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Monday, October 21, 2013

The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 2 – “Infected”



Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead.  Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.

“Infected” is a bit of a stronger outing for this fourth season of The Walking Dead than last week, but also heavy on the symbolism.  While The Walking Dead has proven, throughout its run, to be anything but subtle, sometimes a little more tact may be in order, when dealing with the walls literally crumbling around everyone.  That said, the problems I had with Rick last week have essentially been resolved this week, as Andrew Lincoln provides some of his best work on this series to date.  It does not hurt that the cold opening of this episode was a real killer as well.  So let’s get into this thing (just don’t tell Carl about it).


This episode picks up within the same span of minutes where the previous episode left off (Patrick dying and then waking up as a walker), but from some other perspectives.  First off, we set up the mystery of who is feeding the walkers at night.  Then we cut to Tyrese and Karen having some lovey-dovey time, before Karen heads to bed.  Of course, before this, she must take a trip to the showers.  This sets up the chilling opening moments of the episode and some of the freakiest of the series, as it is so simply accomplished and actually makes the walkers scary for a change, as opposed to just a very dire threat.  The idea of a silent death by walker and just having it chew on a guy until morning is terrifying to me and it really got me in quite the good mood for enjoying what the rest of this episode would have to offer.


The next sequence gives us more of a perspective of where Rick is at in his life.  It is now clearly established that he has relinquished his role as a leader in favor of keeping himself and Carl far away from the heavy lifting of walker-related routines and closer to the heavy lifting of farm life.  “It’s not a farmer’s hat,” claims Carl, who wants to respect his father, but still wishes he could be involved in protecting the group from a firmer standpoint.  For these two, life has become much simpler, but at least their relationship has grown stronger (baby Judith isn’t much of a factor, but yeah, she’s there too and pretty cute).

Following some interaction with Michonne, who was heading out on a supply run (she laughed in this one guys! LAUGHED! ...and then became a puddle of silent emotions later in the episode), Rick and Carl are ready to hang up their farming pants, before the sudden sound of gunshots.  Rick is called out to help deal with the outbreak of walkers in Cell Block D.  Carl is told to head to the watchtower (he helps save Michonne instead, which ends in him picking up a rifle and shooting a walker, but he tried to listen to his dad) and Rick heads into the prison.  It is here that we get our big walker set piece for the second week in a row.  Episode director Guy Ferland certainly does a fine job of capturing the chaotic nature of this scene and I was quite pleased.  It is not as crazy as something like walkers falling through the roof, but that was the kind of spectacle you get in a season premiere, this week is more about seeing what kinds of awfulness can come these people’s way, once they let their guard down a bit.

The biggest discovery in all of this chaos is Charlie, a walker who did not die from being bit.  It is a bit like the riddle involving the man found in a locked room, hanged, with a puddle of water underneath him.  Charlie was locked in his cell, yet still a walker.  At this point, it is reasoned out that some kind of flu is going around.  Patrick’s bloody body serves as further proof, along with a walker Rick spotted outside the fences.  This all leads to the council (Carol, Hershel, Daryl, Sasha and Glenn) deciding that a quarantine may be useful for those with symptoms.  With that in mind, Tyrese is once again denied lovin’, as he is forced to separate himself from Karen.


I guess it’s time to talk about some of these big subplots.  Let’s start with Carol, who has been sitting on the sidelines for a while, but slowly working up to being one of my favorite characters, or at least the most reliable.  Melissa McBride has been doing stellar work in the role and now she is finally getting a meaty part on this show.  Following this chaotic walker mess in Cell Block D, she discovers the father of two of the girls she has been secretly training in defense.  The father will die and Carol accepts responsibility for these girls, Lizzy and Mika.  

I like this setup, but the way of getting there was a bit clunky.  First we have Carol using the death of the father as an excuse to practice the knife skills.  It has its purpose and it’s obviously sad, as it involves pitting very young girls against the body of their recently deceased father, but it is a little much.  The fact that one of the girls freaks out during this, only to have Carol give a mini speech later about being weak and having feelings for “Nick the Walker” only emphasized my issue more.  It is not necessarily poor writing, which is something I am always happy to level on the show when it becomes an issue, but it is very obvious writing.  Given that this episode has plenty of plates to keep spinning that are all of the same design, having a character explain exactly what’s going on is more or less a forced way to absolutely layout the design for what the arc of a story/season/series/etc is.

