|The Walking Dead episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Guy Ferland|
|Written by||Sang Kyu Kim|
|Original air date||November 4, 2012|
"Killer Within" is the fourth episode of the third season of the post-apocalyptic horror television series The Walking Dead. It originally aired on AMC in the United States on November 4, 2012, and was written by Sang Kyu Kim and directed by Guy Ferland. The episode marked Sarah Wayne Callies and IronE Singleton's final appearances as regular actors on the show. Most television critics positively reviewed the episode, applauding its bleak undertones and the performances. However, some commentators criticized the narrative ploys and the direction taken in the program. "Killer Within" was viewed by 9.27 million viewers, including 4.9 percent of those in the 18 to 49 demographic upon its initial broadcast in the United States.
"Killer Within" opens as an unidentified individual sets up the remnants of a deer carcass as a trail to attract walkers. As the walkers begin to follow the trail, the individual successfully breaks the lock to the prison gate, simultaneously placing the carcass' heart nearby. The deer's heart has a bullethole through it, just like the one that led Carl to being shot. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) discusses with Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Maggie Greene (Lauren Cohan), Glenn (Steven Yeun), and Theodore "T-Dog" Douglas (IronE Singleton) disposing of the rotting corpses and other tasks required to make the prison their permanent home. The group is approached by prisoners Axel (Lew Temple) and Oscar (Vincent Ward), who are visibly distraught and plead to be part of the clan. An adamant Rick declines their pleas and abides by a compromise initiated between the two groups. T-Dog sympathizes with the prisoners and is open to the idea of letting them join, but Rick, supported by Maggie, Glenn, and Daryl, insists that the prisoners keep to their cell block. Axel and Oscar refuse because their cell block is full of bodies, and the yard where they planned to burn them is filled with walkers. Rick has the two prisoners caged, intending to give them one week's supplies and cast them out.
A suspicious Michonne examines the National Guard vehicles retrieved by The Governor and his men. She notices numerous bullet holes and detects bloodstains in one of them. Once The Governor arrives, Michonne interrogates him about the details of the soldiers' deaths. The Governor ignores her questions and attempts to convince her to stay at Woodbury. After their confrontation, Michonne tells Andrea of her plans to migrate to the coast.
Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) takes his first steps after having his right leg amputated and is assisted by his daughter Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), Lori Grimes, and her son Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs). The group's celebration abruptly ends as a horde of walkers unexpectedly invades the courtyard. The ensuing chaos forces the group to disperse. While securing the prison yard's inner gate, T-Dog is bitten on the shoulder. Rick, Daryl, and Glenn rush in from outside the fences and Glenn finds the outer gate's lock broken and chains cut, leading Rick to believe that Axel and Oscar are responsible. But when the prison sirens sound off, attracting more walkers, it is clear that someone else is to blame. Oscar explains that the back-up generators are powering the alarms, and the two groups collaborate to shut them down.
In Woodbury, Andrea gives Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) the location to Hershel's farm. Merle asks her to join him on his journey to search for Daryl, but she declines. The Governor similarly denies Merle's request to search for his brother but changes his mind and agrees to accompany Merle if he obtains more recent information. The Governor begins to develop a relationship with Andrea, who decides to stay in Woodbury for the time being, much to Michonne's dismay.
Carol offers assistance to a wounded T-Dog, but he refuses, given the fatal nature of his injury. After being blocked in the corridor on both sides, T-Dog sacrifices himself to ensure Carol's safety. Horrified at the sight of walkers eating T-Dog alive, Carol flees. On the other side of the building, Lori goes into labor. Carl successfully finds her, Maggie, and himself refuge in the boiler room. However, as Lori begins to push through her contractions, she begins to bleed profusely. Realizing she will not survive childbirth, Lori reconciles with Carl and orders Maggie to perform a Caesarian section, which they all know Lori will not survive. A distraught Carl later shoots Lori's corpse to prevent reanimation.
