Brutal. That’s the only way you can describe an episode of “The Walking Dead” that kills off two major characters in a shocking reminder of just how nightmarish this world is.
The events of tonight’s installment are even more tragic if you remember a few basic things:
– Rick wanted to find a safe place for Lori to have her baby. He thought the prison was that place.
– Rick was determined to keep his group safe from the prisoners. He thought killing Tomas and locking Andrew in a courtyard full of walkers would achieve that.
– Carol was practicing to assist Lori in a C-section delivery.
– Carl was still angry at his mother because of her affair with Shane.
– Lori was the one who saved the life of Maggie’s father, Hershel, when it seemed like all hope was lost.
And the events are even more frustrating if you acknowledge one thing that’s (arguably) beyond the show’s control: A lot of fans hated Lori.
Like other polarizing women of AMC dramas — Betty Draper on “Mad Men,” Skyler White on “Breaking Bad” — Lori had far more than her fair share of detractors. But even those haters couldn’t be obnoxious enough to celebrate the death of a woman who sacrificed her own life for her child, who tried to leave her son with words of strength to carry onward in a world of darkness, who was lost and struggling in a life turned upside down by hordes of flesh-eating zombies ready to attack at any given second of any given day. Could they?
Even if you didn’t like Lori, “The Walking Dead” was daring you not to choke up in her final moments on the show. The circumstances of her death were as harrowing and horrifying as anything ever seen on series television.
But let’s back up to when things looked peaceful, because that was the most obvious sign that the worst was yet to come.
“Aw man, can’t we have just one good day?” Glenn laments at the sight of a single walker. That follows a mini-debate about whether or not the group should accept prisoners Axel and Oscar into their fold. Rick is determined to stick with his deal that they could have their own cell block (full of the rotting corpses of fellow inmates) but T-Dog argues that the prisoners deserve a shot at joining the group. (This doesn’t totally gel with T-Dog’s total lack of support for Dale trying to save Randall back in Season 2’s “Judge, Jury and Executioner” but it’s officially too late to hope for a deeper understanding of T-Dog.)
Daryl, Maggie, Glenn and Carol side with Rick and that’s that. At least until all hell breaks loose when walkers flood through a mysteriously busted up fence into the supposedly safe prison yard where everyone is gathered outside.
The threat forces the group to splinter: Carol and T-Dog duck into one shelter, but not before he’s bitten by a walker. Lori, Carl and Maggie make it to a separate cell block, while Hershel and Beth retreat inside. In the middle of the chaos, prison alarms start blaring out, attracting the attention of all walkers nearby. Rick, Glenn and Daryl keep fighting and resolve to stop the alarms, which means they need help from people who know the prison: Axel and Oscar.
Things only get worse from there for the survivors as T-Dog knows his time is limited and resolves to get Carol to safety if it’s the last thing he does. Meanwhile, Lori starts feeling labor pains at the worst possible time and Carl finds a boiler room they can duck into for some relative shelter. But it doesn’t matter, Lori is bleeding and she and Maggie know it’s bad.
With Lori’s fate up in the air, T-Dog’s future is decided: He sacrifices what’s left of his life by running straight for a pair of walkers and allowing Carol just enough time to escape. The last thing Carol sees is T-Dog’s throat getting torn apart by a walker’s teeth.
Rick and company make it to the prison’s “back-up generators” and discover who’s responsible for unleashing the walkers and sounding the alarms: It’s Andrew, the diminutive prisoner Rick left for dead after killing his buddy Tomas. Turns out Rick should’ve made sure he finished the job. But it’s Oscar who ultimately kills Andrew and then drops his weapon, potentially proving his value to Rick in the process.
That is, if Rick will be in any condition to make decisions after he finds out about what happens next. Lori’s delivery is not going well, but she’s determined not to lose the baby. She demands Maggie cut her open for a C-section, even though Maggie insists there’s no way Lori can survive.
Facing certain death, Lori is able to reconcile with her son and leaves Carl with one hell of a parting speech: “This is what I want. This is right. Now, you take care of your daddy for me, all right? And your little brother or sister. You’re gonna be fine. You are gonna beat this world, I know you will. You are smart and you are strong and you are so brave. And I love you. You gotta do what’s right. You promise me you’ll always do what’s right. It’s so easy to do the wrong thing in this world. So if it feels wrong, don’t do it, all right? If it feels easy, don’t do it. Don’t let the world swallow you. You’re so good, my sweet boy. You’re the best thing I ever did. I love you.”
There’s no question that Carl loves her back. With everyone’s tears flowing, Maggie cuts open Lori’s stomach and together she and Carl bring the baby into the world.
That leaves only one thing left to do. As Maggie cradles the baby, we see a flashback to Rick’s Season 2 “no more kid stuff” conversation with Carl in the barn. “People are gonna die … there’s no way you could ever be ready for it,” Rick told Carl at the time. We don’t actually see Carl shoot Lori to prevent her from becoming a walker, we just hear it. The camera is fixed on Maggie, who is momentarily startled by the noise but understands everything that happened.
Rick’s anguished discovery is the next punch in the gut, as Maggie and Carl walk back into the prison yard with the baby. Everyone still alive (with the likely exception of Carol) is there to see them.
It’s never been more clear: These survivors are living in hell.
– While it’s impossible not to focus on the life and death stakes in the prison storyline, there was a lot happening in Woodbury this week as well. Michonne questioned The Governor about what happened with the national guard, Andrea bonded with Merle over their shared status as people “left behind” by Rick’s group (and gave him a possible lead on where to reunite with Daryl), and The Governor pretty much charmed the pants off Andrea, who is now reluctant to leave Woodbury, much to Michonne’s dismay. All of this could’ve felt like
an unwelcome distraction from the action at the prison, but on the contrary served to increase the suspense by judiciously juxtaposing the horrors of the prison with the serenity of Woodbury. Even when people are dying in one place, somewhere else someone is practicing their golf swing.
– We found out some personal information about The Governor: His wife died 18 months before the zombie apocalypse, he has a daughter (who is still alive?), and his name is Phillip. At least if you can believe anything The Governor says.
– Assuming the group eventually gets to Woodbury — which seems like a safe bet for some point this season — how can they possibly give up a chance at living there? Especially with Hershel permanently on crutches (sure, they’re handy for swatting down walkers, but only to a point) and a baby now among the ranks?
– Did anyone else see echoes of “Aliens” when T-Dog and Carol were running from walkers down that dark corridor? I kept seeing Private Hudson and Private Vasquez, but fortunately Carol didn’t meet the same fate.
– And speaking of Carol, any bets on how long it will be before we see her again?