Monday, November 5, 2012

The Walking Dead, Season 3, Episode 4: Killer Within

 At the prison, someone unknown uses a deer carcass to lure and distract some walkers – then break open the chain on the gate and leave a heart in the open gateway to attract the walkers.

Rick and co are preparing for a long day of burning bodies and making sex jokes at Glenn and Maggie’s expense (T-Dog actually got to speak! Almost a full sentence!) They’re approached by Oscar and Axel who beg to be included in the group, Axel begs for a chance to prove themselves. They can’t live in their cell block, it’s full of bodies of people they knew and they can’t dispose of them because one of the fences are down in their area. Rick stands firm and Oscar speaks up much more strongly – the people whose bodies they were dumping were the good people, people who protected them from the worst criminals in the prison like Tomas.  They’d rather hit the road than go back to the cell block.

The group moves off to discuss this and T-Dog is their advocate (he speaks! Even more!) wants to give them a chance and integrate them into the group. Maggie, Glenn and Carol don’t trust them – they’re convicts, Axel looks unstable and they can’t even kill Walkers (so aren’t very useful) and they’re so used to it only being them. T-Dog points out Oscar and Axel probably have less blood on their hands than they do. Daryl, who grew up among criminals, adds “they’re degenerates but they ain’t psychos” it could have just as easily been him. But at the same time he doesn’t see why they should give them a chance, let them take their chances like their group did. Rick steps in – as a policeman he’d seen fake remorse and that doesn’t make people less dangerous and he stands by keeping them apart, which definitely troubles T-Dog.

T-Dog makes it clear he thinks they’re killing Oscar and Axel by forcing them to leave and Rick asks T-Dog if he’d rather have their blood on their hands or the group’s – he says neither; I like that he refuses to accept Rick’s framing of the situation, his narrative that Oscar and Axel are a threat.

They give the prisoners a week worth of food and continue to plan how they’ll live in the prison – they’re low on ammo, the armoury having been picked clean and they want to get the bodies out of the prison rather than risk growing crops in soil filled with rotting Walkers.

Inside, with Beth, Lori and Carl, Hershel takes his first steps in crutches. He’s tough as old boot leather and impresses everyone by how far he’s ready to go on his first day, including Glenn who calls out to him (a little out of character since he’s always been the scout but it also shows the pressure of never being able to let your guard down).

They seem to be having an almost happy, peaceful moment – when a horde of Walkers appear behind Lori, Hershel, Carl and Beth. People start shooting, Glenn starts re-wiring the fence so they don’t get Walkers from 2 directions and everyone else starts running (Rick screaming Lori’s name – see he does care). And Hershel takes on a Walker with his crutch (I think I’m going to like tough-as-boot-leather Hershel).  Hershel and Beth manage to get behind a fence and Maggie, Carl and Lori inside into a cell.

T-Dog manages to close the open gate they’re coming through – fighting through the Walkers to re-seal it. And he gets bitten by a Walker from behind. Oh you are kidding me, is this why he got lines to say this episode?!

Carol and T-Dog stagger through the tunnels, she urges him to stop since he’s so badly injured but he asks why wait – for him to turn? He’s determined to get her through the tunnels. She says she won’t let him become a Walker and he says he can’t ask that of her – and he finds religion.

And Maggie, Carl and Lori run through the tunnels, dodging and running from packs of Walkers – which is when Lori’s  contractions start. They make it to the boiler room and hide inside, with Carl scouting, but the door doesn’t close.

Rick, Glenn and Daryl start clearing out the Walkers and Glenn points out the chain was broken by an axe. Rick blames Oscar and Axel – and then the prison alarm sounds. It’s really really loud and is a dinner bell for the Walkers. They start shooting out the speakers and Rick runs to Oscar to ask him how this is happening, he says it must be the backup generators. Oscar has worked on them for a few days and may be able to stop it and be able to close the main gates with full power.

While Rick & co clear out Walkers and split up looking for the others and the generator, Maggie enlists Carl to help because Lori’s baby is on its way. This is less than ideal to say the least and Lori starts bleeding profusely, Maggie says there’s something wrong.

In the flickering light, T-Dog and Carol are moving through the tunnels when 2 Walkers appear. Their gun is out of ammo and Carol starts to turn back but T-Dog says no. He charges the Walkers, pinning them against the wall, to let Carol pass. As she escapes, we see one of the Walkers tear out T-Dog’s throat. Ah T-Dog, you were a characterless token insert who sacrifices his life nobly to save a white woman. I need to scrub this scene out of my brain.

Rick, Oscar and Daryl reach the generator room, chased by Walkers. Daryl holds the door closed while Oscar and Rick shut off the generators – and Andrew appears, wielding an axe, trying to kill Rick. Yes, he’s alive and no, he’s not happy. He and Rick fight, but Daryl can’t leave the door full of Walkers.  Andrew nearly hits Rick with the axe – but Oscar throws a barrel at him – then pulls a gun. First he points it at Rick and Andrew tells Oscar to shoot Rick. Oscar shoots Andrew and gives Rick his gun back. They finish shutting down the generators.

Back with Lori, she’s laid on the floor, pale. She’s bleeding a lot and not fully dilated. She says she refuse to lose her baby and tells Maggie she needs to cut her open. Carl wants to go for help, but Lori says no. Maggie protests she has no anaesthetic, no equipment – Lori says Carl has a knife. Maggie tells her she won’t survive – Lori focuses on the baby, the baby will survive.

