(All images used in this post are screen caps from AMC’s The Walking Dead, unless otherwise specified.)
I have had many great conversations this week with fellow WDO (Walking Dead Obsessed) buddies about Episode 4’s cliffhanger: Rick dumping Carol and sending her off on her own…judging from these conversations, and judging from the online chatter and social media frenzy revolving around the “Did Rick do the right thing? Is Carol’s killing of Karen and David worthy of banishment from the prison community? “ issue at hand, it seems that Rick’s decision is as devisive to the fans of the show as it potentially is for the prison group.
One of the most interesting conversations I had was with a friend who has a keen interest in researching history and genealogy…she brought up points that I had not previously thought of in regards to Carol and her decision. She pointed out that in pre-antibiotic times (before World War II), in times of plague and outbreak, that it was a more common practice for a caregiver to quickly and humanely kill a severely ill person, to both ease the person’s suffering and to attempt to staunch the spread of the disease.
The disease at hand, which I named the Explodey Flu, actually seems to be based on the ebola virus, also known as ebola hemorrhagic fever. First discovered in 1976, the ebola virus spread from animal carriers (fruit bats, primates, and pigs) to humans, resulting in a fast-acting and highly fatal disease with an up to 90% fatality rate. In its final stages, the virus can cause an infected person to hemorrhage flood from their eyes, nose and mouth. To this day, there is no known vaccine or cure for ebola hemorrhagic fever.
Here is a link to the World Health Organization’s fact sheet on ebola:
At this point in the Walking Dead, it is now a year and a half into the walker apocalypse, and available stores of antibiotics are dwindling fast. While antibiotics cannot kill a virus, they can kill the secondary infections that go along with the virus, so they are an essential component to managing the outbreak and mortality rate of disease, both viral and bacterial.
However, at this stage of the game, it will be a long time before the surviving humans will be able to manufacture antibiotics, if they ever will again…it seems that the living are having a hard enough time surviving on the most basic level. In zombie apocalypse, the world is essentially returning to pre-antibiotic times, when options are narrowed considerably and the whole spectrum of morality changes. In such times, actions like Carol’s, intended to speed the dying process of someone she thought to be terminal and a threat to the others in the community, may feel more and more like a mercy killing and less like murder. When luxuries like antibiotics dwindle and eventually run out, mankind’s decisions will, out of sheer necessity, be based more and more on primal survival than lofty ideals.
A main theme that lies at the core of Walking Dead, both in the comic and television series, is the decision that each and every character must make at some point in his/her survival: Is it necessary at some point to give up our humanity to survive in postapocalyptic times, and at what point is it necessary to do so?
At some point in each character’s story, he/she must look inward and ask him/herself this question (consciously or unconsciously) in his/her quest to survive. As we saw with Hershel, each character must become able to kill, and rekill…they must learn to kill walkers, they must be able to rekill a recently deceased human to prevent them from becoming a walker, and, at times, they may need to kill another living human in their fight for survival. We have seen key characters grapple with this decision time and time again throughout the series (Shane with Otis, Rick with Shane, Carol with Karen and David, the Governor with basically everyone around him…).
This issue is at the heart of Rick’s three questions:
How many walkers have you killed?
How many people have you killed?
Thankfully, with Episode 5, “Internment,” antibiotics, lofty ideals, and acts of bravery and heroism are still on the table. This episode was like a balm for my hurting soul. I, and many of my WDO buddies with me, spent many hours this past week worrying about Rick and his decision to singlehandedly banish Carol from the group. We needed an episode with unparalleled heroics (btw, Hershel gets my vote for MVP this episode, with Rick, Maggie, Sasha and Carl coming in close behind), epic zombie battles, and even a warm & fuzzy father/son shoot-em-up moment with Rick and Carl, as they battle the walkers that have breached the prison fences:
Phone was acting weird, so this is the best picture I got…I do like how their reloading stance is identical…nothing like a good walker shoot-em-up to bond a father with his son…it was a great scene, loved when Carl, in his father’s hat, tosses a magazine to his dad when he runs out of ammo.
And then, like the evil cherry on top, the RETURN OF THE GOVERNOR.
Look, I know I was pretty hard on Carol last week in my post…I am worried about her. I wanted her to be Daryl’s hot older girlfriend, as a high-five to cougars everywhere. I was not feeling well, it was kind of a tough week, and I was cranky and doubled over with abdominal pain while watching the episode and writing about it…Carol and her crazy was annoying the shit out of me…and she was really grossing Rick out.
