Episode Title: “Internment”
Writer: Channing Powell
Director: David Boyd
Previously on “The Walking Dead”:
Last week, George Romero (the legendary director of Night of The Living Dead) offered his opinion of “The Walking Dead” and said that “it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally. I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism and I find that missing in what’s happening now.”
Romero also indicated that he had turned down a chance to direct an episode of “The Walking Dead.” And while the zombie genre owes a lot to Romero, he seems to have misunderstood the appeal of “The Walking Dead.” Yes, the zombies are a big draw and yes, there are some soap opera elements in it.
However “The Walking Dead” has compelling characters that are widely loved or hated by its fanbase. That’s the key to its longevity. It makes the audience care, one way or the other. Romero has a lot of skill when it comes to putting zombies onscreen, but most of his human characters wouldn’t hold up beyond the scrutiny of a two-hour film. The majority of Romero’s human characters only exist to become zombie chow.
This season, even “The Walking Dead” seems to have forgotten some of its lessons. The largely interchangeable survivors from Woodbury have been decimated by a horrific flu virus… and we don’t care. We don’t know these characters, so when they turn or they die, it means nothing on a personal level to the audience. The victims are glorified extras.
To make the audience care, the creative team decided to add Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) to the list of potential victims while giving meaty stories to Carol (Melissa McBride) and Hershel (Scott Wilson). For the most part, it’s working and the outbreak angle has been a success. But there seems to be a noticeable resistance to letting any of the major characters fully become victims to the virus. Only the minor characters are dying off, while the starring characters escape with their lives. It’s one of the few times that “The Walking Dead” has felt like it was playing things too safe.
There are full spoilers ahead for “Internment,” so if you missed last night’s episode of “The Walking Dead” then you should probably skip this review or else you’ll have to wear the breathing mask after the zombie is done with it.
“Internment” is primarily Hershel’s episode and Scott Wilson makes the most of it. It has to be said that Hershel was never this interesting in the original comic book series. At best, Hershel was 1.5 dimensional and he was largely the same way during his first season on this show. However, Wilson’s portrayal adds a lot of life to the character and the creative team behind the series has given Hershel more of a father figure role to the entire group. There’s warmth and affection in Wilson’s face that makes the audience believe that he cares for everyone around him.
Hershel ropes Glenn and Sasha into helping him tend to the sick and dying and he proves to be instrumental in keeping his patients alive with some hope in their hearts. He’s a reservoir of faith in these dark times; but by the end of the crisis, even Hershel’s faith is badly tested. Wilson killed it in that last scene as Hershel quietly sobs to himself. Not even the Bible can comfort him this time.
This crisis forced Hershel to be the one thing that he isn’t: a killer. Someone who can put down the dead before they become a threat or comfortably kill a walker. Hershel has trouble with that because he cares too much. They aren’t faceless victims to him. They are his extended family and friends.
Outside the cell blocks, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) try to keep the weakest portion of the fence from collapsing under the weight of a suspiciously massive horde of zombies. Seriously, that has to be sabotage, given who we see at the end of this episode. Although Rick, Maggie and later, Carl (Chandler Riggs) are too busy fighting for their lives to immediately notice anything suspicious.
Throughout this season, Rick has tried to pull Carl back into something that resembles a normal life where he doesn’t have to use his gun. However, when circumstances dictate that Rick give his son an automatic rifle, he’s uneasy about just how good Carl is with it. For better or worse, Rick has made his son into a survivor who may actually be more suited for this world than Rick is.
Keeping Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and the rest of his group offscreen for the majority of the episode was a good way to build the tension before things got crazy. Inside the cell block, Hershel was overwhelmed by the recently turned walkers while Rick and Carl had to deal with the zombies after the gates fell. Maggie managed to save her father and help save Glenn while Rick and Carl mowed down the zombies outside… and they used a lot of ammo to do it. Somehow, I think they may come to regret that.
In the quieter moments of the episode, we saw Rick trying to come to terms with sending Carol into exile. The image of the zombie being eaten by stray dogs was particularly chilling as Rick drove by without even looking at it. At the prison, Maggie seemed to understand why Rick did it and she supported him. It was impressive that Rick didn’t feel the need to lie about what happened to Carol.
However, Hershel didn’t take the news nearly as well. Earlier in the episode, Hershel mentioned that a sad soul can kill you faster than a germ. Hershel’s reaction to Carol’s fate left him stunned with sadness and the weight of the outbreak may finally be getting to him. He’s been spiritually wounded by the events of this episode.
The eventual arrival of Daryl, Michonne (Danai Gurira), Bob (Lawrence Gilliard, Jr.) and Tyreese (Chad Coleman) seems to end the crisis… for now. Only Daryl asks about what happened with Carol, but his reaction (and Tyreese’s fury) are saved for another day. The big news is who is lurking outside of the gate.
That’s right, the Governor (David Morrissey) is back… and he may have been here all along. I half expected his return in this episode after Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple teased his reappearance late last week. I could have gone a few more episodes before seeing the Governor again, but his presence may explain why the walkers were always at the weakest segments of the fence. And if the Governor contaminated the prison’s water supply there’s even a chance that he contributed to the outbreak.
Getting back to Romero’s comments about “The Walking Dead,” I don’t feel that any of his zombie movies would have been able to deliver the same kind of character moments that we saw in the first four episodes of this season or even in the series as a whole. As long as the creative team of this series can make the audience care about the main characters, “The Walking Dead” will remain the huge hit that it’s become. It would have been fun to see Romero play in this world, but it may ultimately be best if he stays in his zombieverse while this show continues on its own path.