The Walking Dead, S4 E2 “Infected”

Fun fact: The season 4 premiere of The Walking Dead got the highest ratings of any non-sports show in cable history. According to Nielsen’s Live+Three Day returns (ratings that include those watching live and the first three days of DVR viewership) brought the total to 20.2 million viewers. It even beat out High School Musical. By 2 million. And 13.2 million of that 20.2—65%—were in the key 18-49 demo, and that’s *without* counting in the Live+Seven Day returns. If I lost you at all those numbers and jargon, let me translate: HOLY FRAKKING FRAK.

After the troubled high from the season premiere last week, The Walking Dead settles into some good old fashioned storytelling in “Infected.” A clear, not illogical and idiotic multi-episode arc is starting to appear, and, surprisingly, it doesn’t entirely suck. And once again, Greg Nicotero delivers on some gag-inducing, skin-crawling zombies.

Ya’ll remember that kid who died in the shower last week? Dude woke up with a serious case of the munchies. After an endless—and pointless—scene of kissyface in the library in the middle of the night, Tyreese and Karen head off to their respective cell blocks. Karen attracts the attention of Teenage Zombie and leads him back to Cell Block D. He almost eats her, but picks an easier meal instead, and within a few hours, zombies are crawling all over the joint. (Side note: How the hell did everyone sleep through the sounds and smells of several zombies eating their way through the living? Talk about sound sleepers.)

Meanwhile, Rick is still insisting he and Carl play Farmer John, regardless of the herds of walkers pounding on the chainlink fence. Michonne heads back out to find the Governor, and makes sure she has enough time to mother Carl and get some quality flirting time in with Rick before hand. Just when it couldn’t get anymore saccharine, it all falls apart. Gunfire pulls Rick into the chaos of the cell block, and gets Michonne overrun by walkers at the prison gates. Carl takes a big leap back toward sociopathy by shooting a walker (and saving Michonne’s life, with Maggie’s help).

Rick takes his own dark steps as he redeads the leftover undead after the attack. By the end of the ep, after drawing the walkers away from the prison before they tore down the fence by feeding live, if infected, pigs, Rick is teetering close to the edge of losing it. He finally abandons the farmer guise and he and Carl get their guns back. It’s nice that we don’t have waste anymore time on the go-nowhere plot of Rick pretending to be something he’s not, but it’s also kind of sad to see him head back down the same course that almost cost him and his son their sanity.

Carol. Carol, Carol, Carol. Looks like the writers are going to try to turn her into this season’s Lori. To which I say NO STOP IT RIGHT NOW DON’T YOU DO THAT NO. Melissa McBride is so much better than the material they keep giving her (as are Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln, for that matter). Carol has a personality now, but this turn to the dark side doesn’t feel merited. Gray morality is one thing, but she seems to have turned from white to black with the flip of a plot-necessitated switch.

Glenn and Maggie are the worst tower guards ever. When they aren’t making out, they’re failing to catch the jerkface feeding the zombies every night. Shouldn’t someone be doing spot checks on the fence every day? There’s complacency and then there’s stupidity. The group has gotten way too comfortable at the prison and have lowered their guard. Not smart, but it makes sense. By nature, humans need a community to survive. We rely on others to keep us together, keep us happy, keep us sane. We can’t live lives filled with the threat of constant death, so we fortify ourselves and act like everything’s normal. The storm is raging outside, but inside it’s toasty warm…as long as the leaky roof doesn’t cave in. None of this excuses Glenn and Maggie general blindness to anyone beyond each other. YOU HAD ONE JOB, lovebirds.

In the endverse, something as simple as the sniffles becomes cause for panic. A flu that might keep you at home marathoning episodes of Orange Is the New Black, but without medication and hygienic conditions it can turn from inconvenient to deadly in a heartbeat. It’s bad enough that the prisoners are under the weather, now they have to deal with the remake of the Spanish Flu epidemic, with the zombie package upgrade. It’s still unclear if there really is a plague or if it’s just a cold run amok or if it’s somehow tied in with the psycho feeding the walkers. But whatever it is, it can only spell death and destruction for the prisoners.

Speaking of which, I’m taking bets that Crazy Blonde Girl is the one feeding the walkers rats. I mean, come on. Who in their right mind names a zombie, and why can’t she come up with something more creative than “Nick”? The kid has obviously lost it. Probably not a good idea for Carol to let her have that giant knife. If it is her, then she’s either not working alone or isn’t the same person who lit Karen and Other Sick Dude on fire. Kid’s way too small to do something like that. So, who could it be…

The biggest problem with the episode is that the ones doing the dying aren’t any people we care about. It’s a good thing production-wise, but doesn’t work so well for the audience. Yes, it sucked that Bearded Dad died in front of his kids, but I only cared in relation to how it affected Carol. The scene was tragic and terrible, mostly because Carol used it as an opportunity to teach the kids about not getting attached and how to brain a cannibal corpse. The only reason I feel bad about Karen dying is that I like Melissa Ponzio. Everyone else? Meh. To paraphrase Beth during her depressing convo with Michonne, with four seasons of graphic and grotesque deaths under our collective belt, it’s hard to still feel bad about people we didn’t even know existed until they were getting their faces eaten off.

Overall, the episode makes me feel more confident about the rest of the season and Gimple’s reign. The story was riddled with glaring plot holes, but it held up enough to be enjoyable. They’ve got an intriguing little murder mystery playing out in the background as a the plague gets a foothold in the prison. Rick has his own psychological issues to deal with that hopefully no longer involve Ghost Lori and telephones. Other characters are starting to shade out little by little, and the rest of the extras are getting eaten fast enough that we don’t have to worry about not recognizing them. Let’s see how long it takes the writers to ruin their good karma.

Final Thoughts

  • “Why don’t you wear your hat anymore?” “It’s not a farming hat.” *sigh*
  • A zombie attack from inside the prison was a convenient way to get rid of some of the nameless cannon fodder. Does anyone know how many people are/were supposed to be in there?
  • So, Michonne had a kid back in the day. I don’t even have a joke for that. It’s too heartwrenching.
  • Someone dragged the two sickest prisoners outside and burned them. Can’t tell if they were dead, turned, or still human when they were roasted, but Tyreese is pretty broken up about it.

Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

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