The Walking Dead: "Infected" (Season 4, Episode 2)

Flabbergasted

Walking Dead: “Infected” (Season 4, Episode 2)

So that creepy dead pig shot from last episode did signify something after all. There you go. Unfortunately, this episode, despite its plethora of faux frantic activity, felt flat. Sort of going through the motions of being terrorized by hordes of flesh-eating zombies. A life and death struggle phoned in.

We open with a picturesque shot of the moon. That quickly shifts to the round halo of a flashlight. Reasonably artistic. That then leads to someone feeding rats to walkers at the fence, presumably to lure them in.

The action shifts back to the late, quasi-lamented Patrick. You remember him, right? The guy who got sick and died at the end of the last episode. He’s a walkin’ now, guided to his first victim by the sound of snoring. Of course walker Patrick bites his victim in the throat, which precludes any call for help. Patrick chows down until his victim comes back to life as well. Icky stuff.

Run-of-the-mill human interest moments intervene until kids come running out. This leads to the best line of the episode: “Walkers in D!” Short, succinct, and tells you all you need to know.

The scene that follows is chaotic yet oddly uninvolving. We’ve seen walkers cut down with a blow to the head many times before, even prison scenes similar to this. But I think the problem is more basic. People we never met were just killed off camera and are subsequently being dispatched forthwith. Not even a memorable kill among the bunch. We’ve officially entered “punching the clock” territory on this one.

Turns out the prison has an outbreak of some virulent swine flu. So on top of everything else (war, famine and death), we’re going to complete our Apocalypse trading card set with good old fashioned pestilence. So much for spring time in the zombie apocalypse. These people just can’t catch a break.

More emoting. Kids lose their father. Karen, Tyreese’s new squeeze from last episode, starts coughing. She and some other guy are quarantined in Cell Block A. Let’s see a show of hands from those who think that’ll end well.

I thought not.

More generic emoting. Then walkers start to collapse one of the outer fences from their cumulative weight. Everyone rushes to start spiking them in the head, but this, too, is oddly uninvolving. It starts with an extremely, almost comically, clichéd cry from Maggie. Then the chain link fence starts to buckle in, except not really. In the middle of all that, Sasha notices dead rats cut up on the ground.

Sabotage from within? So why did the saboteur feed rats to walkers in the opening and then leave chopped up ones on the perimeter inside the fence? And if you stop and think about it, do you really need a few dead rats to bring walkers to the fence? Aren’t all the humans plainly visible and audibly loud sufficient to do that?

I don’t know. It feels sloppy and half-assed in a way this show historically hasn’t. Plus no one mentions it again for the rest of the episode. It’s a simple question: what were those chopped up rats doing on the perimeter anyway?

The solution is to double up on dead animals. Rick grabs the piglets and puts them on a truck. Darryl drives him outside, where he cuts one and throws it to the ground. Walkers follow. A little ways further, he cuts another and throws it to the ground. So on and so forth. It isn’t the least bit exciting. No fun for people against animal cruelty, either.

Seriously. Couldn’t they have just driven slow, waved and dispensed with the pigs altogether? Unless they’re still bitter about the whole swine flu thing, that is.

The ending is disjointed and gross. Tyreese goes to see Karen in Cell Block A. All he finds is a bizarre smear of blood. And I mean lots of blood. It leads outside to the charred corpses of Karen and that other guy who was coughing. We had a generic set up for Karen to die, but not for something this weird shoehorned in at the last moment.

Oh, and Rick decided he and Carl needed to start carrying guns again. If the NRA were still around, it would pen him a Thank You.

Will conservatives like these episodes: Not really. A little gun ad at the end, but all in all some pretty thin gruel. Like I said, it felt paint-by-the-numbers, with an unwelcome dollop of tedium from Season Two on the Farm, minus Shane for at least some dramatic tension. We’ve seen this kind of stuff before, and the producers need to pick up their game.

I hope they’re not just marking time until the Governor returns, which could also feel repetitious if they’re not careful.

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