*Starting from Episode 2 of the Fourth Season of The Walking Dead, I will be doing weekly recaps of the show. There will be spoilers. If you don't want the spoilers ... leave now! There is no recap of the Season 4 premiere. Rest assured — it was great.
Everything is falling apart for our prison inhabitants. Rick decides that the Sheriff's life isn't for him anymore and becomes a farmer; Carl returns to his previous alter-ego, Little Asskicker; and Michonne trips and twists an ankle. Oh, and following the death of Patrick (the surefire winner of a Harry Potter look-a-like contest) due to the new illness that has been sweeping the prison, everyone unimportant dies.
"Infected" starts ominously enough with a scene involving a mysterious figure hand feeding rats to the Walkers outside of the fences. It then intensifies with a good, old-fashioned zombie murder. We first see the recently dead/undead Patrick bumbling around the cell block of the prison looking for a piece of fresh meat. Patrick's search for fresh food is preceded by a drawn-out encounter between Tyreese and Karen, so it seems Karen is the next to die. However, due to some mild sleep-apnea, the guy in the cell next door (bearded extra #1) snores his way to death by a well-placed bite on the neck. Following the demise of beard-y, all of our favorite, unnamed, inessential characters get furloughed over the course of a tense five-minute, bite-heavy scene.
Following the cell-block Walker attack, a newcomer with a family is bitten on the arm. Carol (consistently one of the biggest badasses on the show) is ready to amputate his arm in a heartbeat until she discovers he has also been bitten on the neck (and the number of successful head amputations is surprisingly low). Carol now faces a dilemma:should she stab the infected man herself or force one of his daughters to do it? Astonishingly, the answer is the latter, and Carol attempts to coach a young girl on the "proper" way to stab her father in the head. When the girl — unsurprisingly — fails to stab-murder her father, Carol chimes in with some sage advice: "You're just weak." She then kills the man herself with the girls still in the room.
Outside of the prison massacre, things are going from bad to worse. The Walkers, who are apparently well-studied in tactics from World War Z, begin to pile up next to the prison fence and threaten to knock the fence over. Sheriff-turned-farmer Rick, in an attempt to kill two infected birds with one knife, takes all of his pigs and uses them to draw the Walkers away from the fence. Oh, and he does this by slitting the pigs' legs so that they can't run away and have to be eaten (which, interestingly enough, was the same strategy that Shane used on Otis in Season 2. Is Rick the new Shane?). Watching the pigs get their legs slit is far more emotionally troubling and wince-inducing than watching any of the extras die 15 minutes beforehand.
Upon returning to the prison after killing off the pigs, Rick burns the pig pen — which he believes to be a possible source of the illness — and his sheriff's shirt. Rick is now no longer a sheriff or a farmer and has strapped his gun on again. The "Council" of the prison, which in no way includes Rick, decides to quarantine anyone that looks sick. The Wire's Lawrence Gilliard Jr. appears in this scene as Bob Stookey to remind us that he is still a character in this show, too. In the end, the decision to quarantine proves irrelevant: some unknown figure kills and burns the two quarantined individuals (Karen and some other guy). The bodies of Karen and the pivotal other guy are discovered by Tyreese, who is less than thrilled with these developments in his love life.
Overall: "Infected" is a strong follow-up to the Season 4 premiere, and continues the season arc strongly. Season 4 seems to be where The Walking Dead is hitting it's stride and is shaping up to be the season that transforms the show from an 'entertaining' show to a legitimately good show.
A Few More Things:
Glenn has the most retro-hipster camera in the world. Rick Grimes is the real “Modern Dad.” Crazy Murder-y Rick is the best kind of Rick. Michonne + Baby = cute and amazing. Jesus H. Christ, the pigs. I need to go to a happy place.
Be sure to tune in next Sunday for "Isolation." Until then, re-watch anything that brings joy in to your life, like this video of Nathan Fillion being funny AND handsome.