The Walking Dead: When the Dead Come Knocking Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, November 26, 2012
There are many badasses on this show- Merle, Daryl, Michonne... and then there's Glenn. I have yet to see the Dixons, The Sherriff or the Katana-wielding nomad dispatch a walker while duct taped to a chair. His primal yell was the sound of adrenalin and post apocalyptic rage. So much for Glenn being the "sneaky guy", you wouldn't like him when he's angry. Besides proving that Glenn is a carpenter's worst nightmare, this episode gives us a wonderfully tense arrangement of our characters before next week's mid-season finale.
It's very interesting that Michonne, the wounded and flailing Ronin, is eventually saved by Carl. Instead of disobeying, he makes a judgment call, and takes another step towards manhood. Thankfully, Michonne is finally with our prison group, but it's maddening that she never mentions or describes Merle. Obviously the powers that be want to keep the reveal under wraps until it can be used for maximum effect, but not mentioning a crazy guy with a blade for an arm seems a bit of an oversight, even for Michonne. My favorite word this season has easily been "juxtaposition", and it applies nicely to this episode too. Compare Michonne's first experience in Woodbury with her brief time at the prison- neither place was keen on letting her have her sword, and both claimed she would be "safe". However, we get the impression Michonne realizes Rick's group are not trying to sell her a facade of normalcy, and even planned to send her packing the next morning. Later in the episode, when she sees the group's walker killing efficiency, she gives a look that says "these are my kind of people". It's a rare moment when she isn't sporting a scowl, and I have it on good authority we may see a bit more emotion from Michonne in the mid-season finale.
It's worth mentioning how deftly handled Carol's return was played out. Her realization of what happened to Lori was yet another tear jerking scene on the show that used to just spill blood. There were no words, just emotions, and a very smart reminder of how much death actually means on a show with the highest body count. Rick also finally gets a moment to talk to Carl, and the baby's name is finally decided upon. I'm not sure "Judith" has the same ring as "Ass Kicker", but at least it gave father and son a nice moment.
As we've watched Daryl evolve over the first half of the season, the question that's lingered in all of our heads is what it will be like when he finally reconnects with Merle. After all, Merle is a new man too- he has his act together, and is committed to the Woodbury way of life. Their meeting could be simply a clash of ideals, or which group is the better choice for their continued existence. Except it won't be, because Merle has proven he is still just Merle. He's the same racist with a screw loose we met in season one, only now he has a bladed arm and a bigger axe to grind. It's a small victory, but it's great that Glenn never gave him satisfaction.
Leave it to the Governor to make Merle seem like the lesser of two evils. The hospitality he gave Michonne and Andrea certainly didn't carry over to Maggie. His mania at being the only refuge in the post apocalyptic world is frightening. His scene with Maggie in the interrogation room is a microcosm of his underlying lust for power and control. Men can do incredibly dark things in the pursuit of sexual conquest, but that's not what this was. Like Glenn, Maggie proves she is made of sterner stuff, and never gives the Governor satisfaction. And later on when he sadistically plays with her hair in front of the bloodied Glenn, and she is on the brink of losing her love, her heart wins out, and she gives up the location of the prison. There's no shame in that, it just proves she truly is one of the good guys.
There were two odd asides in this episode, and both were effective at giving us a bit more color than the inevitable worlds colliding. The first is Milton's experiment with the passing Mr. Coleman. The almost ritualistic series of sights and sounds to create a trace memory was definitely interesting. Of course, the reality we all know sets in with a quick knife through Mr. Coleman's skull, compliments of Andrea, and it makes us wonder just how sheltered some of the Woodbury residents actually are. This subplot of experimentation is clearly leading to something, and I'm very curious as to what. Obviously the Governor has attachments to former people, similar to Hershel, but is this show going to keep exploring the "life" of undeath? The other detour is Rick's little liberation party getting caught in a backwoods shack, which comes complete with a post apocalyptic Rip Van Winkle. Some may think this bit was unnecessary, but it's small pieces like these that remind us of the world at large when we are so focused on our two camps. We also get a moment that shows our regulars just what kind of mean motor scooter Michonne really is, and a solution that could have shaved about an hour off of Night of the Living Dead.
Special recognition goes out to Bear McCreary and the music of this episode. The last five or so minutes play out to a pulsing minor key and a tick toc beat. It amplifies the tension perfectly as our pieces get aligned for next week's showdown. With one episode left until the break, The Walking Dead season 3 has been exceptional, and I think they are going to leave us for the holidays with a bang.
Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him on Twitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.
Mania Grade: A-
Episode: When the Dead Come Knocking (Season 3, Episode 7)
Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Laurie Holden, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, David Morrissey, Danai Gurira, Michael Rooker
Written By: Frank Darabont (developer), Robert Kirkman (series of graphic novels)
Directed By: Daniel Sackheim