“Inmates” was a curious episode of The Walking Dead, in that it was in many respects a “moving chess pieces about” hour, but also one that answered a whole bunch of questions — not to mention introducing, in its final seconds, three new characters who look like they might be important down the line. I mean, you’re not going to hire Michael Cudlitz to play someone who is getting killed off in a couple of weeks, right?
The way the first part of Season 4 ended promised that we would see novel character pairings, and folks thrown into unfamiliar roles, and we had some of that in this hour — Tyreese as the zombie apocalypse’s most unlikely surrogate father, for example. There are some positives here, but there is a lingering problem in that we’re not equally invested in everyone left standing after the destruction of the prison. A group made up of Maggie, Bob, and Sasha, for example, has one character we’ve really come to know and two relative redshirts — and “Inmates” reiterated that while The Walking Dead is certainly willing to kill off key characters, your chances of survival go way down the less we know about you. It’s inevitable that the old gang is going to be reunited, at least those who don’t get picked off along the way, but I worry that the show will be moving in fits and starts until then.
An illustration of this problem came at the outset of this hour, which was scored to a voiceover by Beth, a character we still know almost nothing about even though she’s been with The Walking Dead since the early moments of Season 2. We’ve at least gotten a bit of a fix on her personality this season, learning that she’s tried to follow in the example of her ever-patient and now deceased father, and that she is indeed able to kill the already dead when the need arises. We last saw she and Daryl escaping the burgeoning chaos as the prison became overrun.
We hear Beth reading from a diary she apparently resumed not long after Rick’s group arrived at the prison. over the sight of she and Daryl escaping through the woods, in the immediate aftermath of All Hell Breaking Loose. The contrast between the two of them running from walkers in the here and now, and the months-old diary entry in which she related Hershel’s hopeful vision of the prison as a permanent refuge, is a little on the nose (though since Beth talks about needing a place for Lori to have her baby, it’s clear that even this original hope was overly optimistic). Daryl kicks his typical ass and Beth awkwardly fires a gun at a dead person, and the two run onward through the late afternoon sun, entering a field and eventually collapsing in an exhausted heap. “This morning, Daddy said something: If you don’t have hope, what’s the point of living?” Beth says, as she relates the wish she made when the group arrived at the prison: “We can live here. We can live here for the rest of our lives.” Buzzards circle over Beth and Daryl, though there’s little chance “the rest of our lives” is exactly imminent, at least not for Mr. Dixon.
And sure enough, we pick up later that night, with Darly and Beth now sitting around a campfire. “We should do something,” she insists, with admirable pluck considering she saw her father beheaded a few hours before. Beth wants to interest Daryl in going hunting for others from the prison, though neither can be sure anyone else is alive. He listens, but says nothing. She urges him to use his tracking ability to find the rest of the group; then, becoming impatient with his refusal to say anything, grabs a big knife and heads out on her own. That gets him going; he puts out the fire, grabs the bow, and follows her.
The next morning, they are walking through the now walker-free woods when Daryl finally spots something: some smallish footprints. Beth is hopeful about the sign of life, but Daryl cautions her: “This means they were alive 4 or 5 hours ago.” The camera pans to show some rabbit corpses in the hollow of a fallen tree. They proceed along a path. Daryl notices some small fruit that looks to have been crushed underfoot. “They picked up the pace here. Gout out in a hurry. Things went bad,” he surmises. Beth wants him to have faith, but Daryl isn’t having any of that, grumping that faith didn’t help Hershel in the end. Beth grimaces at the mention of her dad and turns away, gathering some fruit off the bush. “They’ll be hungry when we find them,” she says. Daryl gives her a cloth to hold the fruit in, which is as close as he’s going to come to an apology.
Daryl seems to sense something and heads in a particular direction, down another path. Soon he and Beth come across two walkers that have been put down, and he spots some fresh human blood on a nearby bush. Beth, sticking to her “faith” stance, believes the humans must have fought them off, but Daryl points out how many walker tracks are on the path. Beth hears something and grabs her knife, but she never turns around and thus never notices the walker coming up from behind through the trees and grabbing her. Daryl wrestles it off of her and pins it to his chest, so that Beth can deliver the brain blow with her knife. They get moving again, until they reach some railroad tracks.
Alongside the tracks, three walkers are enjoying a fresh kill — though we can’t tell if any of the newly dead were from the prison or not. Daryl takes two out from long range with arrows; the third walker, so engrossed in his grossness that he hasn’t noticed new living creatures in the vicinity, is dispatched with a knife. While it’s still hard to tell exactly who died her, Beth sees a small shoe that seems to match the tiny print they saw just before, and this cracks her facade of hope. She weeps uncontrollably over the carnage; Daryl has already begun to walk away.
