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Posted at 08:41 AM ET, 11/05/2012

‘The Walking Dead’: On matters of life and death

A weekly analysis of (some of) the gory details in the latest episode of “The Walking Dead.”


Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), demonstrating her zombie-shooting abilities. (Gene Page/AMC)

We could spend some time in this week’s “The Walking Dead” analysis debating whether it’s wise for Andrea to stay in Woodbury when it’s obvious that the Governor is a bad guy, given his senseless killings, and his lying, and the fact that he wields a lot of power while playing golf during his free time.

But frankly, that’s not what’s important right now. What’s important is that we ponder the major losses we were forced to confront in Sunday’s episode, “Killer Within.” It is also crucial that I say SPOILER ALERT in bold, all-capital letters before we begin that pondering process, so that all readers understand they should not proceed unless they watched the latest hour of “The Walking Dead.” We all clear?

Okay. Now, let’s begin and allow the tears to flow if necessary, because Sunday night involved the most emotionally upsetting development we’ve ever witnessed in AMC’s version of zombieland.

First of all, let’s talk T-Dog.

T-Dog has arguably been the most famously underdeveloped character on “The Walking Dead.” His trajectory on the show can succinctly be described like this: Fight with Merle so that Merle ends up chained to a roof (Season 1); after becoming light-headed due to an injury, deliver monologue that implies everyone around him may also be as racist as Merle (Season 2); kill a lot of zombies (all seasons); argue in favor of letting Axel and Oscar the prisoners join the group (Season 3).

I was so excited when T-Dog expressed his opinions about the inmates. “Yay!” I thought. “Now that Dale’s gone, maybe T-Dog can become the new Conscience-in-Chief of Grimes Central, which means the guy will finally get to say actual lines of dialogue in multiple episodes.”

Roughly 30 minutes later, the dude was dead. After getting bitten on the shoulder by a walker — a place that, unlike Hershel’s leg, is tough to isolate and remove from the rest of the body — he sacrificed himself to additional zombies so that Carol could run away and survive.

“Go!” he shouted. “I’m dead!” What he was really saying was: “Go! They are never going to adequately develop my character, so I may as well turn myself into an all-you-can-eat buffet for the undead!”

T-Dog, we hardly knew ye. No. Really. We hardly, hardly did. And that makes your death a real shame.

As for Carol, Daryl and Rick assumed she had died, too. But I am not so sure. I think she’s still upright and breathing somewhere in that prison.

Sadly, no longer upright or breathing is — again, SPOILER ALERT, and last time I’m going to say it — Lori Grimes, a wife and mother who has often been the subject of intense Internet criticism but whose demise during childbirth was a wrenching gut punch. The struggle to keep composure when she said goodbye to her son Carl — “Don’t let the world spoil you. You’re so good,” she said through her agony — was one that many “Walking Dead” fans undoubtedly lost last night, even the ones who only watch to track the number of eyeball stabbings per week. Sarah Wayne Callies, who has thanklessly played Lori for 2 1/2 seasons, played her final scene just heartbreakingly perfectly.

We were too hard on Lori Grimes. I know I was, and — if I may be so bold as to speak for an entire TV fan community — we all were.

It’s true, she rarely supervised Carl adequately. Whether it was 10 o’clock or straight-up noon, if you asked Lori Grimes, “Do you know where your child is?,” the answer would usually come back “Wait, I thought he was with you.” This running theme was something that “Walking Dead” bloggers seized upon, because snarky inside jokes provide the blood that keeps the TV recapping circulatory system functioning. But the truth is, we weren’t entirely fair to Lori.

We only rarely asked why Rick Grimes wasn’t keeping better tabs on Carl, possibly because, as de factor leader of the survivors, Rick has a lot of decisions to make, and decisions to spend hours second-guessing. But let’s be real: We also didn’t give him as hard of a time because he’s the dad. We expect our TV fathers to get easily distracted, which is why we have TV mothers to keep track of the kids.

As Entertainment Weekly’s Keith Staskiewicz pointed out in a recent essay, we do this with a lot of TV wives, especially on AMC shows. It’s somewhat understandable that we’re harsh on Betty Draper, baffling that we judge Skyler White by a different standard than Walter, and somewhat sexist that we didn’t find a bit more empathy for Lori.

There was never a doubt that Lori cared deeply about all these men whom it became her duty to support and guide. The only time she ever did anything that really qualified as mean was when she implied that Rick should probably get rid of Shane. Admittedly, that was uncalled for.

But Lori Grimes was living in desperate, zombie times. You try being pregnant and bunking with strangers while your son recovers from a gunshot wound, and you try to process how, exactly, your husband woke up from his coma. It’s not easy. Lori Grimes didn’t make it look easy, either. She wasn’t going to win any “mother of the year awards,” as she herself noted.

But she was a woman who loved deeply, tried her best and, when it really counted, put her children first so they could have something resembling a future.

So salute her today. Don’t hate. And say a prayer for the two Grimes men: Rick, who looked completely shattered by the horrible news, and Carl, a kid who was forced to shoot his own mother in the head so she wouldn’t revive and turn into a walker. I don’t think there’s a term on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that covers what that does to a boy. But I have to think that it will psychologically mess him up and that we’ll have to keep a close eye on him in coming episodes.

That’s right, Lori Grimes. We’re watching Carl for you. Rest in peace.

By  |  08:41 AM ET, 11/05/2012

Tags:  Walking Dead

 
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