Death saturates The Walking Dead. Week in week out, the zombie hordes are a constant reminder of man's mortality and the ephemerality of life. If we're all not long for this world, the question we must ask is why do we persevere? 'Killer Within' proved to be the most shocking episode of the show so far, as Lori sacrificed herself through caesarean section so that her child could be born. The cycle of life and death was played out before our eyes over a torturous 45 minutes, as we said goodbye to one of the show's most high profile characters but witnessed the birth of a child who provides hope for the future.
I will survive
Cutting back and forth between the prison and Woodbury, the vast array of people now covered in the show should have been a clear signal that a character cull was on the way. Andrea and Michonne still find themselves in the tranquil town, despite repeated protestations that they'll be on their way soon. Michonne, distrustful of the governor, has a plan to head to the coast in search of an island refuge. But all the talk of survival isn't convincing for Andrea, who has become enchanted by the community life fostered out of the desolation.
Most of the people in The Walking Dead live on hope, the promise that the future will be better than the bleak present. Merle lives in hope of reuniting with his brother Daryl, and since meeting Andrea his optimism has increased. In a touching scene she provides him with maps and other details she hopes will help him find his sibling, saying, "I'd want the same thing if it was my family out there". The Governor is concerned by Merle's plans to search for Daryl, labelling it a suicide mission and stressing his importance to the camp. But as Daryl points out, "This is my brother". Hope drives Merle to leave in order to find his brother, whilst it compels Andrea to stay in her desire for an ordinary life to be restored.
Over a glass of whiskey she tells The Governor, "For the longest time it was all about survival, nothing else mattered, so much so I don't know what matters now". At the prison the group all collectively rejoice at the sight of Hershel out and about, hobbling on one leg, making the remarkable journey back from the brink of death. The companionship is felt between the group members who have been through so much horror, and it is witnessing these small triumphs that bring them closer together. Community is what matters, and in the desperate apocalyptic world it has never been more important to stick together.
Love's Labour's Lost
But in The Walking Dead the good times never last. The jovial moment is disrupted by the sudden realisation that the prison is overwhelmed with zombies. Panicked people rush off in all directions, before a zombie takes a big bite out of T-Dog. His death is sad but hardly stirring. One of the show's weakest characters who was never given room to develop, it's surprising that he lasted so long. It turns out that the zombies were unleashed by Andrew, the inmate who Rick mercilessly left to the undead masses two episodes before. His lack of trust for the prisoners is punished through T-Dog's death, and in a contrived set-up the other inmate Oscar proves his loyalty through killing Andrew.
But that's not the only tragedy to strike. In a moment we were all expecting, Lori goes into labour with zombies swarming all around her. Maggie and Carl manage to take her to the secluded boiler room, but Lori reveals that they're going to need to cut her open in order to retrieve the baby. Aware of the repercussions of such actions, she tells Carl he was, "the best thing I ever did," and says her final words to her son.
"You're going to be fine, you are going to beat this world I know you will. You are smart, and you are strong, and you are so brave, and I love you. You've got to do what's right, baby. Promise me you'll always do what's right. It's so easy to do the wrong thing in this world, so if it feels wrong don't do it. If it feels easy don't do it. Don't let the world spoil you."
The Circle of Life
Back on the farm, Rick informed Carl, "People are going to die. I'm going to die, mum, there's no way you can ever be ready for it". Little did he know how soon he would lose both Lori and Shane, the two people he has known for so long, and that his son would be involved in putting them out of their misery. A determined Carl manages to set aside his grief in order to shoot his mother in the head before she reanimates, his restrained reaction afterwards revealing how much he has grown up. But Rick is not prepared for Lori's death at all. The killing of Shane was a wedge that drove the two apart, but in recent episodes evidence had been given that a spark remained between them. Only through her death does he seem to realise how much he loved her, as he breaks down with sorrow upon hearing the news. But her death was not in vain. The child ripped out of her is her survival. None of us last forever; all we can do is pass on our genes for the next generation to inherit our struggles. Lori's death is a traumatic moment that will leave many teary eyed, but her baby provides hope. In order for the child to, "beat this world," the group must now work together towards a better future.