The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 2: “Infected”
Directed by Guy Ferland
Written by Angela Kang
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC
Last week on our Walking Dead podcast, I half-heartedly joked around about how I cared more about the pig Violet than I did about Patrick dying. One week later, I find the most heart-wrenching moment coming not when the humans die, but instead when three piglets are sacrificed in order to stop the prison gates from falling down. This isn’t necessarily meant as a full out attack of the show. The ‘three little pigs’ scene is by far the highlight of the episode; as the barriers of the prison come tumbling down, so does Rick’s hope in retaining momentary peace. He and his group are losing in every which way possible to the flesh eating walkers, and if taking lives isn’t enough, now the walkers are feeding on their main food supply. Showrunner Scott Gimple stated that season four would focus heavily on character development, and for the most part, he seems to be living up to his promise. The main cast are all given their fair share of screen time, but the problem thereby lies with theWoodbury folk. While the outbreak in Cell Block D is a terrific panic-inducing action set piece, it involves the deaths of several characters we don’t care about. To be fair, I don’t actually have a problem with this sequence; it’s what comes later that left me frustrated. I’m fine with The Walking Dead full-filling its quota of blood, guts and gore, but did we really need to spend time watching two girls whom we don’t know, mope around? Season four seems to be improving on some aspects of season three, but the question is, can The Walking Dead writing team learn from their mistakes, or will the series continue to be plagued by spending far too much time on characters we no little about, rather than using that precious time to work on those we care for? Its sort of tricky and I sort of sympathize with the writing staff. There is a certain amount of death expected from a series about the dead coming back to life and feeding on the living. Taking away the Woodbury extras, decreases the bloodshed, and we all know the show’s greatest strength is no doubt its special effects; but character is action – and characters we care about drive the plot forward, while everyone else brings it to a bloody halt.
The best character driven moment comes when Michonne is left to take care of baby Judith. For someone who barely showed any emotion last season, Michonne has come a long way, not only smiling in season four, but crying as well. Thankfully Michonne’s brooding silence is over and done with, and her brief moment spent holding judith speaks volumes about her character and her past. Without words, Danai Gurira’s performance, accompanied with no dialogue, hints at the possibility that she is a parent who has lost a child (something touched on in past episodes). As for Beth, she seems to be taking over for Hershell as this seasons’ voice of reason. “When you care about people, getting hurt is kind of a part of the package,” she says. But that said, Beth remains a character I have no interest in following. The choice to position her in a state of emotional detachment isn’t doing her, nor the actress any favours. Last week I wrote: If the season’s direction mirrors Maggie’s speech about feeling alive, than viewers should expect a bit more life injected into what has been an extremely grim, and often depressing series. The problem is, Beth doesn’t feel alive; she comes across as a robot, set on autopilot and moving about without a care in the world. Carol on the other hand, is the rising star of the show. For someone who was walking on thin ice last season, she has emerged as one of this year’s most compelling characters. It wasn’t a big surprise that Rick would eventually find out about her secret weapons class, and Carl isn’t winning any bonus points from viewers for ratting her out. I don’t blame Carl for being the good son who remains truthful and open to his father, but in the end, Carol is right. The group can no longer live in denial in thinking they can shelter their children from the harsh realities of a zombie apocalypse. Teaching them how to survive should be one of their top priorities. “Infected” also offers a bit more of Tyreese and Karen. The series has come a long way in racial equality. Now African Americans are given more than one line of dialogue – a romantic interest – and are even allowed to sing a song. In a brief interlude Tyreese serenades “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, of course made famous by the one and only Frank Sinatra. But sadly the exchange between Tyresse and Karen is the last peaceful moment they’ll ever share. When Karen succumbs to the new disease, we know it won’t end well. What I didn’t expect, was for Tyreese to discover a trail of blood leading to her burnt corpse.
Karen, much like Patrick and Zach from last week, is barely a character we know well, and the decision to kill her off, especially so soon, brings me back to my biggest problem with “30 Days Without An Accident”. Last week I remarked on how I felt that Zack being introduced in one scene as Beth’s boyfriend, and killed off in the very next – was a desperate attempt to showcase Beth’s extreme change in personality. This week it is Karen who is sacrificed, in what we assume will lead to a major shift in Tyreese’s attitude. But killing a character we don’t know, only to further develop another character is not good writing, and yet another problem The Walking Dead writers simply cannot shake.
Thankfully the writers didn’t waste any time in letting the characters figure out that a disease is the cause for this week’s chaos. Surely we need to suspend our disbelief in their decision to do so, but they at least have Hershel along with newcomer Dr. Subramanian (Sunkrish Bala), to expand on their medical expertise. I personally think it is a wise decision to get this out of the way than have us sit through several council meetings of utter complete boredom, while the survivors attempt to solve the mystery.
All in all, “Infected” features some of the best special effects to date, including a random man’s guts dropping out of his stomach and onto the floor and a walker’s eye popping out of his face. Despite some minor problems, “Infected” entertains with an excessive amount of violence and adds some nice character driven moments to Michonne, Carol and Rick. However, a fair amount of the drama and emotional beats are far too centred around a cast of no names. Just two episodes in, and season four is shaping up to be a mixed bag, following around the good, the bad and the “I just don’t give a F***”.
Carol: “We can use cell block A.”
Glenn: “Death row? Not much of an upgrade.”
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