Piers McCarthy reviews the fourth episode of The Walking Dead season three…
In many cases there will be one seminal season of a television show. For all the episodes that constitute the label “best ever season”, there is usually one in amongst them all that is pivotal. It may be too early to say but The Walking Dead’s “Killer Within” could be that episode in a season that is arguably the “best ever”.
The last episode moved away from Rick and co’s story and drew attention on Michonne and Andrea and a new community they are invited into. Episode four switches back and forth between these arcs though the expected linkage between has yet to be seen.
“Killer Within” begins with the set-up of a zombie mousetrap where, instead of cheese, a deer carcass is strung up to attract and distract two walkers whilst an unknown figure breaks through the fence of the prison. As one gate is opened, the bloody heart of the deer is placed on the ground – bait for more walkers.
The prison is now officially home for Rick and his family and friends and so a clean-up is underway. This occupies most of Glenn, Daryl, T-Dog and Carol’s time though some attention is given to the two convicts left to live in a cell full of the “ghosts” of old prison-mates. The older, Southern man begs to be let in the group whilst his younger, black companion sees no point trying to bargain with the stern lot of newcomers. T-Dog is a little more open to inviting the pair in, thinking that “those two might actually have less blood on their hands than we do”. Nevertheless, Rick’s rules stand and the convicts are locked up. You often forget that Rick was a police officer and so his perception of criminals is largely distrustful; he tells the story of an boy he once arrested who once acquitted went on to shoot more people, giving credence to his opinion of consideration before care. The Southerner keeps trying to win over Daryl but to no avail, hoping Daryl would allow him to touch up his motorbike in one instance.
Back to Woodbury and Michonne is checking out the area by herself. She still feels perturbed about being under the rule of the mysterious Governor and is analysing the trucks and Humvees supposedly salvaged from the apparent zombie attack on the group of soldiers. As she sees bullets holes embedded in the side doors the Governor appears – she takes her opportunity to question the scenario. He manipulates the moment by praising Michonne and saying how the situation may have been different with her help and knowledge. Despite his efforts Michonne still has her reservations and shrugs off his tall tales and commendations. Back in her room with Andrea she tells her friend of her plan to get to the coast, find a boat and travel to an island. Andrea likes the romantic and possibly safe notion of this plan and decides to join Michonne.
Hershel’s health, meanwhile, has strengthened and he takes to using crutches to move around. Finding his new legs is a slow process but as he walks out into the prison yard he is looked on by all the others. It is a moment of cheerfulness that feels odd and alien to the show (forgetting the camp-fire scene in “Seed”). Some may not experience this uneasiness but for those that do, the shots of smiling faces brings on an anxious sweat. The slight fear you may feel is quite legitimate as soon dozens of walkers begin to flood the prison ground. Hershel is barely back on his feet and Lori is heavily pregnant – these two issues are made worse by the fact that help from Rick, Daryl and Glenn has to wait as they are on the other side of the prison yard. They sprint to their aid but are still too far away to get there in time and Lori, Carl, Maggie, Carol and T-Dog have to take shelter inside. Tension has surmounted in a few sequences so far but this is easily the most nerve-wracking; the jeopardy that so many core characters find themselves is shocking. As if matters couldn’t get worse T-Dog is bit and the prison alarm is raised, bringing walkers in from all surrounding areas.
Andrea says her goodbyes to Merle, though asks him whether he had ever thought about leaving. Andrea is offering to help Merle find his brother and with that and her query he starts to question his time in Woodbury. He goes to the Governor and talks about his wish to find his brother. The Governor continues to be manipulative and carefully shoots holes in Merle’s optimism, trying to advertise the settlement. Merle continues to give ideas of how he’ll find Daryl and the Governor finally states that if he gets more concrete evidence that he will go with him –hopeful that no extra information will come or that Merle changes his mind. Andrea later says her goodbyes to the Governor but decides to stick around for a day or two longer, much to Michonne’s annoyance.
