After last week’s full throttle, non-stop episode of The Walking Dead’s fourth season, I should have expected tonight’s to be more of a subtly dramatic denouement; it wasn’t boring so much as slow, with the sense of unease just kind of simmering and stewing as opposed to beating you over the head, no zombie pun intended.
All I can imagine (and hope for, because I’m a masochist I suppose) is that next week’s addresses all the carefully poised questions and conflicts from tonight’s episode in a way that blows them wide open, exposing brutal consequences and devastating outcomes, leaving me on the edge of my seat again.
The episode begins with a more or less pointless fist fight between Rick and Tyrese, instantly setting the episode up as a human-drama focused one as opposed to a walker-filled one. And from there, the ethical turmoil builds: Carol specifically is the emotional core of this episode I think, in a season where her character has been developing steadily into a strong but tortured woman. Her mothering instincts post-Sophia are at odds with her new-found logic when she opts for Glenn to tuck in the child she was left to look after in last week’s episode; anything to get the kid into the quarantined cell block area without having to go in herself, Carol looks pained by this tough decision but swears to her that Glenn is the best tucker she knows.
Then, she throws a tantrum after being asked by Tyrese to look after Sasha, almost gets killed by a horde of walkers trying to fix a water hose by herself, and finally reveals that it was her who burned Karen and David. So more or less, we have a woman so suddenly and starkly bent on protecting and caring for everyone in a way that has proven destructive– not just for Carol herself, with all the pressure and guilt that come with her trying too hard, but for the very members of this community which she is trying to care for and protect in the first place.
Other than this, we see our typically inspirational moral compass in the form of Hershel sacrificing himself to care for the sick and speaking words of wisdom to Carl while picking elderberries for them. We also see Beth and Maggie attempting to not be upset, because according to Beth (even though Hershel has risked getting sick by going into quarantine and Glenn is already there and very sick indeed) they “don’t get to get upset” because everyone has a job to do. Our job as viewers of this show, as I mentioned earlier, is to wonder how the questions raised (thanks in part to the very pace of episodes like this one) will be answered in the next one, rather than be “upset” that it didn’t have the same kind of intensity as episodes like the last one.
Because when it comes to The Walking Dead, we don’t get to be upset either. All we get to do is wonder: how will Daryl and his crew make it to the antibiotics now and was Tyrese bit and how much time does he have if he was? This was by far the most exciting part of the episode because first, they hear a radio signal that may or may not have been another human being, and then we don’t even get to find out before the car is swarmed with walkers in front, behind, and even underneath the spinning rear tires at one point, leaving our gang of zombie killers to flee the vehicle and, well, kill zombies.
Also, what kind of punishment, if any, will Carol face now? And, overall, how much scarier and more threatening can this outbreak of disease really get? The answer to the last one is probably pretty simple: very. The rest? We’ll have to wait until next week to find out, if we’re lucky– I feel as though we’re going to have to be really patient, for instance, if we ever want to find out who is feeding rats to the fence walkers or learn where the governor is.
I give this episode 3 out of 5 Woodbury citizens claiming they have allergies and not whatever “glorified cold” is going around as she heads reluctantly into quarantine (I know there was only one instance of this in the episode, but it amused me so much that I just had to use it in my rating system. And in an episode that proved to be certainly more intellectual and thematic than it was necessarily entertaining, I figured I’d lighten the mood for myself).