That night, Beth burns paper as fuel for a new fire, presumably pages from the diary whose words are now moot. “We’re not gonna die. None of us. I believe now. I believe for Daddy. If this doesn’t work, I don’t know how I can keep going.”
Back from commercial, we see a new group entirely: sisters Lizzie and Mika, tramping down another forest path. We had last seen them with two other children, a boy and a girl, and Tyreese, just after the born-again-hard Lizzie killed Alisha, the new girlfriend of Tara, the sister of Lilly, the main squeeze of the Governor, who ended up killing him in the end (you do remember all this). If I’m not mistaken, Mika seems to have grown since the last time we saw her; I don’t recall the actresses being nearly the same height before. Mika is crying, saying she wants Carol — who, you will again recall, hasn’t really been gone for very long at all in Show Time even though we haven’t seen her since early November. The mention of Carol seems to prompt Lizzie to give Mika a knife, and then she calls out ahead, saying, “It’s gonna get dark soon. Where we going?”
Up ahead, we see the back of Tyreese. Then he turns around … holding Judith. Well, well , well. I didn’t recall that this group escaped from the prison in such a way that they would have run across Judith’s baby carrier — the kids, you will again recall, were told to watch out for her — but I guess that’s what happened. He says they need to go a little further. Mika follows, but Lizzie, the morbid little weirdo, asks, “Is everybody dead?”
That night, Tyreese deals with a wound on his wrist, while Lizzie sits on a log … and spots two litle rabbits. in a hollow. The pieces are coming together: this is the setting Beth and Daryl came across the next morning (they must have done a good job eliminating ashes from the fire, since no one mentioned them). Lizzie, who is obviously gone crazier than anyone knows, pulls out a knife, and we already saw the bunny corpses so no need to elaborate further. Judith begins to cry, and Mika is worried that they will be heard by walkers. Lizzie wants them to get moving, but Tyreese promises they can find a safe place soon. Lizzie hands him a bottle — does baby formula keep in the muggy warm air? — and Tyreese sets about quieting the tyke. The group gets moving after hearing the telltale rustle of walkers coming through the brush.
Early the following morning, the sisters, Tyreese, and the cranky baby are along the path where we saw Beth picking the fruit, and the crushed grapes on the ground. Mika pulls some grapes off the vine. It’s diaper changing time! Lizzie throws the dirty diaper away with disgust, though since everyone has been sharing living space with dead people for a long time now, you’d think she might be less squeamish. Mika is still worried about how much noise the baby is making, and nothing they do is making Judith stop crying. When there is noise through the trees, Mika grabs Tyreese on his injured wrist, he snaps at her, and the girls start squabbling about who does and doesn’t understand walkers. He asks the girls to watch Judith while he peers into the brambles, hammer aloft, and when he peeks in, startled birds pop out. Mika runs away, Lizzie takes off after her (crushing the grapes), and Tyreese follows.
The two have trouble finding Mika, and Lizzie chides Tyreese for having yelled at her. Finally, they catch up with Mika in a clearing. She is embarrassed at having been scared, and he tells it it’s fine. Tyreese tells her you should always run from walkers, but also try to stay close to the rest of your group. Mika notices his wrist bleeding, and now feels bad about having hurt him when she grabbed it. “I know I’m not like Lizzie,” she says sadly. He says that’s OK, that the two of you get things done in your own way. ”Like you and Sasha!” Mika chirps. Lizzie helpfully says that you’re not like Sasha at all, “Because you’re still here, and Sasha isn’t.” Tyreese looks at her like “What the hell, girl?” when the three of them — well, I guess Judith makes it four — hear definite human screams.
Tyreese hasn’t had an adult to spill his guts to in the last two days, so it’s hard to say if he’s had Sasha’s possible fate in the forefront of his mind the whole time, or if the mention of his sister by Lizzie sparks him to action here. At any rate, he doesn’t hesitate, lining the girls up with their backs to each other so that they can look for walkers in all directions, and handing the baby off to Lizzie for (cough) safe keeping. Tyreese tells them that people from the prison might be out there needing help, and he is going to go in the direction of the screams, which Mika in particular sees as a frightening idea for all concerned. Lizzie reassures him that the girls will be just fine, and gives Mika advice on keeping her knife handy. Tyreese gives Mika his gun, reminds them that if walkers come they need to run in his direction, and leaves the three children behind.
