By the end of season 2, I developed a love-hate relationship with The Walking Dead; I loved Daryl Dixon, tolerated a couple of other characters and hated almost everyone else. But something or someone reanimated the series over the break between seasons 2 and 3, addressing a lot of problems with the pacing of the story that I felt bogged down season 2. Tonight’s episode 3.04, “The Killer Within,” was actually a great episode of TV, successfully combining both action and genuinely moving character beats.
We open in the prison, where someone is luring zombies along a delicious venison-flavored trail right into the heart of the prison, helpfully breaking the flimsy locks that keep parts of the fence chained shut.
Meanwhile, Rick, Daryl, T-Dog, and Carol are finalizing their plans for a multilevel parking garage at the prison, while Maggie and Glenn are enjoy the privacy of the prison watchtower. T-Dog spots Oscar and Axel, the two prisoners Rick banished to the other cell block, who have come to plead with Rick to allow them to join his group. Apparently, living with the bodies of their former prison comrades is too disturbing even for hardened felons who lived with psycho Tomas for eight months.
Rick is adamant, despite a fairly convincing and rational argument by Oscar, the less shifty of the two remaining prisoners. A brief private consultation ensues, where T-Dog pleads for the prisoners, while Carol, Maggie, and Glenn say that they can’t risk letting strangers join them. Daryl points out that but for the grace of the zombie apocalypse, he could easily have been one of those prisoners himself, but that doesn’t make him any more inclined to let Oscar and Axel join the group. Poor T-Dog is outnumbered as Rick tells the prisoners that they can keep to their agreement or leave the prison.
Speaking of prisons, though more opulently appointed ones, in Woodbury (where we spent the last episode), Michonne stalks the streets, doing a little digging under the surface of the seemingly perfect town ruled by the Governor. She comes across the army trucks that we watched the Governor and his men kill for last week, noting the bullet holes and fresh-ish blood that decorate the trucks. When the Governor, who seems to have been following her, tries to flatter with his assessment of her as a “good soldier” she asks him pointed questions about the bullet holes and the dead helicopter pilot. I’m not sure it’s a great idea for her to reveal how suspicious she is at this juncture, but the Governor seems to be okay with her interrogation. Probably because he’s contemplating what a fine addition Michonne will make to his head collection.
Andrea and Michonne have a chat about their plans after they leave the Governorship; Michonne wants to go to the coast, or better yet, find an island, while Andrea wants to know what they’ll be doing on this island for the rest of their lives. I sense a certain incompatibility of goals here.
At the prison, Rick, Glenn, and Daryl go foraging for wood to burn all the bodies from the prison, while T-Dog, Maggie, and Carol park the cars. Beth, Maggie, Carl, and Lori accompany Herschel into the prison yard; Herschel remarks that the place almost looks fit for human habitation. Lori and Rick exchange a long-distance significant look. Naturally, the venison-following zombies pick this moment to disrupt our prison idyll.
The group gets separated—Carl, Maggie, and Lori flee into the cell block which is also full of zombies; Herschel and Beth take refuge at the top of a staircase where Herschel blocks the gate with his crutch (good thinking!); Glenn, Rick, and Daryl run desperately towards the other members of their group; Axel and Oscar follow them; and T-Dog tries to close the gate and is bitten for his troubles. I guess Oscar is now going to be the token black guy on the show! When I said I wanted a story for T-Dog, this wasn’t what I had in mind.
Back in Woodbury, Andrea shows Merle the location of Herschel’s farm on a map, and they reminisce about the good old days. Merle asks Andrea why they never hooked up (maybe because he was a vocal racist meth addict when she knew him?) and susses out that Andrea is bitter about the fact that Rick’s group left her behind when they fled the farm. Andrea asks Merle if the Governor is a good man, and Merle says that he is. Andrea, please consider the source, and whether you and Merle mean the same things when you say “good.”
At the prison, the already chaotic situation is exacerbated by the sudden blaring of alarms, apparently powered by diesel generators. The zombies all get even more agitated by the prospect of fresh meat and loud noises and Lori’s baby decides that this would be a great time to be born. (Hint: it’s not a good time.)
In Woodbury, the Governor is teeing off golf balls on the surrounding wall, aiming for the heads of zombies. Merle approaches him about going to find Daryl, based on Andrea’s information. The Governor points out that Merle has no idea where Daryl is now, as opposed to eight months ago, and tells Merle that when he has more solid info on Daryl’s current whereabouts he can go look for him. Hmm! Did I just detect some lessening of Merle’s Governor Admiration? Merle’s first loyalty is to his family, which should make things interesting when the Dixons are reunited if Daryl no longer shares that mindset. (That is not in any way a spoiler, by the way, just that a Dixon Brothers reunion seems inevitable.)
Speaking of families, Carl is about to experience the most traumatic minutes of his young life, and considering what he’s already lived through, that’s saying something. First of all, Maggie orders Lori to drop trou so she can do a obstetrical examination of his mother, which is something that no eleven-year-old really needs to see. But there is much, much worse to come.
T-Dog and Carol are experiencing their own nightmare; in the hopes that Carol will survive, T-Dog decides to sacrifice himself since he is already under a death sentence. He charges toward a group of zombies who proceed to eat him alive. Again, this is definitely not the story I wanted for T-Dog. Carol, weeping, slips away. Poor T-Dog!
In Woodbury, Andrea is having a farewell drink with the Governor, who tells her that he’s sorry to see Michonne and Andrea leave. So sorry that he’s decided to keep Michonne’s sword as a souvenir of their visit! If you didn’t know that the Governor relaxes in his basement of severed heads, I suppose he does have a certain charm, but since I do know that he’s a murderer and also insane, Andrea’s flirtation with this man sets my teeth on edge.
Rick’s group has finally found the generators. They also find Andrew, the prisoner that Rick sent out into the yard full of zombies. Andrew orchestrated the entire zombie prison entry in the belief that this would somehow lead to his “taking back the prison” and when he bests Rick in their wrestling match, he yells at Oscar to shoot Rick. Instead, Oscar shoots Andrew and hands the gun back to Rick.
Meanwhile, Maggie realizes that something is very wrong with Lori’s delivery because she’s already bleeding. Lori tells Maggie to do a c-section on her and save her baby, dooming herself to a certain and painful death. Maggie and Carl look heartbroken.
In Woodbury, Andrea’s more brain-broken than heartbroken, telling Michonne that she wants to stay in Woodbury for a few more days.
Before she dies, Lori tells Carl that he’s strong and brave and that he has to look after his father and do what’s right. She tells him that it’s so easy to do the wrong thing in this world, perhaps from her own experience. By the time Lori hugs Carl, everyone is sobbing, including me. Lori reminds Maggie that once the baby is delivered, someone has to stop her from becoming a Walker. Maggie delivers the baby, and then Carl’s day of incredible trauma continues when he has to shoot his mother in the head. Maggie wants to spare him, but Carl insists that he needs to do this himself.
Rick, Daryl, and Glenn come across the horrifically mangled body of T-Dog and Carol’s headscarf. In the prison yard, they count up the survivors: Herschel and Beth are okay. Rick starts to tell Daryl to keep looking for Maggie, Lori, and Carl, when he hears the cry of his newborn. He turns, and asks where Lori is. Maggie stops him, crying, and he realizes that his wife is dead. The episode closes with Rick sobbing on the ground.
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.