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The Walking Dead 3.4: "Killer Within" review

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The Walking Dead 304

Rating:
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Ever since the first season, it’s been clear that “The Walking Dead” wants to be that show where anyone could die at any time. Maintaining that kind of dread is a precise balancing act. Go too long without any casualties, the action loses tension (and on that note, this show knew what it was doing when it skipped ahead those eight months between seasons when the group was at its most formidable). When done right, a major death can feel like a natural culmination of that character’s story (as with Shane), or there’s always the simpler pulling-the-rug-out approach, as was the case with Amy, Jacqui, Sophia, and Dale. But kill too many too fast and the viewers can’t get invested when it no longer matters whose story gets to continue. This problem can be compounded if the characters are unlikeable or underdeveloped, the latter of which was often the case back on Hershel’s farm, where the Greene family were mostly glorified background extras before they got unceremoniously picked off. More importantly, viewers’ investment can grow cumulatively with well-rounded characters who stick around.

Okay, I’ve stalled enough; on to the episode. As Rick and friends enjoy the morning air, the two surviving convicts return, reporting that they are unsatisfied with their new digs and wish to put in for an upgrade to nicer quarters. As before, Rick won’t budge an inch, even when T-Dog points out that, at this point, the convicts “may have less blood on their hands than we do.” Although Daryl is also sympathetic to their plight, he'd rather let them take their chances on the road than offer them the cell next door.

Splitting time between the prison and Woodbury, we get a great scene where Michonne and the Governor circle each other as she calmly grills him about the poor unfortunate convoy he just so happened to find slaughtered by walkers. While he has an answer for everything, Michonne’s still suspicious of the whole act, thus proving conclusively that her sh*t indeed never stopped being together.

Andrea on the other hand just isn’t ready to leave yet, because when you’ve been on the run from the undead for eight months with dwindling food and medicine, you’re gonna want to stay in Woodbury for as long as you can. Even Merle’s advances aren’t enough to convince her otherwise. In between golf-balling zombies the Governor sweetens her stay by telling her his name: Philip. Other than that, there’s not much development on the Woodbury end; Andrea still wants to stay, Michonne still wants to go, and the Governor still has Merle’s leash.

It’s just another day at the prison when the group finally notices that somebody left the gates open to let the walkers in. Rick figures the convicts, but there’s little they can do about it as all hell breaks loose. As they dispatch the first wave of undead, the prison alarms start blaring, which will surely attract more hungry attackers. The group is separated with Lori, Carl and Maggie getting chased off while the others work to contain the walkers and shut off the alarms. Hershel and Beth are able to barricade themselves, but T-Dog gets bitten before running off with Carol, so his fate is sealed no matter what happens. Knowing this, T-Dog elects for the heroic downfall to make sure Carol gets away safely, though by the end Carol is still missing. So long, T-Dog. It was nice knowing ya, even though we hardly knew ya.

And as if things weren’t bad enough, Lori goes into labor in the middle of all this. It quickly becomes clear that she can’t hope to deliver without professional surgeons, anesthetic, plenty of bandages and a fully equipped C-section. But in their darkened utility room with walkers just outside the door, all they have is Carl’s knife and Maggie’s bare hands.

It’s fair to assume that Lori’s been preparing for this possibility for some time. Carl had to be delivered via C-section, and it’s the sort of procedure that gets repeated with later births by the same mother. I imagine she’s been preparing what she would say to Carl or Rick if it came to saving herself or the baby, and decided that if it was possible to bring a new life into a world gone mad, the baby’s life would come first. And I think it speaks to the show’s priority toward character over action that the gruesome fatal slash across Lori’s abdomen is shown fully in camera, while the bullet from Carl’s gun that puts his mother down for good only is heard offscreen.

When the group finally gets to the generator room, the culprit is revealed: Andrew, the convict that Rick left for dead to get eaten by walkers back in “Sick”. In his zeal for revenge, Andrew failed to realize that not only was he putting his fellow convicts in danger, but the success of his plan could’ve left him as the last man standing in a compound overrun by walkers. No doubt Oscar considered this when presented with the choice to kill Rick or Andrew before pulling the trigger on Andrew. Hopefully it’ll take the edge of the whole mess being kind of Rick’s fault.

At the close of the hour, when Maggie and Carl emerge and Rick sees their hands covered in blood and a crying baby where his wife used to be, Rick completely breaks like you never thought Rick could break.

So yeah, the gang’s stay at the prison is off to a pretty rotten start, all things considered. They had a hell of a streak going; eight months on the road without losing anybody (or gaining, for that matter), and while there’s now a fresh newborn to look after, they’ve just lost two, plus Hershel’s leg, in only a few days. One has to wonder if anybody will by left to meet the Governor.

Grade: A

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