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30 November, 2012

REVIEW: The Walking Dead: Season 3 - Episode 7 " When the Dead Come Knocking"

My previous reviews for this series can be accessed by clicking the links below:

A number of plot points will inevitably be revealed in the course of these writings.  My intent is to review this program from the perspective of the Doomer / Prepper / Survivalist community, but, to do that effectively, some things have to be explained in greater detail than I might normally prefer in a review.  As a result, spoilers will follow.  You have been warned.  In truth, you might more accurately describe these posts as in-depth discussions of certain aspects of each episode with an emphasis on how the character's actions might be applicable in a real-life societal collapse.  I hope you enjoy.

We begin this week's episode with Merle interrogating Glenn.  It is obvious that Merle is terribly bitter about the way he was abandoned by the group in Atlanta.  I can understand his anger in a way, but, like pretty much every other troublemaker, he somehow fails to see that it was his own recklessness that got him handcuffed on that rooftop in the first place, which is what precipitated him being accidentally left behind during the rushed escape.  And, like a true $hitbag, he isn't above using torture and threats against Glenn's girl Maggie to extract the information he wants.

Most of all, he wants to know the location of the group's base of operations, presumably so that the thugs from Woodbury can sack them and steal all of their supplies.  This Woodbury bunch is the kind of survivalists that none of us wants anything to do with, if we're smart.  They are basically a stationary version of the Mongols, taking whatever they want or need to survive, and killing whoever stands in the way.

They are essentially the personification of a scary dude I read a post from on an internet bulletin board once: basically, he said his only preps were a shotgun and a bunch of shells for it and the address of one of his Prepper "buddies."  The implication, of course, being that he would just kill the other dude and take all of his stuff.  Truthfully, it was probably just a bad attempt at a joke, but you never know.  I wouldn't doubt for an instant that there are people who have just those sorts of thoughts, which is another reason that being circumspect is almost always a good idea.  Proper OPSEC is critical.

At the prison, we return to the story at exactly the point where we last left-off: Michonne has arrived, standing outside the gates among a crowd of Walkers, effectively camouflaged by the gore she is covered in after killing one messily last week.  Rick realizes that she isn't a Walker, but they just stare at one another through the fence.

She grimaces and makes a sound, favoring the gunshot wound in her leg, and the Walkers realize she isn't one of them and turn on her.  She kills two and wounds another, but she isn't doing so well because of her wound.  After a few moments, she blacks-out, sure to die at the hands (and teeth) of the rapidly approaching horde.

It is interesting to note that Rick makes no immediate or decisive moves to help her, despite Carl pressing him as to whether or not they should.  Rather, it is Carl himself who appears to have made the decision to intervene without waiting for an answer from his Dad before diving in.  Rick then gets involved as well, and he and Carl clear-out the immediately dangerous Walkers and grab the supplies she was carrying (the baby formula, etc. dropped by Glenn and Maggie).  Urged by Hershel, Rick checks Michonne for bites, but finds only the gunshot wound, so they bring her into the prison complex.

The deal is that they intend to treat her wound, but she is kept out of the cell-block the group is using as a base-camp.  Basically, she's safe inside the prison walls, but Rick doesn't want her near his people or their supplies; she is, after all, a complete stranger.  I give this notion an enthusiastic thumbs-up.  This way, they can be charitable without allowing an unknown entity, whom they have no reason yet to trust, an opportunity to get too close and pose a threat.

This is an example of very good OPSEC as well as a refreshing bit of humanitarianism in a world gone totally primal.  Granted, Rick isn't exactly nice, but she's safe for at least as long as it takes to properly treat her wound and they're feeding her, none of which is strictly their obligation to do in a dog-eat-dog world.  They also intend to supply her with some food and water for when she leaves.  The flip-side of this altruism is that Rick doesn't intend to let her go anywhere, until she's told him how she found them.

Just afterwards, Michonne witnesses the tearful reunion of Carol with the rest of the group, so she can see that they seem to be mostly decent folks.  Her expression never betrays her true thoughts, by the way; that's something you must understand if you're going to ever really get her as a character.  Michonne is always calculating and taking in information about others.  She's the type who hears a hundred words for every one she speaks herself.

She tells them that she overheard Glenn and Maggie talking about the prison and saying that it was a straight shot from where they were.  She also informs them of the abduction and that their people were assuredly taken to Woodbury.  She describes the Governor as a "pretty boy, Jim Jones type," which has the virtue of being both accurate as well as hilarious.  Rick wants to know what kind of muscle the Governor has working for him and if a rescue might be doable, to which she replies in the affirmative: Woodbury is secure from Walkers, but they ought to be able to slip in.

A critical mistake on Glenn's part occurs later on in his being interrogated at Woodbury.  Beaten to a pulp already, he's trying to put on a brave face, saying that his people are going to come for he and Maggie.  In attempting to artificially inflate their numbers, however, he mistakenly lists Andrea as being part of their forces, not knowing that Merle knows for a fact that Andrea is no longer with them.

Angry that he can't break Glenn, Merle lets a Walker loose in the room to kill him, saying that he wants him to know how he felt on that rooftop in Atlanta.  Despite being duct-taped to an old wooden office chair, Glenn manages to keep the Walker at bay long enough to smash the chair against the walls and kill the Walker with a shard of wood.  Glenn officially became a man today, y'all.

