The gang enjoys a quiet and uneventful day in their happy new prison home. Actually, no, that's not what happens at all

By Darren Franich
February 27, 2015 at 07:42 PM EST
Gene Page/AMC
  • TV Show

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 problemThe episode got off to an eerie start. A mysterious person took a deer carcass apart and used it as a gory trail of breadcrumbs for local walkers; that same mysterious person broke one of the locks on the prison, potentially opening the floodgates to a zombie herd. It was an implication that there was a storm on the horizon. But inside of the prison, the Grimes Gang was focusing more on a matter of geopolitical diplomacy. Axel and Oscar, the two remaining prisoners, can’t living in the Dead Zone anymore. They were happy to do whatever had to be done to become part of the Grimes Gang.

Rick locked them up and convened a quorum to decide their fate. T-Dog wanted to bring them into the fold. Daryl brought up a good point: “They’re degenerates, but they ain’t psychos.” Daryl recognized something of himself in them. He wasn’t exactly a saint in the bad old days. But that didn’t mean he wanted them in the group. He recommended sending them into the wilderness, where they could fend for themselves. “Class is in session at Daryl Motherf—ing Dixon University, and we are no longer accepting applications,” is basically what he said. Rick, for his part, told a story about a kid who stabbed his girlfriend, made weepy eyes in front of a jury, and then stabbed his next girlfriend. It was decided: They’d set the inmates free and let them determine their own fate. They would even give them enough food for a week, because they were in a benevolent mood. T-Dog called this what it was: Execution-by-Zombie.

Meanwhile, in Woodbury, suspicious Michonne did some investigating in the trucks that the Governor and his Special Security Team brought in last week. She noticed bullet holes and blood in one truck. The Governor apparated behind her, grinning his politician’s smile. They must have encountered bandits, said the Governor. Michonne asked why the soldiers hadn’t driven away from the walkers that killed them. They wouldn’t leave their men behind, said the Governor. Michonne asked what happened to the body of the dead helicopter pilot. He was cremated so that his funeral wouldn’t upset anyone, said the Governor. Vote Governor 2012: He’s got a believable answer for everything!

Michonne was having none of it. She met with Andrea and told her it was time to go. Andrea asked what the plan was from here. The coastline, said Michonne; “Best thing to do is to find an island.” This was the end goal Michonne had in mind: Grow old, live off the sea. It was, essentially, a version of the life they were already living, except without zombies. Andrea looked skeptical. (ASIDE: I’d be intrigued to hear what people who haven’t read the comic book think about Michonne at this point. Unlike fellow newbie the Governor, Michonne hasn’t really had any big character moments in her first four episodes. Indeed, at this point, her two main functions have been to kill awesomely and to frown frowningly. END OF ASIDE.)

Over at Grimes Memorial Prison, Lori and the gals were tending to the newly-asymmetrical Hershel. Today was the day he would try walking on crutches; the old guy couldn’t stand to stare up at the bunk over his head. He wanted to go for a little stroll. He led the ladies outside into the prison yard. The whole Grimes Gang was out there at that moment. (Rick and the Melee Squad were further out, behind a fence getting supplies.) Everyone had to smile at the old guy, walking again. It felt like proof that some calamities could be overcome. Rick looked at Lori. Lori looked at Rick. Together, they had rescued this man’s life. Maybe things could be different between the two of them. Maybe they could find a way to live together, growing old in Cell Block D. Maybe they could OH HOLY JUMPING JESUS ZOMBIE ALERT ZOMBIE ALERT ZOMBIE ALERT!!!!!

NEXT: Baby Grimes makes an extremely poorly-timed entranceThe first scene of this season established that, during the winter, the Grimes Gang had become a tactical anti-walker squadron, moving with ace precision through nearly any environment. But when the walkers suddenly invaded the prison yard, they had no time to react. In the first few episode, they were moving through environments with clockwork efficiency. Now, they were separated, with most of their heaviest artillery a long run away. Rick and the guys ran back as quickly as possible, with Axel and Oscar along. Hershel and Beth got behind one door. Hershel even used his crutch as a weapon, which begs an important question: How long until those crutches get blade attachments? T-Dog managed to close a door against the vast horde of walkers…but in the process, he got bitten, and ran away bleeding with Carol. Lori, Maggie, and Carl ran down another way, into the dark tunnels. Right about now is when Lori doubled over, and said the absolute worst possible thing you can ever say in the middle of a zombie attack: “The baby is coming.”

