by Kat Rosenfield
All last week, the web was abuzz with rumors that the upcoming episode of "The Walking Dead," titled "Killer Within," contained some absolutely shocking, series-turning-point sort of shizz — and indeed, last night's episode was one in which major bad business went down. And while it's hard to say which was the biggest, boldest, most brutal twist of the night, it's hard not to lead with the shocking and terrible news that...
...we found out the Governor's real name, and it was a total boring letdown.
Oh, then there's the little matter of the show ripping out our heart, chewing it into bloody little pieces, and spitting it out amid some of the worst carnage and most terrible losses we've seen since Sophia lurched out of the barn.
We open in the forest, where an unknown person drags the mangled carcass of a dead deer by the hooves. What for? Bait! Two walkers, lurking in the prison yard, stumble toward the deer: strung up, innards dangling, oh-so-tempting. And while the zombies chow down, our mystery guest gets sneaky. The chain securing the prison yard is broken; the gate is dragged open; and, waiting like a tasty metaphor-laden prize for the first hungry walker to cross the barrier, is the deer's bloodied heart.
If you're thinking that's ominous, you are not wrong.
At first, it seems like all is well. In the clean, sun-drenched yard, Rick and company are working to make the prison livable — and good-naturedly ribbing on Glenn and Maggie, who have turned the isolated guard tower into their own personal sex nest. The camaraderie is palpable, and it's all too much for Axel and Oscar, the last two sad pandas in prison blues. The convicts come to the fence to beg: Please, can't they be part of the group? Their cell-block has ghosts! They're so LONELY!
Rick, the queen bee of the post-apocalypse, says no way — as do the others. Only T-Dog is a voice of dissent, and he's overruled.
But Axel continues to hover, hopeful, while the main men move cars and gather wood for a zombie bonfire. And Hershel, up at last, takes his new crutches for an inaugural run. Out in the yard, the busy group pauses to watch the paterfamilias emerge. There's an exchange of meaningful looks as the survivors beam with pride and relief — a moment of happiness and normality... that goes on just a few beats too long to be anything but the calm before the storm.
But wait! Let's head over to Woodbury, where Michonne is wandering the streets, throwing shade at everything she sees — including the blood and bullet holes on the newly-acquired army trucks. The Governor catches her snooping and tries to flatter her suspicions away, but she's not buying it.
"If only we'd gotten there sooner, and you were with us," he simpers. Michonne, with her back to the Gov, does not actually say, "Bitch, please" — but her expression does, and how.
But it's not her problem; they're leaving. Andrea, readying for departure, offers Merle a map to Daryl's last known whereabouts. Tough-as-nails Merle still has a soft spot for his baby bro, and wants a few days off to search for him — a request that's shot down by the Governor, whose smiling "I can't spare you" protests almost seem genuine. And in his final meeting with Andrea, he seems even moreso: self-effacing and insightful, offering whiskey, asking about her plans. He even tells her his real name — Philip — and for a second there, it actually looks like he's going to kiss her. What the hell is going on here? A sudden connection? A dirty, manipulative trick? But whatever it is, it's softened Andrea's resolve; to Michonne's dismay, she wants to stay another few days.
And with that done, we return to the prison.... where the yard is, suddenly, full of walkers. Lurching! Shuffling! Ravenous! They advance on the group as Rick, across the yard with the other guys, screams: "LORI!"
Lori, and the rest, give it their best; Hershel wields his crutch, and the women take out zombie after zombie, but there are too many. Lori, Carl and Maggie flee into the prison. T-Dog runs to secure the gate... and his unprotected backside becomes walker chow.
"AAAAAAGH!" screams T-Dog (and everyone else, including us.) Wrenching free, he dashes with Carol into the cellblocks. By the time Rick retakes the yard, the group is scattered and know they've been sabotaged. Who's to blame? Axel and Oscar seem the obvious choice, until an alarm begins to blare... and who should emerge with an axe in hand, but That Guy! (Also known as the murderous inmate who Rick left for dead in a walker-infested exercise yard.) Inmate Oscar comes up with a gun, and looks unsure whom to shoot. But the gun goes BANG, and That Guy goes down, for good.
But it's not over, not even close. Inside, T-Dog rushes a pair of zombies, sacrificing himself to their ripping incisors, as he screams at Carol to run — which she does, casting a horrified look over her shoulder as her friend is torn to shreds. And elsewhere in the prison, Lori goes into labor. A nice, safe birth in their cellblock is out of the question; a non-walker-infested storage space is the best they can do. Lori strips from the waist down, grips a pipe, and tries to push, but something is wrong: she screams, and Maggie reaches between her legs to find nothing but blood, blood, blood.
Lori, suddenly serene in the knowledge of what has to happen, lies down. She's decided: the baby has to survive, and that means Maggie has to cut her. She turns to Carl, tells him she loves him, and says her last: "You've gotta do what's right. It's so easy to do the wrong thing in this world."
"Alright," she whispers. "It's alright, it's alright."
And Maggie cuts, and you guys, it is so not alright. Laurie screams and passes out, as Maggie pulls the bloody infant from her womb. The baby's cries fill the room. It's over.
Only it isn't: Carl has a job to do. "She's my mom," he says, flatly. He crouches by Lori's side, remembering Rick's last-season warning that he's gonna die, mom's gonna die, they're all gonna die, and kid stuff is over. Man, is it ever.
The gun goes off.
Outside, Rick, Daryl and Glenn have cleared the yard of walkers. They push through the prison, coming to a familiar intersection and discovering the bloody remains of... who? It should be T-Dog, but Daryl bends to pick up something lying nearby: Carol's head scarf. (A red herring?) And Rick is about to go back in search of his family, when a baby's cry echoes across the yard.
Rick sees Maggie, sees Carl, sees the baby… and sees nobody else.
"Where… where is she?" he stammers, and begins to cry, his face etched with horror and disbelief. He bends to look into Carl's face — and what he sees there destroys him.
"No," he sobs, looking at his son, the group, the sky, as though begging anyone to tell him it's not true. "No, no, no!"
And then Rick, strongest of the strong, bravest of the brave, falls to the ground and weeps... as did we.
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