“The Walking Dead” – When The Dead Come Knocking episode review 3

Michonne seems to be the newest member of Rick’s group as she leads them to Woodbury.

★★★★☆

Even though the writers are clearly ramping up for next week’s midseason finale, “When The Dead Come Knocking” turned out to be a good episode all on its own. Plenty of walkers and plot twists to keep us happy (I feel like they’re still trying to make up for all that farm time last season), plus excellent acting from almost all involved.

The episode started out intense, with Merle interrogating Glenn, who’s duct taped to a chair in some kind of basement or storage facility in Woodbury. Makeshift dungeons are the best you can do in a zombie apocalypse, I suppose. Merle’s approach is rather heavy-handed, if you’ll excuse the terrible pun, preferring to use a combination of his knife-hand and verbal abuse to get his answers.

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Maggie is duct taped to a chair in an adjacent room, and she sits terrified listening to the interrogation next door. Glenn manages to headbutt Merle, though his only reward is a “Four for you, Glenn Coco” from me and further beatings from Merle in-show. I’m glad we get to see the full extent of how creep-tastic Michael Rooker can play Merle. He’s a despicable character, but watching Michael Rooker get into the villainy is really enjoyable.

After the credits, we pick up where we left off with Rick and Michonne having a stare-off through the prison fence. Her walker camoflauge isn’t enough to mask her fresh gunshot wound, and the walkers soon turn on her. She defends herself, limping all the while, and Carl comes down to ask Rick if they should help her. Thankfully, he shoots the walkers that are about to eat an almost-unconscious Michonne before he gets an answer. He and Rick take her and the basket of supplies inside.

Rick won’t let her stay in the cell block with them, but he does promise to help her out with her wound. Her instinct is to lunge for her sword, but he takes it with him into the C block. I get that she’s running on survival instincts here, but it makes me sort of uncomfortable how savage Michonne is being portrayed. Like, can she maybe get lines a little more often to offset all the times she’s just shown as a walker-killing machine?

In any case, Daryl brings Rick back into the C block to show him Carol, alive and (mostly) well. Rick is so relieved to see her, as are Beth, Carl, and Hershel. I forgot no one but Daryl knew she was okay. Rick smiles for the first time since holding his baby last episode, but that smile fades when Carol sees the baby and looks at him, her question about Lori needing no words. They both cry, and she offers him silent comfort. This whole little scene that Michonne observes is actually quite well done by all actors involved. I’m most impressed with Chandler Riggs (Carl), who pulls off the sad-but-tough trembling chin expression like a champ.

In Woodbury, the intriguing subplot of the night is set in motion after we’re reminded that the Governor and Andrea are still sleeping together. Come on Andrea, first Shane, now this guy? I just don’t think she can sense evil in the men she chooses to sleep with. The scientist, Milton, comes in and tells the Governor that Mr. Coleman is ready, all mysterious-like, and the Governor enlists Andrea to help out with the project.

In the prison, Rick and Hershel are interrogating Michonne. Turns out Hershel thinks she was the one who attacked Glenn and Maggie. She sets the record straight on that one and tells them they were taken by the man who shot her in Woodbury. She explains the town, and her distaste for it (and the Governor) positively drips from every syllable she speaks. She says she thinks they could slip past the walls, so Rick lets Hershel to patch her up and they’ll set out to try.

Back in the “dungeon,” Glenn is covered in blood and bruises courtesy of Merle, who’s surprised Glenn is this tough. He’s also surprised Glenn is still with the group, what with Rick’s propensity to abandon people and all. Glenn insists Rick will come looking for them, but Merle says he won’t. He realizes while questioning Glenn that they don’t know Andrea’s alive and here. That smirk on Merle’s face makes me think that reveal has to be coming up soon. I hope it’s good.

As the small group of Rick, Daryl, Oscar, and Michonne pack up to head to Woodbury, Michonne asks Beth how this small a group of people managed to clear out the whole prison overrun by walkers. Beth quietly says there were more of them, though really there weren’t that much more, just Lori and T-Dog and those other three prisoners. I only mention my uneasiness about this line because the Governor says later that he can’t believe ten people cleared that whole prison out either. I didn’t think they cleared the whole prison, but I guess we’ll have to see if that idea goes anywhere in the future.

Before he goes, Rick has a private chat with Carl. Voice breaking, he apologizes to Carl for having to go through what he did when Lori died. Andrew Lincoln, please always stick to quietly tragic, it works so much better for you than all-out sobbing. This moment was great. Rick asks Carl to take care of the group, especially his sister, and Carl admits that Daryl’s been calling her “Ass Kicker.” Rick’s genuine amusement at this is so great to see. Carl asks to name her Judith, after his third grade teacher, and Rick agrees. Finally, Baby Grimes has a name!

