It’s flu season on The Walking Dead! And boy is it a doozy. That’s what killed the nerdy young Patrick last week, a death that immediately sparks a rather gruesome massacre in Cell Block D. This particular strain of flu apparently makes your face explode, and can be fatal within 24 hours even for young and healthy people — which would be dangerous enough on its own even if it didn’t immediately turn their corpses into dangerous killing machines. When you consider that the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic managed to infect a third of the global population and kill an estimated 50 million people, it’s not looking great for our survivors.
And as the extinction of humanity looms even larger than before, it’s no surprise that their primary concern seems to be children — both protecting them and protecting their innocence, goals that ultimately prove to be incompatible.
“Why don’t you wear your hat anymore?” Michonne asks as Carl, shortly before hearing the gunshots. “It’s not a farming hat,” Carl replies, because he and Rick are farming farmers who farm now, in case you missed the many, many mentions of their farming over the last two episodes. Accordingly, they don’t wear cowboy hats anymore, nor do they carry guns, all because of an incident where Carl maaaaybe gunned down a (possibly dangerous) stranger in cold blood. Concerned that his son might be taking a one-way trip to Psychotown, Rick is now obsessed with trying to give Carl back his childhood, which in Rick’s mind means 1) farming (obviously) 2) refusing to let Carl take part in any zombie-related duties and 3) insisting he read comic books and go to storytime with the little kids.
Which isn’t entirely fair, and you can see how badly playing the role chafes for Carl. Like many of the survivors, he had to become a very different person in order to stay alive, and he hasn’t really been a child for a long time. But he’s trying with all his heart to act like one anyway because Rick wants him to, because he can tell that his father needs it far more than he does. Rick doesn’t want Carl to carry a gun because he wants to believe that Carl doesn’t need to carry a gun. And of course, that’s not true.0