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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Walking Dead 4x02: Infected

Last week I said, "To start the season, however, I think there are good stories that can be told about people being safe, comfortable and even somewhat flourishing while surrounded by zombies." Well, so much for that! The second episode of this season immediately tried to thrust that status quo into flux.

Infected was mainly about in two large changes. First, the prison is no longer the safe haven the characters thought it to be. Second, Rick is transformed from peaceful farmer back to a man of action and leadership. Neither of these changes are surprising but the speed at which they occurred was (at least for me).

I noted before that pacing has been an issue in the past for The Walking Dead and that proper pacing would be a key to this season's success. I was more worried about too slow of a pace but, in this case, I think the pace is too fast.

For the characters on the show the prison has been relatively safe and Rick has been a pacifist farmer for approximately six months. So the changes that occurred are presumably a bit of a shock to them. For the viewer, however, the idea of the people having a safe place to live and the idea of Rick forgoing his leadership in lieu of farming has only been established for one episode. One episode of, now, 37 episodes. So what I've called the "status quo" is really anything but. What we saw in the season premiere was merely a one episode anomaly that was quickly wiped away. The end result is that the impact of these changes is completely muted for the viewer.

Again, where this episode takes us is a road this series had to go down. All I'm saying is it didn't have to get there so quickly. I should note that, despite the prison being more vulnerable than the characters would like, everyone is still planning to live at the prison. So that's something.

Other Thoughts:

I know Carol is trying to toughen up the kids (and I'm all for her teaching them survival techniques) but is hours after a kid loses her parent the right time to berate them? Maybe I'm just soft. Probably reason #152 that I'd never make it in a zombie apocalypse.

Speaking of Carol and the girl (Lizzie?), I'm not sure why a child should be the one to kill their zombified parent. It seems like a traumatic event that is best avoided if possible. Then again, I could totally see in 100 years having stabbing your parent's corpse in the head be a rite of passage; Like an Age of Ascension Ceremony or bar mitzvah!

In the zombie attack aftermath I first thought that Daryl stabbed Beth's corpse in the head. Apparently it was just some other random blonde. Beth is still, obviously, alive and well.

Carl mentioned he's not wearing his hat anymore because it's not a farming hat. I wonder if that was his idea or Rick's?

Apparently the sickness going around is a powerful flu strain or something and has nothing to do specifically with zombies. It's just a lack of sanitation.

Speaking of sanitation, The Talking Dead this week cited last week when Daryl licked his fingers before shaking some guy's hand as an example of how unsanitary things had gotten. That just reminded me that I meant to comment on that. That comment was: Ewwww.

I don't blame Michonne, I'm also annoyed by crying babies. Yeah...I think there's probably more to it too.

I suppose that Rick sacrificing the pigs was symbolic of him sacrificing his peaceful farming ways. I was going to question whether all the pigs needed to die or if burning the pig farm was overkill but it sounds like Rick may have thought the pigs (and thus the pen) were all infected with the disease. Still, find a better way to burn the pen, Rick. Gas is a precious commodity!

While they are spending time killing the walkers at the fence I still feel like they could be spending MORE time doing it. Shouldn't there always be someone there doing it? Is it that difficult of work?

So...someone is burning people. Is it because they think they're infected with the disease or some other reason? Regardless, my money is on it being Carl. And Lizzie(?) is probably feeding the zombies rats.

And now it's time for a long rant:

So, Patrick dies of an illness at night in the bathroom and turns into a zombie. This leads to a massacre happening to the citizens of the prison. The characters and even the panel on The Talking Dead all treated this as one of those unpreventable tragedies that happen in a zombie apocalypse and nobody is to blame. To that I call complete and utter bullshit.

If any of these characters had half a brain this situation could have been totally prevented. First of all, shouldn't you have somebody on night watch duty? Secondly, and more importantly, why are they all sleeping in unlocked cells?

