After last week’s hailstorm of undead bodies raining down from a grocery store roof, Rick’s walk in the woods with a murderous Irishwoman, and the reveal of a fatal viral infection, one could be forgiven for expecting this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Infected,” to take its time and do a bit more world building and tablesetting. It’s the second episode of the season, after all. Fortunately for us and unfortunately for the residents of the prison, The Walking Dead shows that there is no escape from the horrors of the post-apocalypse. These first two episodes play out like a self-help book. While “30 Days Without an Accident” showed us that you cannot evolve if you continue to make the same mistakes, “Infected” shows us that you can’t simply ignore problems and expect them to go away. You can’t up and become a farmer when the world needs a sheriff. It is a lesson that is difficult to swallow and has deadly results.
Our worst fears have been confirmed after Patrick died in a coughing fit in Cell Block D’s showers. There is an infectious disease on the loose, it’s infecting and killing people at a rapid rate, and they’re coming back as walkers. In a wince-inducing wakeup call, Patrick sinks his teeth into another survivor’s neck, then the two proceed to wreak bloody havoc on the unsuspecting residents of Block D. It may seem a little unlikely that everyone would sleep with their doors open and have no one on guard duty inside, but it seems like the writers are trying to make the point that once you get comfortable, you get lazy, and once you get lazy, people start dying. In The Walking Dead, stasis is death, which is ironic, because in this world, even the dead are moving.
The resulting attack is replete with the requisite amounts of blood and gore and some killer creature FX, but it throws the prison’s situation into sharp relief, as they are now faced with the prospect of full-scale outbreak, panicked residents, and a sizable body count. Talk soon turns to quarantining the infected in Block A – “Death Row”, as Glenn notes – and separating them from the main population. Clearly, this is just the beginning. A fatal illness is bad on its own, but when it turns you into a flesh-eating monster in short order, then you need to respond quickly and confidently to prevent it from spreading. Naturally, this is going to create a rift in the group and it will likely claim even more faces, familiar and otherwise, before it runs its course.
One of the most heartwrenching moments is also one of the episode’s quietest. When Judith throws up baby food on Beth, Michonne reluctantly holds her. After a tense moment, Michonne breaks down in tears, clutching Judith tightly, giving us an inkling that she may have lost a child of her own in the past. In the comics, we know the identities of Michonne’s “pets,” but we never saw them as anything more than clever camouflage on the show. Yet, her grief is unmistakable, and it’s only underscored by the grim imagery of the young mother and her now dead baby emerging from the charnel house of Cell Block D.
We’ve seen Michonne come out of her shell a bit more this season, which is a welcome change from her mostly silent brooding from last season. She laughs! She smiles! She’s developing a friendship with local teens like Carl! She rides a horse! Yet, it’s in episodes like last season’s “Clear” and moments like her embrace with Judith that we get a true look into the real, deeply human person behind her stoic sphinx-like mask, although it is because of her attachments that Michonne gets injured while trying to escape from the walkers. Hearing shouts, she turns around and injures her leg in the process. Getting emotionally attached is quite literally hamstringing her.
Later, in an incredibly tragic sequence for local Rick Grimeses, the prison goes kosher as Rick N’ Darryl’s Post-Apocalyptic Porkwagon™ makes its inaugural run to save the fence by luring the pack of walkers away from the collapsing outer wall with a trail of stuck lil’ piggies. Of all the food trucks in the world, theirs is by far the most heroic, but the look of anguish on Rick’s blood-spattered face is anything but palatable. Although considering how tainted pig meat may have directly led to the virulent infection that in turn led to a full-scale zombie outbreak in Cell Block D, it might be for the best. Your delectable sacrifice will never be forgotten, Wilbur.
Joking aside, while the infection arc is an exciting, effective plot device, I question its long term potency, especially without a bigger villain looming on the horizon. The Governor is still on the loose, yes, but we’ll likely not see him for a little bit. The bigger threat, as we discover, is whoever is luring walkers to the fences by feeding them rats and dragging bodies, like Tyreese’s squeeze Karen, out back and immolating them. Tensions are running high, and fears are bound to run rampant, especially as the infection spreads and the relative security of the prison is threatened when something as innocent as a cough can lead to being murdered and burned alive.
Odds and Ends
– “It’s not a farmer’s hat.”
– I enjoy the “Did we get the pigs sick or did they get us sick?” debate. It’s an interesting quandary and one that they can’t afford to risk either way.
– Oh, Carol, only you could turn the death of a child’s father into a cringe-worthy teachable moment.
– That being said, I’m totally #TeamCarol this season. She’s the only surviving original female!
What did you think of “Infected”? Let us know in the comments below or tell me yourself on Twitter.