After last week’s slow dance with Rick, Carl and Michonne, post prison collapse, the fates of the rest of The Walking Dead prison crew (plus one) were revealed on last night’s shock-and-awe episode, ‘Inmates’. And surprises came equally fast and furious.
But I have to say this right out of the gate — in the case of some of the episode’s biggest reveals, a little more show and less tell, perhaps over the span of one additional expository episode, would have made for a much deeper emotional wallop, even if they will be fleshed out in future outings. Show me Tyreese snatching up the very much alive Baby Judith, leaving the blood from his wrist in the carrier. Give me just a taste of Carol’s venture back “home” just in time to see the prison fall (though I’m four thousand percent certain we’ll see more of this later). Just a few seconds of how Glenn ended back up in the prison tower, out cold and confused as hell. And if Tara saw her gun-toting sister Lilly — the one who put a bullet in the Governor — being surrounded by walkers, why didn’t she, you know, do something?
But maybe I’m just being impatient, and like so many things The Walking Dead, the payoff will be more than worth the wait. Let’s get to how it all went down.
The episode opens with Beth and Daryl on the run in the woods, accompanied by a lovely, heartbreaking voice over of Beth reading her hopeful journal entry from the day she and the others found their prison home. Now Beth is battling back terror, desperate to find the others and thoroughly exasperated with her traveling companion, who is only snaps out of his silent fireside sulk when she grabs a knife and heads out into the darkness to track what is left of her makeshift family on her own. We all have a job, Daryl.
Given that Mr. Dixon the younger has arguably come the furthest, emotionally, over the course of four seasons — dropping his badass hillbilly loner shtick and becoming a loved, loving and trusted member of the prison-group family — it’s reasonable to believe that his inability to save them and their home (and so soon after Merle’s demise) would set him back hard on his heels. But he doesn’t know for sure that anyone else actually died in the fallout, so to see him sitting there, staring in the campfire fueled by the pages of Beth’s diary, while she implores him to do something is unnerving.
“It wouldn’t kill you to have some faith,” Beth, ever Hershel’s girl, tells him.
“Faith ain’t done s— for us,” he snarls. “It sure as hell didn’t do anything for your father.”
And worse ouch when they track bits and pieces — some bunny fur and human blood here, a grape or two there — in the woods to a group of blood-soaked walkers feeding next to some railroad tracks and Beth spots a familiar child’s shoe in the fresh carnage. She begins to sob.
Next we see Mika and Lizzie trudging through the woods together, the former a terrified mess and the latter the creepy-calm child warrior Carol trained her to be. But they’re not alone. The sound of footfalls ahead of them does not belong to walkers, but to the man they saved with their pistols on the prison grounds — Tyreese. And when he turns around to face them, we see his arms are filled with an unharmed Baby Judith. BABY JUDITH!
And Judith ain’t havin’ this little walk in the woods.
And Mika ain’t havin’ Judith’s fussing, fearing her cries will summon walkers.
Speaking of cries, the group is startled by hysterical shrieks coming from the distance. Chucking the baby into Lizzie’s arms and placing the sisters back-to-back to serve as each other’s lookout, Tyreese … well, Tyreese leaves three small children alone in the walker-infested woods, to see if anyone else they know is being eaten off yonder.
It’s probably the episodes biggest “What in the hell?” moment — even if the girls have proven themselves perhaps more adept at killing than Tyreese — but it does serve nicely to set up the heroic return of Carol.
Turns out, the cries Tyreese heard were coming from the group of survivors that would be the walker lunch buffet Daryl and Beth happened upon — only some of them are still alive when he gets to them. It’s Tyreese’s worst nightmare, but he plunges in to try to save the few living souls. And when it’s over, a familiar voice calls his name. It’s Carol — CAROL! — leading Mika and Lizzie and toting Baby Judith — whom it’s safe to assume only survived Lizzie’s attempt to smother the crying right out of her because Carol happened upon them first. I hope we haven’t seen the last of that horrific little incident. The psychological study that is Lizzie — did she have a hand in Karen’s and David’s deaths, too? — is irresistible. Everyone knows that most serial killers started out as animal-abusing children, and those baby bunnies didn’t wind up smeared all over that log by themselves. Never mind the multiple science experiments back at the prison.
Realizing that Tyreese still doesn’t know of her part in Karen’s death, Carol tells him that she’d found a car and continued the supply run on her own after Rick returned to the prison what they’d found so far, and only made it back in time to see the place fall. She’s been trying to catch up with them ever since. Before he expires of his neck wound, the remaining survivor of the trackside zombie feast tells the group to stay on the tracks, which will lead them to a safe haven.
They set out, coming upon a sign that reads “Sanctuary for all. Community for all. Those that arrive survive.” A map beneath the declaration leads to a spot marked “Terminus.”
Hmm. Terminus means the end. As in terminal. Despite the utopian description, I don’t know that I would go there, desperate or otherwise. Woodbury sounded pretty good at the outset, too.