Having just claimed to really like a character, only to completely take apart her storyline this week (seriously, Carol is awesome and I look forward to where it goes in the coming weeks), it is time to look at the more successful arcs.  Quickly, let’s talk about Michonne.  Given that she has less blank stares, Andrea drama, and ominous Governors to worry about, developing her character is a good idea and this show does everything it can to set up her backstory.  With almost no doubt, the show has now established that Michonne has lost a daughter in her past (and her armless walker pets were likely the cause of this, before they were walkers).  Not even Beth’s singing could take away from the strong work from Danai Gurira, as she stared at young Judith.  Where this will go, I am not sure, but given that Michonne and Carl seem to have the closest friendship at this point, a team up between them could be more fun than some of the other obvious ones bound to happen (like the Michonne & Daryl: Walker Detectives show that I’m writing).


Moving on to Rick, the MVP of “Infected”, in regards to acting, if the only thing about him that was of use last episode was establishing that Rick saw a boar that died the same way as walker Patrick, then good for this episode to really show us why Andrew Lincoln can pull off being a great center for the show every now and again, when it doesn’t involve us in his less interesting life (I still love comic Rick a whole lot more than the TV version, but that’s not Lincoln’s fault).  This episode got to a great point of showing us a man who has tried to do everything to reject the inevitable, only to finally realize his calling as a man who does in fact know how to get the job done.  A helpful talk with Daryl was nice; some solid ground building with him and Carl was good too; but a scene that once again puts Rick in the position of being the only one who can do what has to be done always goes over well with me.  Let’s not forget that it’s Rick Grimes: 2, Little Girls: 0.

Some may be calling Rick a bit too angst-ridden in his portrayal, but that is this show.  Everyone has problems and Rick is not the same kind of protagonist as Walter White or Don Draper.  Maybe a fun essay can be written about that, but The Walking Dead, at its best, needs a character like the Rick we see in this episode.  Everything about Andrew Lincoln’s expressions, as he feeds live pigs to walkers, in an attempt to lure them away from the collapsing fences at the prison, is exactly the kind of Rick that works for me.  This is the “putting all things aside, because this man needs to make some tough decisions to protect people” side of Rick that I can get behind.

That whole scenario worked for me as well.  The walkers are pounding at the fences due to being lured to particular spots, which bring on heavy groups that need to be stopped.  The prison group does their best to take down as many walkers as they can.  Rick and Daryl come up with a sad, but creative solution.  Bear Mcreary’s work on the score for this show has always been pretty solid, but even if it is emotionally manipulative in this episode (a few times), I was very much pleased by what he added.  It is a strong sequence that has a legitimate amount of tension and also leads to a nice closure on where Rick is at, certainly much stronger than last week, as we see him not only give Carl back his gun, but strap on his own holster once again.  Rick has gone through his own Rocky montage and it is time for him to get back in the game.


The last part of this episode would honestly be fairly inconsequential if I was not caught by so much surprise by it.  Obviously I knew Karen was dead, the second Tyrese was walking up with some flowers, but just the sight of those flowers shocked me.  The rest was just a sad lead up to the inevitable, only to be shocked once again by what was actually seen.  Karen and David among the only ones we knew were quarantined, only to be found burned in an isolated location.  Who did this?  How did it happen?  Who gets the Tyrese Hammer Attack?  I am not sure about any of these answers, but that was a pretty heavy cliffhanger on an already heavy episode.  Maybe next week Michonne can lay down another classic joke and we can go back to a bit more smiling.

4 out of 5 Busters

Dead Bits:

  • Hi Everyone! Sorry this one is a little late, I was taking out walkers and playing disc golf up in a redwood forest yesterday, before heading back south! Please feel free to leave any comments.
  • Zombie Kill of the Week: Daryl saving a kid in one hand and taking out a walker with his crossbow in the other was the kind of thing Daryl makes look great.
  • Glenn & Maggie (Gaggie) report this week: They were much cheerier in the morning, until they had to kill a bunch of walkers on the fence.  But at least they killed a bunch of walkers on the fence TOGETHER.
  • Honestly disappointed in the depiction of the council. No robes, no opening/closing songs, just a round table discussion and reasonable decisions! C’mon!
  • Carl was completely in my cool book and then he had to go and blab about Carol.  Yes, he did it in a way that supported her, but geez this boy ain’t right sometimes.
  • Fence Feeder Theory:  Lizzy I guess…
  • Charred Corpse Theory:  I have some suspicions and a Star Wars connection I will reveal at a later time (and likely on the WDTV Podcast).
  • I wonder if Glenn posted “Maggie Sleeping” on Instagram…


Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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