Regardless of epidemics, people die in their sleep. It happens all the time and it can be of completely natural causes. At the end of last season Rick was bringing in people from Woodbury and it looked like a lot of them were older people. Senior citizens are even more likely to die in their sleep. And, as this show has established, when you die you become a zombie.

Everyone should be sleeping in a locked room of some sort. Not only to keep a possible zombie out but to keep you in if you happen to die for whatever reason and turn into a zombie. It's just common sense. I know if I was living in this world my first priority would be dealing with my vulnerability while I'm asleep. It's idiotic not to.

But let's put that aside (as hard as that may be). So they're all stupidly sleeping in open cells. Even then, how did things get so out of hand? This episode was a microcosm of a larger failing of most zombie apocalypse fiction. You usually see the start of the zombie apocalypse and then the setting immediately switches to the world being completely overrun with zombies. The audience is left wondering exactly how things got so out of control. (The only fiction I know of that deals with this relatively well is World War Z the book. Dawn of the Dead was pretty good at it too, actually.)

Anyway, so we have rogue zombie in the prison at night. I suppose it's fortunate (or unfortunate) that his first victim is a heavy sleeper and zombie Patrick decided to bite the man's neck which, presumably, kept him from screaming. But that's all we really see until the next scene when zombies are overrunning the prison.

Could no one in the prison deal with two zombies? OK, maybe the zombies got other people in their sleep too. But I refuse to believe that everyone was getting eaten in a way the prevented them screaming. Zombies aren't that smart. So I would assume that an alarm would be sounded at, what, five zombies max? FIVE! You can deal with that.

A horde of zombies is difficult to deal with. Five should be easy. The residents of the prison have lived in the zombie apocalypse for a long time now. Even if they're not as seasoned as the core group they should know how to deal with a few zombies. It's not that difficult. Don't let them bite you and stab them in the head.

I could see someone getting careless and getting bit whilst dealing with the five zombies. But at the end of the day the whole matter should've been cleaned up with minimal effort. Yes, there'd be mourning for the lives that were lost but it never should've gotten to the point it did. Especially if they locked they're freakin' cells before going to bed! Hell, just set up tin cans in the doorway so the zombies knock them over when trying to enter and wake you up. Anything to protect yourself while sleeping...IDIOTS!


  1. I'm with you on the pacing - I felt like they needed at least one, if not two, more episodes of "normal" before breaking it all apart. At least in regards to Rick's transition back to man of action (since, as you say, they are still at the prison, just dealing with a new problem). It has a lot less impact when he straps his gun back on when we've only seen him without for an episode.

    I know Carol is trying to toughen up the kids (and I'm all for her teaching them survival techniques) but is hours after a kid loses her parent the right time to berate them?

    I was thinking the same thing, but I was also glad to see Carol developing as a character beyond "had an abusive husband, lost daughter, kinda flirts with Daryl sometimes".

    In the zombie attack aftermath I first thought that Daryl stabbed Beth's corpse in the head.

    So did Kristi.

    It's just a lack of sanitation.

    Along those lines, while I'm no germologist, I found the attempts to keep the virus from spreading somewhat laughable. Maybe I'm giving it too much credit, but as soon as Carl hugged Rick I was like "well, Carl is infected" and then he ran back to Maggie and Michonne and I said "now they are too". So then Michonne infected Judith and Beth, etc.

    I dunno. Like I said, maybe it doesn't work like that. But the idea of Maggie standing a few feet away from Glen somehow protecting her seems silly.

    I don't blame Michonne, I'm also annoyed by crying babies. Yeah...I think there's probably more to it too.

    As with Carol, I appreciated this just for the way it hinted at deeper characterization for Michonne.

    Still, find a better way to burn the pen, Rick. Gas is a precious commodity!

    Right there with you again.

    Shouldn't there always be someone there doing it?

