Warning: If you have not seen the latest episode of The Walking Dead proceed no further. There are spoilers ahead…
If last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, Indifference, was the road trip to hell, Internment is the staycation from hell. While Rick was busy banishing Carol, and Daryl and the gang were out playing drugstore cowboy, Hershel has been busy trying to save the lives of everyone in quarantine. Unfortunately the virus has other plans, and people start dropping like flies… then getting back up and trying to eat everyone.
This was another stellar episode in what is very quickly becoming the best season of The Walking Dead thus far. There were moments of pure dread and horror as various people began to die and reanimate within the cell block… the lighting was moody and effective, and the soundtrack kept the tension high throughout; outside on the fences, the more tangible threat broke through their defenses and sandwiched our heroes between both an internal and external crisis; while waiting in the wings was the ultimate villain, biding his time before enacting revenge.
The true star of Internment, without a doubt, is Hershel. With the exception of the episode where he began drinking again after having his wife and family killed in the barn incident way back in season two, Hershel has remained steadfast in his faith and his belief in life above all else… and this episode found him struggling with both.
Scott Wilson’s performance was an understated study of a man coming to terms with this new world and his role within it, and for as much as he would like to protect himself and others from the cruel realities of what they all face, as Beth put it two weeks ago… everybody has a job to do… and Hershel’s job has been to be the voice of humanity and hope. For Hershel, there would be nothing worth fighting for if he lost these aspects of who he is.
Hershel’s battle is the one raging within the quarantine… and time is running out for everyone infected. Rick’s battle is one that is a bit more immediate in it’s danger; the fence has toppled and the zombies are pouring into the prison.
Instead of his usual need to tackle every problem alone so as not to put anyone else at risk, Rick finally asks for help from Carl. In what may be the most heart warming, as well as the most ridiculous, scene in the episode, Rick and Carl take out a massive horde of the undead with two guns, a few nonchalant clip exchanges, and some father/son bonding that just fell short of Rick turning to Carl and saying, “I love you son”… and Carl returning the sentiment with an, “I love you too pa!”
As a function of illustrating how far Rick has come in terms of his relationship with his son and his recurrent leadership role, these scenes worked very well; as a believable situation, not so much. In previous seasons, and even in past episodes this season, a few walkers have been enough to warrant extreme fear and worry. In this episode, two people can easily handle what looked to be at least fifty biters. If it wasn’t for the fact that Carl looked like a little bad-ass with his dad’s hat and an automatic weapon in hand, I would have scoffed a bit more at this… but it gets a pass. It’s nice to see Rick back in fighting shape.
Dispatching the amassing hordes isn’t the only bit of Rick we get this week… there is still that little fact of his having exiled Carol last week. He addresses the subject directly when Maggie asks… and she agrees with his decision… we know he tells Hershel, but we don’t know how that was taken… but hanging over everything was Daryl. How will Rick tell Daryl about what he did… and how will Daryl take it? It was teased when Rick was going to have a chat with everyone’s favorite redneck… but Rick put it off for a little more father/son time. Honestly… that is not a conversation I would want to have, zombie apocalypse or otherwise… so I can understand his desire not to broach that subject immediately.
After a harrowing night both inside and out of the prison, the wandering troupe of Florence Nightingales return and order is brought in the form of medical supplies and hope. Glenn and Sasha, who were on the verge of death (another point I would call foul on… they were beyond any point of return as Dr. S so astutely pointed out regarding himself) are being nursed back to health and the bodies of those who died from the infection as well as those zombies killed at the fence are being carted out for incineration. It seems that the immediate threat of the infection is over… and repairs on the fence are ongoing… but the question remains… why were there so many zombies gathered at the fence? And who is responsible for feeding rats to the zeds?
The final scene delivers a partial answer… The Governor has returned. Standing in the woods, glaring at the prison, stands Philip Blake, and as one threat is contained, another looms large.
Surprisingly, in an episode as great as Internment was, I have very little to say. There was an economy to this script that stands out among so many other bloated episodes that gave us a great deal to chew on while at the same time feeling very streamlined and straight forward. I would give much of that credit to Scott Wilson’s performance as well as some fantastic pacing and atmospheric conditions that are too often rushed through before the impact is felt. David Boyd, the director, also deserves some credit for this. If the events of what happened within the quarantine were sandwiched in to the stories from last week, it would have failed. Hershel’s journey, much like Rick’s and the Daryl gang, needed some room to breathe… and Internment gave it exactly that, which, considering the almost claustrophobic feeling the episode had, is saying something.
A few minor points… do you really think Lizzie is sick? I can’t tell if she is faking her illness for the attention and the hope of hanging out with a few zeds or is she is simply a really shitty actress. Plus, that whole playing with the bloody sputum… ugh. Why did the Governor looks so clean and well coiffed? It would seem to me that if he were out of the comfort of Woodbury he wouldn’t be so damned put together. I mean, look at Rick. He’s in a nice prison with showers and other amenities and he always looks disheveled, sweaty, and grungy. Hershel covering for Glenn with Maggie…. awwwwww.
What can we look forward to with the next episode? Do you think we will see what Daryl and Tyreese’s reactions will be when they find out about Carol and Rick’s unilateral decision to cast her out? Or, will we get a flashback episode filling us in on what the Gov has been up to for the last few months as farmer Rick honed his hoeing skills? My guess is the latter. I’ve known that there would be a couple of Governor-centric episodes this season… I just didn’t know how or when. I’m thinking we will get a Philip episode, followed by the episode where all hell breaks loose when Daryl discovers Carol is gone, and the mid-season finale ending with the Governor leading whatever form of an army he may have into battle (for comic readers, you know what I’m thinking here).
Of course… that is nothing but a guess… if you have a better prediction, I’d like to hear it.
So many redshirts… so little time,
Cornelius J. Blahg