The Walking Dead, S4 E5 “Internment”

Well, fellow zombie lovers, we made it all the way to episode 5 before The Walking Dead took its first dip in quality this season. That’s high praise, given the show’s track record. Not that last night’s episode was bad, per se. Just not to the same high standard set by previous Scott Gimple-helmed episodes. It was still a solid episode, overall, even if it was severely hampered by some major plot holes and poorly thought out story logistics.

Last week, the entire episode was spent outside the prison walls, to resounding success. We watched Daryl and co. sort out their personal issues and deal with shaky group dynamics in order to benefit the larger group. And we watched Rick and Carol debate morality and ethics in an amoral and unethical world. “Interment” was basically the same time frame but from the POV of the prisoners. Unlike last week, not much happened in this episode, about 42 minutes of watching Hershel trying to keep it together. Rick and Maggie, and later Rick and Carl, did their best to keep the chain link fence intact, but when the wall came down the bullets came out. Glenn almost choked on his own blood, but, in a moment of perfect timing, Maggie turned up and she and Hershel intubated him, thus allowing a main character who wasn’t going to die anyway to live another day.

So, this doesn’t seem like the best time for Rick to have kicked Carol to the curb. She may be a murderer, but she’s also a good pair of hands and a hard worker with ruthless efficiency. An ethics debate can wait until after the prison is secure. If Rick had kept his over-stimulated sense of honor in check, Carol would be out there killing skineaters instead of Carl. Then again, it’s not like Carol is the world’s greatest fore-thinker. I can’t believe in the months and months that they’ve had, what, 45 people hanging out in the prison that no one took the time to fortify that chain link fence. A couple of logs ain’t cutting it.

I know, I know, people are sick, they’ve got other things to deal with. But you know what? No. There was more than enough time for Rick to play with worms and Glenn and Maggie to play kissy-face, but no one could be arsed to put up a retaining wall or anything? Really? The sick people aren’t going anywhere. If Hershel had just locked everyone in their cells from the get-go, there’d be nothing at all to worry about in terms of internal zombification. The bigger concern here isn’t a bunch of prisoners turning into walkers, it’s the horde of walkers breaking in. Priorities, people. Priorities. The writers would probably argue the episode was about the lengths a good man will go to do the right thing, but I think it was really about what happens when the consequences of prolonged stupidity finally catch up with you.

Sometimes the episode was heartbreaking, other times illogical and infuriating, and sometimes boring enough to push me onto Tumblr and Twitter to kill time. Then again, I finally finished season 2 of Breaking Bad just before turning on The Walking Dead. Which was probably not a good idea. Everything pales in comparison to Jesse and Walter, no matter how many cannibal corpses it may contain. But I think it’s bigger than seeing the zombies through meth-colored glasses. It wasn’t just that nothing much happened in “Internment.” Heck, nothing much happened in “Indifference” action-wise, either. Difference is, in episode 4 we discovered things we didn’t know, and in episode 5 we didn’t.

In episode 4, several characters were given some badly needed background and motivation, the season-long arc pushed forward, and high-ranking chess pieces moved further down the board. In episode 5…um… Hershel did what he always does, help people with little regard for his own safety; Rick once again had to stop being a farmer and start being a sheriff; Carl once again had to stop being a kid and start being a killer (with some seriously impressive aim); Glenn once again got too swept up into depression and futility; Maggie once again exploded with ill-aimed emotion and acted recklessly; Lizzie once again did something both endearingly brave and incredibly stupid. And with that shot of the Governor at the end, the whole episode felt an awful lot like wheel-spinning while the writers waited for David Morrissey’s schedule to clear up.

See, the problem with setting a whole episode around one guy we know and like risking his life to save a bunch of nameless randos we’ve never seen before and who don’t even get any lines is that I DON’T CARE ABOUT A BUNCH OF NAMELESS RANDOS WE’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE AND WHO DON’T EVEN GET ANY LINES. Yeah, I sorta vaguely feel bad for Ginger Bearded Dude who needed Chekhov’s intubator, and I suppose it generally sucks that Woman Who Chomps Her Teeth A Lot survived the zombie apocalypse only to die of the flu, but beyond that? Eh. Whatever. The writers have done a much better job of expanding the personalities and backstories of the main and secondary characters, but have done less than nothing with the rest of the prisoners. If you’re going to set a whole story arc around the lives of those tertiary characters, then at least give the audience something to hold onto. Give us a reason to care.

I don’t want to end this on a bad note, because the episode really wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t great, and I’m still deciding if I thought it was good, but it was definitely decent and I didn’t hate it. Those logistical problems that plagued seasons 1-3 were back in full force, but they never actually derailed the episode. Hershel’s story was something we don’t see enough of in TWD. He and Daryl seem to be the only people left in the Endverse who actually give a damn about what happens to the larger society. As annoyed as I am about Hershel not just locking everyone in their cells and tending to them one-on-one, I totally understand wanting to brain them away from prying eyes.

Hershel and Carol are two sides of the same coin. Where she looked at the sickies and decided the humane—and efficient—thing to do was to kill them before they suffered, Hershel decided it was better to give them a chance to pull through. Carol saw the plague as incurable and not worth the risk, while Hershel sees it as something to be overcome. It was a nice character beat, and a much needed glimmer of hope in such a dark show. One can only take so many zombies crashing through ceilings before a little light is required.

Final Thoughts

  • “First we need some spaghetti.” Hershel, king of the dad jokes.
  • “How long will that keep him alive?”
  • Am genuinely not looking forward to the return of the Governor next week. As fantastic as David Morrissey is in everything else, the writers never figured out how to use him or the Governor properly.

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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