Tuesday, October 22, 2013

(TV) The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 2 "Infected" TV Review

In last week's review, I said that from the looks of this week episode trailer that "infected "was going to be a action packed gore-fest and probably one of the best episodes of season 4 and I believe I was proved right.  While I would admit that it didn't have to do much to better last week's installment, it did what TWD as a series has needed for some time: another threat other than other humans and the undead.

It has always baffled that the threat of infection other than walker bite or scratch wasn't used earlier and it could have saved what was a dog's dinner of second season which lacked the velocity of season 1 and the human threat throughout season 3. Last night started with an unknown figure feeding a rat to the walker which pretty which explains why there was a build up of walkers at the fence. We can't tell much from the brief scene of sabotage but what we can tell is that whoever this mystery figure is, they have access to a working flashlight which telling from Karen walk through the showers, aren't exactly in great supply. 

What followed this scene was a rare sweet moment between Karen and Tyreese as Tyreese serenades Karen with a heartwarming but cringe worthy rendition of Frank Sinatra classic number "I got you under my skin". I was instantly worried by this  moment as The Walking Dead is as grim a show as there ever has been in the history of television and this week's episode proved the show wasn't about to ease up on adding to the emotional misery of its characters.

After we follow Karen through a suspenseful walk through the showers, we see the dark figure of the Patrick  (or at least his undead version ) rise to his feet and stagger through the showers into D-block looking to satisfy his new hunger for flesh and membrane. The tension ratchets up when we see undead Patrick approach Karen's cell as she falls fast asleep but she is saved by a loudly cleared throat the next cell down the block as undead Patrick shambles down the wing into the cell and digs into the throat of his sleep induced victim and late supper before the opening credits roll.

By the end of the credits, we're back with undead Patrick who gone from his victim's throat to gobbing his guts as his hunger needs goes from late night snack to 'all you can eat' buffet. The Walking Dead can be gratuitous with the gore and they were less than sparing with it by showing us that undead Patrick is a light eater as his meal comes back to life as Patrick exits the cell on the hunt for new flesh to gorge on. 

Between these two scenes, we have a short but sweet scene of Rick with Judith in toe waking up Carl six o'clock in the morning which was clearly intended to show the audience that Rick hope to find some normalcy for the group and his son (the reasons revealed later in the episode) after the traumas he and his family have had to endure from killing his best friend to the heartbreaking death of his wife were all but shattered as a new threat that he neither kill or negotiate with has reared its ugly head.   

Couped up on tower duty, we get a another short but sweet scene between Glenn and Maggie, one of the very few rays of hope in The Walking Dead as Glenn takes a picture Maggie fast asleep, she wakes up and shows fake revulsion at her picture but Glenn tells it's his as he climbs down from the tower but not before Maggie kisses his hands before he does .since season two, Glenn and Maggie have been the prime example that some semblance of happiness is possible in a post apocalyptic nightmare and if their relationship was snuffed by walker bite or the ever present human threat, the show will definitely be poorer for it.

While we are in the early stages of season 4, what is already looking to be one of the best developments set to unfold this season is Michonne opening up as she spent most of season three slashing her way through the undead, picking a major beef with the Governor and giving the silent treatment to just about everybody she met.  Now in the opening episode and this week's offering, we have seen a more emotionally accessible and personable Michonne as she has developed a bond with Rick, Carl and the group in general shown in the scene with Rick and Carl walking her out as she goes on a mission looking for "stale M& M's".

As the scene ends, we see a strange thing called a smile appear on Rick's face as he listens to the friendly interaction between Carl and Michonne as out of everybody in the group, she has clearly bonded with Carl the most. Rick keeps up his "Farmer Rick" persona as he continues to walk around without a gun ripping out weeds and feeding the pigs. He also drags an increasingly reluctant Carl along with him in his quest to find some peace in a world where peace is at a premium. In a short but telling scene between Carl and Rick, we learn that he being forced to do farm work as he would much rather help alleviate the "walkers at the gate" problem that's slowly but surely building up to a be a real issue Rick cannot ignore by focusing on "dirt and cucumbers".

