Because The Walking Dead is operating as a never-ending zombie drama without any real long-form story other than "don't get eaten," everyone's expiration date on the freshness of the series is going to differ. For some viewers, the show went sour when Rick and crew hunkered down at the Greene Family Farm for a post-apocalyptic debate on ethics; for others, things curdled during the Woodbury shenanigans of Season 3. I've never seriously considered quitting the show, but I'm now smelling the carton every time I watch a new episode because I'm wondering what's really keeping me here. (Okay I know the answer, it's zombies.)
The Walking Dead isn't asking any real questions these days, except for "Did that person die?" and "What will everyone do now?" That was incredibly apparent in "Inmates," an hour of reconnecting with the rest of the gang after the prison was torched and overrun by the undead. And unlike last week's "After," "Inmates" didn't even attempt to touch on a theme, resorting more to "stuff happened" and some horror-movie tricks.
The most interesting thing about "Inmates" was that it played like a series of short stories, starting out with Beth and Daryl running from zombies. Then it was Tyreese, Myka, and Lizzie running from zombies. Then it was Maggie, Sasha, and Bob running from zombies. And finally it was Glenn and Tara running from zombies. With everyone split up, The Walking Dead had to make some decisions about how to handle its separate stories, and this seemed as good a way as any, given the situation that Season 4B is backed into. But expect things to be sloooooooow in the early going, because there's just not enough time for everyone to get a full-episode arc. And while there's nothing we can do about that, we CAN look at each group's happenings and give them grades!
BETH AND DARYL OR "BARYL"
Beth and Daryl probably got the worst of splitting time, as their story, which we'll call The Zombie Apocalypse According to an Optimist and a Pessimist, did little but tell us they weren't dead. Voiceover from Beth read entries from her pre-prison times when she was hopeful of the security the prison offered, going so far as to offer that they could live there forever. Err, maybe not, Beth. It played opposite to what was happening on screen, which was... running from zombies! Even in the face of danger, Beth held on to a lot of positive vibes and hope, whereas Daryl was a Debbie Downer, raining on Beth's parade with gloomy gazes from underneath his sweaty bangs. It was incredibly disappointing to see Daryl like this, and frankly, out of character. Yeah, Daryl is the cranky loner, but he's also shown a fondness for Beth and a propensity to protect those in need. Even you hardcore Daryl lovers had to think he was being a dick, right? Beth had a breakdown and all Daryl did was walk away. Pretty weak, dude! I would never do that to you, Beth. Although I might push you into a zombie if it was a you-or-me situation. Sorry! Other than realizing that Beth knew how to read and write, nothing really happened here. Grade: D.
TYREESE, LIZZIE, AND MYKA OR "TYRIZZKA"
Tyreese, Lizzie, and Myka had an extra visitor with them: Judith! Yes, Judith was not dead OBVIOUSLY and Tyreese was stuck playing makeshift daddy to her and to Dumb and Dumber. There was some really weird stuff going on with these guys, most noticeably with psychopath Lizzie. Did she murder those bunnies? And she seemed to enjoy smothering Judith a little too much. I know I used to harp on this little zombie-naming nutjob, but if she's gone off the deep end and has the potential to murder anyone at anytime, then I take it all back. Myka, on the other hand, was an idiot. She got so scared by a bird that she ran off on her own screaming like a little girl. Grow up, kid! Later, Tyreese would run off to help some randoms but they were so dumb that they kept getting snuck up on by zombies from behind so they all died. And then guess who saved Myka and Lizzie's asses? Carol! Carol's back, y'all! I love you, Carol. Apparently she's just been driving around and then watched the prison burn down? She didn't tell us much about what she's been up to, but who cares, because Carol is back! And now Carol is with Tyreese, who still doesn't know she killed Karen. It sets up a situation where Carol can prove her worth to Tyreese so he doesn't get too mad that Carol killed her girlfriend, I guess. Or Tyreese finds out and puts a hammer through her eye. Under advice from a dying old man, the group followed the train tracks until they reached a sign for Terminus, a new supposed safe haven. This was probably the most eventful of all the stories (Judith's alive! Carol's back! Terminus!), but it was also the most random (WTF Lizzie?). However, compared to the others, this felt like it had some purpose. Grade: B
MAGGIE, SASHA, BOB OR "MASHOB"
Maggie had the disadvantage of being saddled with Sasha and Bob, two of the least interesting characters left, but it worked out in Maggie's favor because this was all about her. Separated from her husband, Mrs. Rhee was determined to find Glenn or his corpse, preferably the former. So she hoofed it towards the direction of the escape bus, with Sasha and Bob following along because they had nothing better to do. It wasn't long before they found the bus, and of course it was full of zombies, but Maggie had to be sure that Glenn wasn't one of them. So they devised a system where they'd let one zombie out at a time and then killed all of them as they poured out. Nope, that zombie wasn't Glenn. Not that one either. That one's a woman, so nope. Nope nope nope, no Glenn. Maggie then hopped on the bus where one more zombie was pinned beneath a corpse, and when he got up, Maggie stabbed him in the face and cried a lot. We never saw his face, only the back of his head, and it sure looked like it could have been Glenn, meaning it was a perfect time for a commercial break to keep us wondering. This was all about Maggie and Glenn, which meant Sasha and Bob didn't get squat. But really, does anyone care about Sasha and Bob? Not I. Turn 'em into chum. Grade: C
GLENN OR "GLENN"
Hey Maggie! Glenn's alive! Glenn was back at the prison waking up from a an illness-induced nap. Surrounded by zombies, he went inside to resupply and found a mother lode of equipment, including that sweet riot gear he wears so well. He suited up and shoved his way outside where he saw Tara sitting quietly behind a chain link fence just sorta there. I don't know why there weren't any zombies around her, so don't ask. Glenn grabbed her and the two ran out of the prison, Tara told him Hershel died, Glenn said he had to find Maggie, some zombies were killed, and then a truck showed up with Michael Cudlitz, some other guy, and a girl dressed like a sexy army brat. Whaaaa? Big points for Glenn because he was a badass, minus a point for Tara, and plus a point for a legitimately interesting cliffhanger (and that entirely unnecessary sexy military outfit). Grade: B
So that was "Inmates," in which stuff happened. There wasn't any real direction, there wasn't any real goal, stuff just happened. I was all excited to see the group finally leave the comfy confines of the prison, but now I'm not sure if splitting them up was the right idea. The good news is that they're all so close that they'll eventually run into each other (Michonne already met up with Rick and Carl), but until then, the stories will be spread too thin. Overall Grade: C
– "Lizzie hand me a diaper" was on high on the list of things I'd never expect Tyreese to say. But I'm glad he said it.
– How are people still getting snuck up on by zombies? Open your earholes, people! They're not exactly masters of stealth.
– Is dressing like a sexy army girl a good choice for apocalypse fashion?
– Lizzie is a proven deadeye shot. So why was Myka holding a gun? Was it because Lizzie is a better baby murderer? And did you notice how Lizzie was super into smothering Judith? She didn't even care that zombies were bearing down on her.
– Why did Tara say she saw her sister and her nephew? Did she mean niece?
– Does dialogue mean anything to this show anymore?
– Glenn threw the molotov at the car to distract zombies. Are zombies more attracted to fire than they to human flesh?