Back with the main story and the alarm is sounding loudly throughout the prison. Glenn finds the lock cut with an axe and Rick and Daryl immediately think it’s the two convicts. The prisoners both vehemently deny it and the younger one offers guidance on how to shut off the alarm and where to find the generator – this earns the both of them a kind of reprieve. Inside the lower depths of the prison Lori, Carl and Maggie take sanctuary in the boiler room where Lori has gone into labour. Maggie tries to help but after finding blood during one of the pushes, realises more help is needed.
The other characters needing help are Carol and T-Dog, especially as the latter has been bit and is ready to turn. Unlike Carl, Lori and Maggie, they have been unable to find a place to hide safely. The walkers trudge through every corridor, making the labyrinth all the more deathly. T-Dog finds an exit and holds back the two walkers covering it in order for Carol to escape. Like I said in the review for episode one, there is something more repulsive about a living person getting ripped apart in the show than a walker. T-Dog’s horrible death includes his neck being bitten into, with the flesh ripped away and a gush of blood following that makes even the more desensitised viewer feel faint. His death may mean something to some fans but in general T-Dog is a weak, undeveloped character that only provides muscle and occasional opinion. The demise of T-Dog would not give the episode the full thwack of drama and so one more character must perish.
If T-Dog could die amid the scratches and snares of the zombies, so could anyone in the prison. Rick, Daryl and the black convict are equally vulnerable when routing their way to generators. As they reach the room they’re looking for the door can’t close with the walkers pounding up against it and as Rick asks for assistance on shutting the power off, only Daryl can hold the door. The walkers could break through is not the major worry though – the swing of an axe only just misses Rick and the one behind all the games is the one Rick left on the prison roofs. Realistically pissed off by the desertion he has tried to kill Rick and his group – successful in part. A close fight ends when the helpful convict shoots his past cell-mate in the head. As the gun still lies square at Rick’s head, Daryl creeps up ready to stab away. Fortunately, the black convict still wants to lend a hand and gives Rick back his gun. Maybe now he and the Southerner will be accepted.
The caesarean that Lori thought she may need becomes a necessity. Lori is decisive that her baby is given its life whilst she loses hers. The relationship between Carl and his parents has lost most of its relevance and so Lori dying in Carl’s arms arguably doesn’t affect you as much you would have thought. As the baby is pulled out by Maggie it looks to be stillborn, adding to the tragedy that Lori died in vain. However, the baby soon lets out a cry and Maggie walks out of the boiler room with it. Carl is left to destroy his mother’s brain, lest she return as a walker. The shot that we hear as Maggie looks to go back for him is more saddening than her goodbye – it is a dilemma for Carl and a horrible choice he has to make. Before we hear the shot we see a flashback to an earlier episode where Rick tells his son how he’ll “never be ready” for the deaths and destruction the new world will bring. It reminds you more of Carl and Rick’s relationship, making the final scene heartbreaking.
As Rick, Daryl and Glenn find T-Dog’s chewed remains they see the exit that Carol escaped through (though they believe her to be dead also after finding only her head-cloth). Led back into the prison yard Rick asks for Lori, Carl and Maggie’s whereabouts. As Hershel and Beth tell them there’s no sign of them the faint cry of the baby immediately gets their attention. Maggie shakily walks out with the baby in her arms, Carl following solemnly behind. As Rick sees Maggie’s teary eyed face and finds no Lori walking behind he realises the worst has happened. This is one of the most devastating sequences in The Walking Dead and Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan’s acting lifts the drama and desolation to new heights. Carl stands silently with watery eyes and Rick looks at him, bubbling “No, no no”. From the description it may not sound too upsetting but watching it does have you welling up – Rick is such a strong character so to see him broken down is harrowing.
It ends on the bleakest note in the series so far. I worry that the next few episodes will revert back to the slow, dreary pace of the second season when that dealt with death. My optimism in the third season does outweigh my pessimism but it’s too hard to tell how the season will now progress. Still, on only the fourth episode we are given a lot to deal with and hopefully the remaining episodes will dole out more interesting, entertaining and evocative material.
Piers McCarthy – Follow me on Twitter.