"Can't we just have one good day?"
The answer to that rhetorical question, posed by Glen in this episode, is a resounding NO. Just when Rick and the group thought they had found a virtual paradise in the prison, all hell once again broke loose and reminded the surviving survivors that they would never again be truly safe or carefree in the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic wasteland they now inhabit. Continuing a string of top-notch offerings in the third season, this episode featured the shocking deaths of two original cast members who had been with the series since the pilot, yet were never especially popular with fans for different reasons.
Seemingly the most extraneous character on the show for his entire run, T-Dog was never given much to say or do and the "T" in his name might as well have stood for "Token," as in "Token Black Dude." This is not a knock on actor IronE Singleton, because he did a fantastic job with whatever miniscule material he was given. Best known for slicing open his arm on a car door and hallucinating last season, T-Dog did have the best one-liner in the history of the series in the episode with the walker in the well when he deadpanned, "Good thing we didn't do anything stupid like shoot it," after the long struggle with the waterlogged ghoul. Despite his lack of screen time and an absence of dialogue that wasn't strictly expository, Singleton managed to craft a memorable and likeable character that was honored with a heroic sendoff. After being bitten during the zombie invasion in the prison, T-Dog sacrificed himself to distract the walkers while a tearful Carol escaped.
Much to my surprise, T-Dog being bitten illicited an audible "Noooo!" response and I felt sadness for his imminent demise. While his death had been expected since the first season, it was still a surprise. Unfortunately, it eliminates the opportunity for a heated confrontation between T-Dog and Merle, considering T was the guy who dropped the key to the handcuffs in the first episode. That was something I was anticipating and dreading, thinking that Merle would make sure T suffered a long and tortuous death. Apparently, AMC didn't want to break the "one black character per show" rule and had to cut T-Dog with the introduction of Oscar, one of the prisoners that had remained alive. It would actually be kind of funny if Merle eventually meets Oscar and mistakes him for T-Dog. Even though you never really got to do anything and we never had any background on you whatsoever, you will be missed, T-Dog.
In a development sure to please a vocal segment of the viewership, Lori was also killed off after a crude C-section she begged Maggie to perform to save her baby. The scene depicting Lori, Carl, and Maggie on the run from the walkers and Lori suddenly going into labor provided some tense moments, as Rick and the others frantically searched for them. During the procedure, Lori passed out and likely bled to death while the newborn survived. Although it was teased briefly when the infant was unresponsive, my desire to see a zombie baby remains unquelled. Out of respect, Maggie left Carl alone to prevent Lori's corpse from reanimating. Following a flashback to the scene from last season where Rick gave him a gun and explained that everybody dies eventually, we don't actually see Carl shooting his mother; a gunshot is heard off-camera before Carl walks out with a somber look on his face. Was this a stylistic choice, or is it possible that Carl couldn't bring himself to do it? How would Rick react if confronted with his zombified wife?
Regardless, Lori was another character who was routinely criticized for her behavior as a wife, a mother, and a human being. Often irrational and hypocritical, Lori saw her pregnancy as a death sentence and almost gladly accepted it after realizing that her husband and her son were drifting away from her. She had no future in this world and although the character survived longer in the comic book, her time on the show was ready to come to an end. Before she died, her final scene with Carl was very emotional as she told him to always do what he felt was right and did her best to fill him with hope for the future. Even the Lori haters had to feel a bit choked up. When he learned of Lori's death at the end of the episode, Rick completely broke down and fell to the ground, raising questions about the leadership of the group going forward.
Unlike last week's episode that focused solely on Woodbury, this one split time between the two groups. Over in Woodbury, Andrea and Michonne experienced a widening difference of opinion about the settlement and its Governor. While Andrea had a drink with the Governor and disclosed their plans to head for the coast, Michonne's suspicions were given credence when she discovered fresh blood and bullet holes in the military vehicles he had recovered. Distrustful of the Governor's explanations, Michonne was unresponsive to his offer to become a soldier and still wanted to leave Woodbury, but Andrea convinced her to stay an extra day or two, indicating that she would rather remain safe in town. Bitter over being left behind by Rick and the group, Andrea feels a kinship with Merle, despite witnessing Merle's unruly and dangerous behavior on the roof in Atlanta. As evidenced by her fling with Shane, Andrea is clearly attracted to shady men in power and the Governor fits that description, so I expect to see their relationship develop, especially after he revealed his real name to her: Philip. That whole mysterious angle works every time... and if it doesn't, just make her friend disappear and use the situation to manipulate her. At least, that's what I'd do if I were the Governor.
The fourth episode of Season 3, "Killer Within" was a powerful offering packed full of emotion and intensity. The idea that the prison wasn't the paradise they were expecting was perfectly summed up in the direction of the scene where Hershel is up and around and has taken a stroll outside. For the first time in a long time, everyone is beginning to feel optimistic as the camera pans across their cautiously happy faces to reveal a herd of walkers shambling up behind them. That same feeling was encapsulated in the birth of the baby. Not only was the scene more horrifying than any zombie carnage, but any happiness for the birth of a healthy baby was tempered by the agonizing death suffered by Lori. Yet another big episode featuring payoffs of previous events—if Rick had just killed Andrew instead of releasing him into the yard, none of this would have happened—and setups for next week and beyond. It's hard to believe we are only half-way through the fall season, and only one-quarter into the overall season. Can The Walking Dead keep up the pace?
FINAL GRADE: A