Andrew (Markice Moore), the prisoner Rick had previously chased into the walker-filled prison yard, reveals himself to be the perpetrator when he attacks Rick from behind in the generator room. As the two men scuffle, Daryl secures the door against multiple walkers and Oscar picks up Rick's gun. Andrew pressures him to kill Rick, but Oscar kills Andrew, instead. Oscar hands the gun back to Rick, who shuts off the emergency generators. Glenn and Axel join them, and on their way out the five discover T-Dog's remains as well as Carol's head-wrap, leading them to presume that she, too, had died. They reunite with Beth and Hershel out in the courtyard. As Rick prepares to go back in search of the others, Carl and Maggie emerge with the baby. Initially perplexed by Lori's absence, Rick collapses when he realizes she is dead.
"Killer Within" signified the final appearances of Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori) and IronE Singleton (T-Dog) as regulars. Although Callies suggested Lori's death to Frank Darabont on numerous occasions, Glen Mazzara made the decision to kill her off. The writing team chose to advance the revelation into the earlier part of the season, to provide "fresh" opportunities for the staff. Mazzara and Callies conversed minimally about how Lori would die, but Callies opted to wait until the script's release to acquire more insight, since her character "doesn’t know she’s going to die". She rehearsed and revised the dialogue with Mazzara for a couple of weeks. Some of the adjustments, Mazzara said, weren't initially in the script. "I just thought, it belongs there," Callies stated.
To prepare for the death scene, Callies viewed the Stanley Kubrick-directed war film Full Metal Jacket (1987) with Ferland. She liked Arliss Howard's performance and described his character's demise as a brisk, "kind of strange death". Callies did not practice her character's death with Riggs. Instead, the final day enabled them to possess "so many emotions in [their] hearts" and to deliver an emotionally poignant and raw performance.
Producers trained Cohan to perform a Caesarian in preparation for the scene. Callies wore a leotard-esque rig resembling a pregnant abdomen; a prosthetic abdomen was later glued onto the suit. This process took approximately one hour to complete. Inside the prosthetic abdomen was additional layering that imitated a uterus, which held the fetus. An insert shot was taken while the abdomen was sliced open, emphasizing the uncontrollable blood flow. The liquid was pumped through a small tube attached to the front of the suit.
Singleton was informed about his character's fate before production of the third season began and had to avoid arousing any suspicion from the public, particularly T-Dog's fans. Singleton said about his character's "heroic" death: "When I read [the script], I was thankful that he would go out as a hero. It made me feel really appreciated."
The central theme in "Killer Within" is death. T-Dog sacrifices himself to allow Carol to escape, while Lori dies after an improvised operation, and Andrew dies while trying to kill Rick. Kirkman wanted Rick and Carl to develop a different psyche during the season and Lori's death would serve as a catalyst for both characters' development. Rick's anguish manifests in much of the episode's concluding scene. Kirkman agreed, proclaiming that not only was it inevitable, but it also develops Rick's character.
Sarah Wayne Callies described her takes on the scene and its significance to TVLine: "I thought it was brilliant. I thought it was brilliantly shot to have Carl strong and cold in the foreground and Rick collapsed. I know they shot it a bunch of different ways. There were a bunch of different ideas about how that scene could play. But it was beautiful because in some ways it’s the apotheosis of Carl. It’s this young boy having just performed a great act of both mercy and violence [against] his mother recognizing that dad’s not going to be able to get me through this right now, so I’ll be the strong one."
Both T-Dog and Lori's deaths were heroic by design and reflected their personal lives. Mazzara stated that T-Dog's stint as a football player became evident as "he just heroically acts as a linebacker and just clotheslines these walkers, even at his own expense." Regarding Lori's demise, he professed that childbirth was heroic: "That heroism of a woman giving birth and paying a price and just being focused on the survival of her children is a beautiful story, and a story that's actually taken place millions of times throughout history." In his article for Entertainment Weekly, Darren Franich linked facets of Lori's death to the Book of Job and suggested that it acted as a "triple" catharsis for the character. Franich perceived Lori's extramarital affair with Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) as an allegorical allusion to Original Sin—a Christian theological concept of damnation—which then transitions into an "optimistic New Testament vision of hope" as Lori comes to terms with her destiny. "She was confident, and fearless, and heroic," Franich concluded in his review for "Killer Within".
