Watching Dead – 405 – Survival Guide – “Internment”

This week was really hard to write, to be honest. It’s not just because the episode was very good, in my mind it was the best of the season so far. And it wasn’t because of a general lack of material, hell no. There were head scratchers abounding! But it was rarely a clear cut “dangle Glenn above a bloated walker in a well” type WTF situation. Mostly each scenario mixed the crazy with the admirable, and I was faced with either doing about a dozen highly specific and short scenarios, or just a few complex breakdowns. I chose the latter.

Let’s get to it!

Scenario: In the death row turned sick ward “A” block, inmates/patients are dying.

What the survivors did: Hershel insists on removing each person as they die, by loading them onto a gurney, wheeling them into the observation room, and putting a knife through their head to ensure they don’t come back.

What the survivors should have done: As Hershel points out, keeping sick patients’ morale up is an important part of the survival / healing process. That’s the whole reason placebos work, after all. Your brain tells your body “look asshole, we’re going to beat this thing because of this magic pill the smart doctors gave us!” and your body says, “shit, I guess I better get to pumping out these antibodies, macrophages, and everything else making up this amazing immune system that keeps us alive despite a daily onslaught of invisible bastards trying to kill us, then.”

So, a lot of people have a problem with this. I think I’m going to side with Hershel, in this context. Hershel, Glenn, and Sasha are all highly experienced zombie fighters. A single zombie coming awake on a gurney isn’t going to be a threat to them, even in their weakened state.

Where Hershel loses marks is continuing in his desire to spare people the sight of a zombie being killed when it’s up and roaming around biting people. Give me a fucking break. All these men, women and children have seen zombies rampaging around before. It’s stupid. Hershel took insane risks with his life in that final battle for control of cell block “A”. Some, like his decision to wrestle with a zombie for a breathing bag for Glenn, were justifiable. Some, like luring a walker around a corner just so kids wouldn’t see it take a shotgun blast to the head, were definitely not.

But what are you going to do? I could come up with 300 words to describe what Rick should do to Hershel’s bean bag to “strongly discourage” him from being a dumbass again, but Hershel was by and large a hero, and his particular type of heroics wouldn’t work if he was the take-no-prisoners-kickass-badass like Daryl or Rick. You kind of need to be an insufferable dumbass to walk into that dank tomb of a prison wing and start helping people who are contagious as hell and dying from it. It takes all types to make the the undead world go ‘round, and Hershel’s the general you want when the battlefield is a sick cell block. When it’s shooting time, he needs others to take the lead.

Scenario: The “cluster” of walkers is growing larger, with only Maggie to tend to the herd now, and it threatens to completely compromise the prison’s fence system.

What the survivors did: First, they prepped and then propped up against the fence large logs, that looked like they were approximately 4-6 inches across, at 45 degree angles. The bottoms seemed to have been secured to the ground with a stake. From what I can tell a 4×4 wood column can support a compressive force of about 7500 pounds.

Incredibly, these stakes failed structurally, forcing the survivors to fall back to to a defensive position, where they were able to use rifles with high ammo capacity and the choke point between where the fence met up with the solid concrete walls of the prison to destroy the invading herd.

What the survivors should have done: Well, for starters, they should have been studying my guide from episode 402 and beefing up their fence security well before it was too late.Now it is too late, and they’re doing the best they can. Could they have done better?

Those logs should have held. Apparently the native wood in Georgia is balsa, because it had the rough structural integrity of a bendy type soda straw. I’d believe the fence poles bending in or the fabric of the chain link weakening and tearing in places before I’d believe those poles snapped like that.

Should they have started up with the guns earlier? That’s a debatable point. First, let me address the common criticism of this episode, namely, WTF are these idiots doing storing guns outside, right by the fence, where they could be damaged by heat, humidity, rain, or worse, be compromised by a walker incursion or turned against them by a human attack. It seems kind of stupid.

A few counter points. One, I highly doubt that’s their only weapon cache. We’ve heard references to an armory before, I suspect they have the bulk of their guns in a more secure, central location in the prison, and probably a few other caches in each cell block for emergencies. That of course, does not include their personal weapons that they seem to sensibly keep on their persons at all times. At least when Rick’s not playing full time farmer in a misguided effort to protect his son, that is.

Two, those bins full of guns and ammo were on wheels. I’m assuming they’re designed to be wheeled out and placed where needed during the day, and wheeled in at night. Night had just fallen, and the prison is short on staff at the moment, so perhaps those duties were neglected. I’m just saying, it might not be as stupid as it first seems. Still, it would have been a really nice touch if they had done some additional set dressing like rolling condoms over the barrels to protect them from the elements. No, I’m not kidding.

So, all these quibbles aside, would the survivors have been better off shooting the zombies through the fence? Hindsight being 20/20, yes. But consider, they know of the existence of large herds. They know they are attracted by gunfire. They don’t know specifically of the massive herd Daryl, Michonne, and company discovered yet, but still, going around shooting guns in the prison seems like a last stand type of move. You may well mow down the 500 zombies at your gates now, and in the morning face 5000 that came from miles around attracted to the shooting.

They were executing their fence reinforcement plan, which wasn’t a terrible one for the time they had allotted, to try to bide time for more bodies to return and help the conventional clearing efforts. I think I’m going to side with Rick and Maggie. After all, it worked, it seemed like they had a good fall back solution, and Rick and Carl were able to handle business without too much difficulty.

Although, one wonders if they could have used their apparently ample supplies of soon-to-go-bad gasoline to spray it on the walkers and light them on fire? I don’t think you could burn them to ash, but the temperature might get hot enough to cook their brains, which would be just as good. Of course, this would probably burn their wooden supports too. So… maybe not a great option, after all.

