Episode Title: "When the Dead Come Knocking"
Writer: Frank Renzulli
Director: Dan Sackheim
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
As a reader of “The Walking Dead” comic book series, I always appreciate the way that the TV series will change up events and characters to keep everyone guessing. The television incarnation has also been remarkably faithful to some of the series’ most violent moments… until now.
And if the line of acceptable violence has finally been drawn, it will be interesting to see if the eventual follow up is also softened for a television audience.
Full spoilers lie ahead for "When the Dead Come Knocking." Nobody’s holding a knife in your teeth to make you read this if you aren’t up to date on the show!
Without spoiling the comic storyline for anyone who eventually wants to read it, I’ll try to refrain from saying too much about what happened the first time around. Glenn (Steven Yeun) was one of the initial captives at Woodbury, but Maggie (Lauren Cohan) was not. And despite the torments of Woodbury, they both got off relatively lightly compared to the events in the comic book.
In many ways, it was a better decision to have Glenn take the brunt of the torture from his “old friend” Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker). By refusing to cave in and even headbutting Merle, Glenn demonstrated that he’s become a much stronger character since his introduction to the series. Glenn even gets the badass moment of the episode by managing to break out of his chair and kill an attacking zombie. That was just a great sequence.
As for Maggie, the Governor (David Morrissey) not so subtly threatens to rape her. But unlike his comic book counterpart, the Governor doesn’t go through with it. That’s where the line appears to be drawn for now. I don’t believe that the choice was made simply to keep the Governor likable. He’s already demonstrated how crazy he is. When the Governor intimidates Maggie by saying he’ll bring Glenn’s head into the room, we know it’s not an idle threat.
This Governor may not be as skeevy as his original model, but he’s no less dangerous. However, sparing Maggie from sexual assault may mean that the TV series isn’t heading towards one of the most gruesome revenge sequences I’ve ever seen. That vengeance is now Maggie and Glenn’s to claim, unless things go spectacularly wrong in the next episode. But if the television story goes that route, it would be pushing the boundaries of what can be shown even on basic cable.
Getting back to Glenn and Merle, both Yeun and Rooker were terrific in their scenes. Rooker is a particularly entertaining performer and Merle is a great villain. Even when torturing Glenn, Merle is still pretty funny. But he has plenty of chilling asides, including his wish that T-Dog died slowly. Merle also has a moment when he realizes that Glenn is trying to feed him misinformation because he lists Andrea (Laurie Holden) as still being among his crew.
Ultimately, it’s Maggie who breaks down and tells the Governor where the prison is after Glenn is threatened right in front of her. Privately, the Governor expresses disbelief and almost admiration for what Glenn’s group has done with the prison. But he fears that they are a much larger force than the ten people Maggie cited.
I’m still not enjoying the Governor’s romance with Andrea, through no fault of the performers. It’s just a little weird that Andrea has no clue how screwed up the Governor really is. Or she’s simply blinding herself to the truth. Andrea’s subplot this week with Milton (Dallas Roberts) seemed to be a deliberate callback to watching her sister, Amy reanimate as a walker. There’s an indication that Andrea is scared that Milton is right about the dead retaining some of their knowledge and that she killed her sister before it could happen.
However, Milton seems hopelessly naive about what the transformation really does to its victims. When the old man walker attacks him and Andrea puts him down, I half expected Milton to yell at her for ruining his experiment.
Back at the prison, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and company got their first look at Michonne (Danai Gurira) in action and there wasn’t a lot of trust on either side. I don’t remember Michonne bothering to share her name with the Grimes gang and Rick even grabs her wounded leg as a way to force her to tell them what happened to Glenn and Maggie.
It’s somewhat surprising that Michonne either doesn’t realize she’s stumbled into Andrea’s old group or she’s choosing to remain silent. Michonne does seem to be affected when she sees the group react like a family to the return of Carol (Melissa McBride). Unfortunately for Rick and Carl (Chandler Riggs), Carol reminds them that they recently lost Lori. The non-verbal cues in that scene and between Rick and Michonne in their first meeting were very effective.
Eventually, Michonne shares enough about Glenn and Maggie’s fate that a rescue party is formed with Daryl ( Norman Reedus), Oscar (Vincent Ward), Rick and Michonne. The rescue party’s detour into the secluded cabin of a crazy man was pretty pointless… right up until Michonne killed him to prevent him from letting a horde of walkers into his home. Oscar seemed to be the only one horrified that the group then decided to feed the dead crazy man to the walkers while they slipped out the back.
By the end, Rick’s crew is poised for an assault on Woodbury while the Governor is sending scouts to the prison. Next week, the first shots of the war between the survivors will officially be fired. Despite the relative fast pace of the third season to date, “The Walking Dead” has approached this moment at a very deliberate pace. There’s a lot of ground to cover in the conflict between the prison survivors and Woodbury. That may be more than nine episodes can cover in the remainder of the season…