The writers of The Walking Dead — and showrunner Scott Gimple — have really brought the the world of The Walking Dead into it's own. "Internment" was phenomenal. It was tense, unrelenting, dark, meaningful, and slightly hopeful. This was the first The Walking Dead episode that was on par with Breaking Bad (and that isn't something to be said lightly). A few weeks ago, legendary zombie director George Romero was asked if he would ever consider directing an episode. He responded that the show was "a soap opera with a zombie occasionally." Yesterday, The Walking Dead proved Romero wrong.
"Internment" mostly takes place in the sick wing, a setting that dramatizes all the desperation of the infected incredibly well. For the first time since the show began, the threat of Glenn's dying is palpable. No one is getting better, and the number of dead grow by the day. The survivors are desperate for a cure, but no one is willing to care for the sick (and risk themselves), except for Hershel.
Hershel is the only character on The Walking Dead who is completely moral. It's to his own detriment. His insistence on caring for the infected survivors continues to put him at risk, both physically and spiritually. In "Internment," Hershel is confronted with the Sisyphean task of trying to secretly dispose of the infected in order to keep the other patients' hopes up. But, every time that he gets rid of a Walker, another patient dies. In the end, Hershel pays the biggest emotional toll. As Dr. Caleb wisely said to Hershel, "not everyone gets to live,""focus on the ones who can make it, because if you're not ready to lose one, you will lose them all." Dr. Caleb's words become prophetic — Hershel is forced to shoot him later in the episode.
Caleb's words highlight the decisions that must be made by every survivor. Had Hershel been willing to dispose of the infected earlier — especially in the case of the dying boy — he may have been able to spare the infected from the Walker attack that occurred. However, to perform that sort of pre-emptive strike would make him no better than Carol, who killed two infected in the hopes that it would stop the plague. Hershel is the only character who is still trying to retain the morals and values that he had in the pre-apocalypse world. From his enduring faith in God, to his willingness to care for the infected, to his ability to try and play a parental roll (with Lizzie), Hershel is a man that does not belong in the apocalypse. This only makes it more ironic when it became clear that Hershel is the only one that is thriving in the prison, Carol included.
"Internment" would have been an outstanding episode if it had just involved Hershel tending to the sick; Scott Wilson's performance was incredible. However, the dual-zombie attack was what really drove the episode to its pinnacle. The Walker assault on the fences, and in the infirmary, really highlighted just how few functioning people are left at the prison.
With Carol gone, and Michonne, Tyreese, Daryl, and Bob still off collecting medicine, the only people left to defend the prison were Carl, Rick, and Maggie. Three people. So, Hershel had to kill almost every Walker in the infirmary by himself, and protect all of the other survivors (including the ailing Glenn). Maggie is forced to shoot her way to her father and her husband.
As Maggie and Hershel confronted the re-animating prison inhabitants, Rick and Carl had to try and deal with the Walkers that had broken through the fence. Taking a page from the Heisenberg Book of How to Deal with Enemies, the father-son team proceed to use machine-guns to eliminate the problem. For his part, Rick has finally fully recovered from the death of Lori — and, to a lesser extent — the betrayal of Shane. He has finally assumed the mantle of leadership that no one else in the prison is capable of holding (Carol is too cold and calculating, and Hershel is too naive and uncertain). His scene in the garden with Carl — with them picking pea pods and Rick's gun on his hip — suggested that Rick has finally balanced his life as a lawman (the gun) and as a farmer (the pea pod).
In short, "Internment" has been the best episode of the season so far. The characters, acting, writing, and directing were in perfect sync this week. This is a must-watch episode.
A Few More Things:
- Rick doesn't lie about Carol, he immediately tells Maggie the truth. This was a great TV moment, and made complete sense for the mythos of Rick.
- What is up with Lizzie? She doesn't look ill at all. Between her calling that Walker like a dog and putting her toe in blood, she is starting to resemble Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son more than anything else.
- Rick says that he still feels the need to protect Carl. Does he not see how much ass Carl kicks? He literally machine-gun-killed zombies. I think that he is fine without supervision.
- Daryl: "He's a tough son of a bitch … you're a tough son of a bitch." Hershel: "I know".
- Hershel truly believes that Glenn is part of his family, and is willing to die for him.
- Governor Watch: After being missing from the majority of the first half of Season 4, the Governor is back and looking as creepy as ever. Let's just hope that he becomes less cartoon-ish this season.
Be sure to tune in to next week's Walking Dead episode, "Live Bait" (which means that the show has officially ran out of 'i' words for show titles: Infected, Isolation, Indifference, Internment.) If the death of every single extra got you down, do what I do and watch clips of Jordan Schlansky. You won't be sorry that you did.