Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters. Want to join the conversation and see your name on the digital pages of Paste? We publish a Walking Dead Mailbag every Friday to whet our appetites for the new episodes. Mailbags require actual mail, so send your Walking Dead questions, theories and rants to email@example.com before Friday, and Josh or Shane will answer the best ones.)
Dale’s back. Dale is friggin’ back in living-ghost form, and he’s feeding rats to the zombies as some kind of weird, slow-drip revenge against the group.
That’s the only explanation, right? I always saw a creepy kind of darkness beneath his awful self-righteousness, and I CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME IMAGINE ANYONE ELSE FEEDING RATS TO THE ZOMBIES. WHAT LIVING HUMAN WOULD DO THAT?
Seriously, of all the disturbing and nightmarish acts we’ve seen on The Walking Dead, actually feeding dead animals to the zombies for no good reason (Rick gets a pass for the pigs, though I hasten to add that I don’t speak for PETA) feels the most inexplicably…shuddersome. It’s a shuddersome act, because it hints at the kind of psychosis dwelling beyond the reach of rational intervention. Even the Governor murdering his entire town seemed more reasonable than that.
But I was lying before, because I can imagine someone other than Dale doing it. It’s the little girl. It has to be, right? Her name is Lizzie (the actress’ name is Brighton Sharbino, and she will be taking on Benedict Cumberbatch in the “awesome name” category at next year’s Emmys), and she reacted to her dad dying by mourning for a “special” zombie named Nick. Even her sister admits she’s got problems—”she’s messed up, not weak.”
And let me tell you, Josh, the group does not need anyone making their problems worse. So far, Season Four has played out like Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, with some kind of bird or pig flu threading its deadly way through Cell Block D. Patrick died and turned last week, and last night we saw the aftermath, where he managed to take out what seemed like 15 people in a single night. All of them were new characters, of course, whose names I didn’t (and shall never) know…almost like he had an instinct for killing off unimportant people. Still, death is death, and it was all the more eerie to watch the group thinned out from within.
Also, on a quick scientific side note, too bad the bird/pig flu doesn’t cure zombie-ism. Otherwise Patrick would be the Joseph Meister of the apocalypse, instead of some nerd who couldn’t fight off a flu. That’s right, I’m calling Patrick weak. Isn’t bird flu only supposed to kill old people and babies? Man up, Patrick.
Second scientific side note: This episode made me feel kinda guilty that I’m too lazy to get my flu shot.
Speaking of killing, I’m psyched to see Rick put the farming life behind him and start rocking the Colt Python again. I know it was probably in his best interest, mentally, to keep farming, and I’m sure it would have been better for Carl as well. But in the same way that I cheered when Don Draper got back into adultery (difficult to explain to the wife), or when Walter White broke bad after attempting to go on the straight and narrow, I’m secretly pleased that Rick’s back on the warpath. And I have a feeling the gang needs his Python more than it needs his cucumber.
(I’m really sorry about that sentence, Josh. And also really pleased with myself.)
It should also be mentioned that the writers dropped a nice red herring on us to start the show. When Karen decided not to spend the night with Tyreese, I thought she was a definite goner. Instead, Patrick was a bit late to his feet (am I the only disappointed that Zombie Patrick wasn’t really nerdy and ineffectual?) and walked past her room in favor of…whoever that guy was. The question we have to ask is, why did he skip Karen’s room? Is this a World War Z situation where zombies only want healthy people? Could he sense that she was infected?
Because even though Karen survived the Pat Attack, she wasn’t long for the world. She got sick, was quarantined, and later bludgeoned, dragged out into the courtyard and burned by a mystery germaphobe. This was the last predictable step in the bird flu plot—hysteria. You can’t have a plague situation without people going crazy and trying to stop the disease by violent means. Some die by the virus, some die by the paranoia it inspires. Just like in the greatest film of all time, Outbreak.
The pigs seem to be the likely source of infection, so Rick kills two birds with one stone by leaving a trail of slain pig into the forest to lure the zombies away from the fence they’re about to break. He didn’t like it, though, and you couldn’t really have a more overt metaphor for Rick’s transition from farming to violence than him killing the pigs.
And therein lies my one qualm with what I thought was an entertaining story; it seemed like there were maybe 50 zombies at the fence, and when they showed the close-ups of Rick and Glen and Daryl killing them, they seemed to kill one every five seconds. By my math, it should have taken just over a minute for four people to kill all 50 zombies. We’ve got some real slackers on fence duty, Josh, and four pigs paid the ultimate price.
And on an “oh, crap” note, I just realized that if the zombies ate the infected pigs, it means the flu virus doesn’t faze them and it’s not any kind of defense for the living. There goes that theory.
