Warning… not only will there be spoilers ahead if you are not caught up with The Walking Dead, but there will also be some gore. You have been warned.
If AMC had decided to make the season premiere of The Walking Dead a two hour event, making Infected the second half, I would not have had the same negative reaction I did last week. Last week I griped about the pacing and the problem of tone with Rick’s sojourn into the woods with Clara, this week I have nothing but praise.
Infected brings together just about every element of The Walking Dead that makes me a fan… zombie action, character development, an actual sense of dread and fear, and two new mysteries… and most of the characters we care about get some screen time without feeling shoe-horned in.
30 Days Without and Accident ended with Milhouse… I mean Patrick collapsing in the shower, and reanimating with blood streaming from his eyes… this episode opens with a mysterious figure feeding rats to the mass of zombies pressed against the fence… followed by a tender moment between Tyreese and Karen, the former singing some Cole Porter to his lady love. It isn’t until Karen hears something and decides to investigate in the showers that we eventually see Patrick rise.
I love that he doesn’t go into an immediate rage, waking everyone in the cell block. Instead, he pauses at Karen’s sheet/door, becomes distracted by the sound of a snore, quietly approaches the mustachioed man and promptly, and quite calmly, chews his throat out, supposedly eating his entire voice box seeing how the man doesn’t make a single peep. A bit of a stretch, but I’ll go with it.
The prison then goes about it’s morning business… no one hears Patrick quietly chomping away at the bloody trough that was once a person.
Rick and Carl, now dedicated farmers, wake at the crack of dawn and go about their business of feeding the pigs and tending to the veggies… but Carl wants to help clear the fences of zombies, and asks for his gun back. At this point we get the clearest understanding of what is going on with our stressed former leader… he has given up his violent ways in favor of showing his son that there is a better way, a more humane way of living in this world, and he wants Carl and all the children at the prison to be able to live as children for as long as possible… and in this world, that is not an easy task to accomplish.
I loved hearing Tyreese asking Carl why he doesn’t wear his hat anymore… “It’s not a farming hat.” Do you think we’ll see him doff the hat next episode?
Alas, the quiet of the morning is broken as gunshots ring out from cell block D, and Mika and Lizzie come racing out. Patrick and his trough are now on the move and chaos has erupted. In the end, a dozen people are eventually killed in the attack, and a whole new enemy is discovered. Thanks to a handy dandy doctor being around, Dr. Subramanian, and some fine sleuthing on the part of Daryl and Hershel, they come to realize that Patrick, and a fellow who was locked in his cell due to his sleepwalking, were not bitten, and their bleeding from their eyes is indicative of a hemorrhagic virus… perhaps a swine flu.
During all the mayhem inside the prison, Michonne, who was on her way back out in her continuing quest for The Governor, hears the gunshots and turns around, only to be trapped at the gate and ends up twisting her ankle… and is saved by a very reluctant Carl.
It’s interesting to see just how much they have reset in terms of Rick and Carl and their relationship to weaponry and death. At the end of season three, Carl had (in my opinion) committed a murder and was well on his way to becoming a shadow of The Governor himself. Rick, by including the members of Woodbury, made a point of trying to rescue his son’s humanity. It’s nice to think that in the months that have passed Rick and Carl have found a whole new bond and togetherness that was never present beforehand.
Personally, I believe this was one of the points that may have cost Glen Mazzara his job as showrunner. I could see how that direction would have seriously damaged much of the plot in the source material… not that the show is sticking with the original story, but I imagine that could have been a sticking point, and I for one and thrilled that they pulled Carl back from being a sociopath. It almost broke my heart to see how upset he was at having used a gun again, and how much he apologized to his dad for having done so, mere moments after having asked for his gun back.
One of the victims, Ryan, is the father of both Mika and Lizzie. He is bitten on the arm, and as Carol prepares to amputate, she sees that he was also bitten on the neck. Can’t amputate that… so she quietly allows him to die. She has Mika and Lizzie come in to say their goodbyes, but Lizzie wants to be the one to stick the knife into his head. Why in the hell would a little girl want to do that to her own father? More on her later… but she can’t do it, and Carol delivers the blade.
As in all movies or television shows, a cough equates with death. The council, which we see for the first time, dictates that anyone with a cough or a slightly moist and sweaty look about them must go into quarantine… and sadly, Karen is coughing and looking quite shiny. She mentions that another resident, David, is also coughing… so a temporary quarantine is set up in the tombs… plus, any one who could have been infected, either through clearing out the cell block, or in the case of Rick and Carl, handling the pigs.
Beth, who is now the official babysitter to Judith, is wrapping Michonne’s ankle while Judith plays with some Solo cups and she ponders if there is a name for a parent who loses a child… and we see a slight tear in Michonne’s eye. Is this telling? She then asks Michonne to take Judith for a moment, who is crying in a rather uncharacteristic manner. I’m going to call it now… Judith is a goner. I would bet Hershel’s other leg that she is infected and we will finally get a zombie baby on the show. You read it here first!