Mysterious subplot time: the Governor leads Andrea to another basement-type room, this one decked out to look like an old-timey living room with Mr. Coleman, an elderly bedridden gentleman, laying in the middle of it all. Milton is studying him, and asks him to raise his arm if he recognizes any of the following statements to be true. We learn quickly that his name is Michael Coleman, he was married to Betty, and had two children. He whisper-asks Milton if they can keep the record playing while they wait, and that’s all we get for now. I was so frustrated watching this subplot play out because I had literally no idea what was happening, though to be fair, neither did Andrea.

Merle steps up his interrogation techniques with Glenn, bringing in a restrained live walker (is that an oxymoron?). When Glenn still won’t give up his group, Merle sets the walker free with a tasteless Asian joke about how it’ll just be hungry again in an hour and leaves. Guess being cuffed to a roof didn’t cure his racism. Glenn manages to take the walker out no-handed by destroying part of his chair. I’m so glad Glenn is developing into such a badass.

Finally we learn what Milton is doing with Mr. Coleman. He’s dying of prostate cancer, and Woodbury doesn’t have the resources to treat him, so he volunteered to be studied as he turns (Mr. Coleman, not Milton). Milton wants to know if walkers retain any of their memories or consciousness post-turning. Andrea’s not so optimistic, but Milton’s never actually seen someone turn before. They restrain Mr. Coleman immediately after he dies and then wait.

Maggie has clearly not been subjected to Merle’s interrogative “skills,” judging by her injury-free face. The Governor takes it upon himself to question her, and he plays good cop for a bit, releasing her restraints and promising her safe return to her group. Maggie, stone-faced, is completely resistant. She’s another character I’m so glad has been able to be developed this season.

Here’s where things got icky for me. The Governor, not getting any answers the polite way, makes Maggie stand up and strip from the waist up. I know I’ve said it before, but David Morrissey does a fabulous job being just the right amount of soft-spoken terrifying when he plays the Governor in one of his dark scenes. As soon as he took his utility belt off I started to get really uncomfortable. He slams Maggie face down on the table, giving her one last chance to talk, but she just tells him to go to hell. Thankfully he just walks away, but I shudder to think what could have happened on, say, HBO or something. I just can’t deal with sexual assault scenes. Fans of the comics, is this a scene that happens in them? Let me know in the comments, I’m curious if this could have been a whole lot worse.

Rick and the others pull off the road about a mile from Woodbury, and as they walk through the woods, he thanks Daryl for all he’s done for Carl and Judy while Rick was “working things out.” That’s an understatement. Daryl says that’s just what they do, and suddenly I want these two to be best friends. They’re quickly set on by a large group of walkers, and they run into a nearby cabin for shelter.

There’s a dead dog in there smelling up the place, and Rick finds a live man in the bed. The man, clad in hunting gear, seems like he might not know what’s going on. He refuses to put down his shotgun, and eventually Michonne has to run him through with her sword to prevent him from letting the walkers inside. They toss his body to the walkers and escape out the back. Who on earth was this guy? I’m sure we’ll never know, but come on, I am so curious what he was doing out there with a dead dog by his fireplace and seemingly no knowledge of the walker situation.

In Woodbury, Milton tries reading Mr. Coleman the statements again, but all Walker Coleman can do is struggle with his restraints and snap his teeth. Milton releases his right arm, the better to get an accurate result, and almost ends up bitten for his efforts. Thankfully, Andrea’s quick with the skull stabbing. It’s so fascinating to me that Woodbury is so sheltered Milton can afford to study walkers rather than just try and escape them to survive.

Glenn is wandering around his cell half-crazed when the Governor and Merle enter, shirtless Maggie in tow. I would like to award all the awards for face acting in this scene to Steven Yeun and Lauren Cohan for being able to effectively convey terror, determination, and silent conversations between their characters.

The Governor has a gun, and he says one way or another, he’s getting his answers. He ends up getting them from a tearful Maggie, who confesses their group is at the prison when he points the gun at Glenn. The Governor strokes her cheek and comforts her after this admission, much to Glenn’s rage, and then leaves the two of them together in the cell.

The Governor and his men are discussing the truth to Maggie’s statement, and they’re all surprised ten people could take on the prison. Four of those people are outside right now, trying to figure a way in through the walls. The Governor asks Merle where his loyalties lie, and there’s a cool jump shot between Merle’s face inside and Daryl’s face outside. I am so excited to see the two of them interact again. Daryl has evolved so much since he lost his brother, and their inevitable confrontation is going to be so good, I just know it. Merle insists his loyalty is to Woodbury and the Governor.

Andrea walks inside the wall, mere feet from her former companions, and heads to the Governor’s house to pour herself a drink. He comforts her after she says the experiment failed, and it’s eerily similar to the way he just comforted Maggie. He’s just so creepy. The episode ends on their hug, and I just hope Andrea finds out what kind of guy the Governor is before it’s too late.

This episode was clearly a set-up for the midseason finale next week, but it had its good moments, particularly in the acting department. I feel like The Walking Dead has really stepped up its game this season, and I have to say, I like it.