    Yes. There is no good reason (aside from times, like in this episode, when the routine gets disrupted) that there should ever be zombies at the fence. It's so low risk/high reward that every single zombie who gets in arms length of that fence should be killed. There's simply no reason not to. Zombies getting fed by a mystery person should be a moot point, because whatever zombies are hanging around the next morning should be immediately killed.

    And, of course, I'm right there with you on the rant. I mean, the best part of living in a prison in this situation is being to shut a door and know you can get some sleep in safety. And even if they can't lock the doors (because of power or whatever), it'd be easy enough to put up some low tech safeguards (block the door, string up some cans, whatever).

    Also, there should be a rule that you're not allowed to roam around at night alone. In fact, it shouldn't need to be a rule - no one should WANT to roam around at night alone. It's just stupid, no matter how safe you think the prison is.

  2. Personally, I feel that the pacing of this series probably suffers due to the fairly new concept of abbreviated seasons. If this were a show on a more traditional network it would have roughly eight more episodes to play with. I will say that I think the pacing does hurt the series (especially with these first two of this season), but I just wonder if this is collateral damage from being forced to tell a story in 16 episodes instead of twenty-four.

  3. I agree with both of you on every single point. The characters in this show can be so painfully stupid on a regular basis, that I sometimes wonder if, especually now that we're on the third showrunner, collective idiocy among the cast is not some sort of network mandate.

    I am curious, though, to learn who's been feeding the walkers and who's been burning folks. And whether it's the same person. And why. Though I'm sure the answer to the last question will be "stupidity".

  4. Dr. Bitz,

    I find myself agreeing with much of your rant, as well.

    I can believe the first victim that Patrick took. It could just be freak coincidence that he happened to chomp down on the guy's throat rendering him incapable of screaming. But I find it hard to believe that others wouldn't have screamed out in pain upon being bit, waking others, alerting them to the situation, and allowing for it to be contained as swiftly as possible. Instead, over the course of, seemingly, several hours it escalated into the chaos we saw when Rick and Daryl entered the cell block.

    The big red flag was, of course, not keeping yourself protected while sleeping. This is Zombie Apocalypse 101, folks. If you recall, Rick and Daryl did happen across one other walker who they believed, like Patrick, died of the virus during the night. Fortunately, this one was closed in his own cell and unable to harm others (Daryl mentioned that he always closed himself in because he had a tendency to sleepwalk). Point being, it is, apparently, possible for people to close their cells (maybe not lock, but slide the bars closed). And if a closed cell can keep a walker in, then it could, certainly, keep one out.

    In this universe, the world has been in a state of zombie apocalypse for a good year-and-a-half, at least. Anyone who's survived this long, really should know better.

  5. Agreed absolutely on how ridiculous the prison outbreak was. It particularly annoyed me because there was no real plot reason why so many people had to die. It was just a cheap way to ratchet up the body count in a show that should've matured to the point where they don't need to do that. The same thing annoyed me in episode 4 of the first season, in which members of the Atlanta camp whom we'd never even seen before are suddenly there just so they can all be eaten.

    One of the things I love most about zombie fiction in general, and the Walking Dead comics specifically, is that you get the feeling that every character matters. It's not until a long way into the comics before you don't know at least something about each person who dies. Their lives, and their losses, seem real. The show has an irritating habit of chucking that away so as to allow for zombie orgies, even when they make absolutely no sense.

    I'm not a germologist either, but as a medical statistician I had a similar reaction. Really, though, it's not so much a case of the hug moving Carl from "not infected" to "infected"; flu-type viruses are tricky beasts, and all we really saw was people doing things that increased their chances of infection - and there's not anyone at the prison who wasn't potentially infected before Patrick died - in ways they didn't need to. So yeah, not massively smart, but it may not end up making that much difference.

    TV shows and films tend to get this wrong all the time, of course. Usually everyone is either immune or suspectible, and bugs tend to have a 100% infection rate of the latter. The real world is much more messy, of course. Whether we can expect TWD to reflect that is anyone's guess, but I can't pretend to be hopeful.


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