After the intense Zombie attack on the main camp at the end of last week's episode, it makes sense that the show would take a break from Zombie encounters and deal with the repercussions of the group's somewhat peaceful life being disturbed. However, those who expected a quick exit from camp and the search for a new home to dominate the episode were incorrect. As Lori said to Daryl as the group buried those they lost in the attack, "We all need time to mourn and to bury our dead, that's what people do," and that is what the viewers needed as well.
The episode also allowed us to get back to one of my favorite aspects of the series, the accelerated aspect in which people must let go of loved ones, and how to deal with people as they turn into walkers. We saw this earlier with Morgan's inability to kill his zombie wife in the pilot, but since then we have avoided death altogether. This episode brought us several moments of poignancy, from Andrea refusing to let the group destroy her sister until she could wish her a birthday goodbye, to Glenn insisting that the bodies of group members be disposed of in a more humane way than those of unknown walkers. There was also talk about setting a standard of rules on how to deal with those inflicted with the disease. After all, where do you draw the line between trying to save someone you love, and protecting the living from potential zombie attacks. This episode encountered several of the potential ideas: the group destroying most of those bitten and killed right away, Andrea waiting until Amy reanimated to shoot her, and Jim being allowed to make his own decision on where his final resting place would be. I doubt any specific rules will be put in place, but it was nice seeing the survivors attempt to hang on to what little of humanity is left.
This leaves us with the other huge development of the episode, which is the existence of some sort of CDC operation attempting to eradicate the disease, even if it is just one person. Apparently the government declared a state of emergency called Wildfire as the zombies overran civilization, and the CDC locked down at all its locations looking for a cure. Rick and company set out to the military base and the episode ends with the door opening after Rick screams into the motion sensor camera for some much needed shelter. While the episode did not make any distinct claims on how close the CDC employee is to a cure (given the fact that his best preserved sample gets blown up in the episode, I'm guessing not close), it does inform us that this epidemic has spread across the globe and that there appears to be no country that has survived. I'm guessing this does not mean that there are not more fortified outposts and CDC centers still functioning, as in my opinion the hope for some sort of eradication of the disease is necessary for the show not to fall into too dark of themes. The never-ending threat of zombie attacks, and the terrible things people have to do to survive make the show dark enough, and without at least some hope for the resurrection of civilization "The Walking Dead" may become too bleak.
Still, even with the show providing some information on how the federal institutions are performing (poorly), next's week season finale looks like it will provide little closure. One of the main theme's of the show is that the zombie apocalypse has destroyed all of mankind's sense of trust and it appears both the CDC and military, if I saw that right, both are very reluctant to allow Rick and the group to stay underground. In some good news it appears that the great Lennie James will be reprising his role of Morgan Jones in the season finale. His performance in the pilot was amazing and I expect him to add yet another excellent personality to the group.
Grade: A-, there may have been no zombies, but this episode set the stage well for what looks like an intense finale.