As Michonne reluctantly takes Judith, we get an amazing scene from Danai Gurira… she first smiles, then promptly breaks down whilst at the same time holding Judith closer. If you can’t put two and two together, let me spell this out for you… she had a child, and chances are good that it died in the beginning of the apocalypse. Although there is backstory for her in the comic, I don’t know how close they are going to hew to that… but I will say that this is very much in line with her story as we know it…. and she sold it. I don’t imagine there were too many parents watching that scene that didn’t feel an emotional tug.
As everyone is gathered to bury the dead, we get a great conversation between Daryl and Rick regarding Daryl’s wish that Rick would come back and help lead… yes, he has deserved his vacation from leadership… but his help is needed. Carl, earlier in the episode makes a point of saying the same thing… and it seems that Rick is beginning to see the importance of his strength and leadership… and unlike Clara, he has come back, as has Carl… and the events that follow solidify this belief.
At this point in the show, a number of events converge… and instead of coming across as confusing, it comes across as a well weaved story with so many arms and places it could go. If this is the direction the new showrunner, Scott Gimple, is taking us… I am so with him on this journey. So let’s break it down real quick.
The zombies, who have been being fed a steady diet of rat-tartar, have amassed at the fence and are now pushing it over. Our heroes all try to prop it up, and Rick gets an idea… he takes the remaining piglets, all of whom would have had to be slaughtered thanks to the flu and Violet’s death, and uses them as bait to lure the zombies from the fence… but the rats are found… mystery number 1. Who is feeding the rats?
Like Danai Gurira’s amazing scene, Andrew Lincoln nails this scene of him cutting each piglet, blood splattering on his face, and a look of utter resignation as Rick realizes that everyone needs him, and he needs to return to a position of leadership. The look of sorrow and weariness on his face was remarkable.
We then see Lizzie and Mika mourning at the fence, and Carol coming right up to Lizzie and telling her that she was weak for not having knifed her dad in the skull. A bit harsh to be sure, but there is an underlying reason for this. Not only was Carol a weak and defenseless woman at that start of the ZA, a battered wife who took a special glee in taking out her zombified husband Ed, but she lost her daughter because she refused to prepare herself or Sophia, thus costing her child her life. It’s clear that her whole “knife class” is a means to prevent that from happening again.
But it’s not her father that Lizzie is mourning… it’s Nick… the zombie she has named, and if you caught it early in the episode, she even drew a nice picture of Nick… but Nick is dead… again. Carol tries to explain that she should be mourning her father, not an undead monster… her sister Mika says she is all messed up in the head… so Carol does what any reasonable person would do… she gives Lizzie a knife. What in the fuck is she thinking?? Not Carol’s best moment. And Ryan asked that Carol be the caretaker of his girls… good luck to them.
The flip side to Carol’s questionable parenting by proxy, Carl tells Rick all about her knife classes, but states that he agrees with them and asks Rick not to stop her. In a wonderful sign of respect, in both directions from father to son and son to father, Rick says that he won’t say anything… he then goes to his tool box and get’s Carl’s gun… and reaches into the box to retrieve his gun belt. In a moment dripping with symbolism, Rick straps the Python back onto his waist, and removes the shirt that has been with him since the beginning, and throws it into the fire. A new beginning for our weary hero. Very Sergio Leone.
The final scene of this incredible episode follows Tyreese as he grips a bouquet of flowers and head into the tombs to pay a visit to his lady-love. Instead, he finds blood on her pillow and drag marks leading from hers, and David’s, cells into the courtyard, where their corpses lie, burnt to a crisp. Mystery number 2… who killed and burned the bodies?
OK… this post went longer than I had anticipated, but let’s quickly get into the major events of the episode… someone is feeding rats to the zombies, and someone killed Karen and David. Are they the same people, or are there two people doing different things?
Most people seem to think it’s Lizzie feeding the rats. Others believe it may be Bob Stookey, who could be trying to undermine the prison colony as a potential mole for The Governor.
Many are also suggesting that it could have been Lizzie who killed Karen. The blood on the pillow looked to be from a murder similar to how Carol taught her to kill someone turning, and she did just get a knife. My contention with this is that I don’t think she would have been strong enough to drag two adult bodies and have the wherewithal to then burn them. I can’t see any motivation for Bob killing them… so who else could it be? Perhaps someone with a vested interested in protecting both the colony and her brother… could Sasha be behind the murder?
Will Judith die? Who fed the zombie’s the rats? Who killed Karen and David? Where did Dr. Subramanian come from? So many new questions to answer… and all in one episode. Plus, Glenn took a photo of Maggie after they got it on in the guard tower. A little something something for everyone in this week’s installment of The Walking Dead.
In conclusion (finally… I know… over 2000 words this time), a stellar episode that brought a whole new level of excitement for me. I was feeling a bit underwhelmed after last week’s showing, but now I’m completely on board and excited to see where they go with all of these new developments.
It’s not a farming hat,
Cornelius J. Blahg