But sure enough, in true TWD fashion, Rick is forced to come to his senses as  shotgun bucks echo across the prison. Rick, Daryl and co race into D block to find the wing flooded with freshly turned walkers looking to satisfy their appetite for flesh and guts as Patrick did before and after the opening credits.  

As Rick and co evacuate everybody at the top of the block, they endeavor and succeed at clearing the block of its walker infestation. In the aftermath of the walker scare on D block, Rick and Daryl proceed to the top of the block to kill any straggling or yet to be turned walkers and in a short moment of hesitation by rick, we learn that it's been a while since Rick has killed a walker or the soon to be undead as he leaves the corpse of a young woman for Daryl to euthanize and looked less than confident in clearing a cell.

While I do think the governor's "kill or die" refrain he repeated a number of times at the back end of last season was a bit extreme, it has definitely gotten to the point where his phrase is the overarching theme of the TWD universe. Indeed,  more people have died in The Walking Dead of hesitation and bad decision making than acts of brutal murder or just plain old evil from Carl hesitating to kill the walker that eventually killed Dale to Andrea's hesitation and failure act on Carol's sound advice of killing the governor while he slept leading to her cruel and sadistic death at the hands of the governor via a reanimated Milton.  

A number of characters on the show have evolved since we've first met them but no evolution has been more stark and compelling to watch as Carol's over the last few seasons. When we first met her, Carol was terrorized and beaten by her cowardly husband and looked easy pickings for the undead but as the season progressed, Carol internalized the new rules of the post apocalyptic world brought about by the traumatic death and reanimation of her daughter Sophia in the middle of season 2. By season three, Carol played a more active role in the group by becoming more proficient as killing zombies and learning skills making her more useful to her group.

This season, Carol has taken the role of  tiger mother teaching the kids how to survive in a world full of flesh and gut hungry killing machines by showing them how to use knives to kill walkers.  While this at first viewing was a shock to see in the first episode of this season but on further reflection is probably the most sane course given the threat of death looms over the group on a daily basis.

In last night's episode, we see just how much Carol has internalized the new rules of the new world as she nurses Ryan, an infected fellow resident of the prison who asks Carol to take of his kids and as he suffered bite wounds to his arms and the back of his neck. 

After a short scene where the group deem the possible cause of the infection as an aggressive form swine flu, Carol brings Ryan's daughters Lizzie and Mikka in to see him before he dies but he soon passes in front of them. Carol then ushers them out of the cell to put Ryan out of his misery before he turns before Lizzie shops Carol and insist that she should do it. Unable to catch her nerve to kill her soon to be walker father, Lizzie panics while consoled by a saddened but more composed Mikka as Carol buries a pocket knife in Ryan's right ear but both succumb to tears as she coolly does the deed. 

After Rick meets with Carl and an injured Michonne carried by Maggie and tells them what happened the council, briefly mentioned in last week's episode, commenced with Daryl, Carol, Hershel, Sascha and Glenn in attendance discussing the infection and what to do next. During deliberation, they come up with the sensible plan to isolate exposed D block residents in A block to ensure the infection doesn't spread any further than it has to. However,Karen is among the D-block residents exposed to the infection to the concern of Tyreese.  

If you are one of the few reading this who have watched this show who hasn't realized that growing up during a zombie apocalypse sucks, Carol's conservation with Lizzie and Mikka would have distilled why. Up until this point, Carl has been our single window into what it must be like to grow up during the world falling apart as we've seen him go from a disobedient child eager to help out for most season one and two to an efficient killer who had taken all the trauma offered by the events of season 3 a little too well in his stride taking the governor's "kill or die" mantra to heart.

