“When The Dead Come Knocking” – The Walking Dead Recap

As we inch closer to having two worlds collide, Glenn gets his chance to up his zombie cred in light of all the Daryl-love, and the Governor pushes his Creepus Maximus stare to the limit.

Merle and Glenn are having a little chat after one has dragged the other back to Woodbury. Merle’s trying to be all sinister playful with him, and clearly that No Hard Feelings schtick was just well… schtick. He’s still mad at him, of course he is. How couldn’t he be? Poor ol’ Merle, left to die on a rooftop with walkers hot on his ass. Glenn tries to put in a word that they went back for him, but it was just too little, too late. And now Merle’s all sarcastic-bitter, pissing on T-Dog’s memory. Way to make turn the audience against a character, writers. Can’t wait to have someone knock Merle down a peg.

He asks Glenn about the rest of the survivors, Daryl in particular. He uses Maggie to unsettle him by going all 50 shades creepy on his description of Glenn+Maggie’s intimacy. Nice try, but the Governor is still champion of the Creeper Totem Pole. The bad thing is, Maggie’s in the other room listening in on the interrogation, and she’s right to be worried about it. Merle tells Glenn he remembers him – “You don’t scare easy, do you?” – and presses the flat of his blade arm to Glenn’s mouth.

He questions about Daryl and Rick again. You wanna know, Merle? HEADBUTT! Yes, Glenn rapidly gains badass points. I love how each person seems to really have their time to shine this season. Glenn’s always been the background player, helping out the team, but now he has this awesome moment to prove that he can hold his own, even as Merle still punches him into pulp way into the credits.

We move straight to the prison scenario where Michonne stares at Rick and Rick stares at Michonne. Carl runs up to join his dad and Michonne’s wound is bleeding out. Mmm, it smells delicious to the zombies beside her! I bet that you need about 8 kilos of zombie stink to effectively mask a vial’s worth of fresh blood.

She defends herself against a few zombies as Carl asks if they should help. After all they’ve been through with strangers, Rick has reason to walk away from another person looking to assimilate, but look at her, for god’s sake, she’s carrying your baby’s milk formula.

Fortunately, Carl is thinking on his feet and decides to shoot at the zombies that are slowly starting to overwhelm her as she falls over from blood loss and adrenaline, and from Carl’s cue Rick unlocks the gate to go to her rescue. Hershel wants to know if she’s bitten, but Rick announces that she isn’t, only identifying a gunshot in her thigh. They proceed to take her in to patch her up.

Weirdly, when Michonne comes back to her senses, I find myself terribly annoyed at her continued glowering and her actually reaching for her sword. You came to them, right? But then again, I suppose it’s a force of habit to have her blade close, especially now that she’s all by herself in someone else’s territory. Sigh. Lots of mixed feelings. I mean, why keep mum about who she is?

Rick informs that the gang will be holding her husband hostage, and that she’ll be rotting in the cell for awhile. As he enters the home section of the cell block, he locks eyes with Carol – the score swells with the signature string composition of Bear McCreary – and they embrace. Hugs all around! A nice, warm feeling when she sees the tiny baby, but a bittersweet moment as she realises Lori’s absence. Melissa McBride’s looking vulnerable and quite pretty with watery eyes and a dirt-smeared complexion; Michonne observes this reunion, this time with less sullenness and more softening on the suspicion. It’d better move towards that direction, because the defensive/cautious thing is wearing a bit thin. Come on. There’s gotta be more dimension to Michonne, right? She seems to only be a badass when she’s kicking ass.

Cut to Woodbury, where the Gov and Andrea are still going at it like bunnies. The Doc knocks on the Governor’s door, reporting that a Mr Coleman, purportedly down in the lab, is ready. As Andrea dresses, he asks her for her help with something not sex related – it’s right to assume that it’s got something to do with the Doc’s basement experiment.

Rick, accompanied by Daryl, his muscle, and Hershel, his medic, promises to let Michonne leave the place adequately supplied and repaired if she reveals how she found them and why the hell she has the formula. She tells them about seeing Glenn and Maggie and their kidnapping by Merle. The vagueness prompts Rick to stick a thumb in her wound. Ouch. Why doesn’t she just mention Merle’s whole brother-seeking mission? Is there a point to keeping that info to herself? Again, I try to be understanding and rationalize that the writers are just keeping anything about either brother from the other to make their long-awaited meeting a total shocker for both of ’em.

The hard approach doesn’t seem to be working with her, so Rick tries to lighten it up a little by getting Daryl to lower his weapon. She divulges some basics on Woodbury, a fortress against zombies but not entirely foolproof against humans; The Governor; the guards patrolling the walls; their tiny-but-bigger than yours population.

