The Walking Dead - "Walk with Me" and "Killer Within"

Last time we visited AMC's The Walking Dead, things all seemed to be falling into place. Rick and our sturdy band of survivors had secured themselves a safe home base in the prison, and even succeeded in saving Hershel's life. Only Michonne and Andrea were truly left in a state of utter and complete doubt. Even the writing of the show had reached a new height; a delightful, potent, minimalist near perfection. In "Walk with Me" and "Killer Within" the writing gets even stronger. The story twists in pleasing, thought-provoking and complicated new ways. Unfortunately, that means the peace for our characters is once more irrevocably disturbed. And this time, pardon my callousness to previous events in the series, the death toll is far more heartbreaking.

Walk with Me

"Walk with Me" does a beautiful thing. It demonstrates the maturity and creativity of the writing staff by introducing The Governor and bringing back Merle, while never forcing them to cross paths arbitrarily with Rick and the survivors. For one episode, we see the world through only Michonne and Andrea's eyes. The decision creates a sort of newness that the show was missing. No matter how much we love Rick, Daryl, T-Dog, Carol, Hershel, Glen and the rest, we have also spent a little too much time together. Viewers want to see more of the picture, especially in a world that is so different from the one in which we live. The zombie apocalypse loses some effect when it means we only watch the constant suffering of a single group. So, "Walk with Me" opens with a helicopter crash.

The crash, proof that others are alive, shows that all is not lost. Confusion, though, rages through camps and groups all over Georgia, at least. The Governor appears while picking through the helicopter with a group, and that's when we're reintroduced to Merle. What's exciting is that "Walk with Me" introduces a new world, a sort of parallel universe. The Governor has a town, full of followers, that he treats as much like a society as a model train set. He will defend this thing with all costs, but his ruthlessness is boundless. And by the end of "Walk with Me" we know exactly what kind of man he is. And do you know why? Because the writing team spent an entire episode creating him, playing him off of a couple people we know (and not the cynical, world-weary Rick, but the more trusting Andrea). That's a service. That's the biggest proof that The Walking Dead is coming back strong.

Killer Within

In "Killer Within" we only receive a few asides and glimpses of The Governor's secret personal dystopia. Instead, we're back with the usual team. But the cold open is one of the most tense and well thought opens the show has ever done. A mysterious stranger, from within the prison, sabotages Rick and the gang's hard work, opening them up to an attack. What's better is that the attack takes almost 15 minutes to happen. We see the sabotage, but even I had moments thinking that maybe the open was a flash-forward... I was effectively lulled into a state of comfort. When the first horde starts coming up, toward a walking-with-crutches-and-still-weak Hershel, I thought I knew what was coming.

I did not. T-Dog goes down. And perhaps most tragically, Laurie, in child birth and then at the zombification-preventing hand of her son, Carl. But, the tension. My god, the tension. This show finally found a setting that worked for it. The early episodes, nestled in the skyscrapers and tight spaces of Atlanta, were tense because there was no where to turn, despite all the shelter. The prison is even better, flooded with darkness, and growling alarms, it's clear that there's no where to go. The writers gave Rick and the survivors strength to start the year. Then they gave them shelter. And now, in one swoop both were taken in the most brutal way possible. This show is good, again. And only getting better.

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