The biggest shockers of Sunday night’s “Walking Dead” occurred at the very beginning and at the very end. In the middle? Well, there was a whole lot of coughing.
The mysterious flu-like disease that began infiltrating the prison in the season premiere has become a full-blown epidemic in Week 3, and unless members of the show’s core cast can get to town and come back with some antibiotics, a whole lot of recurring characters are going to be zombies really soon.
The intangible nature of the disease has begun having a profound effect on Rick and company, who have become quite adept at taking on more easily stab-able and shoot-able threats but seem at a loss about how to deal with a microscopic virus. As Glenn, who’s first seen in the episode getting ready to lay Patrick (a.k.a. Patient Zero) to rest, complains, “It could be something we could fight. But with this, I’m just digging graves.”
That frustration led to the first of “Isolation’s” big moments, when Rick, badgered by Tyreese into discovering just who killed his (sick) lady love Karen and fellow sick person David, finally snapped and started whaling on Tyreese’s face.
Dr. Freud would say that this was a textbook case of anger transference, with Tyreese’s face standing in for the disease, but more than anything, it raised real questions about the wisdom of pushing Rick back into a high-pressure leadership role. Perhaps it would be in everyone’s best interest to buy him some more pigs to raise before he becomes even more unhinged.
Rick eventually apologized, and he and Tyreese are cool (for now) but Tyreese continued to mope until he had his own moment of catharsis, walloping a whole pack of zombies that were clogging the highway near the prison.
Speaking of the giant zombie herd, will that be addressed next week? Darryl, Michonne, Bob and Tyreese drove out of the prison in search of medicine, but were quickly stymied by hundreds of zombies blocking the main road.
The group escaped their car after it got hung up on some zombie detritus, and it appears from the scenes from next week’s episode that the search for antibiotics will continue, but is any of that important knowing that enough zombies to tear down the prison fence aren’t too far away? Is there any doubt that those zombies will eventually force our heroes to move on? Remember that the key art for the show’s fourth season depicted the prison with a significant portion of the fence torn down.
But until someone at the prison figures out they have a huge, smelly problem shambling down the road toward them, the unnamed disease appears on track to take out both the beloved -- Glenn is sick -- and the sort of familiar -- Dr. Subramanian is also sick, one of the many characters introduced in the season premiere in order to give the writers plenty of people to kill just a few episodes down the road.
The rest of the episode was spent attempting to get a handle on the flu situation, with the most vulnerable, such as baby Judith, isolated in Cell Block A, while more able-bodied people such as Maggie and Carol left to patrol the prison.
Hershel and Carl made a brief trip to the woods for Hershel to collect some elderberries to aid the sick, something his daughter Maggie wasn’t too keen on.
But Hershel, being the soul of quiet, country common sense and decency defended his right to enter the cellblock holding the sick and dispense some help.
In fact, his speech to Maggie, which included the line, “I can save lives, that’s reason enough to risk mine,” was the kind of thing you’d expect a character to say as a final farewell. Don’t be too surprised if we see the old guy doing a little cough-cough next week.
Of course, while some are foolishly risking their lives to be good and decent, others in the group are seeking to protect them with cold-blooded practicality. That brings us to the second big shocker of the night.
The mystery of who killed Karen and David was solved in the episode’s final scene when Rick asked Carol if she had done the dirty deed and she calmly, matter-of-factly answered, “Yes.”
Had Karen and David already died from the disease when she took them out? Were they about to go zombie? We have no way of knowing, though Carol will surely give her side of the story next week.
However, no matter how cruel the deaths may have been, it’s the kind of ruthless decision-making that Rick has been known to do from time to time. Will Rick keep Carol’s secret or will he drag her in front of the council? I’m betting Rick keeps it quiet. At least for now.