Let's just get the ending out of the way first. Because the final shot of "Internment" is probably the least surprising cliffhanger of the season so far. Yes, the Governor is back.
However, viewers shouldn't expect the big, bad villain of last season to be back in some bizarre or unusual way. All that we got was a sinister, over-the-shoulder shot of the one-eyed murderer, looking menacing outside the walls of the prison Rick and company call home. In fact, he looked exactly how we last saw him, running off to lick his wounds after massacring most of his followers in the aftermath of a botched attack on the prison.
We all knew he was going to show up again eventually; the question was when. And the hope was always that when he did eventually show up, it would be in a way that was truly shocking or surprising. But no, he showed up just hanging around outside the prison. Is he the guy who's been feeding rats to the zombies at the fence line? Perhaps. But the show's writers could have at least given us a little something more about his return to chew over until next week. Having him wearing the eye patch over the other eye. A missing limb. A cleaned and pressed new suit. Something.
But let's not let the anticlimax overshadow what a knockout of tension "Internment" was. The fever storyline, which has been building up the entire season, reached a crescendo in this week's episode as Hershel turned into a medical rock star, nearly single-handedly administering aid to the faction of prison survivors who have contracted the deadly
The ramifications of last week's development, in which Rick cast Carol out of the group, was pushed off until next week. But in the meantime, we got some of the most agonizing zombie scenes of the series to date.
Hershel and Glenn, locked into the cellblock to aid the sick, nearly got overwhelmed when the flu finally killed off several supporting characters, turning them into ravenous zombies. Though Hershel and Glenn had a makeshift routine of sorts in order to handle the victims when they died one at a time, events conspired so that many of the patients locked away from the others started dropping off rapidly.
Dr. Subramanian, facing his fate with no illusions about his prognosis, predicted the events to Hershel, telling him, "You need to focus on the ones who can make it. ... If you're not ready to lose one, you're going to lose them all. It's like turning off a light. It'll happen one after the other. And they don't just die ..."
They sure don't. But Hershel, ever the optimist, kept trying to say that "we aren't that bad off. ... I'm not giving up on anyone yet."
That positive outlook nearly got him killed when the flu really did start turning his patients into the undead. One by one, they dropped, and in that kind of excruciating domino fall that's done so well on this series, a bad event easily cascades into more bad events.
Part of the reason Hershel's predicament nearly ended in the demise of half the cast was that Rick and Carl, two very capable characters, were otherwise distracted by the zombie horde building up at the fence line, threatening to knock it down and overwhelm the prison. Like the flu, the problem of the zombies at the fence line has been an issue for the entire season so far, but Sunday's episode saw the fence finally collapse under the weight of all that rotting flesh.
So while Hershel was desperately trying to survive the onslaught of fewer than half a dozen ghouls inside the prison, Rick and Carl were taking on a small town's worth of killers outside the prison. Father and son unloaded on the zombies with a double-barreled defense, really bringing out the guns that are usually saved for special occasions. The guns are usually avoided because the loud noise attracts more zombies, so it remains to be seen if the barrage of gunfire Rick and Carl used to defend the prison will do anything to attract that herd of hundreds of zombies traveling not far from their location.
One of the most affecting scenes in the episode was also one of the quietest, with Hershel, alone in his cell after finally getting rid of the immediate zombie threat, reading his Bible and weeping to himself. After the events of the episode, it's a fitting reminder that even the most stoic and good-hearted characters finally reach their emotional limits. And if Hershel, the calmest, most even-tempered character on the show, can finally crack, what hope does anyone else have?
And speaking of cracks, does anyone else suspect that Daryl will attempt to crack open Rick's skull when he finds out about Carol? We'll find out next week.