On the heels of my failure, Josh, I turn it back to you. My main question: Is Rick going to have to kill Lizzie? Can we handle that?
I think when Lizzie’s sister said she was messed up, she meant it in a keeps-zombies-as-pets kind of way. But she isn’t weak. Weak people aren’t able to capture a half-dozen rats, walk up to a fence full of zombies in the middle of the night and hand-feed them. I know that because there was no part of that sentence I would have been able to accomplish, especially the middle of the night walk to the zombie fence (but also the catching rats and hand-feeding zombies). Also, the zombies are the least efficient eaters I’ve ever seen (since dinnertime with my kids). One little bite of rat is apparently satisfying. I’m just glad we haven’t seen that particular virus jump species. Zombie rats?
As for the other mysterious potential-zombie killer, in the previews for next week, Tyreese looked pretty pissed at his sister. And rightfully so. There are ways to quarantine people without killing them when they get a little stick. Stifle those coughs, survivors or the big, bad Sasha is coming for you with a machete and lighter fluid.
Overall though, a pretty exciting episode. I was worried this was going to be like one of those Star Trek disease episodes which were always the worst. “Oh no, everyone is devolving into primordial bugs—good thing we’ve got a shot for that.” Instead we had the creepiness of zombies in prison showers and wandering the halls of Cell Block D. We had a tearful goodbye to dad (we hardly knew you). The loss of any hope for bacon. And some undead inspiration for Rick to come back from his sabbatical.
We also had some interesting scenes with Michonne, who uncharacteristically found herself in trouble against a pair of walkers, injuring her leg and later breaking down in tears as she held Judith—a little dose of humanity should do her some good. There’s more to live for than slowly killing the Governor.
By the way, Greg Nicotero has said that they based the Prison Flu after a 1918 influenza that mostly affected people in their prime years (Judith and Hershel are safe!) and took less than a day to kill you off. I’m just glad Daryl licked his fingers before shaking hands with Patrick, not after.
So now we have danger coming from within and without. How long can the gang control the prison? Is it time to split up and find new homes? Can’t we just send Glenn on a drug-run? Too bad the CDC is in a million tiny pieces.
Oh, and I don’t think anyone is killing Lizzie. The Girl Who Feeds Zombies is too interesting for that. It’s bad enough Carol is from the “make them strong by telling them they’re weak” school of parenting. I think we’ll see more from the sisters this season.
My question to you: Is Bob Stookey the new T-Dog/Beth from last season? He got like one line this episode. Lawrence Gilliard Jr. is too good an actor from random cameos. I want more Bob Stookey.
First, I’m with you on Bob Stookey. You can’t bring in a guy like LG2 (approve?) and then give him mop-up duty. We won’t stand for it! He’s no Beth Greene, and if they treat him as a bit player, we’re going to send Zombie Stringer and Wallace and Omar to finish off the entire camp.
You mentioned Carol, which is a point I meant to bring up in email one. She is seriously creeping me out, Josh. I get that she has to show the kids tough love and teach them to fend for themselves, but there’s something about her conversations with Carl that just set off my creep alarms. Any time an adult says the words “don’t tell your dad” to a kid, it just feels off. And the way she talked to Lizzy after her dad died (“you can’t be weak!”) but before Lizzy turned out crazy felt inappropriate. I always liked Carol, but I’m not getting good vibes this season. What did you think of Carl ratting her out to Rick? I was oddly relieved. I think I actually like Carl this season, but we’ll see if that continues now that he has his gun back.
As for Michonne, do you think her rare display of emotion after Beth asked her why there’s no word like “widow” or “orphan” for someone who’s lost a child (a good point, linguistically) means that she’s lost a child? That was my wife’s theory as we watched her overcome herself and comfort Judith. Then again, my wife also thought that Karen survived at the beginning of the episode because she’d chosen not to sleep with Tyreese, as if The Walking Dead had suddenly turned into some religious morality play. So take it all with a grain of salt.
Agree with you about Sasha, she’s my pick for the arsonist too. The only other guess I have is Dr. Subramanian, who is kind of indistinct right now aside from being the show’s first Indian-American character, and who might be ready to emerge from the shadows of anonymity. Also, if they discover he’s the culprit and Tyreese kills him, that means Bob Stookey immediately comes to prominence as the only young doctor left. Win-win?
And you’re dead right about Lizzie. Her psychotic behavior is also badass in a warped way. There’s no way I’d be walking out around the grounds after dark by myself, much less getting within contact range of a walker, fence or no fence. I feel like Lizzie and the Governor are going to join forces at some point.
