Without seeing Rick as the boring farmer with no gun, there couldn't be a payoff after all the craziness of the hour when he finally reattached his belt and holster. Viewers don't want to see Rick digging in the mud, sure, but if the season gave him only one episode before he decided to lock and load again, it would have felt rushed.
Instead, we were able to see Rick show exactly the type of man and character he truly is, even if he's not carrying. He's willing to run straight into the chaos when all hell breaks loose, take command even if he's tried to sit back and he's able to make the decisions that others might not want to.
And it's obvious he wants to protect Carl, Judith and the rest of the survivors in the camp no matter who they are.
It was pretty emotional watching Rick cut the pigs and leave them for walker food as the fantastic and somber score played in the background. You wish he couldn't kill the three little pigs, but it was the only real option to buy the group time and get the walkers off the fence.
And in a way, it helped further exposed that reality that the walkers are everywhere and aren't going anywhere, no matter how much of a "community" is created. That danger is always out there; a "normal" life just doesn't exist.
It made that final moment for Rick shedding his blood and sweat stained shirt and gazing at the surrounding walkers have more of an impact. But it was also clear that danger lurks in the prison.
Patrick got sick and died, and we were given a nail-biting sequence as Karen wandered around in the dark with a flickering flashlight and the possibility of the newly turned boy jumping out to rip her apart. Luckily, she survived. For the time being.
Instead, Patrick feasted on an unsuspecting victim for a scene graphically bloody and intestine spewing that will probably make most people hold off on any snacks while watching.
Of course, the calmness of the prison was shattered as Patrick turned the guy into a walker (guts falling out) that turned into a snowball effect and shutdown of cell block D in an intense battle of confusion. Daryl used his crossbow like a boss, Rick jumped in the fray and the others cleaned up the mess before finally realizing that Patrick had the flu. Quarantine time.
And can you believe they have a doctor now? Bets on how long he lasts?
In all the commotion, Carol had time to once again show viewers how far she has come. She was able to remain strong and take out the bearded dude who was bit. To me, he was just another random guy killed off, but to Carol it was tearful loss that placed the children in her care to continue to try and raise as tough and strong.
Will she? Will they just be whiny kids?
Really, Carol had a lot to do in this episode that reiterated that concept of her changed self from speaking with Carl about "story time" to talking with the girls after their father died. And yet, the scene where Daryl asked if she was OK was able to illustrate that no matter how long you've been able to be tough and survive, it can still impact you. It's that human side that's always great to see.
And Michonne continued to open up in those small ways, from joking with Carl about stale M&Ms to crying when she was holding Judith. Might she have had a baby back before the zombie apocalypse? If so, it was another great moment for her character and to further explain why she's so hardened. I still didn't understand why she didn't use her sword and cut down a few walkers before she went through the day with her horse, but it ultimately led to that quiet, revealing scene which worked.
Unfortunately, I'm sure Tyreese's gentle caring side is going to go bananas after learning that his love Karen, who seemed so close to getting killed, was taken out back with David (who?) and burned. Too bad we didn't get to see their relationship grow. And he never even got to sleep over in her bunk either.
Someone is inside the prison feeding the walkers rats and causing problems for the group. It was never proven that Karen and David were sick, but that someone took matters into their own hands. Kind of crazy seeing those charred bodies and Tyreese's shocked face. My money is on Bob, but that dramatic hook at the end has got me excited to see what's next.
This was an episode full of turning moments, setting up another threat, giving the characters some time to grow and develop, and providing plenty of chomping walkers inside and out. The premiere as a set up allowed for a decent payoff and to continue to propel the characters and the story forward. The Walking Dead Season 4 is just getting started.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.