If last week's episode of The Walking Dead exhibited the first symptoms of the virus that threatens to wipe out the population at the prison, last night's episode, "Isolation", brought home the horror of trying to survive a pandemic when the only medication available is elderberry tea.
The episode opened with Tyreese on the warpath looking for the person responsible for killing and cremating his girlfriend, and ended with Carol coldly admitting it was her. Between this most tragic of bookends, Glenn got sick, Hershel got wiser and Daryl led a salvage mission on the hunt for influenza medication.
Let's take a look at three points from "Infected" that warrant further discussion.
It's all in the name
"Isolation" continued Season 4's run of reveal-all titles, alluding to not only the isolation of the sick, but also individuals becoming isolated from friends and family as the situation at the prison worsens. This season began with something of an uplifting tone, but since that high-point, things have gotten very bad, very quickly. The young and the vulnerable have been isolated to keep them away from the virus, while the sick have been put into quarantine to prevent the spread of infection. But it is the emotional isolation that I found most intriguing about this episode. Following the murder of Karen, Tyreese stared into the abyss only to find Rick's bloody fists staring back; Glenn is both physically and emotionally separated from Maggie and Beth has seemingly isolated herself from human compassion, coldly declaring that everybody has a job to do. Will anybody be able to come back from this?
Radio Ga Ga
So just who was that voice Daryl and his search party heard on the radio? So much went down in "Isolation" that it's easy to underestimate just how much of a big deal this could be. It sounded to me like a recorded message on loop, so there's no guarantee that there's anybody left alive at the source of transmission. But maybe, just maybe, there's hope of salvation, of another community within striking distance of the prison. Then again, the last time we encountered a new group of survivors they were under the dictatorship of the Governor, and we all know how that turned out.
I have a theory of my own as to the source of the cryptic radio message. Warning: I'm going to talk briefly about the comic book source material, so there might be some small spoilers on the way.
I think the voice on the end of the radio is not a thriving community, but a scientist called Eugene and he might just claim to know the cure for the zombie virus.
Doctor Carol will see you now
I was genuinely shocked when Carol admitted to killing and burning Karen and David, not so much because of the act itself, but in the matter-of-fact way that she spoke about it. Carol has shown over the last couple of weeks that she's prepared to do anything to keep the community going, but I doubt that anybody thought her capable of cold-blooded murder. What is so interesting about The Walking Dead is the moral quandary in which it places the viewers. No matter how abhorent Carol's actions might seem at first, there's also an argument to be made that she did what was necessary to keep the group safe. That her radical plan for containment failed is something she's going to have to deal with.
The question remaining is whether Rick will tell Tyreese. Do his loyalties lie with Carol or with vengeance?
Points for further discussion
Has Carl been promoted to Hall Monitor, or am I missing something? I was starting to like him, but his inflated sense of self importance really rubs me up the wrong way.
If they survive the apocalypse, Michonne should try her hand at stand-up comedy. She's no Bill Hicks, but in these straitened times, she'll have them LOL-ing and ROFL-ing in no time.
Dr. S deserves a slap for having terrible coughing etiquette. Hacking up blood into somebody else's face? Poor form indeed.
Rick and Tyreese punching seven shades of shit out of each other was a nice nod to the comics, as was the big man going to town on a bunch of walkers with a hammer.
Tyreese asked Carol to keep an eye on Sasha for him. Oh the irony.
Glenn's going to be OK. Right?