'Walking Dead' Recap: A New Threat Infects the Prison

A terrifying flu outbreak means that anyone could die, anytime

walking dead, prison, rick grimes, flu, the walking dead
Gene Page/AMC
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon fights off walkers in 'The Walking Dead'
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Pass me that hand sanitizer, zombiefans, because tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead was a pure return to form, filled with terrifying imagery and horrific consequences. Just in time for Halloween! And also just in time for Rolling Stone’s cover story on the gorefest! Synergy!

Where we left off . . .Patrick, one of the new guys, was feeling pretty crummy. He headed to the prison bathroom to take a shower but didn’t even have time to reach for the soap before his eyes exploded and he died, turning zombie within seconds.

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Where we pick up: Oh man. Just when our beloved survivors think they’re doing so great, growing crops and raising piglets and cleaning out cell blocks and teaching children survival skills, another threat attacks them from the inside. Patrick lurches out of the bathroom and tears into another new red shirt and soon there is a zombie uprising surging through the prison. The core group survives, although someone who looks a lot like Beth went down and my heart almost stopped at the thought of losing Judith’s babysitter.

Carol attempts to save Ryan by amputating his zombie-bit arm, but she realizes he was also attacked in the back of his head. She rounds up his two angelically blonde daughters, Lizzie and Micah and brings them in to say goodbye. He slips away as Lizzie holds his hand and Carol tells the girls they have to dispatch him now, before he turns. Lizzie offers to do the deed because that’s what her father taught her, but she spirals into a panic attack and can’t follow through. Carol, the girls’ new caretaker, knifes un-Ryan in the head before he can become a zombie and devour his daughters. As their new mother-surrogate, Carol needs to make sure these girls can survive the zombpocalypse. She tells Lizzie that she’s weak. But Lizzie’s not weak, she’s just messed up. And also devastated by the second death of Nick, her beloved my pet monster. Is Lizzie the one feeding rats to the zombies? Who’s letting the kids run outside in the middle of the night to hang out with the undead?

The Council of Leadership (Hershel, Carol, Daryl, Sasha and Glenn) convenes to discuss coping with the zombieflu. They realize that everyone’s been exposed, especially because they live in extremely close quarters and also it’s pretty likely they’re not washing their hands very often. After all, last week we saw Daryl lick his fingers before he shook Patrick’s hand, and now Patrick is Patient Zero of the pneumococcal eye-exploding flu. Rick noticed Eyeless Zombie in last week’s episode, so it’s likely there’s a flu outbreak all over what used to be Georgia. Pandemics, man! You can’t just jam a crowbar into a virus’s brain! (Or, you could, I guess, but it would need to be a very, very tiny crowbar.)

Tyrese and Karen walk by and Karen coughs. Oh man. We saw her wash her face in the bathroom, using the same water supply that Patrick showered in – is this a waterborne illness? Don’t drink the water! DON’T DRINK THE WATER! The Council decides to quarantine anyone displaying signs of the mystery virus in Cellblock A. Karen agrees to go and rats out another new guy named David who’s also coughing.

As we learned last week, the zombies are herding. They surge against the outside of the perimeter, piling up on top of each other until the fence almost gives way. Rick’s been taking some time off from being a leader, you see, and he is tending to his garden these days instead of making big decisions. But he springs into action when the fence is threatened, sacrificing his beloved pigs to lure the zombies away from the prison.  Mama Violet (the pig) was sick and just maybe she infected the rest of her brood, and Rick gets a little Carrie as his face is sprayed with pig blood. Don’t drink the pig blood! Drink neither the water nor the pig blood!

Things at the prison have to change. Michonne can’t continue her Governor-quest with a busted foot, and Rick can’t keep playing farmer. With the looming threat of infection within the prison and additional internal zombie outbreaks on the horizon, it’s time to get back to walker-killing. Rick destroys his pig-raising farm and burns his old, pig-blood-stained sheriff shirt. He straps on his holster and gun one more time. And Carl, who lost gun privileges after he murdered that other kid point-blank, gets his weapon back. Carl tells his dad that Carol is secretly teaching the kids knife skills and Rick promises to keep this between them. He’s not the leader anymore and he doesn’t make the decisions about how the prison is run, although Daryl did offer him a seat on the Council and it looks like he’s about to reassert his old role.

And Michonne, too injured to go out foraging for comic books and stale M&M’s, reveals a little more about her past. She can’t stand to hear baby Judith’s cries but gets stuck with the kid after Beth gets barfed on. Michonne doesn’t want anything to do the baby and shudders viscerally at the idea of holding her. Beth was just yammering on about how bad the flu-zombie attack was and how she’s so sad about how there are words for orphans and widows but there’s no word for parents who have lost children. Michonne is apparently one of those wordless mourners, and she eventually relaxes into a bonding moment with the baby.

Tyrese brings a bouquet of ragweed to his quarantined girlfriend but she and the other invalid are missing. He follows a trail of blood outside the prison walls and is shocked to find the smoldering bodies of Karen and David next to a can of gasoline. How did they have time between the eye-exploding and the dying to self-immolate? Did one of them drag the other outside once the flu symptoms kicked in? Is the virus contained or do we have to worry about all of the survivors’ sniffles?

After everything these people have been through – the constant zombie threat, watching their friends and loved ones turn into the undead, spiking their former friends and loved ones in the brains, living in a dilapidated prison – now they have to contend with the fact that there’s an eye-exploding flu about to rampage their civilization. You can learn all the knife techniques you want, but a microscopic bacteria might take you down. One day you’re eating breakfast with your buddies, hanging out with all of your new formerly-Woodburian neighbors and the next day you’re a zombie.

Death toll: Goodbye, Ryan, you seemed like a lovely man. And goodbye Other Guy Who Got the Flu, and goodbye to the Guy Patrick Ate and goodbye to the other red shirts who bit the big one during the eye-exploding flu / zombie prison riot. We will miss you. And goodbye to Nick, the most special zombie of them all. 

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