The Walking Dead – Recap: Hope Bloats
Recap video and review of The Walking Dead – Season 4 Episode 5 – Internment:
It was bound to happen sooner or later. The Walking Dead has spent such a long time building up the prison as a literal safe haven, even when under attack by walkers and humans alike last season. Yet this season so far has mostly been concerned with slowly deconstructing that safe space until it’s no longer a viable option for habitation. While we’re not quite at that point yet where our group has to leave and seek out a new safe zone from which to continue eking out their meager existence, “Internment” takes us to the tail end of despair through the eyes of Hershel (Scott Wilson), whose tireless faith is slowly eroded over the course of the hour. It’s crushing to watch, and made all the more harrowing by the big twist at the end of the episode, a threat that could spell the end for life at the prison.
The Governor (David Morrissey) is back, though we only see him for a few seconds at the end of the episode, intently watching the prison from a safe distance, his one good eye trained on this place he couldn’t conquer. If he’s planning on launching a second assault, it would be hard to argue that he hasn’t picked the perfect time, as the numbers in Rick’s group are dwindling, as is the strength of those who remain. “Internment” may have been the first episode where I gave serious consideration to the theory that’s been circulating online that this outbreak that is plaguing Rick’s company was somehow the work of The Governor. Of course, it would be difficult to conceive of how he would have spread the illness, but it’s not exactly impossible. While this might not be the direction the story eventually takes, the fact remains that The Governor is back, and that’s the last thing this group needs right now.
With the gradual deterioration of Dr. S (Sunkrish Bala) comes the increased determination on Hershel’s part to keep everybody alive, no matter how hopeless it might seem. This means performing emergency tracheotomies and intubations to keep the barely-living away from death’s door for just a little while longer. But the patients are starting to drop quicker than Hershel can help, leaving him swamped with the responsibilities of killing the dead to prevent them from coming back, and burning their corpses after the fact, which he does with the help of Glenn (Steven Yeun). He even places a sheet over their faces before stabbing them in the head to preserve both their dignity and his own. However, Glenn soon takes a turn for the worse, and with him, Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and although it seems unlikely that we would lose either of these characters just yet, it really did seem like the show was going to pull the trigger and simply cut Glenn loose (but more on that later). Dr. S insists that Hershel needs to learn when to give up, but the old man argues that he isn’t about to give up on anybody, and this is both Hershel’s blessing and his curse: he has a tremendous capacity for empathy and hope, but his desire to do good often blinds him to how the situation is going to hell around him. Case in point, in his attempts to save everyone, he doesn’t recognize that some of his patients have already died and are coming back as walkers before he can even notice. Before long, there’s a full-on upheaval, with walkers overrunning the quarantined area, while Glenn clings to life, blood oozing from nearly every orifice.
The episode gains strength from the “race against time” component: Hershel and co. just need to hang on long enough for Daryl (Norman Reedus) and the rest of his team to make it back from their medicine run. If they can, then they might just be able to beat this infection with the antibiotics. But lasting until that time proves to be a tall order. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) are having a tough time bracing the prison fences against the walkers, and eventually it’s a task they simply have to give up, as the fences fall and the walkers advance in frightening numbers. Luckily, father and son are well-armed, and the resulting Rambo moment is among the most exhilarating of the season, as Rick and Carl mow down walkers with tactical abandon. Meanwhile, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is rushing to the quarantined cell block as fast as she can, having heard a gunshot coming from the area. As we see, walkers have killed many of the patients who weren’t already dead, and another is advancing on Lizzie, who is trying to lure it away from the unconscious Glenn. Hershel rushes to Lizzie’s rescue, leading to a scuffle atop the mesh fence separating the first floor from the second. Maggie arrives just in time to save her father’s life, and they use the tube pulled from the dead walker to perform a tracheotomy on Glenn, keeping him alive just long enough for Daryl and the others to return with the medicine.
The gravity of loss here is being severely understated, so let me just reiterate how many people die here: sure, we might not know any of them, but this is a level of death not seen since last season’s finale, if not even farther back. If people aren’t dead from the outbreak, they’re being chewed to bits by walkers, and the episode wrings some great tension out of the possibility that anyone can die. In addition to Sasha and Glenn, “Internment” goes to great lengths to tease that this could be the end for Hershel, and he has more than his fair share of close calls while clearing the cell block of all walkers, even after saving Lizzie. The sheer volume of death is clearly taking its toll on Hershel, and it’s forcing him to cling all the more desperately to the hope of survival, as he’s now the only doctor left. Granted, he’s a veterinarian, but he knows more about medicine than anyone else in the prison now that Dr. S is dead. And poor Hershel, having to kill his walkerized form. You could see the exacting toll it was taking on Hershel to have to kill Dr. S, stabbing him in the eye and hitting the brain in gruesome fashion. Hershel inevitably breaks down in tears at the end of the episode, when he closes his friend’s eyes for the last time, his hope having been worn down to nubs by the immensity of death. Scott Wilson is tremendous here, showing the depths of his despair and his resolve to continue soldiering on for the good of his people. I don’t even think the story needed us to see Hershel weeping to communicate just how far to the edge he’s been taken, but Wilson pulls it off beautifully nonetheless.
“Internment” is a pulse-pounding hour of TV that’s difficult to swallow. Sure, no one we care about actually bites the dust, but this is a show where death still means something, whether it’s a character we’ve come to know or not. That speaks volumes of The Walking Dead’s ability to tell a compelling story, such that some of the ancillary questions of the episode don’t really matter. Sure, Rick explained to Maggie what happened to Carol, but how is Daryl going to take it when he and Rick inevitably have their talk? Also, will Tyreese ever find out? He naturally was preoccupied with caring for Sasha upon his return, but it’s inconceivable to think he’s given up looking for the person who killed Karen. And lastly, how did The Governor survive all these months, and why is he back now? These are all questions that fall by the wayside in the face of inexorable death. This isn’t the best episode of the season, or even my favorite, but it’s an hour of exhausting, nearly tireless carnage and excitement.
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