On “The Walking Dead,” happiness usually leads to tragedy. Any devoted fan can tell you that.
And so, when we see Tyreese getting all lovey-dovey with his new main squeeze, Karen, in the opening moments of Sunday's episode, “Infected,” we get a sick feeling in our stomachs because we just know that this isn't going to end well.
And sure enough, Karen eventually starts coughing at one point — apparently exhibiting the early stages of the mysterious virus that turned Patrick into a gruesome, bloody-eyed walker. And though she is quarantined in Cell Block A with another prison resident on the advice of Herschel, she is still doomed.
By the end of the hour, Tyreese is on his way to visit her with a bundle of flowers in hand, only to spot ominous trails of blood leading out of the cell block. He follows the trails outside, where he is shocked to find the charred remains of Karen and the other infection victim. Apparently they had died and reanimated (at least let's hope so) and someone (we don't yet know who) doused their corpses with gasoline and set them ablaze. Or did they set themselves on fire? Not likely.
It's a gut wrenching scene, to be sure. We haven't spent a whole lot of time with Tyreese, but we know he's a good guy. He deserves to be happy and have someone who makes him go all gooey and sing Sinatra songs.
On the other hand, we've now reached the point in “The Walking Dead,” where some deaths just don't have the same emotional impact on us. The show has mowed through so many key characters — Shane, Lori, T-Dog, Andrea, Merle, etc. — that it's now picking off people in whom we're hardly invested. Who was Karen anyway? Who knows?
Same goes with the death of Ryan, the father of two young daughters, Lizzie and Mika. When Carol brings the girls in to say their final goodbyes to Dad, of course it's sad. You feel for them. But the impact would be much greater if we were more familiar with them. Maybe, we're becoming a little like Beth and finding it harder to cry.
But if this episode didn't quite succeed in tugging at the heart strings, it certainly amped up the feeling of dread and terror. There's a new threat to our intrepid band of survivors and its blossoming from inside their walled-off sanctuary. The fact that no one yet knows what causes it and/or how to deal with it, makes it all the scarier. Where's it coming from? Who will be next? Shudder.
What this episode also established is that it's no use to try and lead a peaceful, Zen-like, violence-free life in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Rick finally realizes this. He tried to be a gentleman farmer and an ammo-free family man. And he tried like hell to impart those values to Carl, his long-haired, trigger-happy son. But it just didn't work.
It's obvious that prison residents need Rick to be the courageous gung-ho leader — the sheriff who springs into action to blow zombies away. The think-quick-on-his-feet guy who slices up pigs to use them like bacon-flavored bread crumbs and lure zombie hordes away from the prison's feeble fences.
And so it's no surprise when Rick relents and allows Carl to have his gun back, and straps his own holster back on. And it's no surprise that he's not going to stop Carol from teaching the kiddies how to use weapons to defend themselves and vanquish zombies with one quick knife slice through the ear.
On “The Walking Dead,” the threats just keep coming. More zombies keep pushing up against the fences. The prison-dwellers are going to need all hands on deck.
Random thoughts and occurrences:
– Besides the (swine flu?) infection, the episode introduced another juicy little mystery: Who's the idiot feeding rats to the zombies in the middle of the night and why? Any theories?
– And while we're asking questions, what's with Michonne's baby phobia? Why did she hesitate to hold Judith? And once she did, what was it that triggered the flood works? Is she haunted by something in her past? We TV viewers still know so little about Michonne's back story. In the comic books it's revealed that she had two daughters who died).
– It has been satisfying to watch Carol's evolution from meek wife to courageous fighter. She clearly doesn't want the prison kids to be victims as she once was. When she tells Lizzie, “You're weak. If you want to live, you have to be strong,” you know it's coming from a place of experience.
So what did you think of the episode? Are entranced by the story line so far?