Season four of The Walking DeadAMC’s television adaptation of the Eisner-winning Image Comics series created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore and drawn by Charlie Adlard, is well underway. While the survivors grapple with the apocalypse and each other, ComicsAlliance’s John Parker will be following along all season to see who lives, who dies, and who earns a deeper understanding of sacrifice, because it's just that kind of show.

Last week, Rick left Carol in both a literal and physical cul-de-sac, and there was a lot of talking, mostly about how everybody was changing and nobody liked it. This week, the prison stands on its last legs, the flu takes down lots of people we don't really care about, walkers mob the fences, and Hershel finally gets his much-deserved dap.

We begin with Rick driving back to the prison, brooding over his decision to leave Carol behind in that this-world-is-hell-and-hard-choices-have-to-be-made-but-I’m-always-right way that only Rick can. While the show will probably try to keep up his internal struggle for the rest of the season, the battle is already over: Gunfighter Rick beat Farmer Rick the moment he decided to abandon one of his own. Despite his attempts to distance himself from a leadership role, Rick's still taken it upon himself to make a decision “for the good of the group,” and it may be the worst decision he’s ever made.

The thing about Rick is that even though he appears to not want to be a leader because of the hard choices that have to be made, it’s less about the choices and more about what the power does to him. Quickly after taking back a leadership mindset, he beat the snot out of one of his own people and left another out in the cold. When Rick looks at his wrapped hand, he’s not reminded of his mistakes, or his short, idyllic stint as a farmer; he sees the tyrant that he becomes as soon as he has any power, and as much as he tells himself that he doesn’t want it, he knows he’s lying to himself.



Walking-Dead-iNternment Hershel


Inside the prison, the flu is still running rampant, and we all get the chance to appreciate how awesome a character Hershel really is. As the moral center of The Walking Dead, he’s often been the show’s punching bag, the crazy old man who thought that walkerism could still be cured; the one who takes the burden of faith for the rest of the team. But after being nearly broken after the debacle with the barn in Season 2, Hershel's still managed to retain his belief, and in “Internment,” that belief is tested more than ever.

Staying in the quarantine area, Hershel puts himself at considerable risk, not just to ease the suffering, but to keep morale up. Even as patients drop like flies, he moves them out of view of the other patients so they don’t have to be subjected to what must be a common sight by now: friends and loved ones coming back to life, eating human flesh, and then getting stabbed in the brain. But to Hershel, a calm patient is a good patient, and if a zombie-to-be needs to be poked in the lobes, it’s better to do so behind closed doors. A survivor like Carol doesn’t believe in half-measures, and probably wouldn’t have had a problem shanking  a friend in front of God and everybody, but Hershel believes that everything that can be done should be done, and little things like not seeing a buddy being de-brained still matter.

But the thing is, Hershel's not even the one taking care of it. Sasha and Glenn, both sicker than walker-eating dogs must be, are actually doing the dispatching. Does a remnant of Season 2 Hershel remain? Is he still, at his heart, that foolish old man who thinks everything can be fixed?




While Hershel tries to hold everything back inside the prison, another influx of walkers swarms the outer fence like a…I don’t know, I don’t have much time to come up with funny metaphors. It should probably involve Republicans and a gun store, but I’m having trouble putting it together. Anyway, Maggie, much like her pa, is trying to stem the tide by herself but it’s not looking good: there are more walkers on that fence than there are Republicans on George Zimmerman’s Facebook page... no?

Rick comes back all by his lonesome. Only Maggie is there to hear his side of the Carol story, and she has absolutely no problem with it. In fact, not only does she think it was the right decision, she admires the inner fortitude that Rick has as well as his ability to make the type of hard choices that she never could. But Rick believes in Maggie, and tells her that she had the strength to do the right thing as well, because she’s a cold-hearted tyrant too. I love how there’s no hesitation between the two, and each knows, absolutely, that Rick made the right choice.

