The realism of death on 'The Walking Dead.' Plus: Are you happy now?

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Image Credit: Frank Ockenfels/AMC

On the face of it, it’s ridiculous to talk about the realism of death-by-zombie-apocalypse, since who among us knows what that’s really like, other than anyone who’s participated in a studio-audience taping of Two and a Half Men? But one reason I think this season of The Walking Dead is its best yet is because it convincingly conveys the feeling of what it might be like to be trapped, and ultimately killed, as bloody chaos rises up all around you.

DO I STILL HAVE TO WARN YOU NOT TO READ THIS UNTIL YOU’VE SEEN LAST NIGHT’S THE WALKING DEAD?

The deaths of Lori and T-Dog were each “earned” — that is, Lori dying in childbirth, and T-Dog dying as a sacrifice to save Carol were logical moves for the series to make. The context was convincingly fraught: That prison setting this season is a wonderfully scary place in which to trap our heroes, our zombies, and our weird convicts. (Oh, right: RIP, Andrew, too.) The way the episode was shot, I rarely had a clear sense of where everyone was, but that only added to my involvement with the characters, who I imagine feel the same way — confused, losing their bearings, knowing only that turning any corner might reveal either an escape route or more zombies.

Certainly to some viewers, the sight of Maggie slicing into Lori’s belly to perform an emergency C-section was every bit as scary as any zombie wounding The Walking Dead has yet shown us. (There’s a reason for the cliche of the husband fainting as his wife gives birth.) Once the baby was successfully removed, Lori’s death was dealt with fairly quickly. I admire the way The Walking Dead declines to do what a lot of horror movies do: Turn the death of a major player into a Grand Statement, a moment of hallowed significance. This week, T-Dog and Carol were trapped — T-Dog got bitten, and then was ripped to shreds: It happens in the show’s universe. A lesser series would have spaced out the two deaths, to give IronE Singleton a bit more camera time, perhaps, and make his character’s demise more poignant. But it felt right — more real, if you will — that two people we know well by now would die over the course of this crazy riot.

When I reviewed the season premiere in my video segment, I couldn’t have known how right I was when I said that Lori now existed primarily to walk around looking extremely pregnant. The series had to show us just how close Lori was to giving birth, and God knows, being chased by zombies would doubtless hasten labor.

There’s one final question I’d like to ask you: Are you happy now? In the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, Keith Staskiewicz has a piece called “Worst Wives Club,” in which he points out how fan-rage has been directed toward various TV spouses, including Lori. He describes a scene at the recent New York ComicCon, during which the appearance of Lori in a sneak peak film at a Walking Dead panel was met with booing. A lot of Dead fans apparently feel that Lori is/was a drag, a bad mom, a bad wife, a bad… character?

Me, I always thought Lori reacted pretty consistently — which is to say, variously — to zombies, adultery, marriage, and motherhood. She could be petty, selfish, neglectful, and bitter as frequently as she was heroic, kind, and caring. Again: realism in the context of a supernatural thriller. The pace of her story arcs have been, at times, irritating, but not Lori herself.

But maybe some of you are happy this character is gone. I think the way she went out was yet another bit of evidence that The Walking Dead this season is a terrific superficial pleasure.

Twitter: @kentucker


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