THE WALKING DEAD: “Inmates”

After its slow, moody, and pudding-filled midseason premiere, “Inmates” expands to the rest of the cast and delivers a much needed shot of adrenaline – plus a few surprises.

 All I have to do is believe, and that’s what I’m gonna do.

–Glen

Faith ain’t done shit for us.

–Daryl

A week after focusing solely on the Grimes men and Michonne in the midseason premiere, “Inmates” expands to the rest of the Walking Dead cast and delivers a much needed shot of adrenaline to the series. This episode consists of four short, mildly interlocking vignettes that reveal the fates of our remaining characters. Each of these groups is an interesting mix of strange bedfellows that are sure to be milked for maximum drama in the coming weeks. Let’s get to it.

Vignette 1.

The episode opens with a narration of Beth Greene reading a diary entry in the days preceding the attack on the prison. She sees the prison as the start of a new day where she and the other characters can be safe and sleep without worry. They can stop running, begin farming crops, and raise some pigs. Rick and Lori’s new baby is on the way, promising hope for the future. Of course, we know the fragility of this illusion. Lori is long dead, the prison is in ruins, and the scattered survivors are on the run for their lives. This narration plays over slow motion footage of Beth and Daryl on the run and killing walkers. Such an early focus on Beth, a small character in the grand scheme of things, usually foretells their demise at the end of the episode. She and Daryl finally escape the walkers and collapse in a field while vultures circle above.

Post-credits, we see Beth sitting by a fire at night urging Daryl into action. She wants Daryl to use his tracking abilities to help her search for other prison survivors, but he’s in full emo mode, sitting and staring into the fire looking sullen. Beth decides that she, at least, will look for other survivors, and Daryl eventually follows. Using Daryl’s tracking skills, they follow some footprints to where they eventually find some grapes squished on the ground. Investigating further, they find several walker corpses and what Daryl decides is human blood. Walking on, Daryl doesn’t notice several mutilated rabbit bodies in the hollow of a log. It’s an ominous image.

Eventually, they stumble onto a set of railroad tracks where a lone surviving walker is feasting on a freshly killed, shredded corpse. A child’s shoe lays nearby, and there’s evidence of a fight as both human and walker bodies litter the tracks. Beth continues to prove herself to be completely inept as she breaks down and cries while Daryl dispatches the lone walker. The last shot we get of the duo is by a fire as a recomposed Beth questions her ability to keep going if things don’t start to work out. The early portents prove incorrect as she survives the episode.

Vignette 2.

The focus shifts to our second group of survivors: the two young sisters Lizzie and Mika, baby Judith, and the frequently angry Tyrese now forced into at least temporary stewardship of these youngsters. Now, THIS is an interesting group.

Lizzie still appears to be creepily, emotionally dead and numb to the world around her. She seems like the kind of child who could kill a baby (oh?) and not have any real discomfort about it. Little sister Mika is just scared, and they both wish their mother figure Carol was still around. Tyrese is constantly trying to take care of the infant, Judith, and everyone wonders if her near constant crying will attract walkers. Sitting by the fire at night, the emotionally damaged Lizzie silently kills a family of rabbits nestled in the hollow of a log. Eventually Tyrese cuts his arm, and Mika runs away in fear squishiung some grapes on the ground and setting the scene for what Beth and Daryl found in the show’s opening segment.

Tyrese leaves the girls with Judith while he investigates some nearby screams that turns out to be the attack on the train tracks. Meanwhile, the still-crying Judith attracts two walkers to Lizzie and Mika in the forest. Lizzie chillingly begins to muffle Judith’s cries and suffocate the baby before they are saved by Carol in a total deus ex machine. Carol, unseen for several episodes after being sent away by Rick, is now reunited with the girls and Tyrese who still doesn’t know that Carol killed his girlfriend. It sets the stage for an inevitable showdown between Carol and Tyrese in the coming weeks. This is the seemingly ridiculous way that the show’s writers set the table.

