Should we start chronologically or with Carl? Because really, that kid is all that I have on my mind right now. I know I’ve been hard on him in the past but it’s actually a good thing that, in his world, all the therapists have been eaten, because otherwise they would’ve taken their own lives trying to help him deal with what he just saw.
This week we said good-bye to one character it’s safe to say we won’t miss and another whom we will now never get a chance to know. In retrospect, T-Dog’s death could’ve been (and probably was, by some) predicted the moment he was given actual dialogue to say at the beginning of the episode. T-Dog has always suffered under different hardships than the rest of that gang — the plight of the postapocalyptic, marginalized, minority character — and out of all the changes The Walking Dead seems intent on making this season, it saddens me that they weren’t ever able get their act together when it came to him. After going along with the gang’s every move, T-Dog suddenly decides to take a stand when it comes to siding with the prisoners Rick sequestered two episodes ago (T-Dog had my vote, by the way, even though I was glad to see a rational discussion taking place where both sides made valid points).
There was a grim irony to this, since it turns out to be another inmate who sets in motion the events that lead to T-Dog’s grisly death. The whole plot device of that other guy is exactly the sort of thing that would’ve driven me crazy in a weaker episode, but I was enjoying this one so much that I let it slide. Because even though that cold open made it seem like that inmate dude was some sort of zombie whisperer, really, his plan of unleashing hordes of zombies into the very safe zone where he planned to make his home made very little sense. Back to T-Dog, though: It was hard watching him get bit. Part of this had to do with a sense of injustice on his behalf, that he died too young, before he had a chance to say more words, but it was also a testament to how much easier it can be to like the quieter types on this show. I also thought the show did a good job of milking his death, a two-for-one zombie meal deal. Although I could’ve 100 percent done without the God’s plan stuff; it felt shoddy and unfair that even when it comes to his own death, T-Dog had to share credit with someone else.
One of my favorite things about last night’s episode was that the zombies felt scary again. The pacing and tension that was there in the first season suddenly came swooping back in, as though through a hole in a fence. I loved how the same components that had made the prison a perfect refuge to start over in — locked gates, wide-open public space, all those tunnels and rooms —also rendered it a deadly trap. It parallels nicely with the Governor’s experimental town, as well, which is just a jail with nicer bedding. When Andrea wants to go, he offers her booze (which she then nearly breaks his wrist making him pour more of) and a sad family backstory and a little step forward that’s just enough to make her think he’s going in for a kiss, but doesn’t ever try to actually stop her. He flatters Merle by telling him that he’s too valuable to risk losing, something he probably hasn’t been told much in his life. The Governor doesn’t need bars because his prisoners are trapped by their own belief that they can leave whenever they please.
After weeks of wondering whether Lori’s baby was going to be born undead, we were given our answer. Wow, the Lori stuff. Lots of sacrificial themes going on this week, as well as what it means to be kin. T-Dog gave his life up for Carol (even though he was going to die anyway) and then Lori swapped hers for the life of her infant, while thoroughly trampling on her son’s psyche in the process. I had my issues with the logic behind Lori’s decision, of course. Wasn’t it she who tried to abortion-pill the baby away last season? And this whole Scarlet Lettering of Lori’s character is honestly just as bad as when they tried to dress her up as Lady Macbeth for Halloween last year. Just because she slept with her comatose husband’s best friend during a zombie invasion, doesn’t mean that her life is less valuable than her baby’s. Also, just because Carl is old enough to secure a prison infirmary on his own, doesn’t mean he doesn’t need his mom.
Having said all that, though, what a way for her to go out. Take that, Fat Betty; that is how you “correct” an unlikable character. The moment Maggie told Lori to take off her pants, I felt almost unbearably nervous for Carl. It was just such an intimate view of his mom. But to have to then watch as the girl whom he probably lies in his jail cell fantasizing about (I know the show wants us to know that he has a crush on Patricia, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t room in that Sheriff’s hat for Maggie, too) uses his knife to slice open his mother’s abdomen, well, what’s an eyeful of dilated vagina between family members. Not that it stopped there or anything, since he then had to reach in and hold his mother’s organs out of the way, the way Miranda held Carrie’s hair while she puked in that one Sex and the City episode, while Maggie reached in and retrieved his new sibling. By the time he had to shoot his mother in the head in order to ensure she never woke up (offscreen), the damage was done. There is no there there in Carl anymore.
Let’s hope that next week the show continues to switch back and forth between the two settings. It made this episode feel tremendously jam-packed and is a device that I’d like to see them keep up. Plus, now that the prison has both a newborn baby and an old man on crutches, Merle’s missing hand is seeming less and less like a liability.