In The Walking Dead’s season premiere, we saw an ultra-violent zombie battle in a department store and yet another mental breakdown for Rick. ut most disturbing was a hint at the end that the walker infection may now be an airborne threat. In all, it was just another day at the post-apocalyptic office for the crew that also happened to be one of the stronger episodes of the past year. “Infected” begins right where the premiere left off, with Patrick succumbing to the zombie virus and going on a mindless feeding frenzy, consuming his former friends in the prison.

The opening sequence of this episode seems ripped straight from a Romero film, as the zombified Patrick makes short work of the nameless, faceless cannon fodder the show has been racking up in recent episodes. This leads to an all-out zombie outbreak in the confined walls of the prison, culminating in a blood-soaked melee that sees plenty of members of the community dead as a result. Of course no one important dies during this attack—it’s too early in the season for that—but it sets up a much more dangerous threat for Rick and his people later on.

Though there are some gruesome moments during this set piece, the highlight is when Carol mercy kills an infected man in front of his two little girls. It's stunning to see how quickly she has turned from a pointless side character into a killing machine. And along with an army of 12-year-old girls by her side, it looks like Carol is about to fly off the handle and tackle the walker menace head-on. How can you not see spinoff potential in that? 

Once the siege is over, we find out through some clunky medical exposition that Patrick became infected with the disease through a deadly strain of the flu that has now spread amongst the survivors in the prison. While the walkers are comfortably trapped (for the most part) on the outside of the prison, Rick and his gang now face a new threat inside their own bodies. Just as the prison started to seem like an idyllic paradise for these world-weary survivors, this news is like a gleeful kick to the crotch by the show’s sadistic writing staff. It makes the danger that much more unpredictable and their plight that much more hopeless.

As the members of this community try to process this news, one of the fences keeping the zombies at bay outside begins to topple under the might of a new horde. Up until this point, Rick has been trying to play the pacifist, refusing to use his gun anymore and seeming content to just tend to his garden like any good widow would do. But once the fence starts to cave, Rick finally takes responsibility for his people again and sacrifices his pack of pigs in order to lead the walkers away from the fence.

These pigs had become symbolic of Rick’s new pacifistic nature, but with them being devoured here, I hope that the old blood-thirsty Rick is ready to return. If he’s not inspired to protect his friends, he at least needs to protect his prized cucumber patch. Seriously, though, we can’t take much more of farmer Rick giving pointers on how to best cultivate cabbage in a zombie-infested wasteland. Thankfully this nude bonfire scene suggests that his horticulture days are finally over. 
                                        Image via AMC

While attempting to wrap my head around the thoughts of this killer flu, all of the mayhem inside of the prison, Carl getting his gun back, and Rick’s slow return to his leadership position, the show suddenly tosses in a mysterious cliffhanger right at the end of the episode that adds yet another dimension to the plot. When Tyreese goes to check on Karen, his romantic interest who had seemingly contracted this deadly flu, he’s shocked to see a trail of blood from her room that leads outside to her charred corpse.

As if the sickness spreading through the halls of the prison and the zombies breaking down the fences on the outside weren’t enough, now the group needs to get to the bottom of who killed Karen. Plus, remember that the Governor is still out there, lurking and waiting for his time to strike. It feels good not to hate The Walking Dead again. 

GIF via Tumblr

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