And I can’t have that.
If you know me, you know that I think Rick Grimes is the total tits. I am, always and unconditionally, riding in Rick’s car. In The Walking Dead, our journey started with Rick’s journey, when he was gravely wounded in a shootout and awoke from a coma into a world overrun with flesh-eating zombies. I can’t just walk away from that, people…I feel bonded with that man, from that first day when he was shuffling through the hellish hospital all wide-eyed in his hospital gown, to now… Each time he makes a key decision, I respect the heart, the wisdom, and the morality with which he makes that decision. So, even if I don’t 100% agree with it, I respect it. Take that, Rick-Haters.
That being said, I do think that maybe it would have been better for Rick to not take the full burden of the Carol decision upon himself. I do think it would have been better to bring her back, let the group decide what must be done, and let the group decide Carol’s fate. I was so relieved that Maggie supported Rick’s decision, and I was even more relieved that Hershel seemed to accept it…even though Hershel did look shaken, and was kind of stumbling down the hall, muttering to himself while checking on the patients, after Rick told him.
I am not looking forward to Daryl’s finding out, and I was grateful that the WD writers spared us that scene in this episode…thanks, guys. We fans appreciate the consideration for our collective psyches. I really did love that Rick put off the Daryl Conversation to enjoy a moment eating peas with his son in the garden… not realizing, of course, who was seething and lurking in the woods beyond the prison fence, watching them…Cue the Bear McCreary creepy music, pulsing and humming like black fury and the desire for vengeance, and behold, looking super pissed and very frightening…the Gov! He’s back, and I’m sick enough to admit that I’m glad to see him. Seeing the Gov again, at that moment, was like a refreshing crazy breeze that took away some of the tension I was feeling about the dreaded Daryl Conversation.
Ok, maybe it’s time to start talking how awesome this guy is:
Hershel! I love this man, especially in this episode…he is the embodiment of bravery, compassion, humility, humor…totally MVP. If he isn’t intubating some poor sick kid’s lungs, he’s counseling the others in his soothing voice, giving them little jobs to do (Glenn to do rounds with him, Sasha to intubate, Lizzie to go start reading Tom Sawyer)…he’s being a great dad to Maggie while covering for Glenn…he even manages a sweet joke with Glenn and Sasha about having an impromptu council meeting regarding having “Spaghetti Tuesdays” on Wednesdays. When Sasha rolls her eyes at him, at his sweet, corny joke, Hershel deadpans, “First we’ll have to find some spaghetti.”
The scene with Hershel and Caleb is powerful. Caleb speaks with the frankness of both a doctor and a man who is dying. “Not everyone gets to live, “ Caleb tells Hershel. “End stage…is a point that no one comes back from, or they can’t. That’s where I am.” Caleb has made some more IV’s, tells Hershel that, “You need to focus on the ones that can make it. If you’re not ready to lose one, you’ll lose them all…and they don’t just die.”
It’s like what my friend was talking about, when supplies are limited and the choices become more stark and brutal, based more on necessity and less on emotion and morality.
Hershel tells Caleb he is not giving up on anybody. Caleb shows him the shotgun and shells he has stashed away, and warns Hershel to make sure everyone’s doors are shut. When Hershel presses Caleb to let Hershel look at him, Caleb relents. “Ok, Hershel,” he says, “have a look.”
(Can’t really see the blood beginning to stream from Caleb’s eyes in that one…oh well, but definitely wanted to give some props of Doc Caleb before he dies of Explodey Flu and becomes a walker.)
Hershel is adamant about protecting the sick from seeing a deceased patient be rekilled. When a man collapses and dies in the hallway, the sick patients gather at their doorways, frightened. Hershel gently and firmly tells them to get back in their cells. Sasha, so ill herself, manages to pull a gurney over to Hershel and help him load the man’s body onto it. (Um, have I mentioned how much Sasha rules in this episode?) Hershel makes sure she can make it to her cell, then wheels the body to a private area…he must cover the man’s face before he does his first rekill, thrusting his knife through the sheet into the man’s skull and brain.
