The Walking Dead: "Inmates" (Season 4: Episode 10) Recap/Analysis | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Walking Dead: “Inmates” (Season 4: Episode 10) Recap/Analysis

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Feb 18, 2014 The Walking Dead
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[Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the latest episode of The Walking Dead, “Inmates,” then read no further.]

If the last moments of the previous episode (“After”) ended at an uncharacteristically optimistic placeRick and Carl being reunited with Michonne after each learns that they can’t hope to survive alonethe beginning of “Inmates” represents the exact opposite sentiment. Opening with a narration from a passage of Beth’s diary, we hear the teenager’s one-time hopes that their then-new prison home would prove to be the panacea to their problems. “If you don’t have hope, what’s the point of living?” she says, quoting wisdom from her father, as the scene contrasts her past dreams with her current reality of running through the woods with Daryl, walkers in hot pursuit. “I’m going to write this down because you should write down wishes to make them come true. We can live here,” she continues optimistically. “We can live here for the rest of our lives.” Exhausted, they collapse in the tall grass of an open field as vultures circle overhead. Their home is destroyed, their friends are gone, and they are alone. The theme of the episode in hereby establishedhope vs. despair. Score round one for despair.

Only Beth isn’t ready to concede defeat quite yet. Sitting around a campfire in the dark, she still wants to go looking for the others while Daryl sits and stares into the flames. “Wouldn’t kill you to have a little faith,” she says after attempting to convince him that they can’t be the only survivors. “Faith hasn’t done shit for us,” he replies tersely. “Sure as hell didn’t do anything for your father.” Too soon, Daryl. Too soon.

Here, Beth and Daryl are essentially reversing their roles from season two, when a depressed and withdrawn Beth attempted suicide and Daryl tirelessly combed the woods looking for Sophia, certain that the little girl could be saved if he simply spent enough time looking for her. This is a Daryl we haven’t seen in some timethe surly, distant one. But he’s different now. After he delivers his rebuke, you can immediately see the regret in his eyes, though he offers no apology. After following footprints to a set of railroad tracks they discover walkers gorging themselves on human remains, with a child’s shoepresumably belonging to Luke or Molly, two children from the prisonleft behind in a pile of entrails. For Beth, reality finally sets in. She’s next seen using the pages of her journal to build the campfire. Despair wins round two.

Things aren’t looking any better for Tyreese, as it is revealed that he not only has to protect Lizzie and Mika from roaming death, but he is also cradling baby Judith, resolving one the biggest cliffhangers from the first half of the season. (Seriously, this guy can’t catch a break. He was kicked out of the prison by Rick in season three, ended up in Woodbury right before it collapsed, had his girlfriend murdered and set ablaze, and then ends up separated from the rest of the group, forced to run a mobile daycare in the woods. He is bad luck personified.) A sobbing Mika finds no solace in her big sister, Lizzie, who only repeats instructions that Carol once gave her during her lessons in zombie safety. And just like Carl challenged Rick on his zombie-killing tactics last week, here Lizzie is pulling rank on Tyreese, reprimanding him when he she finds his survival advice lacking. And that’s just the beginning of an increasingly dark turn for the show’s resident adolescent psychopath.

“Is everybody dead?” Lizzie wonders aloud, trailing Tyreese and the now-screaming infant that should serve as a walker dinner bell. Sitting on a log, Lizzie finds some baby rabbits and casually slits their throats, making no mention of it to anyone. Later, after Tyreese has gone to investigate the distress call of a screaming woman, Lizzie attempts to muffle Judith’s cries by smothering her, so engrossed in the moment that she doesn’t even notice a trio of walkers advancing on her.

It doesn’t matter. Though we don’t see it on screen, Carol rescues the girls and they join up with Tyreese after he has narrowly fails to save two men who were swarmed by walkers. Given the warmth in Tyreese’s response to seeing Carol again, we now know that he has no idea that she has admitted to killing Karen and David. We also learn from one of the dying men that there’s a sanctuary down the line where the children will be safe if the group only follows the train tracks. “Sanctuary for all. Community for all. Those who arrive survive,” reads a sign on an underpass. It appears that they are heading for a camp called “Terminus.” In the battle between hope and despair, we’ll give this round to hope.

Somewhere, in another patch of woods, the show’s other resident sketchy character, Bob, is smiling broadly as Sasha joylessly helps dress his bullet wound. He apologizes and assures her that Tyreese could have survived, but she’s more interested in setting up camp in a safe spot. Maggie, however, will have none of it; she’s going to track down Glenn one way or the other, and she won’t let Sasha’s protests about “splitting the group” stop her. “We can’t split,” Bob says, grinning as he follows Maggie through the woods while Sasha fumes. He’s doesn’t want to “survive just to keep surviving,” he says vaguely, and the implication is unclear. Is Bob happy because he no longer feels the burden of caring whether he lives or dies? Is he ready to stop being careful and just live for the moment? Already a strange character, he’s getting odder by the minute.

