While last week’s episode moved away from the prison for a road trip of sorts, this week’s put us right back in the thick of things as the walls (or more accurately, fences) came crashing down – figuratively and literally – around our group.
It’s safe to say Hershel (and by default, Scott Wilson) carried this episode. The very first scene, however, picks up with Rick still driving down the road, looking at Carol’s watch on the passenger seat. Rick is clearly disturbed by his recent decision to cast Carol out of the group, and the score choice during this opening scene, and as we begin to see events taking place at the prison, was an excellent one. The increasing gravity of the situation, reflected in the haunting music, was fittingly captured.
At the prison, Hershel has enlisted the help of Sasha and Glenn for various duties, partly because he needs them, and partly to make them feel useful. Things have gotten bad, and people (aka characters we don’t really know) are dropping like flies. We quickly learn that with the other healthy people either isolated or away from the premises, it’s all on Hershel.
Maggie goes to see her dad, and their conversation through the glass is touching. Their eyes showed it all- her concern, and his sad but steady determination. “It’s hard in here. But we’re holding it together; we’re gonna make it.” This ends up being Hershel’s battle cry for the entire episode.
Rick returns to the prison, and sees the walkers are still herding up against the fence. When Maggie asks where Carol is, Rick must begin the first of his justifications for his decision. Always second guessing himself, though, he asks Maggie if she would have done the same thing. Maggie ends up supporting Rick’s decision. Somehow, her response seemed too easy. It’s doubtful that everyone (cough – Daryl – cough) will be so agreeable about Rick’s exile of Carol.
Rick goes to Carl, and his first concern is whether or not his son has needed to use his gun (how ironic is it, then, that he will very soon enlist Carl’s help with blowing the walkers away). Carl just wants to come out and help, and he tells his dad that Rick won’t always be able to protect him. Rick gives a standard “Rick” answer when he tells Carl that it’s still his job to try.
Hershel visits Dr. Caleb in his cell, but the good doctor basically tells Hershel to write him off. “You need to focus on the ones that can make it,” he says. Though a reasonable notion, Hershel won’t hear of it, and persists in wanting to check Caleb out. Caleb shows Hershel a gun and ammunition, and lets him know he needs to be ready to let the really sick ones go. It’s then that Hershel holds a light up to the doctor’s face and sees how badly he has deteriorated. Caleb (in more ways than one) has no hope.
When one of the group drops dead right in front of the others, Sasha, very sick and weak herself, helps Hershel hoist the guy onto a stretcher so Hershel can do what needs to be done privately. Everyone knows what that is, but Hershel doesn’t want them to come face to face with the grim reality. So when he finds a quiet place alone, Hershel, for the first time, has to knife one of the people he has come to know.
Rick sees Hershel behind the glass, and Hershel shares a Steinbeck quote that he discussed only a day ago with the man he just stabbed in the head: “A sad soul can kill quicker than a germ.” That’s why Hershel is doing all of this. He won’t lose hope, and he can’t extinguish the hope of the group. He still believes there is a reason for it all. This scene clearly shows that Hershel’s philosophy is the antithesis of Carol’s: She held out no hope that Karen and David would get better, but instead got rid of them because they posed a threat to the group. Hershel willingly put himself at great risk to care for each and every sick individual in the group. He won’t lose hope, and he won’t give up on anyone.
Once Hershel leaves Rick, he sees Sasha passed out on the floor of her cell. What he doesn’t see, though we do, is another person has succumbed to the virus, and with her cell door left open, is turning into a walker. Poor Hershel, all hell is about to break loose.
While Hershel tends to Sasha, Henry – despite Glenn’s efforts at providing artificial respiration – dies. Glenn tries to call Hershel, but he starts coughing up blood, and ends up wheezing on the floor. Lizzie sees Glenn in his cell, spies that Henry is now turning into a walker, and yells to Hershel, but by that time, no-name dead lady has also turned and tackles Hershel. No-name lady number two and no-name guy number one come out of their cells to help Hershel, but no-name guy, who is holding a gun, gets bit – and accidentally shoots no-name lady number two in the head (it all makes sense, right?)! The situation quickly escalates into a free for all with people turning into walkers here, there, and everywhere.
