This review contains spoilers.
3.4 The Killer Within
If you want evidence that The Walking Dead has done a complete one-eighty from the second season, look no further than tonight’s episode. Everything the show did poorly last season, from pacing to writing, has been completely redone. For example, this week’s episode has major character developments, great dialogue, and some of the most emotionally-wrenching moments in the entirety of the show’s history.
The show’s decided to take on a delicate balancing act with its two story lines, matching up the prison with Woodbury officially. This might be the first episode where we’ve split the two down the middle, and for a first attempt, it was very successful. There’s a nice contrast between the idyllic status of the Governor’s miniature kingdom and the absolute chaos that erupts in the prison after a fairly routine morning of dragging out dead bodies and moving cars around. Chaos is kind of an understatement.
This is the first TWD script for writer Sang Kyu Kim, and it’s one of the heaviest he’ll have to write on the show, unless he writes a script about Rick putting Carl down Old Yeller style because he gets rabies. A lot of the emotional beats land this week, and there are some great performances from the actors, particularly a typically-maligned Sarah Wayne Callies and under-appreciated Chandler Riggs. Both actors take the brunt of fan ill will thanks to the way their characters are written, and while Mazzara and company have done a good job at turning around both characters to some extent, there’s still a lot of built-up bitterness to get past before anyone’s going to say a nice word about Lori or too much of a nice word about Carl. Callies and Riggs had a great scene together tonight, and both really stepped up to some challenging material, and Lauren Cohan also came off well in her shared time with the two. It was also nice to see T-Dog have some lines tonight, and to make some logical sense in a fairly nuanced argument with Rick (Andrew Lincoln also had a real standout moment right before the closing credits).
The one constant for The Walking Dead is the high quality of the special effects. There’s some pretty brutal stuff in this week’s programme, and it seems as though KNB FX can turn just about anything from a cut while shaving to a decapitation in a realistic, frightening manner. There are some stand-out kills this week, some awesomely sickening prosthetic work, and an exuberance towards the depiction of graphic murder that makes the show incredible.
The last ten minutes of the show this week are some of the bloodiest, most frightening, and hardest-to-watch in cable history (and not just from a gore standpoint). The show managed to provoke a lot of emotion out of me for characters I thought I hated, and while Woodbury seems to be losing some steam, the stuff at the prison hit a fevered pitch tonight. This episode felt like a mid-season finale, but there are still four more episodes to go before the holiday break.
I’m not sure how they’re going to maintain this quality over the long haul, especially at the rate they seem to be unleashing walkers upon the cast, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Woodbury kick into gear even if it means things will calm down at the prison. Perhaps that’s an unreasonable expectation of storyline quality; the prison has had so many epic moments and huge blow-offs to long-running story-lines that to hold Woodbury to that standard – even if it does have Michonne, the Governor, and Merle – is to doom the story before it even really kicks off.
That’s going to be difficult to do, honestly. The prison has turned out to be great for the show, and I think we’re all still burned enough by the search for Sophia to feel a little trepidation that the Woodbury stuff isn’t happening quite yet.
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