Infected kicks off a tense episode as Patrick lumbers his way back into the populated cell block to wreak havoc. But equally urgent threats loom, including the gathering walkers outside the fence. Rick is forced to make some decisions about his new lifestyle, and Carol worries if her teaching methods might be put in jeopardy.
Another fantastic episode, Infected could very well have been titled Paradise Lost, as the calm and security of the prison is shattered for good. It maintained a level of unease and increasing despair that really made for an emotionally draining hour. We got movement on Rick's arc, as well as some curious behaviour from Carol, some nice bits with Michonne and Carl and Daryl, and some new faces (that hopefully aren't just more cannon fodder).
Two episodes in and the season is running on strong legs and feels rejuvenated. While the time jump (much like last year's) leaves the audience grappling a bit with some abrupt character shifts and behaviours, at least the series isn't dragging like the much-maligned second season.
In the middle of the night someone tempts the walkers closer to the fence with a flashlight and feeds them a rat. Inside, Tyreese sits up with Karen and remains pensive about Zack's death and the number of people who move in and out of their lives now. Karen wants to take things slow and goes back to her own quarters, stopping by the showers to wash up. She hears something, but a search of the room yields nothing and she leaves, while Patrick slowly rises from the floor. Back in her cell she readies for bed, leaving the cell doors open. Patrick approaches the curtain over her door, only to be distracted by a cough one cell over where he kills another sleeping man.
Michonne is about to depart on her next search, and Rick and Carl see her off. She asks why Carl doesn't wear his hat anymore. It's not a farming hat, he says. They notice the cluster of walkers leaning against the fence and he asks his father if they can help clear them. Rick has cucumbers to tend to, he dismisses, and refuses to let Carl go. Carl asks for his gun back. Rick ignores that, but gunshots alert both of them, Michonne and Maggie. Glen and Sasha yell out walkers are on the loose inside.
Carl runs to the gate to let Michonne in, but the doors are open long enough to allow a few undead into the safe area and she has to fight them off. Carl grabs a rifle and saves her as Maggie gets her inside. Michonne twists her ankle in the process, and they all watch a herd approach the fence, alerted to the commotion.
Inside, the cell block is in chaos as people try to flee. Several have either turned or are bitten. Tyreese reaches Karen and gets her out. Carol tends to one of the wounded, Ryan, and sets about to amputate his arm, only to sees he's also been bitten in the back of the head. Glen, Daryl and Rick finally find Patrick and kill him, securing the area. Unfortunately they must then go through and ensure the casualties remain dead.
Carol comforts Ryan. He has no one else and asks her to look after his kids. She tells him he's going to have to let them say good-bye, so brings in his two girls, Lizzie and Mika. He dies quickly, and Carol ushers them out, reminding them what they're supposed to do. Lizzie, the oldest, says they should be the ones to do it. While her little sister can't, Carol allows Lizzie to take the knife and helps her through it, reminding her what they showed her to do. But she falters and Carol takes over, puncturing him through his ear.
Rick discovers a locked cell with a walker inside bleeding from the eyes. He kills it and finds no wounds or bites. Dr. Caleb and Hershel notice he died choking on his own blood, something they saw on Patrick, as well as on the walker outside the fence. Caleb suggests it's an aggressive flu strain. They piece together the connection between the sick pig and similar dead game in the woods, and Hershel suggests they need to do something about the hogs. They've all been exposed.
Rick goes outside but warns Carl away, and the others to stay back given the possibility of infection. Rick explains Patrick got sick from the flu, died and attacked the cell block. They've lost a lot of good people. He warns them not to get close with any who have been exposed for awhile.
The council meets to discuss the crisis, wondering if they can separate everyone who may have been infected. Hershel suggests they need a new cell block to quarantine people. Carol finds a coughing Karen, and they inform Tyreese she needs to be sequestered with the rest. Hershel warns everyone not panic while they get a handle on medications.
Carol finds the girls at the fence, assuring them she'll protect them as she promised their father. But she bluntly tells Lizzie she's weak. She needs to act fast every time given it's life or death. If she wants to live she has to become strong. Mika thinks her older sister is stupid for crying. She's messed up, not weak, she tells Carol.
