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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Walking Dead 4x05: Internment

About three years ago I watched The Walking Dead pilot. I wasn’t sure where the series was headed but I knew it had potential. As the series progressed I would get frustrated by The Walking Dead's inability to live up to that potential. (And by its lack of nudity, but whatever.) This season has had its ups and downs.  I liked the premiere but the following episodes were uneven for me. Then came this week's episode: Internment.
 
Internment is everything I envisioned The Walking Dead could be when I first watched it.

Two things separate this episode from ordinary The Walking Dead episodes. First, this had some real suspense. Yes, a lot of episodes have action. Plenty of times a zombie will jump out or characters will get surrounded but most times it feels like it's all an excuse to see a zombie's head get squished.
 
This episode put already incapacitated (by illness) characters in dimly lit closed quarters with zombies lurking behind every corner. Toss in the fact that the characters in the most peril are some of the most beloved and you have a recipe for viewers sitting on the edge of their seat. Heck, even if a zombie didn't get them, the illness still might.
 
The second thing that sets this episode apart is that the challenges and peril the characters faced were not caused by their own stupidity. This is actually a huge deal. I could quibble about how best to try and keep zombies from roaming free in the quarantined block but there were extenuating circumstances.
 
Everyone was sick, worn out and stressed. Beyond that you just can’t close the cells on people and lock them in because you have to let the patients have the ability to exit their cells if need be. And even when zombies did start to roam it didn’t get out of hand like in the second episode of the season. There were only two to three zombies in the quarantined block. It was the fact that the people in the block were barely able to move at that point that made the otherwise paltry number of zombies pose such a threat.
 
Then you have Rick and Maggie/Carl handling the hoard outside. The gathering of zombies could have been handled under normal circumstances but with most of the group sick and most of the healthy people out getting medicine the prison yard was woefully understaffed. This is what led to the zombie hoard getting too large. Even then, everyone in the prison yard recognized this as a problem. There just wasn’t a whole lot they could do about it. They did what they could and it predictably failed but I can’t fault them for their attempt.
 
In the end, the zombies made it past the fence so Rick and Carl grabbed assault rifles and started mowing them down. It was pretty awesome and very cathartic for the viewer (and probably Rick and Carl). Best of all, their strategy actually worked! Despite dealing with a huge number of zombies, Rick and Carl were able to take them down by themselves.
 
In addition to this action and suspense we still got great character moments. Rick and Carl obviously bonded and gained a new understanding for each other. Maggie proved herself to be a great daughter and wife. Oh, and Hershel proved himself to be the freakin’ man. His hope in the face of hopelessness and refusal to give up was inspiring and great to watch thanks to an incredible acting performance by Scott Wilson.
 
I know that, for various reasons, every episode can’t be like this one. You need your setup and you need your downtime. But this time we got a hell of a payoff.
 
Other Thoughts:
I’m no medical scientician so I have no grounds to say whether or not the sickies were too far gone for medicine to help. But I did wonder about it.
 
Hershel made an old man joke about having spaghetti Tuesday every Wednesday. That got me thinking. I wonder if they know the date and/or what day of the week it is? Do you think at some point they realized they didn’t know and just decided “Today is April the 1st” or something?
 
I was glad to see Rick come out with the truth to Maggie right away. I was also glad to see Maggie agree with the decision even if it was somewhat reluctantly. I would’ve loved to have seen the conversation regarding Carol between Rick and Hershel.
 
I questioned Hershel treating all the sickies like children even though they’re adults and understand the truth. But then his speech to Rick about losing hope killing faster than a germ made me understand. I should've never doubted Hershel!
 
Maggie made the right decision to shoot the zombie doctor and risk hitting the breathing bag (or whatever it’s called). I can understand Hershel being in a panic and not thinking clearly but he was in real danger of dying. If Hershel dies Glen dies too because who else is going to save Glen? So, really, shooting the zombie and hoping you don’t hit the bag was the only chance to save either of them.
 
I would make fun of the show for having the illness only kill off secondary characters but this is a show that regularly kills off the regular cast so it was almost refreshing.
 
I wonder how fast Rick and Carl went about repairing the fence after mowing down the zombie horde? Is the fence still down with random walkers wondering in?
 
I felt that Carl and Rick sharing a pea pod was a bit on the nose.
 
I’m surprised the Governor is back already. I figured it’d be a long time before we see him again. I wouldn’t have minded not seeing him until next season.

5 comments:

  1. Like you, I enjoyed this episode - easily the best of the season (though I was a bit more critical of the "locking in the cells" and "stab 'em around the corner" material). I was so impressed with Scott Wilson's performance in this one that I feared Hershel was going to die by the end - it felt very much like a goodbye episode, one of those where a character gets one last chance to shine before he bites it (similar to how Dale spent the episode he died in arguing passionately for compassion in the world of the zombie apocalypse). Needless to say, I'm glad Hershel is sticking around at least until next episode.

    I’m no medical scientician so I have no grounds to say whether or not the sickies were too far gone for medicine to help. But I did wonder about it.

    Me too - I mean, when Glen has so much blood in his lungs that he can't breathe, how helpful are antibiotics going to be at that point? But I really have no intelligent idea, and I'm willing to chalk it up to the MacGuffin Principle: characters who are said to know more about this stuff than me have said it will help, so I'll take them at their word that it will.

    Not surprisingly given my affinity for Old Man jokes, I loved Hershel's spaghetti Wednesday joke.

    I was glad to see Rick come out with the truth to Maggie right away.