The Melee Squad arrived and cleared out the walkers. (Glenn earned himself a Zombie Kill of the Week award, with a positively Daryl-esque knife-swipe that chopped off a zombie’s brain right above the nose.) but their problems were far from over. The escape alarm suddenly sounded, bringing every walker from the Tri-State area on a collision course with the prison. Rick tried to shoot out as many alarms as possible. He figured that one of the inmates had set off the alarm: Who else knew the layout of the prison? Oscar and Axel swore their innocence, though. They even offered to lead Rick to the shut-off point.

Meanwhile, back in Woodbury, Andrea was saying goodbye to her ol’ pal Merle. She gave him a map to Hershel’s Miserable Farm. Merle was feeling randy: “How come we never hooked up, Blondie?” “You called me a whore!” she said, flirtatiously. Merle noted that they got left behind by the same people — and saved by the same guy. “You ain’t curious about the old gang?” Merle asked. Andrea said no; maybe because Michonne was her new gang. Or maybe because she’s like a shark: She just keeps moving forward and getting involved in really really misguided romantic situations.

Merle visited the Governor, who practicing his golf swing at the Woodbury Driving Range. He must be a scratch golfer: He nailed a walker in the head from a couple hundred feet. “We should visit Augusta,” said the Governor. “Take only the women and let them play.” Merle asked the Governor for leave to go on a Daryl search, but the Governor refused: Merle is too important to the Woodbury security force. When Merle persisted, his boss offered him a compromise: Find more concrete information, and the Governor would go on the search with him. (ASIDE: Quite a few people in last week’s comments noted that Season 3 Merle seems considerably softened from his Season 1 heyday: Kinder, not obviously racist, with just a hint of bruised nobility to go along with Delta Force-level killing ability. My read on this is that the Walking Dead writers decided to transform Merle from a completely unhinged fictional character into a slightly hinged, barely-fictionalized version of Michael Rooker — a transformation I fully support. END OF ASIDE.)

Andrea paid a visit to the Governor, too. He poured some of his bourbon. They talked about life. Andrea admitted, “I don’t know what I’m looking for…I don’t know what matters now.” Andrea’s ongoing existential crisis, which has been the character’s main arc ever since her sister died, feels like an expression of the character’s own weird place in the show. In that sense, the Governor’s offer of a new purpose felt extremely meta: Stay with me, Andrea, and finally become something more than “Blonde Who Shoots Guns.” He told her about his past: He lost his wife in a car accident, long before the zombies attacked. It was just him and his daughter. (The way that the Governor phrased that information was interesting: He seemed to imply that his daughter was still around, even though we haven’t seen any indication of her.) The Governor said that she would always be welcome. He told her to take care. He told her his real name: Philip. His big Morrissey eyes lingered on her. Andrea was smitten. (If you’re keeping track, this makes three semi-sociopathic violent men that Andrea has flirted with.) Andrea convinced Michonne to stay another day. Michonne was not amused.

NEXT: Requiem for T-DogMy fellow Dead viewers, I led off this recap by saying quite a bit about Lori Grimes. But I would be remiss if I did not offer at least a few kind words for the other cast member who bit the dust last night. Theodore Douglas, alias T-Dog, was probably the least consequential character on The Walking Dead, unless you count Hershel’s myriad anonymous children. He had no backstory and no truly discernible character traits. Before he spoke out in favor of the inmates in last night’s episode, you practically had to go all the way back to the season 2 premiere to find a moment when he wasn’t just lingering in the background. (Remember? He got hurt, went crazy, and then stopped being crazy.) A cynic would point out that the only black character on the show never got to say anything. When I talked to showrunner Glen Mazzara at the end of last season, he flat-out admitted that the character had gotten short shrift, and noted: “There is a plan for T-Dog.”