The lone survivor of the fight on the tracks (he’s been bitten, however – Beth and Daryl will find him chowing down) tells the group to follow the tracks and follow them to a safe zone down the lines. Sure enough they soon see signs promising sanctuary and community for all those that survive at the railroad terminus.

Vignette 3.

The episode’s shortest segment finds Maggie, Bob Stookey, and Sasha resting by a river as Sasha tends to a bullet wound in Bob’s shoulder (how that wound will keep from festering without being cauterized is just one of the show’s mini-mysteries). Bob is happy to be alive while Sasha is joining Daryl on Team Emo this week. Maggie is only focused on finding Glen, and sets out to look with Bob and Sasha following behind.

They eventually find the bus that Maggie believes Glen was on when it left the prison, but it’s filled with walkers. Obsessed with finding the truth, Bob and Sasha open the back door slightly to let one walker out at a time for Maggie to see before she kills it. The walkers inevitably overwhelm Bob and Sasha and they all get out at once. The group kills them all, but Glen isn’t among them, so Maggie searches the bus. Inside she finds one last walker whose face we can’t see, but it definitely has Glen’s haircut. After putting it down she collapses into a bus seat and cries. However, the mystery is short-lived because…

Vignette 4.

Glen was never on the bus. He awakes on a second floor overhang, still inside the prison with a horde of walkers swarming below him. Seeing the devastation around him, he goes inside and collects some supplies. His trip inside reveals the ghostly remnants of the group’s former sanctuary within the prison, but there’s no longer any hope here. He collects his supplies, straps on some full-body riot gear, and goes outside where he’s immediately swarmed by the walkers. He somehow fights them off and see’s a woman who’s closed herself inside a chain link cage outside.

It’s Tara, one of the members of the Governor’s group from the prison assault. The last time we saw her she was running away in horror having realized the evil of the Governor’s whole plan. Now she’s stuck inside the prison as well. As Glen will eventually tell her once he hears her whole story, he doesn’t want her help, but he needs it. With Tara’s help, and a Molotov cocktail, they distract the walkers and escape.

They’re once again beset by walkers on the road, and Glen gets knocked out in the ensuing fight. Tara fights off the final walker just as an armored vehicle appears. Frustrated, Tara yells at the truck occupants for their lack of help just as three new characters step out. The leader, a mustached, flat-topped redhead responds, “You got a damn mouth on you, you know that? What else you got?” Cue credits.

All in all, this was a major improvement on last week’s episode, “After.” The Walking Dead is at its best when it isn’t trying to make any grand points. It doesn’t need them. I mean, after all, it’s a show about killing zombies. Here, director Tricia Block sets up her fractured stories well and lets the resulting impact of each one add up to the combined feeling of fear and isolation on the road. We didn’t need anyone spoon feeding (ahem, looking at you, Carl and your pudding) it to us. The episode’s title, “Inmates” refers to a pre-apocalypse sign seen in the last two segments warning travelers not to pick up hitchhikers in the area as they might be escapees from the nearby prison. It’s a nice nod in the direction of our characters who have, themselves, just narrowly escaped from the carnage of the prison. It’s just a little subtle, but has a nice impact when you take the time to think about it – just like this episode as a whole. With the coupling of Tyrese and Carol, the questions about if our groups will ever be reunited, and these tease of these new characters, there’s ample new story lines worth exploring in the coming weeks. Here’s hoping that they kept the mold from this episode.

Grade: B+

One thought on “THE WALKING DEAD: “Inmates””

  1. I can see we are going to be polar opposites of what we deem to be the best episodes of this series. While I enjoyed most of this week, the glaring convenient plot devices (read: newcomers/Carol showing up at the most opportune moments), failure of the Prison Community, Woodbury, and the new “Utopia” to recognize the existence of each other until, again, the most opportune moments, and the whole idea that none of these groups stumbled upon the other…it was a bit too convenient. I think the separation of our core characters is a must for pushing the boundaries of storytelling so as not to get complacent and comfortable within one place, but how often are they going to settle/get over-run by walkers and settle somewhere new? I hope this season will offer alternate paths for everyone, but I prefer the quiet character moments and less three-lumberjack-zombie-attacks.

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