In "Infected," the group finds that one of their cell blocks is compromised by Patrick Zombie after he dies from some sort of airborne infection and then turns. Hershel, Rick, and a few other people of Woodbury go in to quell the the outbreak; when all's said and done, they proclaim that they have to be careful about this new influenza, and that even they could be infected. Then they proceed to go around the jail, potentially spreading about these germs to everyone at camp.
It's this kind of smart thinking that serves as leadership in The Walking Dead; the group know that they should be careful, and the council members that we heard about last week debate about what they should do with the infected. But everyone is mostly concerned about people that are already exhibiting symptoms of sickness - by then, once people are physically sick, the damage has already been done.
That's okay, though. This episode's not too worried about infection yet, because there's a lot of other stuff to deal with. The fence that has been protecting the group at the prison is about to fall down because someone's been feeding the zombies rats. There's also the whole problem of cleaning out Cell Block D now that a dozen Woodbury residents were eaten or killed in the hubbub. It's a good thing Rick thought to put all Woodbury residents in D, or else The Walking Dead might have lost someone the audience has actually met before!
There are a few emotional instances in "Infected," the first one being the slow death and subsequent turning of some dude from Woodbury who has a couple kids living with him. Carol's bright idea isn't to kill Dad before he causes any more damage, but to bring his kids in post-zombie state to say goodbye. She also offers them a chance to kill him themselves, for closure perhaps. But this seems like an incredibly cruel thing for her to ask them to do, and they react in the shocked and terrified way you'd expect them to. Carol still offs the zombie pop, but not before offering the kids comforting words and telling them there's always next time. You're so sweet, Carol.
I'm doing a lot of complaining here, but at least "Infected" feels like it's giving the series a direction now that the Governor has mysteriously disappeared. The show needs a little excitement, something that forces the survivors to move from the calm of the prison. The infection is a good premise, although I suspect it's not going to be the sole focus of this season. Even better is the notion that the prison is becoming too dangerous for the survivors. It'll be interesting to see if Rick decides to leave, and if he'll take any people from Woodbury with him when he leaves.
The highlight of this episode, though, is a poignant scene where Rick is forced to sacrifice his pigs to lure the zombies away from the fence long enough for wooden supports to be placed to reinforce it. As Rick slices each of the pig's legs, it becomes clear that this a metaphor: Rick's wish, to simply be a farmer, can never happen. He can't just give up his gun because he wants to, and the world won't stop even if he does. Sure, the scene is a little overdrawn when a stream of blood spurts into his face, but the sentiment is still there, and it's much more affecting than the scenes of unknown people dying.
It's also better than Tyreese finding out his lover was burnt after she came down with the flu. At least we've known her for two episodes. Still, as the audience we are continually picking out characters to care about because, just like the survivors, we try to distance ourselves from the ones that won't last; Tyreese is a character I simply can't get myself to bet on, and so I certainly haven't found myself attached to his personal life.
"Infected" finds direction for The Walking Dead, but it's an episode that's just as flawed as all of the others. Sometimes it hits the right notes, but just as many times it raises questions about how well all of the characters have been developed. In Talking Dead tonight, the guests made mention of how the residents of Woodbury made great anonymous fodder for the zombies. That's true, but I wouldn't exactly take that as a compliment; it's more an indication of how little time The Walking Dead actually spends crafting likable characters.