Merle’s fist has had its way with Glenn, who’s a swollen-eyed bloody mess now. Hang in there, buddy. While Merle keeps dwelling on the past, Glenn is sure that Rick will come looking for him and Maggie. They go back and forth about whether this is going to happen or not – frankly, the score is once again making this exciting, not the long-windedness of Merle trying to psychologically break his captive. Glenn keeps looking better and better in the Awesome department the longer he sits in that chair and evil-eyes the hell out of that racist redneck POS.

He wrongly cites the dead who have gone missing in his liar’s list of survivors that are travelling with them – one mention of Andrea and Merle calls his bluff with a cartoon villain grin.

Hershel is finishing up the stitches on Michonne; Carl looks on. The rest of the group discuss the credibility of her information, then decide on the recon team that will retrieve their lost members. Oh look, it’s Axel! I only realised he was there upon rewatch. It seems like he’s taking on that T-Dog wallflower role, disappearing to fix generators and do menial things while getting one or two lines an episode. They’re doing so many things right with this season, but I have to say that to make the series absolutely watertight, they have to stop introducing characters dramatically and then reducing them to bit players. After which, only push them when they’re needed as a convenient plot device. Okay, rant postponed.

I’m really enjoying Daryl and Carl bonding. Rick should watch his back because where he lacks interest or responsibility in areas, Daryl seems to fill the shoes very nicely. Michonne’s all incredulous about the Prison Gang being able to clear the area by their little ol’ selves, but Beth hints that they’ve lost a lot more people than anyone else has let on. Rick tries to broach the topic of Lori with Carl in the gentlest way possible, but it’s really a segue to giving him instructions in case everyone dies out there. Way to go, Rick. It’s like you don’t care about the boy at all. Just because you had your time to recover doesn’t mean that everyone’s got to get over their tragedy as quickly as you did. But despite the pressure that he loads on Carl, the boy seems to be taking it on like a champ. I’m beginning to really like him as a character now. So when Carl suggests naming Lil’ Asskicker Judith, that’s totally okay. Judith Grimes. That ain’t bad at all.

The team of Rick, Daryl, Oscar and Michonne load up their gear and depart for Woodbury in their car. It seems like every time part of the group leaves it’s a really iffy goodbye scene. Very sad.

“Asskicker?”

Andrea walks into the lab with the soothing, slow-dance tunes of a 60’s Dana Shore type playing on vinyl. It’s clear that the environment is creeping her out, when the Gov introduces her to the ailing Mr Coleman. I mean, he’s just lying in the bed and the Doc starts his weird conditioning procedure to demonstrate to her what exactly he’s trying to achieve here, even I would be pretty freaked out by the process itself. The obsession with trying to retain a person’s humanity when the body is dead is really disturbing, especially when the show’s not being satirical about it (Warm Bodies, anyone?). After the Doc goes through his regular routine, they wait for Mr Coleman to die. It plays out as morbidly as it sounds.

Glenn fidgets in his seat as regular prisoners do when they’re tied up. Just a day in the life of a Korean captive trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Merle then busts in with a gnarly zombie on a Y-prong and lets it loose, retribution for the original gang isolating him on the rooftop back in Atlana. Also, to extract from him the location of his group, but more of the former, really. Soooo transparent. But damn, a fingernail-biting, knuckle-chewing scene ensues with Glenn struggling to free himself from his restraints – really great choreography and acting from Steven Yeun as he skillfully evades the undead bugger by rolling/twisting left and right, bumping into his enemy and through mattress bedsprings even as its gross and dirty zombie nails . The evasive Asian dude proves his awesomeness again. He finally frees himself after hurtling himself (with chair still attached) against the wall and he stabs Mr Bitey through the face with a broken chair leg.

EYEBALL PLUNGE!

Once again, thank god for duct taped arms. Genius. Glenn follows up with a very adrenaline-fueled Hulk-like yell and we immediately cut to-

-Doc and Andrea’s National Zombie Experiment. He instructs her to help him restrain Mr Coleman after he’s died, to which they will then proceed to test to see if the conditioning is successful. She will be the one to put the old guy out of his misery.

“I’ve been trying to determine if trace memory and human consciousness exist after the subject has transformed, but I have no baseline to work off of… ‘Til now.”

This is all sorts of disturbing. In a way, it’s like doctors trying to find a cure for epidemic strains. Very Holocaust-era type of experimentation where they subject prisoners to medical testing, walking the ethics argument of being humane versus contributing to breakthroughs in medicine. Without vivisection, we might not have today’s knowledge of our anatomy and biology. In the same way, the Doc and Phil are trying to find a possible cure or at least a suppressant for zombification – and we’ll never know if they’ll ever be successful without trying something unorthodox.

The Doc speaks of Mr Coleman fondly. Andrea picks up on it, listening to him explain that with the conditioning, the unconscious mind may recognize and respond accordingly. But she doesn’t believe it at all. Neither do I, really. And quite frankly, this is one of those moments that I like Andrea; when she’s not being a fool. I can dream, can’t I?

