Previously on The Walking Dead: ‘ello, Guv’nor!
Oof. That was a rough episode. For a show whose main character is a dad, we’ve only gotten a few glimpses of Rick’s skills as a parent. Over the past two seasons, we’ve watched as he’s slowly become a hardened, even brutal survivalist; this season, we’ve seen Carl become a sort of Mini-Rick, the Ken Griffey, Jr. to Rick’s Ken Griffey, the Robbie Alomar to Rick’s Sandy Alomar, Sr., the Kobe to Rick’s Jellybean. I suppose that if the true test of fatherhood is how well one prepares one’s kid to put a bullet in Mom’s head in the event that she dies while infected with a virus that will turn her into a zombie, then, yes, Rick’s a good dad. Attaboy, Carl! You’ve earned your Cold-Blooded Hardass merit badge!
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. “Killing Time” was a strange, disjointed episode that would’ve been mere filler had it not been for Lori’s gnarly final exit. We start off with a bit of a mystery – who is leaving fresh meat for the walkers, cutting the gate chain so that they’re drawn inside the prison? Who indeed? Certainly not Hershel, who’s up and about(ish), recovering nicely from his footectomy. Certainly not Maggie and Glenn, who are just banging all the time now because what else is there to do? Gotta be either Axel or Oscar, the two surviving inmates who don’t seem to be happy to have a wing of the prison all to themselves. Right?
We’ll get back to the prison shortly. Over in Woodbury/Pleasantville, things are pretty chill; everything is clean and shipshape, except, as Michonne notes, the National Guard Hummer that The Gov and his crew brought back from the field. Michonne can’t help but notice all of the bullet holes, and the fresh blood. She takes the opportunity to ask some pretty pointed questions to The Gov, which doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense – if you’re suspicious of the guy who has a private army and a fortress-town, would you really want him to know that you’re on to his “benevolent leader” ruse? For someone who makes it a point to constantly remind Andrea how she was the one who kept them alive all this time, Michonne’s certainly doing her best to get them killed here in Woodbury.
Andrea, meanwhile, seems to be settling in. And look at her! She has two of Woodbury’s most eligible bachelors wooing her. She lets Merle know the location of the farmhouse where the gang was holed up last season, and he sort of hits on her in return. And she has a drink with The Gov – “Phillip,” to his close lady friends/disembodied zombie heads he keeps in aquariums – who tries to convince her to rethink her plans. (“Woodbury – come for the hot showers and the electricity, stay for the Zombie Golf!”) And his wily charms seem to have an effect; Andrea asks Michonne to delay their departure for a few days. Merle, on the other hand, wants to go and look for Daryl – The Gov politely but firmly tells him that’s not a great idea, and we wonder if Merle wonders just how “free” he and everyone else in Woodbury actually is.
Back at the prison, the gang is trying to decide what to do about Axel and Oscar. On the surface, both don’t necessarily seem like psycho killers; Daryl even argues that they’re probably not, that they may just be a couple of small-time petty criminals like he was. Does that mean he wants to let them join the group? Hell, naw. Only T-Dog musters some compassion for them, telling Rick that there’s no difference between letting them wander off into Zombieland and just shooting them here on the spot. Oh T-Dog, I fear you may be too good for this world. Then Lori, Maggie, Carol and Carl take Hershel out for a hop around the prison yard, and everyone is happy to see him up and about. The sun’s shining, Hershel is recovering, it’s shaping up to be a good day. Then a bunch of walkers show up, and Glenn wonders aloud why they can’t have a good day, one in which he does not have to use his AK. Speculation on that will have to wait, as there’s a bit of distance between Rick’s group and the others, and where’d all these walkers come from, anyway?
Things go south in a hurry. Surprisingly, Hershel does not get eaten by the walkers at this time. (You looked worried.) He even manages to crack one’s skull with his crutch as he and Beth get to safety. Maggie, Lori, and Carl flee into the prison, and of course there are more walkers inside. T-Dog and Carol get separated from them, and as T-Dog tries to lock the gate to keep more walkers from getting in, one takes a nice-sized bite out of his shoulder. Can you amputate a shoulder? Something tells me that alas, you cannot. This won’t end well. Axel and Oscar aren’t really a concern, and they manage to escape, but follow Rick and his group into the prison. They discover that the chain locking the gate was cut, and to further their suspicions that this whole clusterfuck may not have been an accident, the prison alarm goes off. Which means that someone turned on the power. Rick, Daryl, Glenn, and the convicts take off for the backup generators, because that noise is a dinner bell for every walker in the neighborhood.
Then things reach south, and begin to dig. T-Dog is not going to make it; he sacrifices himself so that Carol has a chance to escape. So long, T. We hardly knew ye. (Literally. You had maybe 10 lines over the course of 2.5 seasons.) Rick and his group reach the generators, and find the saboteur: it’s (Googles name of dude who got locked inside a courtyard full of walkers by Rick) Andrew! Before any questions regarding narrative plausibility can be answered, Andrew and Rick go at it, even as Daryl tries to hold off a group of walkers that are at the door. Rick drops his hand cannon, Oscar picks it up, and shoots Andrew. He then gives the gun back to Rick, as a show of good faith. Daryl then doesn’t kill him, also as a show of good faith.
And then we get to Lori. Now, Lori has not been the most sympathetic of characters, but you’d have to be a stone cold bastard to not be somewhat moved by her fate. She’s losing a lot of blood, and knows that there’s something wrong with the baby and that it’ll have to come out. Unfortunately, the only person who thought to get some c-section practice in was Carol, which means that Maggie’s going to have to do the deed. Lori knows that her time is up, and she tells Carl to be a good person, and that he’s going to be able to beat whatever this world throws at him. Starting with the PTSD he’s going to have from watching his mom have the c-section that will kill her. The baby lives, Lori does not, and Carl performs the necessary task of making sure that Lori does not come back. (Off-camera, but still. It’s a truly horrific moment, and one wonders – at what point does watching this utterly bleak show become a form of punishment? Jesus, it makes Saving Private Ryan look like a Katherine Heigl/Josh Duhamel romcom.) Rick and his group make it back outside – there’s no sign of Carol, other than her scarf – and find the others. And then Rick hears his new baby crying, and when he sees that Lori’s not with Carl or Maggie…well. Andrew Lincoln’s acting here is on point: Rick is appropriately destroyed by Lori’s death, and it’s simply gutting (sorry, bad choice of words) to watch. If Rick’s faced some parenting challenges before, those pale in comparison to being a single dad to a tween AND a baby in post-zombie apocalypse America. (And here’s a tip, Rick, from one dad to another: get your shit together and go give Carl a hug. He’s had a rough day.)