*Yup there are spoilers ahead … and walkers … and steamy Georgian heat and …
And then there were more than three …
Quite a few more in fact.
After last week’s finely executed slow burn bringing together of Michonne (Danai Gurira, who just celebrated a birthday), Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) which culminated in the best door knock ever, episode 10 concentrated on checking on in all the other prison survivors.
Dividing its time between four scattered groups: (1) Darryl (Norman Reedus) and Beth (Emily Kinney), (2) Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and his Kindergarten Cop-ish brood of Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino), Mika (Kyla Kennedy) and yes Judith aka Asskicker (she lives!), (3) Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and (4) Glenn (Steven Yuen) and Tara (Alanna Masterson), “Inmates” (title drawn from a sign by the side of the road that warns that “hitchhikers may be escaping inmates”) did its best to get us up to speed with the state of the prison survivors.
And while it did that well, it sacrificed last week’s sense of strong brooding drama in the process.
Clearly with that many characters to account for, the writers couldn’t afford the highly evocative moments that made “After” such a remarkable episode.
There wasn’t time for anything like Carl’s pudding eating on the porch roof or Michonne’s traumatised one foot in front of the other silent marches through walker-infested forests and that makes sense.
There was simply too much to do.
And while there were some real moments of tension and some real surprises, “Inmates” was more perfunctory and utilitarian than gripping, a set up for what is to come than a dramatically satisfactory end in itself.
Having said that, there were a few interesting reveals that kept interest up including the miraculous return of Carol (Melissa McBride) who arrive just in the nick of time to save Lizzie, Mika and Judith from a pack of ravenous walkers, and a further reference to a sanctuary simply referred to as Terminus via a sign on the railroad tracks that promised, much like the radio message earlier in season 4, that “those who arrive, survive”.
After the Governor’s Stepford Wives meets North Korean prison camp experiment in new urban planning, you could forgive the survivors for being sceptical but with precious options available to them, they will probably have no choice but to check it out, which they can now do thanks to the handy map splashed large across the sign.
Quite where it will all lead is a matter no doubt for later in the season; for now, “Inmates” was all about finding out where the crew had got to, and how they were faring.
Running frantically and exhaustingly from walkers seem to be the order of the day for Beth and Darryl with rest only coming when they clearly felt they’d outrun the seemingly ever present walker packs and put enough distance between them and the prison.
After pausing only to fight off their undead pursuers, they dramatically flopped inside clearing in the middle of a field of thick bushes that proved an obstacle course too challenging for even the most flesh hungry of walkers.
“Hey, I know it’s been a while. I’m gonna be honest, I forgot about you.”
(Beth addressing a mysterious “other” who turns out to be her journal)
Later over a fire, Darryl, who has shouldered more than his fair share of keeping everyone safe duty, appeared exasperated when Beth, who narrated much of their time together via journal entries she began making in prison and continued making on the run (“Dear Diary, today I fought off successive waves of decaying animated corpses; I need ice cream!”) somewhat petulantly stormed off into the forest IN THE DARK to find the others, but nobly followed after her, doing his best to track their agonisingly close but never quite crossing paths fellow survivors.
(In a neat twist, one of the walkers that attacks them at one point is the same flannel-wearing older man who Tyreese tries in vain to save by the railroad tracks, his turned form performing his own Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon linking.)
*You can read an interview with Emily Kinney about “Inmates” and the all new Beth at insidetv.ew.com
Walking through the forest and then later the railroad tracks, which seem to be an emerging focal point for the series, Tyreese is the ultimate mother hen, shepherding a clearly frightened Mika and falsely confident Lizzie, and to everyone’s relief, via a clever turnaround reveal, little Asskicker herself, Judith (weep not Rick and Carl!) to an elusive place of safety.
His task is complicated all the more by Judith’s understandable though walker-attracting voluble distress at not enough food, too much heat and too full diapers and Mika’s increasing paranoia that there are walkers behind every tree (there pretty much are as it turns out).
