Is that the highest death toll for one episode of The Walking Dead? It certainly seemed so, as my red shirt statement about last week came true with numerous survivors from Woodbury becoming either sick or bitten in what shall now be referred to as the Cellblock D Massacre. But other than this shocking start, Infected was another sluggish episode that teased rather than provided any further character development.
The zombie breakout was caused from within, as the undead Patrick (Vincent Martella) bit one of the group, sparking a deadly chain reaction within the prison. As was kindly pointed out to me in your comments last week, it appears that rather than illness turning Patrick in to a Walker, he died first before turning. While that's nowhere near as frightening, it still provides a massive problem for the group. Risk of disease isn't as visually exciting as undead hordes or rival survivors, but is instead a hidden horror that subtly builds tension. In this episode, Tyrese (Chad Coleman) and Karen (Melissa Ponzio) were the couple torn apart by the infection, and it could provide further drama if the unity of the group is shattered by some being forced off in to quarantine.
Three Little Piggies
Instead the episode focused mainly on Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) not-that-interesting dilemma of whether to become involved in leading the group once more. His new farmer occupation is motivated by the knowledge he briefly lost his sanity when Lori died, and the fear that under his leadership son Carl (Chandler Riggs) was becoming too cold and ruthless. But it's clear now this infection has spread that his level-headedness and quick thinking during a crisis is exactly what the group needs. As Daryl (Norman Reedus) duly notes, "When the s**t hits, you stand there with the shovel".
So when a massive group of walkers threaten to bring down the security fence, farmer Rick sacrifices his prized livestock in order for the perimeter to withstand their assault. The blood splatting on to Rick's face as he make sacrifices of the pigs looked great, but it hardly carried the emotional heft that his conflicted face suggested. It was hard to care for the humans killed in this episode, let alone any animals.
As long as the horse that Michonne (Danai Gurira) rides lives I think we'll be okay. From the stoic and surly individual hell-bent on murdering the Governor, we've already seen her this season both smile for the first time, and now weep. In an obvious set-up Beth (Emily Kinney) muses on what it must be like for a parent to lose their child, before Michonne reluctantly cradles Judith and begins to cry. Did her self-confessed hallucinations come from her losing a child as well as her boyfriend? This would explain her attempt to shut off all emotions. As Beth notes, "When you care about others, hurt is part of the package".
Tyrese learned this the hard way as he stumbled in to the tombs at the end to discover Karen's charred corpse, and children Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) and Mika (Kyla Kennedy) had to watch their father executed by Carol (Melissa McBride) after becoming infected. Carol, who continues to teach the children how to use weaponry, is easily developing in to the show's best character. Referring to the kids as weak was harsh but fair, and her insistence on them learning to protect themselves shows how pragmatic and clear-minded she can be. If Rick really doesn't want to take charge, Carol would be equally adept at leading the group.