Season four of The Walking Dead, AMC’s television adaptation of the Eisner-winning Image Comics series created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore and drawn by Charlie Adlard, is finally 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 rises.

In last week’s premiere, the survivors were firmly entrenched in their home, where they had managed to build a thriving community behind the safety of the prison walls. Just as the episode ended, though, a new threat emerged from within the prison itself, placing everyone inside in immediate danger.

As the episode opens, the reddish disc of a full moon hangs eerily in the night sky. A handheld flashlight clicks on, illuminating the walkers at the fence. A rat is dangled in front of the light, teasing the walkers, and as the rodent climbs through the hole in the fence, a walker leans forward and bites it. Someone from inside the prison – we can’t see who – is feeding the walkers, keeping them pressed against the fence. Who could this possibly be? In the premiere, several of the kids seemed too friendly with the walkers, even naming them. Is one of the children, under the misapprehension that the walkers are harmless, actually feeding them? Or is it an agent of the Governor, trying to take down the prison from within?

Inside the prison, Tyreese is having trouble dealing with the horrors he’s been forced to witness, including the death of Zach, Beth’s boyfriend, in the last episode. He finds comfort in the arms of Karen, the lone Woodbury resident who survived the Governor’s crazed assault. Tyreese sings a few lines of the Cole Porter classic “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” simultaneously a great love song and a subtle metaphor for the illness now coursing through the prison walls.

Though still obviously in the early stages of a growing relationship -- they keep separate cells and have yet to do it -- Karen and Tyreese make a good couple. They find solace and strength in one another amid the mounting pressures of the lives they’re forced to embrace.


Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well for Karen. Season 4 has already established that Tyreese is going to take a bigger role, and that his arc is going to be a painful one. Right now it’s pretty hard for me to believe that Karen is going to last more than a couple more episodes.

As Karen goes back to her cell, Patrick, Carl’s friend -- who died under mysterious circumstances at the conclusion of last week’s episode -- rises as a walker and follows Karen. Mercifully, he passes her by (not dead yet, Tyreese!). Instead, Walker-Patrick wanders into the next cell, belonging to a survivor we haven’t seen before, but who before the apocalypse probably could’ve made a pretty good living as a Robert Patrick impersonator. Walker-Patrick rips his throat out, killing him without a sound. Walker-Patrick and the newly-zombified T-1000 go a-wanderin’ through D Block, with the survivors unaware of the impending danger.

Camping out in the guard tower, Glenn wakes Maggie by taking a picture of her while sleeping, which is usually reason enough for any girlfriend to disembowel her boyfriend, walker or not. Now past the pregnancy scare of the first episode, the two seem to have settled back into their ridiculously cute normalcy.

As Rick and Carl head to the garden, Michonne takes a horse out for another run, probably still consumed by her search for the Governor. Michonne asks Carl why he isn’t wearing his hat (Rick’s Deputy Sheriff cap) anymore, and Carl replies that it’s not a farming hat. Is Carl trying to accept his new role, or just trying convince Rick that he’s accepted it? Immediately, it’s clear that it’s the latter: Carl can’t help but notice the fence straining under the pressure of the walkers. Carl asks Rick when he can have his gun back. Rick doesn’t answer.

Suddenly, the two little girls who were naming walkers in the first episode come rushing out of the prison, screaming for help. Rick meets with the rest of the core group, who inform him that there are walkers in D Block. Subtly, almost imperceptibly, Rick reaches for his gun at his hip -- but it isn’t there! Though he’s tried to embrace a life of peace, his first instinct is act, to protect. Without his gunbelt, Rick charges into the prison with the others, naked.


Michonne turns her horse back to the prison, but gets caught by a couple of walkers in the outer perimeter. Carl grabs a rifle and picks one off and Maggie takes out the other, but Michonne is hurt, limping back inside with Maggie’s help.

Inside D Block, it’s a madhouse, as more walkers have spread and the rest of the prison community (the n00bz) seem totally unable to stave off the infestation without the help of our core group. Carol takes Ryan, one of the bitten ones, into a cell to amputate his arm, but quickly sees that he was bitten on the neck as well and that it’s already too late.

As Walker-Patrick falls on Glenn, Daryl puts an arrow into his head, taking down the last of the walkers and the source of the infection. Again we’re reminded that youth means nothing in this world – a walker is a walker.

