I'm going to be really brief! I promise! It's going to be difficult, because this was a really meaty episode. But I'm going to be brief!
So, Patrick the Walker goes on a bit of a killing spree. It's slow, it's creepy, I just kept waiting for someone to walk around the corner and see him, but nobody did. One of the more genuinely scary moments in the history of the whole show, in fact, so kudos to them for that. So, thanks to Patrick quite a few of the inhabitants get bitten and the entire cell block is in danger of being wiped out. The survivors, including a lot of our main cast, rush in and kill all of the Walkers, but the casualties are pretty high.
In particular, we focus on Carol as she comforts a man named Ryan Samuels who has been bitten. His two daughters, Lizzie and Mika, come in to say goodbye. Although initially one of the sisters wants to be the one to stab her father's corpse in the brain, she's too afraid to do it and Carol ends up being the one. Wow, that's a really intense sentence. Yeesh, this show is gross sometimes. Carol plans to look after the two girls like they are her own daughters.
Carol's character is really, really fascinating to me here. She has this mothering attitude, but she's also very tough love. She basically tells the girls that they need to be stronger and not freeze up if they want to survive. Her sympathy for them is there as well, but she really wants them to know how dangerous things are. Going along with that, she wants Carl to lie to his father about the weapons lessons she's been giving to the kids. I'll get to that in a minute.
So, the gang figure out that Patrick died of some particularly nasty strain of the flu, and they worry about other people getting infected. They decide to keep people separated if they were exposed. This was one part of the episode that I think they could have made a little clearer... honestly, it seemed like every single person would have been exposed by now, so what was the point? Regardless, things are not looking good for Karen, Tyreese's girlfriend, who is coughing and showing symptoms.
The other big moment of conflict in the episode comes when a hoard of Walkers get very close to pushing in the gate around the prison. I'll admit some frustration when I see this sort of thing... if I were the one organizing all of this, I'd want constant rotations poking those things in the brains and keeping them away from the fence. It seems like they just do an occasional raid and kill a bunch of them, but then let them build up and become a threat again. Why not keep on that constantly? Maybe it's a bit of a nitpick, but I wish they had addressed that more. Anyways, the fence almost caves in, but Daryl and Rick take the truck out and lure the Walkers away with freshly slaughtered pigs.
At the end of the episode, Tyreese goes to visit Karen, but he discovers her burnt body, along with another as of yet unidentified body. The implication is that someone decided to eradicate the threat of the illness before it could spread, and they sacrificed two lives to do it. So, uh, that's dark. And adds an interesting tension to events.
There was one other very important tension in the episode, and it involved Rick's continuing struggle with violence and his uncertainty as to whether he can handle the violence that his position demands. He talks to Daryl about it briefly, but he remains unsure. Carl wants to have his gun back, but Rick doesn't want to let his son turn into what Rick himself almost did. When the fence nearly comes down, Rick has to pick up a weapon and do what needs to be done. In a wonderfully understated moment, we really see Rick's internal struggle just before he starts killing the Walkers. He later comes up with the plan to sacrifice the pigs in order to save the prison from being breached.
Carl gets a moment too - Michonne is almost overtaken by Walkers just outside the gate, but Carl saves her by shooting one of them. He's nervous to tell his dad about it. He also tells his dad that Carol has been teaching the kids how to use weapons. Both of these things convince Rick that Carl is okay, and can be trusted to have his gun back. Rick too decides to start handling weapons once more.
In all, this episode had a lot of complex character development, despite the fact that it was also action heavy and had some very scary fights against the Walkers. I already mentioned how interesting Carol's character is here. Rick and Carl's relationship is also developing nicely. Michonne and Beth had a very interesting moment where we see Michonne hesitate to hold baby Judith but then accept the responsibility and take joy from the simplicity of a young human life. Maybe the only heavy handed part was the romance between Tyreese and Karen. It was just a tad cheesy for my taste, but I suppose these people have to take the good stuff where they can get it.
In all, this was a solid episode with a lot of great action and character development.