The scene between Hershel and Rick, talking through the glass, is such a classic great WD scene. It’s beautifully shot, with the class reflecting Hershel’s face when the camera pans on Rick’s. Hershel tells Rick that the man he has rekilled is the third death, that they have resorted to having to burn the bodies behind the blocks. “That’s what we have come to,” Hershel says. He then tells Rick about something the rekilled man said just the day before, “A sad soul can kill quicker than a germ.” That is why Hershel has been so adamant about protecting those who are sick from seeing the dead be rekilled. “I know they know, ” says Hershel. “But I didn’t want them to see it right now.”
“They see you, Hershel.” Rick tells him. “They see you keep going, even after all the choices keep getting taken away.” Hershel tells Rick that he still has faith that there is some sort of divine purpose to the apocalypse, of all that has happened. “You think it’s all a test?” asks Rick.
“Life is all a test, Rick,” Hershel replies.
The ensuing scene is some prime walker mayhem, and Hershel shines in it, as well as Rick, Carl, and Maggie. When Hershel rushes to tend to Sasha, who has collapsed in her cell, he leaves a cell door open, and Teen Walker comes to life. After Hershel revives a dehydrated Sasha, and they exchange mutual admiration for each other, blood spew hits the fan. Glenn collapses, coughing and choking, while Henry, the intubated young man, has died and reanimated into a walker. Lizzie calls for Hershel, but he is in the process of being attacked by Teen Walker. Hot Dad (I think it’s Mr. Decker from Hung ) comes out of his son’s cell, gun drawn and ready to shoot Teen Walker, but his walker son lurches out of the cell behind him and chomps him in the arm. Hot Dad’s aim gets all crazy and he shoots the nice blond lady who came to Hershel’s defense by hitting and kicking at Teen Walker. Damn!
While Hot Dad is being neck-chomped by his walker son, Lizzie is being some sort of “walker whisperer”, coaxing the freshly-turned Henry out of the cell. “C’mon Henry, keep following me,” and it’s all going pretty well, until Henry attacks her, and Hershel pulls off an amazing WWF-style move, flipping Henry Walker over the railing. Lizzie seems really shocked at Henry Walker’s savage turn. Hershel almost gets killed about three or four times by different walkers, one of them being Caleb Walker, who had died in his locked cell and who clutches at Hershel’s arm through the bars. Hershel pulls off his second rekill with a knife through Caleb Walker’s eye, then grabs the shotgun and shells and shoots the other walkers dead. Hershel had said things wouldn’t come to this, but Caleb was right…they did. And they will again.
Maggie is amazing in this scene, as she tirelessly fights to get into the cell block where her father is under walker attack, even trying to axe her way through the cell block door. She ignores her father’s warning to hold her fire and save the bag that is hanging from Henry Walkers’ mouth, and she shoots clean and true, saving her father from the walker’s attack, and then helping him intubate Glenn, saving his life. Her father admonishes her gently, telling her he didn’t want her to risk her life coming in there, but she is her father’s daughter, and she has put his and others’ lives before her own.
I love that the crew at the prison handled the walker attack, and the breach of the fences, without the help of some of their strongest members, namely Daryl, Michonne, Tyrese, and even Bob. While the vet school crew kicked ass getting the meds and getting them back to the prison, the at-home crew got it done containing the walker attack from inside, and outside the prison.
I also love the shift between Rick and Carl…in the beginning of the episode, Carl tells Rick that he can’t keep trying to protect him from “what always happens” and Rick telling him he feels that “it’s my job to try”. Later in the episode, when Rick seeks out Carl and tells him he needs his help bolstering the fence, then ends up giving his son a quick lesson in loading and firing an assault rifle on a horde of walkers, it is yet another example of ideals being trumped by sheer necessity. It’s a sign of the times, friends, because the Gov has come a’ stalkin’, and Daryl is surely looking for Rick to have The Conversation about what happened to his special lady friend…and if my friends are right, Tyrese is not going to be happy about the Carol situation, either.
Until next week, friends. Be well, enjoy the playlist, and go Team Rick!
Zero 7, “Somersault” (for Hershel)
Social Distortion, “Bye Bye Baby” (later, Carol)
2 Chainz (feat. Drake), “No Lie” (for Rick, and Jenn & Jen, and all of us on Team Rick)
Eminem, “Without Me” (for the Gov…welcome back, buddy…we’ve been expecting you!) ❤
This season’s getting better and better. This episode brought us right back to the thrills of Season 1 and now I can’t wait for next week!