The Walking Dead adopts an anthology format this week as we catch up with the survivors who aren’t named Rick.
Let’s bitch it out…TVAngie is on a roadshow this week, so cinephilactic is filling in for her…
Well if anyone thought that last week’s mid-season premiere was a slow episode, I’m interested to hear what they think about ‘Inmates.’ In some regards this is the most logical format with which to catch up with everyone after the prison attack, but I’d be lying if I said that the format really does anyone justice. As it stands the four separate parts accomplish the main goal of letting us know who survived and where they are, but as a compelling character drama, most of this feels awfully cursory. Particularly underwhelming are the first and third parts which essentially exist solely as “gotcha” segments. Let’s walk through ’em.
This opener essentially boils down to the following logline: “Beth (Emily Kinney) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) spend some time in the woods.” That’s it. Daryl looks positively defeated until Beth insists they track the others – her actions reinforcing the ironic positivity laid out in her voice-over diary entry from the first days of the prison. Of course Beth’s optimism dies early on when they discover a zombie buffet at the train tracks. Who among the group bit it?
Psych! The second part reveals that the mid-day zombie snack wasn’t anyone we know. It’s a group of people looking for the “Terminus” – a sanctuary at the end of the tracks that promises safety for any who survive (where have we heard this before?). At least compared to part one this second section dedicates enough time to do more than establish these people are alive. The biggest reveal (one we wondered about) is that baby Judith has – naturally – survived, though she’s nearly killed by junior sociopath Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) when she won’t stop crying. The scenes when Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) leaves Lizzie and Mika (Kyla Kenedy) alone in the woods with the baby is The Walking Dead at its most manipulative: not just one helpless child in danger, but three! Thankfully Carol (Melissa McBride) shows up to save her charges and together the revised nuclear family wanders off down the tracks.
The third part is another frustrating “gotcha” segment designed solely for two purposes: reinforce the unrequited affection Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) feels for Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and let Maggie (Lauren Cohan) go off her rocker. There’s essentially nothing to this part aside from Maggie wallowing in potential grief after the threesome discovers the walker-filled bus. I mean, I get that she’s upset, but this whole sequence had me gritting my teeth in frustration at how stupid these people are for putting themselves in unnecessary danger all of the time. Much like the manipulation in part two, the so obviously phoney “Glenn” lookalike walker is further proof that The Walking Dead would rather f*ck with its viewers than tell a compelling character driven story.
After Maggie’s cry/laugh, it’s clear that Glenn (Steven Yuen) is not dead. Turns out he never left the prison. The nearly silent one-man act that follows is my favourite of the episode as Glenn recovers, retires to his room, refuels (SWAT outfit: check!) and has a little mini-breakdown before pushing on. This feels like a legitimate examination of grief – there’s a heightened emotional component that very nearly does Glenn in before he pragmatically realizes that he has to leave the room and go out and find his wife or die trying.
The second half of this final part complements Daryl’s and Beth’s opener as Glenn rescues Tara (Alanna Masterson) and convinces her that life is worth living/fighting for. Once he hears about Hershel’s murder and passes out, the Woodsbury moron must decide if she wants to save her own butt or give up and die (anyone sensing a recurring theme here? It’s “mallet on the head” obvious). Tara ultimately opts for the former (yay?) just as new a-hole-ish character – the preview for next week says his name is Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) – shows up. Is this guy the new Governor?
- Having fallen behind on the show, I didn’t recognize the folks on the bus though I was fairly certain I was meant to judging by the close-ups. The AV Club helpfully clarifies that these are the Woodsbury folks Rick worked so hard to rescue. Hurray for failed efforts!
- Just in case we didn’t know that Lizzie was full-on nutjob, there’s a surprisingly subtle shot of bloody pelts on a log in Daryl and Beth’s opener. These are later revealed to be an adorable family of bunnies Lizzie pecks to death with her knife. Child killers: aren’t they sweet?
- Although I don’t think that there are a lot of alternatives for covering this much ground without leaving the fate of half the characters for another episode, this anthology format feels underwhelming (and would definitely disappoint if it continues moving forward). We simply don’t spend enough time with anyone, which means ‘Inmates’ is essentially nothing more than a catch-up episode.
- Finally, the episode title (aside from the metaphor of doing time – ie: living a life – separated from the ones you love most) is a cheeky reference to the sign on the road warning that “Hitchhikers Might Be Escaping Inmates”. Nyuk nyuk.
You’re up: Are you pleased that Judith and the other kids survived? Was Beth’s diary voice-over a little too heavy handed? Did you enjoy the “gotcha” format of parts one and three? Are you excited that we’re seemingly headed to another safe haven? Sound off below.
As a reminder, this is a spoiler free space so please refrain from addressing any plot points from the graphic novels – particularly with regard to the new, as yet unnamed characters.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm EST on AMC.