Hudson observed tribalism as a trope in "Killer Within", which he ascribed to the reluctance of Maggie, Rick, and others in the group to allow Oscar and Axel into their clan. The Los Angeles Times journalist noted that these characters had been severed from the cultural and social fabric of their past civilization for so long that they have reverted to "traveling in a small, tightly knit group, hunting and gathering, and regarding anyone who isn't part of their it as a deadly threat."
The episode's initial broadcast attracted 9.27 million viewers, significantly down from the previous episode, which amassed 10.51 million viewers. "Killer Within" acquired a 4.9 rating in the 18–49 demographic. Despite steep decreases in weekly ratings, the episode was the night's top cable program in terms of ratings, beating out Real Housewives of Atlanta and Breaking Amish by a considerable margin. In the United Kingdom, "Killer Within" garnered 893,000 viewers, the most-viewed television program of the week on FX.
"Killer Within" was lauded by television commentators. The Washington Post entertainment journalist Jen Chaney said that "Killer Within" offered the "most emotionally upsetting development" in the series to date, a sentiment echoed by Time 's Nate Rawlings, who argued that the episode was The Walking Dead 's most powerful installment since "Beside the Dying Fire". Bex Schwartz wrote in her review for Rolling Stone magazine that "Killer Within" was the program's best episode to date. The Huffington Post 's Maureen Ryan described it as a "taut, terrifically paced hour" with an "incredibly powerful ending", while Eric Goldman of IGN called it "an incredibly tense [and] unrelenting" episode in his 9.5 out of 10 review.
The fates of Lori and T-Dog garnered favorable reviews from television commentators. According to HitFix writer Alan Sepinwall, the moment when Lori and Carl share their goodbyes was the most heartbreaking event since the ending of the second season episode "Pretty Much Dead Already". Los Angeles Times columnist Laura Hudson felt it was a grim departure for a character who endured long bouts of grief for reasons beyond her control. Erik Kain from Forbes magazine found Lori's death especially difficult to watch, and was shocked by T-Dog's "sudden" death despite the fact that he "was never as prominent a figure" on the program. "As hard as these deaths were to watch," Kain wrote, "they also give me faith in the show." Even though he stated that T-Dog died "a hero's death", Michael Rapoport of the Wall Street Journal concluded that Lori's "gut-churning" demise was the more memorable.
Lori's demise was featured in The Huffington Post 's list of "The Biggest 'OMG' TV Moments of 2012", and placed nineteenth in Slate 's article covering the year's most noteworthy television moments. Journalist Chris Kirk said that the segment was "utterly surprising", and pointed out that the writers beguiled viewers by shedding light onto Lori's crumbled relationship with Rick.
Some reviewers presented more negative critiques. Ted Pigeon of Slant Magazine asserted that, although the latter half of the installment contained some of the show's most touching material, the methodology behind its narratives was "all too apparent". Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club in his review felt the episode "stumble[d]" in how T-Dog and Lori were eliminated and in how the Woodbury storyline repeated what was already known. Handlen commented in his B+ review that "killing T-Dog and Lori earned the show an immediate thrill, but it also meant crossing off two potential sources of drama, people who had a history on the series, however thin or poorly developed that history might have been."
The performances of The Walking Dead ensemble was a frequent topic in the critiques. Lincoln's performance received kudos from various media outlets including HitFix, Rolling Stone, and Slate. To Goldman, Lincoln's collapsing onto the ground was a "suitably powerful and evocative" gesture that epitomized the essence of the series. In addition, the IGN writer commended Callies, Riggs, and Cohan for their performances in "Killer Within". Sepinwall added that Callies "absolutely sold" the portrayal of a mother saying "goodbye to the son who had to grow up much too quickly".
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