Rick essentially did the same thing Carol did -- took action without going to the group first -- and Maggie has a problem with Carol but not with Rick, and all this is going to do is bolster Rick’s sense of righteousness. The problem with Rick is that he’s great in the heat of the moment, but even when he has an opportunity to think something through, he never does. He just shoots from the hip, thinking that’s always the best way to act, and even after all the mistakes he’s made, he hasn’t learned a damn thing.

Clearly, the better decision would have been to bring Carol back, keep her away from Tyreese, and then bring up the issue with the group, but that ain’t how this cowboy rides and Maggie doesn’t have a problem with it. An alliance is formed: Maggie is with Rick, and will follow him wherever he leads. In a show that’s centered around moral ambiguity, these characters believe that they’re one-hundred percent right. Just like Carol did. I see a storm a-brewin’.




Hershel is different from Rick, Maggie, and Carol. The most self-sacrificing of the group, the one who always preaches caution, tolerance, forethought, and forgiveness. So it kind of sucks that he has to start brain-stabbing people on his own, but he still insists on doing it out of the view of other patients. It’s tough to see Hershel at the end of his rope, but in this one instance, Rick actually provides some wisdom for him: that just by being inside the quarantined area, he’s providing hope to people “even after all the choices keep getting taken away.”

It’s at this point that Rick fails to remember that he’s the one taking choices away. Between Rick and Hershel, they know that even if they get over the flu, things aren’t going to be the way they were again, and those few months of respite were just a breather. Hershel, despite everything that he sees and does, still believes in hope; still believes there’s a plan. The problem is that it’s probably Rick’s plan.




Things in the quarantine get drastically worse. With Glenn and Sasha down for the count, dead patients start waking up as walkers and nearly overcome Hershel. But even though Hershel is the gentle-faced Buddha of the prison, he’s still an ornery old badass with a dark past we know almost nothing about. Almost single-handedly (single-leggedly?), he takes out walkers left and right, stabbing brains, breaking arms, maybe even taking the occasional name. But he still stops himself from blowing out a zombie’s brains in front of a couple of kids, one of them being Lizzie, who Carol insisted be present for her dad’s own shanking.

The lessons Carol tried to impart obviously didn’t work, and Lizzie tries to guide a walker off of Glenn like she’s luring a cat with a laser pointer. She still thinks the walkers have some humanity in them, and it nearly gets her killed. After the second episode of this season did everything it could to destroy innocence, somehow this kid is still naïve. Simply because she seems so unlikely to survive for very long, she’s probably going to be on the show for another six years. Zombie-god help us all.




Aaaanndd the walkers get through the fence! Storming into the prison like a bunch of Republicans at a…free…gun day… It’s a shame they chose that exact moment, too: the first time Rick has actually smiled at Carl this season. See how the universe rewards your happiness with horror, Rick!? Rick and Carl grab a couple of AR-15s from a table of the free guns and manage to mow through close to fifty walkers, and Rick finally begins to see Carl for what he really is.

Carl isn’t crazy. He’s not a child who needs to grasp as hard as he can to his last strands of innocence before the world swallows him whole; he doesn’t need to be protected. Carl is a survivor, a pint-sized badass of epic proportions, Rick’s right-hand-man, his deputy. No, Rick, even after the flu, things are never going to be the same: you’re going to have to accept that Carl is a man, and that he’s better-suited to make it through the zombie apocalypse than you are. Tyrant.

As the father-son zombie shootout dies down, the away team returns with the antibiotics, just in time. Sasha and Glenn and all the other people we don’t care about are saved. Hershel, having just been through his biggest trial since the farmhouse, sits alone in a cell, trying to turn to his faith for more answers, but unable to. Daryl tells him he’s a “tough sumbitch,” and Hershel smiles as he says “I know,” but something has changed in him too. Was this more of a test than his faith could take?

After the ordeal is over, Rick walks past the fence and splashes water from the rain bucket onto his face -- a callback to the opening of this season’s first episode. But nothing really is the same. The flu took out many of their numbers; everyone on the crew has had to deal with a crisis of faith; he still has to tell Daryl about Carol. Those few months of peace were just the calm before the storm. And as bad as things are, they’re about to get much worse.

The Governor is back.