I can’t believe I didn’t think to add “my love for Carol will grow exponentially as this season progresses” to my list of predictions from last week. Her character development in this episode alone stands out despite every other shocking/horrifying/interesting thing that was going on. And there was a lot going on in this episode.
First of all, the prison has a problem in the form of some creepy individual sneaking around at night to feed rats to the walkers on the fence. No wonder they’ve had a pile-up, somebody’s been feeding the strays! I was glad that Sasha discovered the evidence by the end of the episode; leaving a mystery like this completely unknown to anyone but the viewer would get old quickly. Now at least there will be movement towards figuring out who’s doing this and why.
Tyreese and Karen spend their first few onscreen minutes sharing kisses and talking and being generally adorable, so naturally we all knew something terrible was going to happen. I mean, come on, Tyreese was singing Sinatra to her! It was too cute to last.
The misdirect with the empty shower stall in the bathroom was great, because I had Karen pegged as a goner within the first ten minutes of the episode. But no, she was just the person Walker Patrick followed back to the D block where he proceeded to eat a random Woodburyian’s guts and wreak general havoc. Nice to know that the writers still have some cliché defiance in them after four seasons. Not that it did Karen any good by the end of the episode, though.
There’s more niceness to balance out the sense of impending doom that permeates this episode: Rick wakes up early with Lil’ Ass-Kicker Judith; Glenn snaps a picture of Maggie while she’s sleeping and they giggle, of all things; Carl is recovering from his bout of prepubescent angst and rebellion by helping Rick with farming chores.
All of that while people are being eaten in their beds, no big deal.
It isn’t until after Michonne has started to head out on her regular horseback excursion that an alarm is finally sounded and people outside the D block have started to realize the crisis. The group gets together quickly to take out the walkers and save as many people as they can. It doesn’t seem practiced per se, but it’s an instinct borne out of their respective times spent living together outside the relative safety of the prison.
This is the first major incident of the season, and it demonstrates the sharp contrast between the Woodbury citizens and the old group. The old group keeps their heads in the face of the walker attack and they swiftly and efficiently neutralize the threat.
Carol, my forever favorite, is now one of the ones keeping her head in the crisis and helping to manage it. She’s not a wham-bam style walker killer like Daryl or Michonne, but she takes an injured Ryan into a bunk and is ready to amputate his bitten arm in all of thirty seconds.
Ryan’s a brave man, and it kind of sucks we only get to know him in the minutes before he dies. His only concern after finding his fatal neck bite is that Carol take care of his two daughters as if they were hers. She can only be thinking of poor Sophia at this point, so she brings them to him to say goodbye. Lizzy, the older one, offers to take care of him herself (like Carol taught them at story time, how fitting), but breaks down before she can. Her younger sister Mika comforts her when she loses her nerve, and Carol ends up putting Ryan down herself.
Meanwhile, the others have cleared out the cell block, but they discover another body with blood markings on his face like Patrick’s and Good Ol’ Dead-Eyes by the fence. Dr. S and Hershel figure out the cause of death is a disease that causes the victim to essentially choke on their own blood until it bursts out their other orifices (e.g. the eyes, causing that trademark crying tears of blood look).
I think the idea of dying like that is more horrifying than most of the zombie carnage we’ve seen on this show put together.
The council (Carol, Daryl, Sasha, Glenn, and Hershel) decide that separation and containment is the best plan of action for now. This means Karen and David, the only two exhibiting the coughing symptom, have to be brought to another cell block. Poor Tyreese doesn’t know he’s seeing Karen for the last time when they go their separate ways. If his character goes the route of his comic book counterpart, this could be a major turning point for him in terms of tapping into that aggressive side he exhibits in the comics.
Michonne and Beth get a couple scenes together while Beth patches up the ankle Michonne hurt in her rush to get back to the prison when the alarm sounded. I don’t know that we’ve ever seen just the two of them together before, but I hope they share more screen time this season. They have such drastically different personalities and strengths, it would be interesting to see how they play off of each other as time goes on.
Of course, my chief interest in that would be to get the backstory on Michonne breaking down when Beth hands her Judith. The obvious guess is that she lost a child in some way, but when? Whether it was pre- or post-outbreak will say a lot about her personality. I figured at this point we had learned all we were going to get about Michonne on the show, but the writers surprised me by working in this point from the comics.
That’s where this episode really succeeds for me is in the blending of character development and action. After the swing and a miss of season two, where there was too much time spent hanging around and not enough action, the writers seem to have found the perfect balance between showing us what makes these characters tick and throwing new threats at them to deal with.
Just look at Rick, who ends up sacrificing his pigs to draw the walkers away from the fence they’re destroying. With the burning of the pig pen to prevent infection, he’s really stepping away from that new role he tried so hard to take on. He straps his gun belt back on and suddenly he’s the sheriff again. Reluctant though he may be, it’s clear the group is going to lean on him for help and guidance again in the days to come.
I can’t forget Carol’s development either – she’s going behind the other adults’ backs to teach the kids how to survive. Sophia is probably a big factor in this decision; Carol can’t get her daughter back, so she’ll be sure to make sure everyone else’s kids know how to protect themselves. Who would have guessed back in season one that she’d come into her own the way she has? She was always strong, in my opinion, to have raised her daughter and dealt with her abusive husband, but now she’s confident too. A+, Melissa McBride, on bringing so much life to such a great character.
It can’t all be sunshine and rainbows and character growth in the face of certain death, however. It wouldn’t be The Walking Dead if it didn’t end on a shocker. This one outdoes last week for sure – Tyreese goes to bring flowers to Karen only to find that someone has dragged her and David out to the prison yard and burned them.
There’s no way this is going to work out well; not only are they fighting an infection they don’t know the cause of, but someone on the inside is killing people and feeding walkers. Maybe not even the same someone, they could have two human threats on the loose. Someone being irrational and going too far to prevent the infection from spreading I can sort of understand, but what could the possible motive be for causing a walker pileup by feeding them rodents?
It’s all so suspenseful, and I love it. I have a feeling it’ll only get more intense from here.