Sensing that he’s already too far gone, Ryan asks Carol to look after his daughters, Lizzie and Mika -- the same girls who were naming walkers last episode, the ones who alarmed the others about walkers in D Block. Carol says she’ll look after the two of them like they were her own, and offers Ryan a chance to say goodbye. Lizzie and Mika come to their dad’s side and he passes just after he says, “Take care of your sister.” (*sniff*) Carol tells them that she has to put a knife into brain before he turns, but Lizzie, the older one, wants to do it herself, just like Carol showed her. But she can’t because she's panicking and hyperventilating. As the sisters embrace, Carol does the deed. (Again, “sniff*)

Hershel and the prison’s doctor examine one of the fallen walkers. We see blood coming from his mouth, nose, ears and eyes, just like one of the walkers outside the fence in the opening to the season premiere. They determine that Walker-Patrick died from a super-flu, an illness probably spread by the pigs. (Props to commenter Graeme Blank for calling that last week.) Also (and I can’t believe I just noticed this) did Hershel grow his leg back or something? Or did someone come across a prosthetic leg store somewhere along the way?

Outside, Carl hugs Rick and apologizes for using a gun. Of course, Carl’s around been around pigs so now both could already be carriers.

Next, the council of Sasha, Daryl, Glenn, Carol and Hershel meet to figure out how to quarantine anyone who might possibly be sick. As Tyreese and Karen walk past the library, Karen coughs, and the council informs them they’ll have to intern Karen in Death Row. Karen says another survivor, David, has been coughing too.

Remember that thing I said about Karen lasting maybe a few weeks? I’m officially revising that prediction: by the end of this episode, Karen will probably be dead, and Tyreese will be forced to deal with things alone.

Later, while burying the dead, Daryl tells Rick that even without his gun, he was useful, and that Daryl was glad to have him in there; that Rick deserved the time off he took, and the group wouldn’t be where it was without him. However, Rick still doesn’t want to go back to a leadership role, wanting to raise Carl to be a normal kid. Why Rick still believes in normal is up for debate, but before the two can finish their conversation, Maggie yells that the fence is giving. Rick is hesitant to stab walkers in the brain, but after a moment, the fire within him awakes, and reverts to his more savage self.



While clearing the walkers off the fence, Sasha sees the rats that somebody was feeding them. One of the walkers is pressed into the fence so hard, his face oozes through the gaps, split into diamond-shaped zombie chunks. Nice one, TWD. Seeing that the fence is going to give, Rick looks back at his pigpen for a moment and makes a leadership decision – try as he might, he’s never going to be able to leave that role behind.

Carl makes crosses for the graves, but Carol informs him that Patrick was a practicing atheist, so Carl disassembles the cross. Nice to see they still respect people’s beliefs even after they become gross zombies. Carol asks if Carl told Rick about her knife-wielding lesson. Though Carl is clearly uncomfortable with it, Carol tries to convince him that he shouldn’t tell Rick. But Carl does finally tell Rick about Carol’s knife lessons. His dad, knowing that things never really changed, agrees with Carl that Carol’s lessons are necessary.

Obviously in an accepting mood, Rick sets the pigpen ablaze, burning out the infected area and sacrificing his illusion of a peaceful life as a farmer. He gives Carl his gun back, and straps his own gunbelt around his waist. Rick's a gunfighter again, a leader again, a good man forced to make hard decisions in a world gone bad. Welcome back, William Munny. Next, he and Daryl draw the walkers off by offering them infected pigs, giving the others inside time to reinforce the fence, and killing (literally) two birds with one stone. This is why Rick, mistakes aside, made such a good leader – he sees solutions and acts.

I know I’m hitting it hard, but so is this episode: youth means absolutely nothing anymore, children are no longer children, and every one of them – Carl, Lizzie, and the others – has to grow up much faster than anybody (anybody but Carol) wants them to. Along those lines, Beth lullabies baby Judith with a version of "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" (after she whipped out a moving rendition of Tom Waits’ “Hold On” last season, it's clear Beth has great taste in music).

After Judith spits up, Beth asks Michonne to hold the baby, which she clearly doesn’t want to do. But as she slowly embraces Judith, we see Michonne cry for the very first time. We know almost nothing of Michonne’s backstory in the show, and this is an interesting window into the human being behind the cold exterior she maintains. She’s lost a child, and as much as she’s tried to cauterize that wound, it can still open from time to time.

Lizzie and her sister stand by the fence, watching the walkers while Carol continues to school them on the harsh realities they have to face. The show’s version of Carol is a much stronger, more interesting one than the Carol from the comics. While the comics version could only rely on others for her strength – Tyreese, Rick, and Laurie – this version of Carol, played by Melissa McBride, has used her trauma to make her stronger, and is obviously the clear-thinking rock at the center of the prison community. Convinced by Carol that she needs to be stronger, that walkers are no longer human, Lizzie takes Carol’s knife and places it in her belt. Goodbye youth.

As the episode closes, Tyreese goes to visit Karen in her quarantined area on Death Row, but she’s missing from her cell. A thick trail of blood leads him outside, where he discovers the charred remains of Karen and David, still smoking. In an effort to end the infection, somebody killed them, dragged them outside, doused them with gasoline, and set them ablaze. Who could be responsible?

My money's on Carol.