Sooooo. The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 5. “Internment”, they called it.
Oh, right, before I so one step further…
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
There. That should clear up any confusion.
So, The Walking Dead. Thankfully, this seems to be the end of the megaflu story arc, which is fine with me because I’ve had quite enough of people with bleeding eyeballs.
Zombies are one thing, but hemorrhagic fevers? Ewwww. Quite another.
Here’s what we’ve got: One-legged country veterinarian and closest-thing-to-a-doctor-on-site (see: poor Dr. Caleb), Hershel, has voluntarily locked himself in quarantine with the infected survivors in the prison, to try and administer some sort of medical hoodoo. Carl, Rick’s 14-year-old son, has had a little bit of a romantic past with his gun, though he’s becomes almost freakishly competent (if a little militaristic, she said in a mastery of understatement). He’s in a separate building, in charge of the vulnerable population (the elderly, small children) but is rarin’ to go in the fight to defend their claustrophobic, PTSD-inducing way of life. And zombies are massing at the outside fence.
More or less.
The warrior core–Daryl, Tyreese, and Michonne–are out on a supply run (and Glenn is laid up with the flu; Glenn, if you remember, officially became a badass last season, when he broke free from the chair he was bound to and used a chunk of said broken chair to kill the zombie that was locked in the room with him). Thus, the defense of the prison is left to the kinder, gentler, gentleman-farmer incarnation of Rick, his teenage son Carl, and Maggie, who’s got a lot of fight and isn’t afraid of hard work and a little zombie slaughter but doesn’t usually occupy the front lines.
Oh! And Hershel, an amputee in his…mid-60s?…who can walk thanks to a prosthetic leg they made for him out of spare prison parts. Don’t ask me what his leg is made of I DON’T KNOW. I just know he gets around pretty good for something welded out of old cafeteria tables. Hershel is the constant voice of humanity, the reminder that we need to remember we’re humans and not devolve into winner-take-all, soulless greedmongers, as opposed to this.
Kind of like zombies, but with pulses.
Before I go a step further, I’d like to point out that the primary definition of the word “internment“–in any dictionary–generally means imprisoning a bunch of enemy combatants and/or perceived threats. It does also simply refer to the state of being confined, but its intial definition has an overt military aura. When the US rounded up Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, they didn’t say they were putting them in safe houses to protect them from unreasonable mobs. They went into internment camps. This word underscores the notion that these people at the VERY LEAST are going to have some severe PTSD, that their group operates militarily (even if they don’t want to admit it) and subsequently the kids are growing up to be child soldiers, which is horrifying in its own right, with or without the zombies.
There were a few themes in this week’s The Walking Dead that stood out. Parents, in this episode, kept trying to protect their kids, and it kept not working. Hershel doesn’t want Maggie to enter the quarantine building. Rick doesn’t want Carl to leave the safe zone with the kids. And this guy didn’t want Hershel to know just how badly his kid was doing in fighting the flu…
Hindsight. C’est la vie.
Carl summed up the futility of the (nevertheless completely understandable) parental attempt to protect their kids in the crazy world they live in. “You can’t keep me from it,” Carl says to his father and, when his father asked from what? “From what always happens.” The shit, he’s saying, will eventually hit the fan and I’ll be in the middle of it, fighting for my life or running, no matter what you do. So I should be a part of it.
And he is. They all are. It’s not long before Rick asks Carl to help him shore up the outer fencing, which has been tremendously weakened by constant external pressure from thronging, pushing zombies. The braces break, the outer wall is breached, zombies flood the inner walk, and Rick and Carl run for the heavy artillery–machine guns and lots and lots of rounds of ammo–to take down the enormous herd of walkers looking at a Rick & Carl lunch.
OK, a Rick & Carl dinner. Because it’s night, see?
But that brings us to our second theme: everyone’s a warrior, no matter what you might think. Carl saved his dad’s bacon. Maggie shot her way in to the internment site because she knew trouble was going down and wanted in. (In fact, Maggie may be the perfect soldier; she was told to stay out by her father–from one perspective he could be considered her commanding officer. When gunshots were heard coming from the hospital she initially did not go in to help them and balked at the idea of leaving her job on the fence even though her father and sick husband were in the middle of some gunplay, until she received permission from Rick, who at that point was the officer on duty.)
Rick and Carl did manage to have a quiet bonding moment, eating beans instead of telling Daryl that Carol was banished. Because who wouldn’t want to put that off?
But you know, you can’t keep him from it. Oh, snap! Did I just quote Carl?
And Hershel. Sweet, gentle Hershel. Played by actor Scott Wilson, this episode was Wilson’s shining moment to date. He was fantastic, almost as cinematically impressive as Agnes Moorehead’s one-woman tour de force The Twilight Zone episode “The Invaders” (for those unfamiliar with this episode, watch it here and learn). I only give her slightly more cred because she was essentially the only actress for a half-hour show. But.
Hershel’s running around, saving people, dragging them back to their cells to rest. He had his first zombie kill (I’m trying to remember…this can’t be his first-first, can it? or is it just his first in the claustrophobic hospital setting?), which was a solemn moment; he even tried to keep it dignified by pulling a sheet over the zombified’s head.
But it didn’t take long for him to start breaking zombie arms.
Stabbing zombies in the face.
And throwing them over stair railings.
Go, Hershel! Fighting the flu, fighting zombies, intubating the sick with his left hand and stabbing zombies in the head with his right. I love this guy.
So. Even the most unexpected person can be called upon to fight in the post-apocalyptic world. Which is good to know, because next week sees the return of The Governor and the crazy’s about to ratchet up a notch or two.
So that’s the third theme in this episode: How do you hang onto hope and hold off the crazy? Rick and his bean eating, and Hershel and his (usually) gentle philosophy, are the bastions that maintain what we think of as civilization. Hershel’s running around quoting Steinbeck: A sad soul can kill quicker than a gun. Smiles, everyone. Smiles. How do you stay buoyant? Somehow through the crazy, when you’re facing someone whose dead son comes running up to eat and kill him, when you’ve got to stab the shell of a former friend in the face to survive…how can your heart stay open?
Look, someone got me a birthday cake with a picture of my six-year-old self on it. And I had a hard time stabbing a rice paper representation in the head. So, if it’s me vs. my BFF and one of us is dinner if the other doesn’t get a poke in the brain…If that doesn’t make you a little nuts, I don’t know what would.
And speaking of crazy…
How about our little Lizzie in this episode? Calling the zombie like it’s a dog? “Here boy! Here, come on, good boy.”
Side note: I wonder what book she’s reading. Anyone?
It seems stupidly brave but also adult and manipulative. Lizzie knows how to draw the zombies off. Not only do I think she’s the one feeding them, I think the Governor taught her how to do it and she’s spying for him.
And what was UP with Lizzie playing toesies in the blood and sputum that Glenn horked out of his lungs when he was about to die from the flu?
That’s it for this week! I’ll leave you on a happy note: please enjoy Bugs Bunny in “Ali Baba Bunny”. I felt like I had to include it since I posted a still earlier.