I guess I was a bit too overexcited last week, when the mid-season premiere decided to tell a strong story focused on arguably the most interesting characters on the show. I will give credit to The Walking Dead for approaching this episode in an anthology format, as it is something this show has not attempted before, given the general newness of everyone being separated. While “After” was a much slower-paced effort, showing us what came of Rick, Carl, and Michonne, following the fall of the prison, “Inmates” was an episode focused on everyone else in the cast. The results were fairly solid, as it was heavy on reveals to some key questions and essentially speeds up the process, as far as informing us on minor characters goes. Keeping a tight focus worked well the previous episode and it may have served certain characters well if the same decision was made again for this week, but as it stands, I can at least enjoy seeing story progress taking place.
Thanks to the anthology format, it might actually be easier to get through a lot of this. “Inmates” begins with Daryl and Beth. These two happen to be on opposite ends of the spectrum for me, as far as “characters on The Walking Dead that I like” goes, so the initial feeling that this would be an episode mostly about these two was a cautiously optimistic one. Fortunately I did not have to suffer through another “Beth sings” section of the show, in an effort to better realize whatever it is this show wants me to feel whenever it pulls out one of her song sessions (No offense to Emily Kinney, who has a lovely singing voice). This dynamic duo does not accomplish a whole lot, but they do set up the basic pattern for the episode: we will meet a set of characters, watch them deal with the sad emotions that come from the prison having fallen apart, only to then decide to regroup, move on, and search for other survivors.
If anything, the only issue I could take is how this opening section also sets up the general setting for this episode, which involves people running around the woods and occasionally killing zombies. Zombie kills always impress on The Walking Dead, but it amounts to us seeing a lot of the same thing throughout an episode, with a difference coming in the form of which characters we are watching. While this lack of much of a change is certainly not as unappealing as spending an entire season on a farm, I can only hope we get more than just people running around the woods in the near future.
The next set of characters we follow in the episode are Tyrese, Lizzie, and Micah. A bit more is established here, including fuel for a theory I have, which I will explain in more detail at the end of this post. One of the biggest reveals is that baby Judith is alive and well, as Tyrese apparently decided to grab the baby, sans carrier, on his way out of the prison. Most of this section of the episode relies on how far Tyrese can go, without yelling at the two little girls to keep it down. It is good stuff, as it continues to shape these personalities in a limited amount of time, only to bring us to a major zombie action sequence that crosscuts between Tyrese unsuccessfully helping two men out with his trusty hammer, while Lizzie nearly smothers a baby to death on a television show. That last bit is the kind of thing that could easily turn many viewers off, but any show that can have me screaming at my television for the appropriate reason feels like one that has accomplished its goal of the moment. While this sequence turned into a mild cliffhanger that was resolved by the return of Carol (yay!), it makes for an intriguing turn of events, based on what we know, what Carol knows, and what Tyrese does not know.
Maggie, Sasha, and Bob make up the next group of survivors we check in with and it all pretty much amounts to Maggie being really worried about Glenn, then being relieved. There is some chatter between Sasha and Bob in an attempt to deepen their characters just enough to have you balance your distaste for a guy who has nearly gotten a few people killed on this show, but it really comes down to seeing a bunch of zombies get dispatched, while Maggie looks distraught. The darkly humorous undercurrent of this sequence is the way The Walking Dead managed to find a way to essentially kill off a majority of the remaining red shirts that were living in the prison. Well played indeed.
The final scenario is largely focused on Glenn. As Glenn is one of the more consistent characters on this series, I was mostly pleased by this notion and while I mentioned the staleness of seeing a lot of people running around in the woods earlier, The Walking Dead did manage to pull of something visually cool by opening the scene with a crane shot of Glenn sitting just out of reach of zombies below him. The rest of this sequence played out nearly wordless and while I may not have needed to see Glenn having the obvious realization that he needs to get it together and find Maggie, I did enjoy seeing him assemble all his items in a brief montage and charging through a horde of zombies, while covered in riot gear. The scene was playing out well, only to have me completely dismayed by the return of the insufferable Tara.
It is the kind of thing that I should have seen coming, given that the “previously on” highlights the scene from a previous episode focused on Tara, but the fact remains that I have not been a fan of this character or how she has been played. That said, a scene that centers on Tara revealing to Glenn that Hershel has been killed works for what it is. Also helping is an ending that was a pretty dynamite way to please fans of the comics. It makes little difference to anyone else, as it simply involves three new people posing and making us wonder if this is going to overstuff the show with characters yet again, but ideally this can at least provide the future episodes of this season with a central focus again.
The anthology concept shows a lot of confidence how to handle The Walking Dead at this point. While I can continue to wish that slower-paced, focused episodes can make up the majority of the rest of this season, I know that there is just too much going on to move at that speed. At its emotional core currently, the show has little beyond the Rick and Carl relationship to really spend a whole lot of time on, so I can take an episode that checks us in with everyone else to good effect, more or less. It does not hurt that there was not a total reliance on dialogue to spell everything out, even if the pattern for each group was in full effect each time out. I guess in the long scheme of things, the notion of keeping this show sprawling may have been an interesting route, but with so few people to root for because you really like them, as opposed to just not wanting to see more dead, it may be nice to have them reconvene sooner, rather than later. Really though, I’ll just be curious to see how many characters we plan to check in on next week.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Maggie went to town on that bus zombie, didn’t she?
- At least Beth didn’t write about having a crush on Daryl in her diary, as she’d have to wait in a seemingly endless line for that one.
- Judith Sightings: 1. Glad that that is over. While I was leaning towards her being alive, it’s nice to keep things just a touch above super depressing, given all the death in one day.
- “You got a damn mouth on you, you know that? What else you got?” – I am a big fan of the Abraham character in the comics and was happy to see Michael Cudlitz cast in the part. Here’s to hoping he’s more than just a moustache.
- My Carol Theory – Obviously not a spoiler, because I do not know for sure, but just be weary of my potentially accurate theory: I have had a feeling for a long time now that Carol moved the bodies of Karen and David, but did not actually kill them. I actually think it was little Lizzie who did the deed and Carol has simply covered for her. Given Lizzie’s actions on the show this week and various amounts of evidence that has been cropping up in other episodes, it would not only be satisfying to learn I was right, but it would make me forgive some questionable actions seen in Carol in previous episodes of this season.
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what myself and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on the The Walking Dead TV Podcast.