Next we discover that Maggie, Sasha and a wounded Bob are together. Bob tries to reassure the women that Glenn and Tyreese could have made it out just fine. Maggie, looking half-crazed from watching her father die and her husband drive off without her, isn’t about to wait patiently to find out. While the other two plot a safe camp and a search for food, she tells them she is plunging ahead to find Glenn, and when she does, they will come back together to fetch them. Sasha and Bob pack up and come too. Maggie reasons that the bus would have followed a particular route down the road, so if she just keeps following it, she will find Glenn, too.
Just about at exactly the same time that Bob tells a contemplative Sasha that “Sh*t happens. Not everything that happens has to seem something,” the trio passes a bullet-riddled sign that reads “Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates.”
It’s just that these inmates aren’t criminals.
Not far up the road, Maggie, Sasha and Bob find the Escape From Cellblock A bus parked haphazardly by the side of the road. It is filled with walkers. Maggie is bereft, but resolute: She is going to find out if her husband is among them. She, Bob and Sasha agree on a plan. Sasha and Bob will open the emergency exit at the back of the bus just long enough to let the walkers out one at a time, where Maggie can check their identities and then dispatch them. It works for the first few. Then the crush of zombies overwhelms Sasha’s ability to slam the door shut and a tide of walkers spills out. Maggie goes briefly catatonic, then grabs a female walker by the ponytail and smashes her head repeatedly into the side of the bus while Sasha and Bob handle the others. When it’s all over, and realizing she knew the woman this walker once was, she whispers an apology.
“They were good people,” agrees Bob. “All of them.”
Then Maggie boards the bus to see if any bodies remain. At the front, she spots a black-haired body beneath a few squirming others. She works her way to the bottom of the pile, and when the black-haired fellow rises up, she sees it’s not Glenn.
Overwhelmed with emotion she begins to laugh and cry all at once.
So where is Glenn? Turns out he never made out of the prison, which we discover when he comes to in a watch tower with a herd of walkers reaching for his dangling hand from below. He doesn’t appear to recall how he got there, how the prison ended up decimated or why he is here all alone. But, like his wife, his thoughts revolve around one thing — finding his other half. Making his way through the empty prison, he lies down for moment to digest the enormity of what lies before him — and perhaps consider if it’s even worth a shot. Then he spies the Polaroid he took of a sleeping Maggie, gets to his feet and begins to pack.
I’m kind of ashamed to say it, but watching him pick and choose his totables launched my husband and me into a fit of The Jerk-inspired giggling: “I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game. The ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need. And this remote control. … And these matches. The ashtray and these matches and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp…”
We’re sorry, Glenn. And we sincerely hope you got everything you need. For sure.
Turns out he needs Tara, too, whom he finds sitting alone in a caged off section of the prison, shocked and despondent over watching Hershel, her sister, and her fellow Brian Heriot believers die at the hands of his misguided mission.
When Glenn includes her in his exit strategy, she looks miserably at him wonders why he is helping her escape. “I was a part of this,” she says. “I’m a piece of sh*t. Why would you want my help?”
“I don’t want it,” Glenn responds. “I need it.”
And Glenn in his riot gear and Tara in, well, nothing that will help her very much in that regard, blast through the zombie crowd, eventually arriving safety at the “Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates” sign. Leading to the hope that Glenn and Maggie may be reunited soon. Especially after Tara’s further mea culpas reveal Hershel’s horrendous fate to his son-in-law. Briefly stunned by the news, Glenn tells Tara he still believes his wife is alive and he’s going to stop at nothing find her. “He told me all I have to do is believe,” he says of Hershel, “and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Tara proves her allegiance when the duo is set upon by a herd of walkers, and a still-recovering Glenn keels over from the exertion before the last one is brought down. Discovering her inner zombie skill-crusher, Tara dispatches the moldering man just as an armored vehicle rolls up.
“Hope you enjoyed the show, assholes!” she howls to the new arrivals, who emerge from the vehicle revealing themselves to the prominent comic book character Sgt. Abraham Ford (played by Southland‘s Michael Cudlitz) and his companions Rosita Espinosa (sporting the requisite — and exasperating — warrior-babe half-shirt and killer abs), and Eugene Porter. “You gotta damn mouth on you, you know that?” Ford snarls at Tara. “What else you got?”
It’s a question better asked of the trio in the tank, who likely know what lies at the Terminus, the end of the road. And we’re about to find out, too.
So what do you think? Were you happy with the scope and pace of ‘Inmates’ or did you experience emotional whiplash, too. Would you sleep with one eye open around little Lizzie? Will the potential sight of Carol warm Daryl’s cold heart again? What about Rick’s? Does Sgt. Abraham and the mullet-belly bunch come in peace? Tell us in the comments section below.
New episodes of The Walking Dead air Sunday nights at 9/8CT on AMC.
Photos: Gene Page/AMC