, but it’s also dangerous. Not only do they now have to deal with the grim aftermath, but it sets a precedent that the show may not be able to escape. I mentioned two weeks ago that it was important that the group get a win every now and then (like Hershel surviving), and I think it’s even more important now. This can’t just become a show where the characters slowly die, and more horrible things happen each week. If we don’t also get to see positive stuff, like the survivors really building a community in the prison or starting to enjoy life again, then the death and destruction will eventually lose its impact.
Hopefully, this is a balance that the season will succeed in finding as it wears on. For now, though, this was an intense and enjoyable (if heartbreaking) episode of television — even if Andrew Garfield’s despair as Rick after hearing of Lori’s death didn’t totally work for me — and I think that the willingness to shock both us and the characters is a positive thing at this point in the game, as long as it doesn’t become a relentless parade of gloom and doom. My opinion of this episode is going to depend a lot on the couple of episodes that follow it, but for now, it was a bloody good time.