by Thom Yee
There was a moment of sheer terror as I watched Hershel, Glenn and Sasha help yet another heretofore unidentified virus-stricken person stay alive for a few more hours, and I thought to myself, “… is this going to be a bottle episode?” It was starting to feel like the kind of episode that would rely heavily on introspection as we faced even more (boring) realities of fighting a virus and not much action. For those not blessed enough to have lived significant parts of their lives watching Community, a bottle episode is an episode designed to be produced cheaply, relying on sets already built, main characters, and as little preparation and outside work as possible. But holy sh*t, this was not a bottle episode.
Y’know, we can wax philosophical about never being given more than we can handle, that there’s a higher purpose, that there’s some God with some plan; we can explore the broader implications of a lawless society where tough decisions have to be made without due process; we can examine what there is to live for and the hope that pervades all even in our darkest moments. But when it comes right down to it, sometimes there’s nothing more meaningful, more instantly understandable, more progressive… than a big zombie attack. And that’s what we get in this episode, almost to the point of it seeming like a mid-season finale (there’s still three episodes until our first break).
So basically in this episode, everyone in the quarantine zone is dying or too young to really help, and Hershel’s the only useful person left behind enemy-virus lines, while outside the walkers are finally making a big, real push past the fences. Then everything goes wrong at once, walkers, walkers everywhere. Hershel, he of advanced age and lame of leg, has to fend for himself inside the zone, and Rick and Carl bust out the machine guns to take out a herd making its way inside.
It all works almost incredibly well, especially given how downtrodden and directly uneventful this season’s been so far. Hershel trapped fighting walkers by himself makes for some genuinely scary stuff, and the scenes were shot with enough energy and perspective that it almost felt like a video game at times (in a good way). Meanwhile, just the sight of Rick and Carl fully loaded made it feel like the show was really living up to its potential, and it’s a moment that gives their relationship room to grow as Rick realizes how centred a kid he has despite everything that’s happened. And when Daryl’s group pulls in to the prison with medicine in hand and you realize a lot of this episode couldn’t have happened as such without their absence, you don’t feel cheated that the plot conveniently ommitted them, you just feel satisfied and happy that the show would go this far in any old episode and not one designed to conclude or cliffhanger.
We may say we want to see shows with real characters, grounded in a reality that we recognize, with moments that feel real, and deep ruminations for what it means to be alive today. But sometimes, after hours of tortured psychological traumas and episodes with no inertia and stories that tell us why we wouldn’t care anymore, it’s nice to see someone pick up a gun, pull the trigger, and not let go.
The Walking Dead “Internment” final score: 9
Items of Note:
-So Sasha is Tyrese’s sister? Was that made clear before? I only found out from reading a profile of the character I looked up because I couldn’t remember her name.