From what we have seen of Lizzie and Mikka so far this season, they have not learnt the harsh lessons Carl has had to learn as they still see the humanity in the undead who see them and everybody they know as lunch. in this episode Carol tries with brute honesty to drum into the girls (particularly Lizzie) that strength and instinct will their saving grace as she realized these girls haven't exactly realized what's at stake. While Lizzie shows that she still hasn't gotten used to new demands of the world a lack of sentimentality, Mikka on the other hand shows that she has knack for these new demands as she tells Carroll she isn't weak just "messed up".

in the next scene between Rick and Daryl, we find out why Rick effectively gave up leadership of the group to the council as he restarted a project he gave up on during season three in trying to give Carl as normal a life as possible during the zombie apocalypse. The renewal of this quixotic project was inspired by seeing that exposing Carl to harsh realities of the new world and allowing him to partake in the defense of the group only made Carl internalize the "kill or die" mentality that Rick, even now, struggles to come to terms with. 

Rick also reveals his distaste of the cruel fact that his decisions have cost people their lives and would rather contribute to the group without the weight of the group's fate weight on his mind to the detriment of his children. Daryl, seeing the toll leadership has had on him, reassures Rick that he has earned a break from making all the decisions concerning the group safety and its next move forward as he believes the group owes its relative security to him and when push come to shove, he's the best man for the job. 

Sure enough Rick gets to show why he's the best man for the job as the "walker at the gate" becomes a real issue needing immediate attention. Rick, Daryl, Maggie and others race towards the fence at the point of being breached and start killing walkers at as fast as they can. Rick, once again, hesitates in killing walkers but after the first few tentative kills, Rick gets back into the rhythm of killing the undead as they start pile up against the fence. When it becomes obvious that simply killing as many walkers as possible isn't going to work, the group are forced into pushing back against walkers now working their way up the fence.

In the midst of fighting off the walker build up at the fence, they realized the build up was caused by someone feeding them rats rather than a natural phenomenon for the walkers to herd together in the barely conscious but common goal to feed their hunger for flesh. Much like us, this is creates more questions than answers for the group as they realize that infection isn't the only challenge they face. 

With the fence looking a sure shot to be breached by Walkers, Rick goes to show why he should resume leadership of the group as he feeds the infected pigs to the Walkers throwing them to the Walker herd not before slicing their bellies open and Daryl speeding away just just far enough to attract and feed the walkers now moving away from the gate. While Rick has revealed his reluctance for making the big decisions, in this instance, he showed he is the only one who can make them. 

Meanwhile in C block, Michonne and Beth share a rather loaded conversation that reveals a side we have never seen from Michonne so far, her vulnerability. readers and watchers of the comics and the show are used to Michonne taking care of  business with little in the way of sentiment but when Beth gives Judith to a clearly reluctant Michonne, Michonne, after a beat of going her best not to connect with Judith eventually brings her close and breaks down in tears which gives us a glimpse into why she is so guarded and hostile to strangers. 

There has been speculation by fans of the show that this moment reveals that Michonne may have lost a child and the walkers she used to ward of other walkers may play a part in that tragic story but in any case, there good chance we'll find out the source and back story behind her secret trauma. 

After feeding his pigs to the walkers in order to avoid a breach, Rick realizes his "Farmer Rick" are over as he starts to dismantle the makeshift barn and douses it with gasoline. Carl approaches his clearly disheveled father and lets him in on Carol's secret how to kill walkers after school activity club. 

Expecting his father to tell the parents of the kids involved  he reveals his support for Carol's actions but is muted by Rick thanking him for telling him and that he won't say anything before setting the barn on fire. Along with giving up his farm, he gives up the pretense that he can provide a normal life for son as he gives Carl his gun back and puts on his gun belt back on as he realizes the only thing he can do is keep the group and his family as safe as possible from new and existing threats.

The episode ended on a bum note (how else can a episode of a post apocalyptic end) for just about everybody but the worst was saved for last as Tyreese shows with flowers to meet up with Karen on A block only find then follow a trail of blood that leads to a crushed Tyreese finding two bodies burned to a crisp, one he recognizes as Karen.

there are no happy endings in a zombie apocalypse and "infected" served as a sombre but well done reminder of this depressing truism of the TWD universe,

Until next week!!!      







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