It was at this point that I jumped off my couch and started yelling directions at Hershel to avert his possible demise. Now, I have heard some internet chatter about the show playing it safe this season and only killing off the new people we don’t know. I maintain, however, that this show won’t necessarily spare anyone (with the exception of Rick and probably Daryl). Even if that turns out not to be the case this season, the action sequences are so tense and well done that it often still feels like any of the main characters can get it at any time. And Hershel is one of my favorite characters. I don’t know if it’s his homespun wisdom, the kindness of his (or Scott Wilson’s) face, or the whole fatherly way he has about him, but I absolutely and unequivocally want him to stay alive. Hence my feeble attempt to change the outcome of the scripted action by yelling at my TV.
Fortunately, after hearing the gun shot, Maggie gets in on the battle. Before she gets there, though, Hershel is trying to manage the increasingly desperate situation. He sets his sights on Henry, being led away from Glenn by Lizzie. She performed a brave act, but a naïve one as well, thinking Henry might actually have the ability to listen to her. Once Hershel throws Henry over the railing (nice move Hershel!), he goes to ask Dr. Caleb for the ammo and gun – but Caleb has already turned. Hershel has to stab yet another friend in the head.
Outside, Rick enlists the help of Carl to continue to put up the wooden beams to reinforce the fence. Then, things take a turn for the worse (like they always will on TWD) when the fence gives way under the pressure of the walkers. They shamble after Rick and Carl, who take refuge on the other side of the fence. Rick has the idea to back the bus up against the fence, but first they have to take care of the walkers that have busted through. After giving Carl a 20 second tutorial on using an automatic weapon, the father and son duo take on the walkers, and Rick quickly realizes his son can handle himself quite well. Maybe it’s time for Rick to also realize that Carl might not need protection so much as guidance in order to successfully navigate this horrific landscape.
Back inside the cell block, Maggie finally gets to her dad, who is fighting off Henry in order to get the ambu bag (still attached to the walker’s mouth). She goes to shoot, but Hershel warns her not to, lest she hit the bag intended to help Glenn. Maggie proceeds to fire a perfect shot to Henry’s head, allowing Hershel to take the bag. Maggie then proves she’s not only good taking down walkers, but in providing emergency medical treatment as well, when she calmly assists with Glenn. Turns out she’s just like her dad.
Daryl and the gang show up at the eleventh hour with the antibiotics, and Bob administers them to Glenn. With the immediate crisis over, Hershel finally goes to rest, but not before stopping into Caleb’s cell one last time. As the scene closes, we get one last shot of Hershel – putting down his bible, silently weeping.
In the morning, things start to look brighter. Hershel gets some fresh air and sees Tyreese and Daryl outside. He tells them that Glenn is doing better. As Daryl walks by, he proclaims what we all have come to learn about Hershel – he is a tough son of a bitch (even Hershel himself has to agree). Daryl does ask about Carol, but the fallout of Rick’s decision will have to wait until next week.
In the daylight hours, Rick and Carl find a moment of peace among the pea plants. But we know it won’t last long, because the last shot of the episode (as if this episode didn’t pack enough emotional punch) reveals The Governor, peering at the outside of the prison.
Lizzy was sort of creepy when swishing around the bloody mucus on the floor with her boot.
If we didn’t know it before (and I think we did), Scott Wilson is an excellent actor.
It looks like – just as Rick told Hershel – things aren’t going to be quite the same anymore.
This was an intense, exciting episode which appears to have concluded the virus storyline. The bug was a worthy adversary for the group, providing good drama and character exploration. I’m not sure what they plan to do with the Governor. It feels a bit “been there, done that” considering they spent a whole season on it last year. But given how this season has delivered thus far, I’m interested to see how his return, and everything else, plays out.