Taking his role as father protector very seriously, Tyreese only leaves them alone once, standing back to back with gun and knife ready, when he hears other survivors fighting for their lives down by the railroad tracks and runs off to help.
Alas his valiant efforts cannot save the two embattled men and his sense of fruitless toil is compounded all the more when he hears the gun he gave to Mika go off.
Before he can run back though Carol emerges with the girls safely in her care, and the five of them set off down the tracks, Tyreese blissfully unaware he is with his prison girlfriend’s murderer.
And of course Carol is saying nothing, a wise move under the circumstances I think.
If we ever needed proof that walkers are wholly incapable of lining up in single file and exiting a ruined school bus in a calm and orderly manner, we got it in the segment that checked in on a clearly distraught Maggie, who may have lost Beth and Glenn, in addition to her Governor-executed father Hershel (the much-missed Scott Wilson) and her companions Sasha and Bob.
Giving up a choice camping spot with water to the back and good vantage points to watch for pesky walkers, Bob and Sasha run after Maggie when she decides she has to find out what happened to Glenn who last she saw, was on the school bus and heading east.
Of course she’d like to find Beth too, assuming she is there to be found, but has no idea where she might be so the bus it is.
Only when they find it, it is stopped dead in the road, filled to the brim with undead versions of their former prison friends – relax it’s no one we knew; this time at least – and quite conspicuously Glenn-less, much to Maggie’s simultaneous relief and distress.
(The way they determine he’s not onboard is almost funny, releasing out the back emergency door one by one till dammit, the walkers decide they will have none of this orderly malarkey and storm out to be slaughtered with typical ruthless efficiency; proof positive that the undead will never be able to queue for anything).
Meanwhile back at the prison, Glenn awakens on the ruins of one of the upper walkways, a seething mass of walkers all playing what appears to be “Pick me! Pick me!” below him.
Suitably freaked out at the carnage and rather low chances of getting out in one piece, Glenn gathers himself together, grab a backpack full of supplies, his riot gear (the better to fend off the munching undead my dear!) and storms out through the almost impenetrable swarm of walkers infesting the still-smouldering remains of the prison.
It’s a ballsy move granted, but it’s not like he has much choice, and thankfully it pays off in more ways than one.
Slipping through the scum, he spots a traumatised Tara in a cage, gun in hand, and holding enough guilt for a church full of penitent worshipers and after some tough love “get yo’ sh*t!” talk together they escape the prison and hit the road.
Only to run into … yes walkers which they barely fend off given Glenn is still weak from the zombie flu and Tara is better at shooting out guilty ramblings than bullets from a gun.
It’s in the aftermath of this brief but intense battle than three new, fortunately benign, survivors come along – a good thing too since Tara is under the mistaken impression she can fend off the walkers with therapeutic confessions alone; memo to Tara – YOU CAN’T – the much ballyhooed comic book characters Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) and Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos).
According this brilliant wrap up by Terri Schwartz on Zap2It, the bigass military-vehicle riding threesome are as follows:
“In the comics, Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) was a sergeant in the Army and a sports coach prior to the zombie outbreak. He ended up meeting up with a scientist named Eugene after the apocalypse took place.
Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) claims to know key information about the zombie virus. He wants to head to Washington, D.C., because he says he is aware of the walker origins, but he won’t reveal what that is because he claims it’s classified. Abraham acts as his protector and is escorting him on the mission.
Then there’s Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos). She’s Abraham’s current girlfriend and is traveling with him and Eugene.”
They’re intentions are pure thankfully and they end up, in the comics at least as staunch allies of Rick and the gang.
Quite whether this all means the newly combined group will head to Washington D.C. or sanctuary at Terminus is unclear, but it does mean that there is a renewed purpose for the group who hopefully will stay on the road for the rest of the series.
Key point here of course is that they aren’t all back together just yet but a reunion can’t be far off and then maybe we’ll see where their eventual destination will be (and why Maggie for one won’t be using an old school bus to get there).
*In the meantime, here’s the promo trailer for next week’s episode “Claimed”