Eventually, unable to break Glenn, the Governor takes a crack at Maggie, forcing her to strip off her shirt and bra with the threat that, if she fails to comply, he'll bring her Glenn's hand.  His dominance asserted, he then threatens her with the prospect of rape, but, to her credit, she too refuses to break.  Later, however, she is brought (still nude from the waist up) before Glenn, and she does finally tell them what they want to know when they threaten to murder Glenn right in front of her.  She tells them that they took the prison and that there are only ten of them.

Back at the prison, preparations are made for the volunteers to set out on a rescue operation, leaving behind only Carl, Hershel, Beth, Axel, and Carol.  Daryl tells Carl not to worry about his Dad; that he will keep an eye on him.  I gotta say I'm really starting to like Daryl.  He's surely my favorite character at this point, which is a dicey proposition in a world where people get killed-off so easily.  He doesn't appear in the comics at all, I'm told (I haven't read them yet), so his fate is wholly in the hands of the TV writers.

I really like how he's stepped-up to be kind of a big brother to Carl; and, when thanked later by Rick for taking charge to get formula for the baby while he was preoccupied, Daryl says simply, "It's what we do."  He's a standup guy, and I'm very intrigued to see how things play-out between he and Merle when the brothers are reunited.

Speaking of Carl, he and his Dad finally have a talk as everyone is gearing-up to roll out.  Rick apologizes for Carl having to be the one to put his own mother down, and lets him know that he trusts his judgment on what to do if something goes wrong.  Oh yeah: they finally name the baby -- Judith, after Carl's 3rd grade teacher.

One or two miles outside Woodbury, they park their car and move in on foot to avoid patrols.  They are soon confronted with a large number of Walkers in the woods.  This, I assume, is the "Red zone" we heard Merle mention last week and that he assumed would take care of Michonne, allowing him to lie to the Governor and claim he had killed her.

The herd is too many, and so they run, seeking shelter in an old cabin.  The only problem is that it's already occupied by a hermit, who is obviously also either crazy or just completely unaware that the civilized world has taken a header in an all-out zombie apocalypse.

He keeps yelling, threatening to call the cops, seemingly unaware that yelling is a bad idea and there are no cops to call.  He soon makes a break for it, running for the door that, if opened, will flood the cabin with Walkers.  Michonne kills the poor gooney-bird, before he can get them all eaten, and the others throw his corpse outside, escaping out the back door while the herd is preoccupied devouring him.

Having left Glenn and Maggie together after getting what they needed, the Governor meets with his top people in his apartment/office to discuss the situation and what they have learned from Maggie.  There is some doubt as to whether she's telling the truth; such a small group having done something that the Governor's people believed was impossible.  The Governor himself worries that, if she's lying, then it means a large force has moved in close to Woodbury's proverbial doorstep.

He also acts a bit paranoid, forcing Merle to state that his loyalties lie with him right then and there, on the spot.  Apparently, he's suspicious because Merle was among those who said the prison couldn't be cleared (did the Governor want the prison initially, before settling for the town?), and now a group with his brother at its core has done it.  A small group is sent to scout the prison to reconnoiter what they're up against.

I don't like the idea of hostiles prowling-around the prison with only a skeleton crew holding down the fort.  That could be bad.

Meanwhile, Rick and company arrive outside the walls of Woodbury to prepare for the rescue, and this is where the episode ends.

Next Sunday (2 December) is the Mid-season Finale, precipitating a few months-long break before the show returns, likely in mid-February.

The assault should be interesting to watch from a tactical perspective.  The rescuers are armed with tear-gas and flash-bangs taken off the bodies of dead guards at the prison, but, even with that advantage, I can't see a frontal assault on that wall as being anything but suicide.  Assaulting a lightly-fortified position or one where the enemy is expecting an attack typically requires at least a 2-1 advantage, and 3-1 is better, in order to ensure success.  In medieval times, successfully assaulting a castle required an advantage of 10-1.

If I were in Rick's company, I would argue for some kind of distraction to draw away the attention of the defenders.  Meanwhile, another part of the force will have sneaked-around from another angle.  When the distraction hits, the other group springs into action, hopefully from a position already within the Woodbury perimeter.  Then, everybody high-tails it out separately, either regrouping at the car 1-2 miles away or hot-footing it (which would suck).

There was also another less important Woodbury subplot that played-out throughout the episode wherein the Governor asks his new flame Andrea to assist Milton with an experiment.  Long story short: an old man with no remaining family and end-stage cancer has volunteered to allow Milton to use him for an experiment.

His hypothesis is that Walkers retain part of their old selves (trace memory and human consciousness) after they turn.  Milton plays music and asks the old man questions to which he responds by raising his hand off the bed for a True answer; they've been doing this as a routine for a while, and now they're waiting out his deathwatch to try it again after he turns.  Andrea is the muscle, in charge of putting him down afterwards.

Upon reanimating, it's clear that the Walker is unable to respond as the man he once was might have.  Milton, however, claims that he is trying to raise his hand to signal understanding, but is impeded by the restraints they put on him as soon as he died.  He attempts to undo the restraint, and Andrea kills the Walker as it lunges for Milton.

Both are shaken, and it's clear that Milton is unhappy with the results of his experiment.  Later, the Governor is also visibly unhappy when Andrea tells him what happened, though he says nothing.

I suppose that since he has his Walker daughter trussed-up in a straight-jacket somewhere that he was hoping for better results.

The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]

The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season [Blu-ray] --- [DVD]

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