    Ditto. I was really worried he was going to lie and was glad when he didn't. Maggie's reaction was also nice.

    I questioned Hershel treating all the sickies like children even though they’re adults and understand the truth.

    I was fine with it until the last one, which led to the outbreak of the zombies. I'm all for keeping peoples hope alive, but once your life (and their lives) are threatened by doing so, it's time to call an audible and head-stab the guy before things get out of hand.

    Maggie made the right decision to shoot the zombie doctor and risk hitting the breathing bag

    Frankly, I was more worried about her hitting Hershel. But I agree it was the right call.

    I would make fun of the show for having the illness only kill off secondary characters but this is a show that regularly kills off the regular cast so it was almost refreshing.

    Agreed, though at the end I did comically remark "Whew! Thankfully the medicine arrived before anyone important died".

    Is the fence still down with random walkers wondering in?

    I wondered that too - it didn't seem like any of the next days shots made it clear either way. Hopefully they're putting something up.

    I felt that Carl and Rick sharing a pea pod was a bit on the nose.

    Mrs. Teebore, as Rick: "Well Carl, at least the peas aren't zombies".

    As for the Governor, I'm a little surprised to see him already. As much as I'd hope otherwise, I figured there was no way the show would go a whole season without him, but I figured they'd save his return for the midseason cliffhanger three episodes from now.

    Which just means, now that the Governor is showing up already, that the cliffhanger will probably be the Governor poised to do something ridiculously awful to a character we love. Blech.

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  2. Oh, and I forgot to add: I really liked the "Rick and Carl mowing down zombies" scene - it was staged in a believable way (the zombies were coming through a small enough gap that they couldn't spread out or rush the pair, and Rick and Carl took up a position that gave them room to advance/retreat with the hoard and still get out if they were overwhelmed), was the result of a problem that didn't come from the characters' stupidity (as much as I often chide the characters for not killing the fence zombies more regularly, in this case, it was understandable, as Maggie was pretty much the only healthy, non-quarantined person at the person), and forced Rick to accept that Carl can be a useful asset in a combat situation.

    Also, because it was pretty badass.

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  3. I agree with everything you said.
    And not only was i surprised to see the governor, i was also quite disappointed, too. I'm so tired of him from last season. I need a longer break and a few episodes isn't going to cut it.

    Also, i believe when they were first discussing the illness the doc said something about how it's not the illness that kills the poeple but the symptoms (I THINK he said this) so if that were the case, then keeping Glen breathing would be an okay treatment because at that point you're just trying to keep the symptoms (ie, drowning on your blood) from killing him before the illness runs its course (or the antibiotics show up)

    And it was so nice to see all these bad things happen and not be angry at the characters/writers for letting these bad things happen because of stupidity. That's how you plot an episode.

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  4. Despite the fact that circumstances had spiraled to uncontrollable levels, I'm afraid I still have to give these people some demerits for displaying stupidity. We had a cell block full of deathly ill people, people who could drop dead at any moment. Those cell doors really should've been closed at all times. I don't think they needed to be locked, per se (restricting a living person from free access in or out). It looked like just sliding the bars closed would have been enough to keep a walker contained and prevent them from harming others. I still think a few lives could've been saved if they'd just closed the frickin' doors.

    That aside, it was, certainly, a nail-biting episode. I, actually, did think a main character might die. Losing Glen or Hershel would've been a punch in the gut. Daryl's right, though. They're both "tough sons of bitches".

    I think our survivors really need to start stockpiling building supplies to, solidly, reinforce the fence. Could they not find a Home Depot to pillage or something?

    No surprise that The Governor is back. They announced back when season 3 was winding down that he'd be back this season. At this point, I kind of figured we wouldn't be seeing him until the back half of the season so it was a little unexpected, to me, to see him this soon. I wonder if he might be somehow responsible for the herd piling up at the fence...luring them towards the prison or, perhaps, our mystery rat feeder.

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  5. @Teebore: "Which just means, now that the Governor is showing up already, that the cliffhanger will probably be the Governor poised to do something ridiculously awful to a character we love. Blech."

    Yeah, the more I think about it the more I hate the fact the Governor is coming back. The show is on a bit of a roll right now. Save the Governor for when things have slowed down.

    "Oh, and I forgot to add: I really liked the "Rick and Carl mowing down zombies" scene - it was staged in a believable way"

    Exactly. Hordes of zombies are dangerous but still stupid. Most of the time people should be able to handle them. I know mistakes happen but, in small doses, they shouldn't be the unstoppable threat they're often made out to be.

    @Sarah: "Also, i believe when they were first discussing the illness the doc said something about how it's not the illness that kills the poeple but the symptoms "

    Yeah, they absolutely said that. I just wonder at what point the symptoms have done so much damage that it's too late to save the people. But, as I said, I'm asking questions to which I have no clue as to what the answers are.

    Cerebro: "Despite the fact that circumstances had spiraled to uncontrollable levels, I'm afraid I still have to give these people some demerits for displaying stupidity."

    I see where you're coming from. The door situation is tricky for me only that, if I was there, I wouldn't want to be locked in without a way for me to get out. (What if Hershel dies? Am I to starve to death in the cell?)

    I think their were better ways of keeping things contained but I gave them a pass because this quarantine was set up on short notice (whether that should of have been the case is debatable) and everyone at that point was sick and/or stressed and worn out.

    Still, if this is the only thing we're criticizing the episode for then it's a vast improvement over the majority of the show.

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