Review: The Walking Dead – Season 4, Episode 5

Alex Straker

There are several moments in this fifth episode of the season when the events being depicted on-screen are torturously tense. From the gruesome, tone-setting teaser through to the surprise conclusion, this episode stands up as one of the finest episodes of The Walking Dead so far, a riveting and effective story that makes fine use of its characters. It’s a further sign of the maturity of this season, which has so far managed to remain exciting entertainment without having to sacrifice genuinely emotional developments.

Following last week’s focus on the rescue teams, this episode throws us back into the prison outbreak, where the spread of the virus has gone from bad to worse. Herschel is the exhausted hero of the tale, as he struggles alongside suffering survivors such as Sasha and Glen. They fight to protect the living from the dead, but it isn’t long before they find themselves overwhelmed. Meanwhile, Rick is forced to call on aid as the rabble of ferocious walkers surround the prison and finally break in. And it’s at exactly the point when the group seem to have things under control, that a much-anticipated enemy makes a shocking return.

The decision to place Herschel at the centre of the episode was a wise one, effectively heightening the degree of tension throughout (let’s face it, he’s getting on a bit, and there are several points where it seems as though he just can’t carry on any longer). Herschel is also the perfect character to deal with the crises in the prison. He spends most of the episode like a member of an emergency rescue team, comforting the sick and the dying before rushing off to face another life-threatening catastrophe. It’s this familiar aspect that keeps the episode grounded, meaning that we identify with him throughout. That there’s such a steady stream of action on show with too little time to face it only increases how strongly we identify with his plight.

Thankfully there are also several effective supporting characters on hand, who all play their role in making the zombie onslaught feel fresh, ensuring that this particular outbreak plays out on a much grander scale than all the others before it. From Caleb’s eventual off-screen demise to Lizzy’s bizarre distraction trick with one of the zombies (she beckons it closer while the zombie stumbles towards her like an infant learning to walk) it brilliantly highlights that the prison has become a hive of horrific events. Balancing these events around Sasha and Glen is an added bonus – both characters look like they will be set to join the ranks of the Walking Dead alumni at any moment, which only adds to the terror appearing on screen.

It’s nice as well to see Rick and Carl finally fitting in some father/son time, even if said father/son time happens to coincide with them gunning down hundreds of flesh-eating zombies that are streaming onto their territory in the dead of night. I personally would have preferred a quick chat over lunch or a game of chess, but when any day could be your last I guess you take whatever social opportunities you can get.

By the time we near the end of the episode you can’t help but wonder if the show will be able to better these events… and then we catch a brief glance of the Governor. It’s likely that in a few weeks time, this flu epidemic will seem like a distant, over exaggerated memory.

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