Scenario: The goddamned doors in cell block “A” have an annoying habit of being open, despite containing one or more proto-zombies.

What the survivors did: Hershel’s attempts to keep the doors shut are more like polite suggestions, that everyone, from dumbass fathers who earned himself a first round ballot trip to the Idiot Survivor Hall of Fame, to 11 year old girl, feel free to ignore as it suits them.

That the survivors should have done: Oh my god. This dad. Not only did he conceal the true condition of his son from Hershel (he was clearly dead) because why? You wanted more time with his corpse? Spike him in the head, spend as much goddamn time as you want, asshole. So not only did he do THAT, but when Hershel was being attacked, he came out of his cell, weapon drawn, left his door open, and acted like a useless dick farmer for 30 seconds before his zombie son came and bit him, which caused him to SHOOT ANOTHER SURVIVOR who was attempting to HELP HERSHEL. Then when he went down, he continued to fire rounds wildly. Jesus Saltine Cracker Christ the man can’t even DIE in a way that’s not a massive, colossal cockup. I mean, if he’d have lived and I’d have gone on this guide and said “I hope his son comes back from the dead and eats him alive” you’d be all like, “man, A.Ron, that’s pretty harsh” and yet that’s exactly what happened and I think he got off TOO EASY!

And Lizzie? I haven’t wanted a kid to die this bad since the brother (“veggie saurs!”) and sister (“This is UNIX! I know this!”) from Jurassic Park! They seem to be going an awful long way towards making a relatively simple point; this girl isn’t right in the head. And they’re doing it while making the classic The Walking Dead mistake that they’ve mostly avoided this season. Show us, or tell us, but don’t show us a half dozen times and then tell us twenty times. “You’re weak, Lizzie.” “Walkers aren’t people, Lizzie.” “No, seriously, kid, listen to Carl, walker’s aren’t people, for shit’s sake.” “For real this time, getting bit and dying and being reborn a walker is NOT like growing up, you tow headed moron!”

Dumbass Dad got his, what to do with Lizzie? Maybe Hershel could throw her into a headlock, while pretending to try to save her by dragging her back to her cell, and squeeze just a little bit too hard. Or, you could let her test this “gentle walker” theory out on Henry, and see what force is stronger; a deluded little girl’s survival instinct, or a zombie’s problem solving ability when confronted with wanting to eat a person while intubated. Either way, I doubt she pulls shit like this again.

In reality, Hershel should have LOCKED everyone in, not just shut the doors, and he should have done that starting when Glenn and Sasha were too weak to continue being his muscle.  He gets a Hershel pass for otherwise being awesome, but goddamn, man, that’s pretty inexcusable.

Scenario: Glenn succumbs to a paroxysm of coughing while trying to perform CPR on fellow patient Henry, who has died. Henry then re-animates, and with the cell doors wide open, threatens Glenn as well as the entire sickward with his flesh-eating ways.

What the survivors did: Lizzie, hearing the commotion, comes running over and tries to lure Henry out of Glenn’s cell by treating him like a wayward puppy. She continues to suffer under the delusion that there remains a bit of humanity in a walker, and thinks that since she distracted Henry with her succulent living flesh before he had a chance to tear into Glenn, that he’s going to be nice and listen. Long story short, she has to be rescued like a million times by an exhausted Hershel.

What the survivors should have done: First off, I have to point out, that Lizzie, for all the shit I give her, actually did, 100% undeniably save Glenn’s life with her actions. They were idiotic actions, sure, and he could have done the same thing with out the cutsie “here boy” bullshit from a greater distance and survived. I mean, what if she had just backed into a cell and shut the door? I mean, she seems to be really good at whipping zombies into a focused frenzy by parading around the safe side of a secure barrier.  All would be forgiven.

But no, Hershel has to come and save her. How much better off would they have been if he’d had thrown her over the side of the railing and onto the fence netting and dispatched Henry? One, Lizzie would be safe, which while not high on my priorities is admirable. Two, you wouldn’t have to go wrestle with Henry on said fence moments later to get the breathing bag to save Glenn’s life.

By the way? Nice shot, Maggie. Gold star for you. She held down the prison by herself, didn’t cause a bunch of drama with Rick’s banishment news, was a cool cucumber throughout, and finished things up with a great shot that saved the two men she cares most about. Win/win/win.

Finally, a lot of people questioned the wisdom of intubating Glenn with a tube you just yanked out of a walker. A close examination of the scene reveals Hershel opening up a fresh intubation tube from a sealed plastic bag, and in any case, he was also dousing everything with alcohol to sanitize and disinfect it. Very good job of keeping the viewer’s suspension of disbelief going with a few half-second scenes and prop acting with Scott Wilson there. It’s the kind of stuff I hope we see more of, where you can see the writers and director thinking, “wait, is this smart? What can we do to stage this scene to make it more effective and believable.”

Scenario: The governor re-appears to menacing music, in broad daylight, right outside the prison, with plans unknown but likely sinister.

What the survivors did:

What the survivors should have done: Man, fuck this, fuck this storyline, fuck this prison, fuck this one-eyed having motherfucker.

Haha, just kidding. As I mentioned on the spoiler segment of the podcast this week I really like some of the ways they can wrap this up, and the likely direction of the remaining 3 episodes and the back eight of the season when it comes back this February. So I’m super high on the show right now, which probably means they’re going to fuck it up worse than a Grimes in a kitchen on Saturday morning. Let’s see if they can make the governor interesting again! See you here same time next week!