Lori has an amazingly good scene with Carl, it’s a goodbye scene and it’s powerful and contains all the strength that has so often been missing from Lori. She tells Maggie when it’s over, she’ll have to do it (kill Walker Lori), that it can’t be Rick. Maggie performs her amateur caesarean and pulls out the baby, it’s quiet but after a moment it starts to cry. Maggie starts to leave but Carl says they can’t just leave Lori – she’ll turn. Maggie reaches for her knife but Carl says no – she’s his mom. He draws his gun and turns to Lori – we have a flashback of Rick telling Carl no more kid’s stuff. Maggie looks out the door, holding the baby and we hear a gunshot and Carl walks up and past her.

Well that scene pulled no punches.

Rick, Daryl, Oscar, Axel, Glenn continue through the tunnels, killing Walkers. And they find T-Dog’s body. They also find Carol’s bloodied headcloth and assume she is gone as well. They go outside to see Hershel and Beth and are joined by Maggie, Carl – and the baby. Rick realises that Lori isn’t with them. He collapses in tears while Carl stands motionless.

Over to Woodbury, where Michonne is still giving everyone the stink-eye. She finds the equipment from the murdered soldiers last week and checks it – seeing it has bullet holes in it (holes not caused by the soldier’s guns) and finds blood in the shooting position. The Governor turns up to convince her to stay with Andrea but Michonne is still suspicious – she says Woodbury doesn’t need them, they can hold out when even the National Guard is overrun. She also wonders why a soldier, in the driving seat, wouldn’t drive away given how slow the Walkers are. He makes another attempt to recruit her and she pokes the bullet holes “have biters learned how to use weapons?” Their conversation continues with his excuses and Michonne’s pointed suspicion. She has an excellent way of telling him he’s full of shit with her tone even when saying all the right words.

Back with Andrea, Michonne talks about them leaving, heading to the coast, maybe finding a boat or an island, if not just keep moving. Andrea spreads her doubt about the safety of the plan and questions what they’d do even if it worked – stay by the sea, alone, until they got old? Michonne would rather do that than stay in Woodbury. She mocks Michonne for wanting to leave because of what her gut says and Michonne answers “it’s kept us alive this long.” Argue not with Michonne.

Andrea and Merle are being awful friendly. Really friendly. Good gods Andrea, I know it’s an apocalypse but you can do better than that! She tells him about the far where they were staying and shows it to Merle on the map. And Merle, all romantic like, asks why they never hooked up. She points out that he called her a “whore” and a “rug-muncher” which they giggle and smile over. She’s trying to help Merle find Daryl and it becomes clear she feel’s hurt by the fact the group left her. Merle comments that they were both left behind by the same people and saved by another. She asks if he ever thought of leaving he says he’s never had a reason too – so she asks whether the Governor is a good man (seriously? You think MERLE is a good judge of character?)

Merle goes to see the Governor who is playing golf. Well, hitting golf balls at Walkers. He jokes about taking the women to Augusta, playing golf and making history. Merle isn’t so sure, he likes tradition (of course you do, Merle). He tells the Governor he wants to take a scouting mission to find his brother – despite the time, Merle is confident he can find Darryl. The Governor worries about someone getting hurt, but Merle is willing to go alone; the governor won’t even let him go, the whole place will fall apart without Merle (ok, if you need any other proof that Woodbury is evil, the mere fact it relies in Merle should make it clear).

Andrea and the Governor share a moment, a drink and memories (his daughter is still around, apparently). He says he’ll miss them if they leave and says they’re welcome to return. And he reveals his real name – Phillip. Yep, there’s chemistry there. Andrea, really – Shane then Merle and then the Governor? Worst taste in men, EVER. From there she goes to Michonne and tries to convince her to stay – at least for a while.

Well that was an episode full of emotional impact.

T-Dog spoke a lot in this episode AND actually gets to have an opinion. Usually on the few occasions T-Dog got to speak up it was to say very neutral things like “I’ll get water” and “Walker coming”. His advocating for the prisoners can be read 2 ways, I think. Cynically – the show presents the Black man as being the advocate for the prisoners because of the implications towards his past. Positively, he’s an advocate because, due to societal racial profiling, he’s well aware that being on the wrong side law enforcement doesn’t make you guilty or dangerous.

Of course you can be much much more cynical (i.e. me) and probably more accurate based on this show’s record and say that T-Dog finally got so many lines to say so we’d notice when he got bitten. He’s been such a non-character for so long that to have any emotional impact when he finally got eaten they had to cram SOME characterisation into this episode – hence him suddenly getting a speaking role.

And now he’s dead. Do I have to point out the disproportionate number of POC who have died in the Walking Dead since the beginning of season 1? This show actually started out pretty representative in terms of race – but attrition has hit the POC at a hefty rate. Oscar and Michonne join the cast – so T-Dog has to leave it.

For that matter, with Lori dead, Carol missing and Michonne and Andrea separate we also have sharp decline in the women in the main group – but at least we can expect them to meet up and redress the numbers.

Michonne is still suspicious and giving everyone the angry-eye, but at least this week her angry-eye is based on reason and backed up with her investigation that shows she has a sharp brain as well – and a good instinct for smelling bullshit.

Andrea and Merle? No. Oh no. Oh ye gods No. What the hell is this? Did Andrea hit her head or something?

For emotional impact I give it high points. For killing off T-Dog and the ongoing redemption of Merle, I give it Michonne’s best stink-eye.