On "The Walking Dead," families come together, but the flu threatens everyone

Sunday's episode saw the return of the Governor, and a reminder that on this show, anyone can die

By Neil Drumming

Published November 11, 2013 1:37PM (EST)

Andrew Lincoln in "The Walking Dead"              (AMC/Frank Ockenfels 3)
Andrew Lincoln in "The Walking Dead" (AMC/Frank Ockenfels 3)

Last night's episode of "The Walking Dead" was a bittersweet one, especially for fans of the elderly veterinarian-turned-triage medic Hershel Greene. Typically the calming voice of reason behind the more active characters like Rick and daughter Maggie, Hershel was abruptly thrust into the action and forced to almost single-handedly fend off the viral threat from inside the prison. (Kudos to the show's creators for making a trumped-up fever appear as credible a threat as the bloodthirsty undead clawing at the gates outside.)

The threat of death was disturbingly imminent from the beginning with both Sasha and Glenn, two of the prison contingent's only remaining warriors, sweating, hacking up blood, and teetering on the edge of life. We all knew that this sickness would mean the thinning of the herd. The camp had swelled to numbers too big to move rapidly in the case of a inescapable threat. But the notion that Glenn might die from the flu after all these seasons of valiantly staking zombie foreheads was a reminder of why we watch cable: Main characters eat it, too. As for Sasha, we hardly know ye but have come to respect your fortitude since the separation from soft-hearted sibling Tyreese.

As for people who did actually die, I was saddened to see the passing of Dr. Caleb, not because he had been much of a fleshed-out character up until this point, but because, in his dying moments, he managed to provide the reality check for one of the group's most rational individuals. Talk about an I-told-you-so from beyond the grave. Watching Caleb's warning to Hershel come to bloody fruition was harrowing. And, in the end, the only way the old vet could repay the wise, dead doctor was by ceremoniously shutting his single remaining eye.

Guilty admission of the week: I thought the deliciously demented way in which Lizzie saved Glenn from becoming dead Henry's tainted entree was a clever nod to the character's simmering creepiness. Nevertheless, I was still disappointed that she, herself, did not get eaten. Sorry, folks, but that kid's current worldview is profoundly fubar'ed. And unless she's dead by the next time the group has to break camp, she'll be nothing but dead weight -- a wacky, unpredictable substitute for long-lost Sophia, and without Carol to care for her.

Speaking of breaking camp, I was fairly certain that our protagonists were about to be forcibly evicted. Propping logs up against the fences with nothing to anchor them seemed like an exercise in futility from the get-go. And last night, when the dead punctured the perimeter and flooded the first line of defense, it seemed that the prison would completely lose its usefulness -- at least until Rick and Carl popped the seal on an heretofore unseen stash of automatic weapons and let loose hell on the walkers. Suddenly, it was like watching an episode of "Strike Back." (I can only assume, as I have never seen an episode of "Strike Back." But I'm pretty sure there are a lot of guns...)

Little loophole here, guys: After Rick and Rick-spawn mowed down that cluster of undead, where were, yunno, all the other clusters? For two seasons, there has been no shortage of icky flesh-eaters surrounding the entire prison at any given moment. And it has been well established that, earless or not, walkers are attracted to noise. So shouldn't the sound of a couple hundred of their ilk getting shredded in the dead of night have drawn even more? Dad and son should have been fighting the gross fight all night and quite possibly run out of ammo. But somehow, they didn't. Instead they managed to stave off the onslaught and grant their friends inside the walls a reprieve -- and they did it by working together.

In case you didn't immediately recognize the thin layer of saccharine underscoring last night's episode, it was about families working together: Maggie rushed to the aid of her father, choosing to save him even at the expense of her lover, Glenn. Rick finally gave in to his son's hair-trigger nature and let Carl handle the big guns. It was, thankfully, as sweet as this show gets.

The episode asked us not only to feel, but to be patient. Hopefully, next week we will find out if the fences are damaged beyond repair, making relocation unavoidable. We will see what happens when Daryl and the rest find out about Rick ditching Carol in the wilderness. Will the sheriff find himself ducking arrows in the back of a cell. Oh, yes, and the Governor is back. So, the big question for the coming weeks is, how many more of our heroes will the one-eyed fugitive manage to murder before somebody stops him? Two? Four? Will it be Michonne? Daryl? Lizzie? (Fingers crossed.) Any permutation is possible for -- as we know and appreciate -- everybody here is fair game.


Neil Drumming

Neil Drumming is a staff writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter @Neil_Salon.

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