Rick joins Daryl at the new grave sites. Daryl is thankful for all the help Rick has been and says he earned his time off. Maggie comes to get them as a herd of zombies presses against the fence. A team goes to try to clear them off. Sasha calls the others over when she find the remains of the rats that have been used to lure the walkers. The fence begins to buckle and forces the others back. Rick considers what to do, then tells Daryl to get the truck.
Beth tends to Michonne's ankle, happy she came back safe. Michonne is angry at her own stupidity, but Beth reminds her they care about her. Judith's crying begins to annoy Michonne, and later Beth wants her to hold Judith. Michonne only reluctantly does so, and when they're left alone she breaks down and cries. Beth sees her and leaves them together.
Daryl and Rick drive out, hauling a trailer behind. They begin to attract the herd to them and Rick takes out a live pig, kills it, and throws it out. Leaving a trail behind them, they succeed in drawing the herd away while the others make repairs to the fence, but the task emotionally exhausts Rick.
The girls continue to stare at the walkers and Carol joins them again, more comforting to Lizzie this time. She cuts a flower and puts it in her hair, and Lizzie accepts the knife in her hand and keeps it.
Rick dismantles the pig pen. He tells Carl to keep away and thinks both of them should stay away from Judith for awhile. Carl reveals Carol has been teaching the kids to use weapons and their parents don't know, and she doesn't want him to know. He thinks Rick should let her. Rick pours gas on the pen and thanks him for telling him. He won't stop her and he won't say anything. As it burns he gives Carl his gun back, and puts his own gun belt back on. He throws his blood-stained shirt into the fire and sees another herd gathering at a different section of the fence.
Tyreese goes to visit Karen in her isolated cell block bearing some flowers, only to find bloodstains everywhere, and a trail that leads down the hall. He follows it into the outside courtyard and comes upon two scorched bodies that have been dragged out and burned. One of them is Karen.
Infected was certainly an exhausting episode—an intense and deadly attack, further discoveries and discussions of the flu crisis, and finally Rick's decision to symbolically and violently undo his rustic life. While the massacre at the prison (over a dozen apparently) carried plenty of impact, part of it did feel like a culling of a bunch of no-names from Woodbury. To balance that out we get Dr. Caleb to provide some quick influenza education, and a very quick look at zombie victim Ryan before he was offed. I do hope the series spends more time developing some these background characters so they're more than just faces in the crowd. Otherwise the gravity of their deaths will quickly fade. Case in point—Karen's not-so-surprising demise.
Rick's continuing dismissal of Carl's questions is troubling, and looks like old style Rick issue avoidance, though that might be on the mend given his return to his gun-wielding self. It was tragic to watch him give up his hope of a normal life for his son (and cutting the throats of his pigs was a heavy metaphor to hammer the message home).
This season appears to be less talky/more showy, highlighted by the lovely little scene with Michonne that easily conveyed that she lost a child rather than providing us a long, drawn out conversation about it. But the heavier dialogue scenes with Carol and the kids were some of the best. I'm glad Lizzie and Mika got fleshed out as real characters. I was getting the impression that Carol's behavior was shifting to the bizarre side of things. I can't say she's acting in a crazy manner yet, but she came off as overly harsh and paranoid. I realize several months have passed and so her take on things has evolved. And she did lose Sophia, so with kids running around for the first time her protective motherly instincts may be in full swing. Mika could be the problem to watch out for given how aloof she is to her father's death and Lizzie's feelings—and perhaps the sisters will play out one particular disturbing story from the graphic novels?
Who is the mysterious figure drawing the walkers to the fence? Gosh, is it Carol?! I hope not. We've never seen the unhinged version of her comic book persona and the television series hasn't shown her anywhere close to that version. Bob or other various Woodbury refugees are too easy solutions, which leaves the show with a problem of falling short of expectations if the identity of the culprit is someone we've not met yet.
Note of the week: Everyone in the prison trusts one another so much no one bothers to close or lock their cells, or even the cell block door? Sloppy.