Welcome to the Herschel show. Yes, Rick and Carl get to bond, but this episode really belongs to Herschel.
As Rick drives home, things are starting to get a little desperate at the prison. Daryl and his crew haven't gotten back yet and while no one new has gotten sick, the folks in quarantine are getting worse. Herschel has stayed locked inside the quarantine and is running himself ragged, feeding elderberry tea to those who can get it down, hooking dehydrated folks up to jury-rigged IVs, even intubating "Henry," who is pretty far gone, and instructing Sasha and Glenn to squeeze the breath-bag for him once every six seconds or so. Sasha and Glenn are looking pretty bad themselves, although Herschel seems to be immune to whatever is killing everyone. He even tries making some jokes to keep folks' spirits up. He also insists that when the flu kills someone that the subsequent stabbing in the brain take place away from the cells: the sick folks need to keep their hopes up and watching their dead friends get killed so they don't come back as zombies is not conducive to hopefulness. Maggie talks to her dad through the window, wanting to come in and help, worried about Glenn (who hides around the corner so she can't see how bad he looks) and concerned that Herschel looks so tired. Herschel is pretty amazing: despite his age and his lack of a leg, he is determined and positive and caring, doing everything he can to help these poor, sick people.
Rick finally gets back and Maggie lets him in. She's been out at the fence line, stabbing as many walkers as she can to try to relieve the pressure on the wobbly fence. She's the only one out there doing it - she's the only one who can. She notices that Rick is alone and shouts at him, "Where's Carol? Where's Carol?!?" He tells her that Carol was the killer and that he couldn't let her come back. Maggie pauses, considering, and then agrees that he did the right thing. He tells her to tell Herschel but no one else. Rick checks on Carl, leaving him with some of the food he collected and instructing him to stay put, despite Carl's request to come out and help him with whatever needs doing.
In the quarantine, people are fading fast. Caleb the doctor shows Herschel the shotgun he's got stashed under his cot, just in case; he says he himself is done for, waving Herschel's ministrations aside. Herschel asks folks to lock themselves in their cells as he and Sasha take another body out. She is exhausted, however, and he sends her back to his cell while he moves the body and spikes it in the forehead. He has to pull a sheet over the man's head first - this is the first quarantine victim he's had to spike himself as Glenn and Sasha have done all the others. Rick comes to the window to check in with him. The sheriff encourages the older man, offering what support he can. Then he says, "I need to talk to you about Carol."
The Carol conversation happens off-screen, though, and afterwards Herschel goes back into the cellblock to close the cell doors for the night. Sasha has collapsed and while he's tending to her, a dead quarantinee wakes up as a zombie, just a couple of open cell doors down. On the upper level, Glenn realizes that Henry has stopped breathing. He tries CPR but collapses, coughing up blood and slime, lungs filling with blood. Strangely, Herschel doesn't hear him, but little Lizzie does. She shouts for Herschel but as the old man heads for the stairs, the first zombie lurches at him. Things go to hell very quickly as other zombies awaken and start attacking various people.
Rick and Maggie are out at the fence to try to shore it up with braces. They hear a gunshot come from the prison. Rick sends Maggie inside to check it out, even though she points out that keeping the fence up is more important. In the quarantine, Herschel manages to subdue the downstairs walkers while on the upper level, Lizzie leads zombie Henry away from the collapsed Glenn. Herschel makes his way up the stairs as Lizzie trips; the old man manages to grab zombie Henry and throw him into some fencing. They go to check on Glenn and he's in rough shape. Herschel realizes that the breath-bag is still stuck in zombie Henry's throat and clambers over the railing to tussle with the zombie, trying to get the bag without getting bit.
Back outside, Rick has enlisted Carl's help to shore up the fence but the weight of the walkers is too great and the fence collapses. They run for the inner fence. Once inside, they go to their stash of semi-automatic weapons (when did they get those? and why are they being stored outside where they'll get rained on?). Rick gives his son a quickie lesson and they go back to the surging zombies. As the walkers bust the second fence and move towards them, Rick and Carl calmly and methodically shoot the shit out of them. There are a lot of zombies. Luckily they brought plenty of clips to reload.
Maggie can't get into the quarantine because Herschel has locked it from the inside. After scrabbling uselessly at the lock, she runs around to the visitor's window and shoots it out, climbing inside. She runs into the cellblock and sees her father struggling above her. She raises her pistol and Herschel cries out, "Don't shoot the bag! We need it for Glen!" Maggie fires, finishing zombie Henry. Herschel pulls the tube and bag out of the corpse and goes back to Glen. While Maggie holds the unconscious Glen's head up, Herschel quickly rinses off the tube with some rubbing alcohol before stuffing it down the younger man's throat. Glen's struggles for breath ease and it looks like they have saved him, at least for the time being. In the creepiest bit, Lizzie comes to check on them, asking if it's over. They reassure her and then ICK she drags the toe of her boot through the blood and mucus on the floor, like she's making designs. ICK.
As Rick and Carl put down the last of the outside walkers, Daryl et. als show up. Bob the medic heads inside with the medicine and he and Maggie prepare solutions for injections. On the plus side, so many people have died that there should be plenty of antibiotics to go around for the remaining sick folks. Maggie tells her father to go rest, now that the others are back. He picks up his Bible but closes it without reading, bowing his head and crying quietly.
In the morning, there's clean-up to be done. Michonne loads walker bodies onto a trailer. Rick and Carl go check on their garden. Herschel goes outside for some fresh air, reporting that it looks like Glenn is going to make it. Daryl: "He's a tough sumbitch." Herschel: "He is." Daryl, smiling a little: "You're a tough sumbitch." Herschel: "I am." Daryl asks after Carol and Herschel directs him to Rick: "She's okay. Just talk to [Rick]." Herschel asks Michonne if she's heading out and she asks if he'd like to join her. "Hell yeah," replies the old man, hero of the hour.
And as the camera pulls back, looking at the prison from the trees beyond, we see a man watching the prison. That man is, of course, the Governor. I told you he'd be back.
Here's a couple of things. That conversation Daryl and Rick are about to have? There is no way that's going to go well. Also, I haven't always been a Herschel fan but he was great in this episode. Also, regarding the chain link fence collapse: why haven't they reinforced the fence before now, or added rows of stakes on the outside? What have they been doing - just hoping that the chain link fence would hold up? These people are stupid.
Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead
17 hours ago