Believing that Glenn had boarded the school bus that pulled out of the prison with the remaining Woodbury residents, the trio finds the vehicle sitting precariously in the middle of the road. Not a good sign. Discovering that the bus is, indeed, full of walkers, Maggie kills them one by one, then enters to kill a remaining zombie whofrom the back, at leastlooks a bit like Glenn. It’s high drama if you actually thought that for a minute that the writers would kill off one of their most beloved characters in a fairly anticlimactic moment, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone really thought the Glenn and Maggie storyline would conclude here. (And if you had watched any of the promos for the episode, you already knew that Glenn couldn’t have died on the bus because he was still back at the prison the whole time.) Now aware that Glenn didn’t die with the last of the Woodbury redshirts, Maggie collapses in a mix of laughter and tears. Here, at least, hope has fought despair to a draw.

Glenn, however, is in far worse shape. Waking up on a piece of smoldering concrete, just feet above the outstretched arms of a few dozen walkers, he’s alone and disoriented. Calling for Maggie, he eventually realizes that he has been left behind and retreats back inside the prison to gather weapons and plan his next move. Finding the Polaroid he snapped of Maggie way back in the season premiere, he has a good cry before grabbing the pocket watch Hershel gave him ages ago and heads for the door. Dressed in riot gear, he powers through a mini-horde of zombies to find Tara, the sole survivor from The Governor’s ruinous volunteer army. Having lost her sister, her niece, and her girlfriend in the battle, no one is in a worse place. Staring ahead blankly, as if in shock, she’s feeling the full weight of what has happened, even though her full gun clip indicates that she never fired a shot during the fight.

For his part, Glenn doesn’t care. “I don’t want your help, I need it,” he says, deflecting Tara’s apologies for her role in the prison attack. Outside the prison, the two dispose of some walkers while Tara casually breaks the news that Hershel has died. Glenn doesn’t have time to mourn before they’re swarmed once again, leaving him to bash some heads in before passing out, apparently due to the lingering effects of the prison flu. As Tara finishes off the very last walker, an army truck rolls up. “Hope you enjoyed the show, assholes,” she barks as new characters Abraham (“Apocalypse G.I. Joe”), Rosita (“Apocalypse Barbie”), and Eugene (“Apocalypse… Mullet”) exit the vehicle. “You got a damn mouth on you, you know that?” Abraham replies. “What else you got?” Hope and despair are pushed aside by uncertainty. Who are these people and what do they want?

Hope versus despairthat’s what so much of this show comes down to, really. While other episodes have pulled on those themes more dramatically (and perhaps more artfully), “Inmates” threads that struggle through the larger narrative as well as could be hoped at this point. As always, much of the show’s appeal comes from wondering just how you’d react if you were placed in such a horrible situation, driven from your home and separated from your friends. And the writers have done well to present us with characters who represent all of the responses you would expect to experience, from Beth’s defiant optimism and Daryl’s limping despair to Glenn’s resilient pragmatism. The episode also reminds us of the truly random nature of life, how we end up in situations we never expected and with people we never saw becoming major players in our life stories. Hope versus despairdon’t expect a winner to be declared any time soonperhaps everon The Walking Dead. Watching the two options play out is what keeps us coming back.

What this means for the future:

As showrunner Scott Gimple has promised that the writing would remain faithful to the major moments from the comic book for the remainder of seasons four, viewers can be certain that this new trio of characters is going to play a very significant role in the future trajectory of the narrative. That said, adding three more major characters seems to cause a traffic jam as far as character development is concerned. In that sense, “Inmates” was an exposition rich episode that perfectly captures the challenge the writers now face with trying to write storylines for such a large cast. Broken up into smaller vignettes, the narrative can only advance in bits and pieces over the span of one episode. Look for the writers to use single episodes to focus more deeply on the individual groups from here on out.

What you might have missed:

The chronology of the episode was slightly disjointed, with the first Beth and Daryl vignette actually occurring after the Tyreese and kids segment that followed it on the show. If you watch closely, you’ll see that the walker that attacked Beth was the man that Tyreese couldn’t rescue. Additionally, the yellow backpack that Glenn is wearing is the same one worn by the hitchhiker that Rick left to die on the side of the road in season three’s “Clear.” Finally, the alcohol Glenn uses to make a Molotov cocktail is the same bottle that Bob snagged from the veterinary school and nearly lost to a group of zombies.

What to look for next:

Obviously, Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita will figure heavily in the next episode. Will they be friendly? Are they at all connected to the Terminus sanctuary site? Speaking of, what will Tyreese, Carol, and the kids find once they arrive there? And how much longer until Lizzie does something so horrific that she has to be addressed as a threat arguably as great as anything else in their environment?

And why is Bob so happy to be homeless? The last survivor of his two previous groups, is he cracking up from watching it all happen again? Does he feel invulnerable in the face of death, doomed to be the last man standing until only he remains? Or is he just happy to be lost in the woods with Sasha, the woman who has thus far deflected all of his flirty advances? Time will tell.


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February 25th 2014

I already read the comics and it really gives you an idea where they will end up.