Gene Page/AMC
February 27, 2015 at 07:42 PM EST

Lori Grimes lived a sad and misbegotten life. She suffered greatly and caused great suffering. She made mistakes and was always punished for those mistakes. A desperate housewife from Kings County, Georgia, Lori got into an argument one morning with her husband. They were high school sweethearts; they got married young; they had long lost the ability to communicate. Lori was staring at two potential paths: A long and gradual spiral towards the grave, trapped in a loveless marriage; or divorce, possibly preceded by an affair. Immediately after the argument, Lori’s husband got shot on the job and fell into a coma: The first sign that the cruel god who governs the world of Walking Dead would never miss a chance to make Lori feel like the absolute worst person in the world.

When the zombie apocalypse came, her husband died in the first wave — or so Lori thought. That was a common experience: When the world ended, everyone lost something, and most people lost everything. But then, a miracle! Rick Grimes returned to her, rising out of the ashes of the old world like a handsome cowboy messiah. He found his way to her camp — the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack at the bottom of the ocean. Their old squabbles fell away in the brave new world. Rick was reborn as a noble hero, leading their crew of survivors in pursuit of some refuge from the madness. In a weird way, Lori Grimes was the luckiest person in the new zombie world. Everyone else lost their families. Lori got hers back.

Unfortunately, without even realizing it, Lori had already brought shame and ruin unto her family. Thinking herself a widow, she began a relationship with her husband’s best friend, Shane. I know some people look at this as the central Problem of Lori: How could she do that to Rick, jumping into the arms of his best friend when he was barely underground? Personally, I think that’s a ridiculously simplistic, even offensive read of the Lori situation. The world was over. Her husband was dead. A guy who was basically exactly like her husband, except with better abs and a more prominent forehead, came knocking on her door. At the time, Shane was a heroic figure, leading the band of survivors through the dark days after the zombie attack. Also, a woman’s got needs. (Though experiment: Would you like Lori more if she had hooked up with Daryl?)

But Lori’s affair with Shane wasn’t just disastrous: It’s practically The Walking Dead‘s version of the Original Sin. If there was any chance that post-zombie America could become some kind of Eden — a wild and society-free civilization where survivors governed themselves by newer and better rules — Lori’s dalliance with Shane ruined that. She got pregnant: Maybe it was her husband’s, and maybe not. That story arc consumed most of season 2, and ended like something out of a Greek tragedy. Her two lovers tried to kill each other. Shane died, came back, and had to be killed by Carl, which means that Lori indirectly made her son kill his surrogate father. Rick survived, but couldn’t even stand to look Lori in the face anymore.

I should point out here that Lori was also a ridiculous character, a curiously persistent strand of hysteric Darabontism in a show which has found much steadier footing in the Mazzara era as a stripped-down pulp odyssey. In a flashback to the day Rick was shot, Lori was overheard telling her friend that she was angry at Rick because, well, he was such a great guy: “God, I sometimes wish he would have it out with me. Blow up! Tell me I’m being a bitch, if that’s what I’m being!” Now, you could argue that this was a complicated view of relationship dynamics — you could also argue that Lori actually knew she was being irrational. This potential complexity did not prevent the vast majority of Walking Dead fandom from looking at Mrs. Grimes as a kind of shrill uber-bitch. The fact that Lori was comically incapable of doing anything right didn’t help matters. She let Carl go off on a hunt in the forest…and Carl immediately got shot. She disobeyed direct orders and tried driving into town to help her husband…and she immediately crashed the car into a passing walker. She was inconsistent to the point of schizophrenia.

In her last days, though, something changed in Lori Grimes. She saved Hershel’s life. She confessed her sins to Rick, admitting that she was a “s—y wife” who would never win mother-of-the-year awards. She was still an awful character, and the show seemed to positively delight in tormenting her: The second episode of the season ended with Lori stranded, all alone, in a quiet breezeway in the middle of the prison. In this sense, Lori’s death on last night’s absolutely thrilling episode of The Walking Dead provided a kind of triple catharsis. It gave Lori the opportunity to sacrifice herself so that another could live; it removed one of the most glaringly bad parts of the show with surgical precision (and threw in a gory death for another minor character, just for the heck of it); and it provided one final note of Book of Job-level torture for poor Lori, who was killed twice: Once by her unborn child, and the second time by her other child. That’s entertainment!

NEXT: The prison population problem

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AMC’s zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
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