Throwing it back to you, here’s a question: Pretend you’re in Walking Dead world, and you have three choices. First, you can fight 10 zombies in a 30 × 30 feet cage, and you have a knife. Second, you can fight the Governor in hand-to-hand combat, no weapons, except he has rabies and is even crazier than usual. Third, you have to fight Lizzie, but she has an army of rats and sings nursery rhymes like you see in horror movies.
Your call, Josh.
What if it was Bob who burned the bodies? Wasn’t his sole line about how likely the virus would spread through close quarters? That might be a way to involve LG2 a little more next week. My money is still on the sibling drama, though.
I couldn’t agree more about Carol. Teaching kids how to use a knife? Okay, I guess, but I think they probably need permission slips. Trying to hush up a 12-year-old when you get busted? That’s a pretty big red flag in really any scenario. Encouraging a little girl to put a knife in her dad’s brain and call her weak when she flips out? That’s pretty psychotic, even by post-apocalyptic standards.
I sometimes forget Michonne had a pre-zombie history. I thought maybe she just stepped out of a lake fully formed, katana in hand, zombie servants draping her with in a hooded robe. Was she a mother before all this? I kind of hope we never know.
As for your challenge, I’d take the zombies—as long as we’re talking Walking Dead zombies, not 28 Days Later zombies. I always thought slow zombies would be less of a threat than it appears on TV. A 30×30 room is enough space to maneuver, and if its a good knife, I like those odds. I’ve met David Morrissey in real life, and I think he could take me. If he’s rabid and angry, I’d almost rather he had a weapon. And Lizzie and her rat army? Hells to the no.
So where does the show go from here? We’ve already departed pretty far from the comics (which I’ve now read) in that the Governor didn’t drive them out of the prison. So does the swine flu do it? Do we have a race for a cure? Do those burned bodies cause a civil war? And where is the Governor?
Whoa whoa whoa whoa WHOA WHOA WHOAAAA.
You’ve met David Morrissey in person? How has this not come up before? You know I love the Governor, Josh. YOU KNOW THAT. He’s one of the true great evil men in TV history, and you got to look in his face. I’m assuming it was the opposite of getting to meet Mother Teresa. (Except that both are huge fans of the band Pure Prairie League.)
What was he like? Was he cool? Was he a total dick? Did he kill a bunch of people, and you survived because you hid under a dead body and tried not to breathe? A full report is necessary.
Back to the show, I’m in total agreement with your zombie choice. Lizzie and the Rats is a nightmare fuel scenario, and I don’t think the Governor is capable of nerves, meaning you’d have to deal with rage and arrogance, a lethal combo in a fight. That leaves ten zombies. I think the main thing is that, like a boxer, you want to stay in the middle of the ring. Don’t get cornered, because then you’d get run over by sheer mass. Also, I’d definitely try to pull a Michonne and use my first zombie kill as a shield against the others. If that failed, I’d just start biting my own arm and saying, “oh crap, looks like this one’s already taken!” in the hopes of fooling them. I think deep down, zombies hate seconds.
I have absolutely no idea where the show goes now. It feels like they can’t drag this disease plot out much longer, because there aren’t many secondary characters left to kill. A whole season? No way. The Governor or some new enemy has to enter the fray within the next couple episodes. Personally, I think the civil war would be a great plot point, and I’d love to see them leave the prison and have to hit the road again. I miss the excitement of the first two seasons, when they had to flee all the time and there was no sense of stability.
Mostly, though, I’m wondering which of the main characters will die next. I think Glenn has to be on the chopping block, but I think we’re both leaning toward Carol on this one. Until next week, sir,
Please don’t die, Daryl Dixon.
I wish I could tell you that I met David Morrissey in the back room of a dive bar in the Maldives where he taking on all-comers, but it was just a round-table interview at Comic-Con in San Diego, which meant I had time for about two questions. He was charming (that might have just been the English accent), but did say he was enjoying playing a part that inspired loathing—”Sometimes the devil gets all the best tunes,” he said. He also mentioned that he was preparing for the role by reading The Black Death and the Transformation of the West about the plague of the 1300s, The Things They Carried about the hellish conditions of Viet Nam and 1984 for tips on how to suppress people.
But it’s about time we see his charismatic, pure-evil face again. Maybe find out he planted the flu-infested pigs in the prison all along.
And yes, Carol might be next, but then who will take over storytime?!?
Remember, send your Walking Dead questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and check back on Friday for more Walking Dead goodness. Also, follow Shane Ryan at @ShaneRyanHere and Josh Jackson at @JoshJackson on Twitter.