We find out that the Doc has never seen a person turn, and he’s an only child, and orphan. Just when we’re about to find out more about who he was before zombies (BZ), Mr Coleman lets out his last breath. It has begun!

I get really tense when people have recently passed on this show. Then these characters have to go do risky things like put their faces close to the dead subject to see if they’re breathing, give CPR, indulge in lingering goodbye embraces. Yelch! Both Andrea and the Doc strap the patient in and prep for what’s next.

The Governor and Merle discuss the prisoners knowing Andrea, and knowing Daryl. Gov’s worried that Rick’s gang will come in with guns blazing and threaten the town’s peace, Merle agrees. They all agree that Glenn is a real resilient badass too. Yeah, that should show you. Don’t mistreat the Asian dude. He’ll McGyver your ass.

Merle says he’s about to attend to Maggie, but the Governor volunteers himself for the task. Uh oh. (And at the same time, is that discomfort in Merle’s sigh after they leave?)

Maggie is bound to her own chair when the Governor enters the room. I hate one-on-ones. So unnerving. The Gov’s Creep meter is slowly powering to full throttle. He pulls a blade, and we think, okay, he’s gonna cut her up. But no, he’s not that kinda torturer. Instead he slices the duct tape holding Maggie’s wrists together. Then he takes a seat.

He begins by being civil. All he wants is to know where her camp is so he can drop her off. Of course, just like you did with the heli pilot. We’ve all seen his plays before. But Maggie doesn’t. She asks for Glenn, but the Governor refuses. He reasons that they’re dangerous because of what they did to Merle, but Maggie wasn’t even in the picture yet. You go, girl. Although, I’m really frightened for you because the Creeper Stare is moving into Maximus zone now.

He asks about the camp location again, promising that she’ll be safe and will be able to see Glenn. Yeah, right. Maggie purses her lips.The Governor switches tactics. He is a master of psychological terror after all.

He tells her to stand up please. I lean away from my screen because the niceties are really getting to me. Leaning forward with his signature Creepus Maximus in overdrive, he asks again. Maggie is on her feet, sensing the edge in his voice. “Take off your shirt,” he requests, and Maggie refuses. “Take off your shirt, or I’ll bring Glenn’s hand in here.” And yes, Maggie loves Glenn and would see him in one piece, so she complies, not reluctantly but with a pinch of defiance. The Governor urges her to continue stripping.

This is, in every way, upsetting. Lauren Cohan is doing wonders portraying the victim in this unfair fight. And the thing is, it isn’t her own pride and dignity she’s concerned about – she’s actually giving in to the Governor’s demands for Glenn’s sake at the expense of her own modesty. UPSETTING, I TELL YOU.

Topless and vulnerable, the Governor’s eyes fire up like a gaslight. He removes the holster from his waist, circles her like a vulture and moves up real close. Maggie is visibly sickened, as is the rest of us who by now, want to stab the Governor through the eyes with our thumbs. Will they go there? He slams her face first into the table. I am totally finding this difficult to watch. My boyfriend and I watch in anguish as Maggie’s total submission – also her IDGAF declaration – slips from her lips. Ugh, no!

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Just when we think that it’s going to escalate into something really nasty, the Governor backs off. Phew.

Tension, tension, tension. To loosen the harrowing tension’s grip from our throats, the scene cuts to Rick’s recon team getting out of their car to travel to Woodbury on foot. Michonne confirms that it’s a mile or two to the town.

Rick thanks Daryl for looking after the team when he was “working things out”. Daryl’s all, “yeah, it’s cool bro”. A slightly awkwardly placed moment between the characters. I sense that even if Daryl’s the right hand man to the leader, they don’t bond much as friends. There is a certain separation between their roles as protectors of their unit and their personal relationship that I get from Rick and Daryl. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not.

Walkers suddenly start emerging from all directions. The group have no choice but to cut their way through to a seemingly empty house with boarded windows. It’s smelly too. The pong is from someone’s long-dead dog, but the more pressing matter at hand is the tens of zombies outside the front door trying to claw their way in. Sometimes I wonder how zombies can scratch holes into people and yet they can’t bust down a locked door.

Rick comes across a guy hiding under a blanket, who springs from bed with a rifle in tow. Yikes. Daryl starts his cool crabwalk again and Michonne prompts Rick to keep the guy quiet because it’s drawing the attention of walkers.

Clearly this guy hasn’t been outside in a while because he says he’ll call the cops. Rick places his weapons on the ground to talk the guy out of doing anything rash. And when the moment is right, he makes a grab for the gun. The man panics and somehow frees himself from Rick’s headlock, but Michonne sticks Katana into his shoulder before he opens the door in suicide. I am ruthless she-person, her eyes say.  As the planks on the door are being pried away, the gang decides to do the necessary thing – toss the fresh body of the man to the zombies and escape out the back. It works, and ew! It’s a slippery intestinal buffet.