Boy, was there. T-Dog, zombie-juice coursing through his veins, told Carol that the good lord had put him on earth for the purpose of leading her to safety. He led her through the tunnels…and ran right into a couple zombies. T-Dog nobly threw himself into the walkers, nobly told Carol to run, and then nobly got completely munched alive. If you’re like me, and you get a sick thrill out of seeing extraneous characters get murdered in the worst way possible, then this was the episode’s first stunner moment: A harsh goodbye to one of the show’s founding cast members.

Rick and the Melee Squad found their way to the back-up generator room. Suddenly, Rick was assaulted by an extremely unexpected newcomer: Andrew, the prisoner who Rick left to die in a zombie yard after the great Episode 2 Walker Purge. Andrew and Rick wrestled. Rick’s gun fell…and landed right at Oscar’s feet. Andrew told him to kill Rick: They could take back the prison themselves. Oscar thought it over, and then shot Andrew in the head. Then, in a moment which immediately made Oscar one of the ten coolest characters on Walking Dead, he did an awesome gun-twirl right out of a spaghetti western and handed Rick his gun back.

Things were going much, much worse for Maggie, Lori, and Carl. Lori was giving birth, and Maggie has to serve as a fourth-string midwife. (Carl, meanwhile, was the replacement nurse.) Something was wrong; there was too much blood. Lori knew the score. She pulled up her shirt, showed Maggie her old C-section scar, and said: “You’re going to have to cut me open.” Carl had a knife. “My baby has to survive,” said Lori. “For all of us.” Earlier, I noted that Lori’s dalliance with Shane was like the show’s version of Original Sin, an Old Testament vision of damnation; here, Lori was attempting to change the allegory into a decidedly more optimistic New Testament vision of hope. She knew that this was right. She gave Carl some last words of advice: “Promise me you’ll always do what’s right.” She told him he would beat this world. I don’t care if you hate Lori or if you’re the president of the Kill Lori Grimes Fan Club: I found it tough not to tear up during her final moments. She was confident, and fearless, and heroic. And then Maggie cut her belly open and Lori Grimes died.

NEXT: The primal screamCarl’s little sibling was born into a dead world screaming and miraculously alive. Someone had to put a bullet into Lori’s dead brain. Carl insisted: “She’s my mom.” Maggie was shell-shocked; she left Carl to it. There was a quick flashback to that great moment from last season, when Rick told Carl about the new normal, which was really the old normal: Everyone will die eventually, and you’ll never be prepared for it. A shot rang out, and Carl walked away, head held low.

Rick and the Melee Squad made their way through the tunnels. They found T-Dog dead. They also found Carol’s head-scarf on the ground, and assumed she was dead. (We saw her escape into the sunlight, but her curious absence from the end of the episode indicates that Sophia’s momma might be in for more suffering in the future. I’ve always thought that the title of the eighth Walking Dead trade paperback could double as the series’ mission statement: “Made to Suffer.” Take heed: According to press notes, “Made to Suffer” is also the name of this season’s eighth episode.) They emerged into the prison yard. They asked Hershel if anyone had seen Lori. And then Rick turned and saw a sight he could barely comprehend. Maggie was covered in blood. She was carrying a baby: The first baby Rick has seen in practically a year. His son was following along. And Lori was nowhere to be seen.

I’m not sure that The Walking Dead has ever had a better scene than the almost wordless sequence that followed. Rick walked up to Maggie and asked after Lori; Maggie cried out a plaintive “No.” He looked at Carl and understood everything. The look on Andrew Lincoln’s face — the slow-burn of realization and the steady accumulation of emotion — was soul-burning. Worst of all was the fact left implicit: Rick could have killed Andrew himself; instead, he left the convict to the walkers. For this oversight, Rick has lost a member of his squad and his own wife. And his own son had to shoot his dead wife in the head. Rick fell down, crying, screaming, incoherent. To quote Maggie Simpson:

Viewers, what did you think of the emotionally crippling festivities in last night’s episode? Have you already read Dalton Ross’ exclusive chat with Sarah Wayne Callies about her character’s demise? Did the revelation that Andrew was the puppet master bother you? I’ll admit, it seems like a bit of a stretch that he could A) survive a walker herd, and B) undertake such an elaborate heist plan, but I liked how his presence gave Lori’s death that mythic kick — the fact that Rick indirectly caused this all to happen. Are you excited to see what kind of mental horror Rick has to live with now? Will no one weep for Lori?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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