The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 4 – ‘The Killer Within’ Review
Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead. Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.
‘The Killer Within’ – not exactly a subtle title. I should start lightly this week, as this was an eventful episode of The Walking Dead. A good majority of it is really effective, as we check back into the prison and eventually lose a couple major characters, following a series of tense and well-staged walker chases/attacks. One of those losses is certainly effective, as a character gets the time to say something meaningful, followed by some pretty gory stuff to look at. There is also some time spent in Woodbury, letting us know that we will have dueling settings to deal with on, presumably, a weekly basis. Some more tension is built up there. However, with the good comes some bad, and while The Walking Dead certainly hit hard with shakeups in the series’ dynamic, I can’t help but think some of the impact was lessened for a few reasons.
So with our cold-open this week, we see someone is setting up an ambush in the prison, which Rick and the group will eventually have to deal with. Even without the “previously on” portion, where we see Rick lock prisoner Andrew outside with walkers instead of killing him, I had no real doubt that it was going to end up being him. With that said, I am glad that it was him and we a) did not have to deal with a possible cliffhanger as to what was going on; and b) did not have to worry about some completely new character being a nuisance and instead just dealt with the cast at hand (although the jury is possibly still out on who was watching Carol from outside of the prison).
Jumping ahead, a walker ambush does occur and bad things happen. This could not have come at a more appropriate and obvious time of course, as the entire prison cast is out having a grand ol’ day, with Hershel testing out his crutches, Rick giving Lori a hint of a smile, and Glenn and Maggie just having finished “guard tower duty”. Soon enough, a large pack of walkers somehow surprises the gang, which leads to a harrowing struggle for survival. True to form for the series, this is all very tense and exciting. Rick, Daryl, and Glenn are all too far away to catch up to the rest of the group in time, as they have to unlock and lock every door/gate in front and behind them, as they get closer and closer (the Ricktatorship is still organized in the face of danger). Meanwhile, Hershel and Beth managed to lock themselves behind a fence, while Carl, Maggie, and Lori are trapped within the cell block, which is full of walkers around every corner. They eventually make it to the boiler room, which is of course at the same time that Lori is ready to give birth. Also occurring: T-Dog has been bitten, while trying to protect the group, and then sacrifices himself later on, as he helps Carol get away, while inside of the cell block hallways.
So this is where the first hesitation comes for me as to how I should appreciate an event like this. While it is tragic that a character that has been around since the beginning is now dead and eaten, the show still skipped its opportunities to make more use out of that character. We have all had fun with the memes and whatnot regarding T-Dog’s presence on the show, but IronE Singleton never really got his due, which I think is a shame. Was he useful? Sure. Was he heroic? Yes. Unfortunately, the most we got to see out of him as a character with a possible arc was in the same episode that he dies. In an attempt to recreate a Dale situation, T-Dog is the only one to speak up for a difference opinion, regarding whether or not to keep the prisoners around, before reaching his untimely demise (which, similar to Dale as well, was brought on by one character not killing someone, when they had the chance). Sure, T-Dog will be missed, but it did not exactly feel like it was organic to the story beyond the sense that “chaos reigns”.
Speaking of deaths that are organic to the story, Lori is also gone as well now, further making T-Dog’s death feel a bit inconsequential. What to say about this…? Well, aside from getting away from possible scenarios that are more in line with the comic book, this certainly feels like something the show was setting up, given the deliberate choice in having the character come off as sympathetic in the past few weeks. Again, Lori was not exactly everyone’s favorite character and while I may have enjoyed the writers practically making Lori acknowledge people’s complaints against her in the dialogue she had been given, the fact that they decided to remove her from the equation completely is effective on both a planning stage and a shocking one. I may or may not have thought that Lori was not going to live through Season 3, but due to a horrific and painful C-section in a boiler room, with her son watching, was not one of the ways I had anticipated it.
This leads me to something that I am not sure everyone will agree with though. I have been really enjoying this season of The Walking Dead so far. However, the fact that we have killed two major characters in one episode, at this point in the season, makes me hope that things are not moving away from the core idea of this series, which is “a continuing story in survival horror”. To expand on that, I’ll say that as a fan of the comic series, I am not a stranger to the idea that characters are prone to die at any time; however, it feels like the show is all ‘go go go’ right now, without enough ease on the pace to display more tension between the humans involved, as opposed to the walkers. Basically, it feels more like the series is responding to the negative reaction of the slower-paced second season by ramping everything up at this point, which is taking away from how to properly balance the series’ strengths.
One of the most interesting things about the comic storyline, where the prison begins to play a part, is that there are almost no deaths related to the walkers. New characters are introduced, with questions surrounding whether or not they can be trusted, which leads to eventual showdowns that cause more drama than the walkers. Right now, the TV series is putting a lot of emphasis on having Team Rick being chased by walkers and suffering casualties along the way. While these events are shocking and effective to an extent, it does also feel like the show is piling on a hell of a lot of story changes as a result of zombie attacks, as opposed to building off of the characters. Risks are being taken (which I like), but hopefully whatever is in store for the rest of the season pays off because of these drastic shakeups in what we have seen so far.
On the Woodbury side of things, not a whole lot of development was seen here. A lot of this was rehash from last week. For example, we see that Michonne continues to be suspicious of her surroundings, although seeing just a few minutes of her acting badass worked better than it did in a large chunk of the episode, like last week. We also continue to see The Governor (Phillip!) making nice with Andrea and convincing her that Woodbury is the place to be. The best part of this trip to Woodbury comes from Merle, who continues to show that he is now an interesting person and not just a hillbilly stereotype. His conversation with The Governor shows the hint of some brewing tension, as Merle is still hoping to find his brother.
There are other good things to acknowledge about this episode as well. Regardless of how strong the impact was on me, seeing the impact that the events of this episode had on a number of the actors felt quite real. Andrew Lincoln continues to shine and his ultimate sad face is another way towards showing how Rick is coming apart as leader of the group. Young Chandler Riggs also continues to earn his keep, as we see a great, silent reaction to what happened with his mother (what did happen? The episode showed us a lot, but we only heard a shot, we did not see Lori get shot, right?). Lastly, Sarah Wayne Callies has a big part to play in this episode and she was quite effective in conveying a lot. Lori suffered some brutal stuff here and we can only hope that the baby has more better days ahead of it than bad ones. (Note: my friends and I considered possible awesome nicknames for the baby, given that it has an epic backstory of being born in the boiler room of a prison, with zombies roaming around the halls.)
‘The Killer Within’ was a very solid episode of the series for sure. It obviously has some defining moments of the series, which were tense and shocking. That said, T-Dog and Lori are now gone, but where is the show going with this? I would like to think the change in dynamic will be leading to some interesting shifts in what these characters are about in episodes to come, but I hope it does lead to some more character-centric episodes and backs off walker-related tension for a bit. The series does not need to move at a dead pace, but there are a lot of interesting possibilities for the series that do not need to relate to killing off a character every week. At least there are, once again, less cast members to deal with, meaning more opportunities to expand on those remaining. Final thought: Bear McCreary was crushing it with the music this week, RIP T-Dog and Lori.
4 out of 5 Busters
Zombie Kill of the Week: A double dose of fun, as Daryl went for a jump-kill with a knife, followed by Glenn slicing a walker head in half with his trusty machete.
Golf Clap: Governor Phillip makes good use of his trusty driver this week, as a walker does not heed the ‘fore!’ warning.