Mmm.

Down in the Woodbury lab, Mr Coleman has reanimated. The Doc begins his test. The bowl is rung, the music is played, the photo shown, but the subject simply clacks his teeth in hunger at the Doctor. Coleman’s hands seem to be gripping the sheets, which makes the Doc think that it’s a legit response, but Andrea doesn’t think so. (She’s right, you know.) The Doc stubbornly undoes the restraints on Mr Coleman’s right hand, expecting it to be alright, but Andrea plunges her blade into his head before he can take a chunk out of the Doc’s neck. Nice reflexes, girl. Now if only you could wake up about your new man.

Clearly shaken, Doc goes to record his findings. Or maybe sob in a corner. You can never tell with these sensitive intellectual types.

Merle and his buddy are back in Glenn’s room again. The Governor drags Maggie into the room in her undressed state and Glenn is shell-shocked to see her, first wanting to kill whoever with the chair leg, then dropping it so they won’t hurt her. All the Governor wants is to know where the Camp is. At first he points it to Maggie, but I think her response to his terrorizing earlier was an indicator of how much Glenn meant to her allowed him to accurately pinpoint her weak spot, so he aims the barrel at Glenn. Immediately she blabs about the prison, that they cleared the place by themselves, how many is in the group.

Just for kicks, the Governor faux comforts Maggie in front of Glenn. The look in Glenn’s eyes is a mix of crazed helplessness and rage; poor Maggie. It’s probably worse for her to have Glenn witness this crap than it is for her to face this completely alone. Maggie is tossed to Glenn before everyone finally leaves. Aww yeah, I see the inkling of vengeance in his eyes.

Back in the Governor’s quarters, he worries that Rick’s team is a force to be reckoned with. It looks like Merle once said that the prison couldn’t be cleared out. So either he’s an incompetent weenie, or Rick’s group has some kind of shaman voodoo protection against walkers or something.

Outside Rick, Oscar, Daryl and Michonne have crept to the outskirts of Woodbury under the cover of night. Yes Rick, the town really exists. Inside, the Governor is questioning Merle’s loyalty – me or your brother? Honestly, it’s really 50/50 for me. On one hand, we know how taken Merle is with the idea of finding his brother. He talks about it in practically every episode he’s in. IwannafindDarylIwannafindDarylIwannafindDaryl. But he also seems to be afraid of the Governor, and afraid of giving up his hard-earned place in the Woodbury hierarchy. The scene alternates with Daryl and Merle’s faces, obviously building up our anticipation for their meeting. But really, since next week is the mid-season finale, I’m pretty sure that this won’t be something we’ll see until next year. At most, we’ll see the reunion in the very last few minutes of it. Same for the Rick-Governor meet-and-showdown. I’m sure they’re saving that epic blowout for dessert in early 2013.

As an excitement amplifier, we’re shown Andrea strolling about on the other side of the wall where Rick and the rest are lying in wait. She’s gone to the Governor’s place where he looks pretty concerned about tonight’s news. He asks about the experiment (where I realise the Doc’s name is actually Milton – aha!) but Andrea goes straight for the bottles. Yup, totally sucked ass. There must be nothing more depressing than to participate in something you know is going to fail, well, other than Maggie being violated that is.

This pulsing score is kicking ass, though. Like a heartbeat about to explode. Second (or third? Fourth? I lost count.) disturbing thing of the night; Andrea finding solace in the Governor’s arms when Maggie was in the same spot not too long ago. Awful. As much as I think Andrea’s going down a fatal rabbit hole, I still hope she wakes up and smells the danger. Maybe she’ll find the head!tank. And Penny. And she’ll be trapped and see Michonne and will be like, “OMG I am so sorry girl, you were so right.” And Michonne would be like, /SULK, “Ya IKR. Now let’s go.”

I think it would be really interesting to see which brother leaves their respective coop. It would be a bigger shock to see Daryl abandon the Rick faction because of so much he’s gone through with them, but Jun mentioned that he did let go of Merle in his hallucination. Actually, now when I think about it, that was when he thought Merle was done for. And now with the knowledge that he’s alive, he may throw everything out the window. It would be a bit of a step backwards, but maybe you need to take a step back to move in the right direction.

Other predictions? I have a feeling Milton will die by zombie bite. Those left behind at the prison will encounter some alarming situation without the strong people to protect them. I think we won’t get to see this until the mid-season premiere because they’ll be using most of the time to focus on the Woodbury takeover. Oh, and of course, the Governor’s so going to get what’s coming to him. I would be surprised if he survived everything, considering the way he’s being setup. Until then, we’ve still got one more ep to savour before The Walking Dead takes a long break. /sadface.

Talky talk

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