Over the last couple of weeks The Walking Dead has slowed the pace of the action down in an in an effort to advance the story with dialogue-driven drama. It was a gamble that paid off beautifully by planting more questions in our heads. How would the group deal with Rick exiling Carol? How would Herschel handle being in the sick ward? How is Rick going to handle being thrust back into a leadership role? Stay tuned folks. This episode took season 4 from a nice, steady idle to pedal to the metal in a matter of minutes!
Completely opposite from last episode, this episode focuses solely on the prison. The sick are taking a turn for the worse, but Herschel REFUSES to let them see how bleak the situation really is. Any time one of them dies, he wheels them out of sight on a gurney before they get ‘finished off.’ (A single knife to the head in an effort to keep them from turning and coming back.) Earlier in the season, Herschel tried to leave the prison on the run to the vet college with Daryl. Daryl turns to him and says, “no matter what happens it always ends the same way. We run.” Since that instance, Herschel’s been trying to find validation in himself. He feels like the inept, crippled man who can’t contribute the way he used to because of his physical limitations. As packed as this episode was with action, it was also jam packed with symbolism. The sick bay isn’t just a sick back; it’s also Herschel’s cocoon. He entered it a shell of his former self and after things go to hell in a hand basket, people die and walkers are in the cell block, he comes out a better, stronger man for his struggles. His valiancy is paid off in the end when Michonne asks him to go on a run outside of the prison with her. (He’s shown he’s capable of handling himself, one leg and all!)
Rick makes it back to the prison before Michonne, Ty, Daryl, and Bob. Maggie is the first to see him and she asks about Carol. While the backlash from someone like Daryl probably won’t be positive, Maggie agrees that Rick made the right choice; even if she wouldn’t have been capable of making it herself. While things are going to hell in the prison, the situation with a herd of walkers on the gather is only getting worse. With Maggie inside to try to help Herschel, Rick and Carl are left to deal with the fence. The walkers eventually break in. Rick and Carl are left defending their homes with assault rifles from the onslaught of walkers at their doorstep. This is a huge moment of growth for Rick and Carl as a unit. Rick has been treating Carl like a child because of his age, failing to realize he’s become a man after all the things they’ve been through. Something tells me after this, their dynamic is going to change exponentially. It all comes to fruition at the end of the episode when the two share a single pod of what looked like beans together. (Two peas in a pod!)
With so many things going badly, this episode is very symbolic of showing how far the group has come since their days on the farm. When things went badly in the past, they turned tail and ran away. Herschel was right when he told Rick that things wouldn’t be the same after these struggles were over. Everyone is coming out on the other side stronger and better for it. Herschel has found his purpose once again. Rick has accepted that his resurgence into leadership was inevitable. He also realizes that Carl is much more than his son now too; he’s a comrade; a brother-in-arms.
For all the payoffs this episode gave us, it also left us with the biggest cliffhanger of the series thus far: the return of The Governor! We also have yet to see how the group will deal with Carol’s exile and whether or not the people in the sick bay are going to pull through.
Not only was this the best episode of the season so far, it’s probably my favorite to date and not just for all the action that was in it. It signaled the biggest jump in character growth and development for numerous main characters and showed a real, human emotional depth you don’t often see on television.
5 out of 5 nerds