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     This week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Infected,” was another action-packed episode that really upped the horror-factor. The episode was written by Angela Kang and directed by Guy Ferland. The episode does a wonderful job of weaving a number of themes through several storylines.

    I’m really excited about this season so far as it seems to be blending great character development, drama, action, and horror. The opening scene with Karen (Melissa Ponzio) walking through the dark shower where we know Patrick (Vincent Martella) has just transitioned into a walker was sit-on-the-edge of your seat creepy. Then we had Patrick follow her into the cell block only to be distracted by a noise at the last moment and proceed to gruesomely eat someone else – luckily (for Patrick) starting by ripping out his throat so he couldn’t scream and alert the rest of the cell block. Of course, Karen is ultimately doomed – whether she died of the mysterious disease or was outright murdered is still to be determined.

    One of the interesting themes that runs through the episode is the outward signs of people’s roles. Michonne (Danai Gurira) asks Carl (Chandler Riggs) where his hat is – something I’d been wondering myself. He answers that it’s not a farmer’s hat, underscoring this new role that he and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) have taken on. Rick is concerned with being nurturing and feeding the group. When they are under attack by walkers at the fence, Rick’s first thought and his gaze goes towards his crops. His way of keeping everyone alive. I found myself also thinking again about the three questions from last week. Those questions, how many walkers have you killed, how many people have you killed, and why, are, no doubt, the questions that Rick is still struggling with himself. In particular, Rick sees the violence and the killing as having almost cost him his son – he’s lost sight of the why, but the crisis in this week’s episode helps to clarify the answer for him.
    At the beginning of the episode, Carl asks for his gun back: the outward and most obvious symbol of violence. Rick tells him no initially and it almost costs Carl, Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and Michonne their lives when Michonne is attacked and Carl is unarmed. He does grab a rifle, but he hesitates and he tearfully apologizes to his father for going against Rick’s wishes. By the end of the episode, Rick gives Carl back his gun and straps his own back on as well. Carl wearing Rick’s hat last season was a symbol of his taking on the role of head of the household. This arming together feels much more like a father and son team. Carl is still going to have an almost precocious relationship with Rick, but this season, it seems that Rick will be back in charge. Rick’s final act of the episode is to take off his bloody sheriff’s shirt (how can he possibly still be wearing it!) and throw it in the fire. It seems to me symbolic of his realizing that the old codes of law and civilization no longer apply. Hopefully, this will help Rick to move forward without all the angst that’s plagued him until now. I am confident that he will still remain the good guy at the center of the story, however.

    There is a terrific moment between Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Rick when Daryl is burying the dead. During the horrific fight in the cell block Rick was forced to fight again. Lincoln does a wonderful job in this episode in conveying so much with his body language and face. He is stiffly, almost woodenly, killing to protect the group, but still in sync with Daryl and the others. Daryl has clearly taken a leadership role in the defense of the prison while Rick has stepped back, but when it comes time for someone to do the dirty work of digging graves, Daryl steps up and doesn’t think it beneath him to do it. He shows no ego when he asks Rick if he’s back to help them. Daryl reassures Rick that he’d earned his “break” but he hopes Rick is going to come back now and help them. Rick is still hesitant, saying he screwed up too many times. In the end, of course, Rick saves the group by sacrificing the pigs. They were likely carriers of the disease, so they would have had to die anyway, but it’s also another symbol of Rick giving up the role of simple provider and returning to active duty as it were. It also reminded me somewhat ominously of Lord of the Flies.

    This episode also gives us more insight into Michonne’s character than we’ve ever had. She has changed a lot since joining the group. She is still a bit of a loner, going off to hunt the Governor, but she brings back things she knows Rick and especially Carl will like. When she realizes the prison is in trouble, she risks her life to come back and help them. She tells Beth she was stupid to have let herself get attacked and almost got Carl and Maggie killed. Beth tells her that they care about her. One of the most heartbreaking scenes was Beth (Emily Kinney) making Michonne take Judith and Michonne breaking down. I have to wonder if she lost a child or children – it could explain why she is so close to Carl and why she became a loner in the first place.

    Carol (Melissa McBride) tries to help Ryan (Victor McCay), but it’s too late. His oldest daughter, Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) tries to do the right thing that Carol has taught them, but in the end she can’t and Carol has to step in. Lizzie is fixated on the walkers and has named them. Carol tells her that she’s weak and she needs to become strong. She is obviously trying to make up for not having taught Sophia better. Ryan has left the two girls in her charge, so she will have another chance. The youngest, Mika (Kyla Kenedy), was very upset by her father’s death but is calmer afterwards. She tells Carol that Lizzie isn’t weak, she’s just messed up. Mika tells Lizzie that she’s “so stupid.” I have to wonder if it was Lizzie who was feeding the walkers the rats...

    There are a few new characters in the mix. The group now has an actual doctor: Dr Subramanian (Sunkrish Bala). I liked how they problem solved what had started the walker attack and that they realized that the bloody eyes and face were a clue. Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr) still has me suspicious. Is he the carrier of the disease? Is he the one who burnt the bodies? Did he wait for them to actually die before deciding to set them on fire?

    The show is doing better than ever in the ratings and so far Gimple has me sold as the new showrunner. What did you think of the episode? How bad do you think this disease is going to get? Who do you think is feeding the rats to the walkers? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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