Tyreese emerges onto the railroad’s right-of-way, the same place where Beth and Daryl came upon the walker chowdown. What he witneeses now is the event that set it off. Two men, a father and son, are fighting the walkers off as best they can. A woman has been overcome and is already being consumed. It’s four walkers against two people, and the men are in trouble. Tyrees rushes to their aid with hsi hammer of vengeance.
Back in the woods, Mika is growing concerned about Judith’s increasing fussiness. She tells her sister to find a way to quiet her. This is not a good thing to say to someone who has developed a taste for killing tiny living things. With a look of demented determination on her face, she covers the baby’s mouth and nose with her hand. Judith struggles. Shades of the last episode of MASH! I don’t really believe here they are going to show a baby being smothered by a preteen lunatic, and it’s almost a relief when a pair of walkers — the same two that Beth and Daryl later saw dead on the path — begin stumbling towards the girls.
Back by the tracks, the younger of the two men is overcome by two walkers, and calls out to his father as he’s pulled to the ground. Tyreese brains the two zombies, but it will be too late for the kid. Back in the woods, Lizzie is still too into the notion of killing a baby to pay any attention to Mika, who is trying to alert her that walkers are coming. With no other option, she fires her gun, and Tyreese hears it. The walkers keep coming.
Tyreese takes down one more walker, but is a split second late in warning the older man that he’s about to be bit in the neck by a zombie coming up behind him. He caves in the head of that one final walker, who had already done his damage, and is brought up short by the sound of an adult woman calling him by name.
Mika, Lizzie, and Judith are there, having been brought to the site by Carol — the Carol banished from the prison halfway through the first part of the season, after confessing to the killings of the first two superflu victims, one of whom was Tyreese’s girlfriend Karen. We can assume Carol is the one who killed the walkers that Daryl and Beth would later come across. There had not been time to tell Tyreese that Carol had confessed and that she had been forbidden to return by Rick — it’s unclear if anyone other than Rick and Daryl even realized she hadn’t been there when the prison was overcome — so she looks a little nervous when he comes up and gives her a hug of gratitude.
He begins to ask Carol how she was able to find them, before the group is interrupted by the sobs of the dying man by the tracks (it’s hard to be sure, but I think it’s the same man who, after his death and zombiefication, attacked Beth just before she and Daryl discovered the tracks). Carol and Tyreese ask the girls to stay back as they approach. The man tells them to stay on the railroad tracks, that leaving them had been his mistake. Carol points out that thr woods have more cover, but he says that he and his family had been headed to a refuge that can be accessed by continuing to follow the tracks. With little better to do, the four on foot plus Judith turn away and begin walking the railroad.
Mika, seeking to get back in the good graces of Tyreese, says with pride that she hadn’t run and abandoned her sister. Carol shrugs off her backpack, saying that there is some food and water inside. As Tyreese drinks up, he tells Carol he hadn’t seen her escape. She says she hadn’t gotten back yet, which is sort of true. She mentions that she and Rick had gone on a supply run, and that she had kept on looking after he headed back. She arrived back in time to see what had happened, and spotted Tyreese and the girls running away. Mika and Lizzie beam at the idea that Carol hadn’t left them behind — what she said to Tyreese probably had a lot of truth to it, in the sense that she was hanging around without Rick’s knowledge to keep an eye on the girls.
Tyreese suggests heading back for the car, but Carol shoots that idea down: “The walkers and the fire … can’t go back to a graveyard.” The girls, walking ahead, have spotted a poster that looks sort of new, and the group walks towards it. Mika reads: “Sanctuary for all; community for all. Those who arrive, survive.” Underneath is a map of Georgia with lines converging on the word “Terminus: somewhere near the center of the state. (Apropos of nothing much, Terminus was also the original name for Atlanta.) Tyreese gives a grim nod upon finding out that the doomed dad hadn’t steered them in the wrong direction.
Now it’s time for a new group, which is on the bank of a creek. We see a hand sharpening a knife on a rock, and from the look of the rock on the ring finger, it appears to be Maggie. She seems understandably grim. Behind her. Sasha is working bandaging a large cut that Bob suffered in the melee. Bob seems just a little too happy to be shirtless and be waited on by Sasha, and he apologizes for his dumb grin. She tells him it’s OK: “You’re alive, I get it.” Seeing how downcast she is, Bob tells her that Tyreese might have made it out, that they really don’t know who else might still be alive. Sasha responds that they can’t be sure anyone got out, but he says they yes, they do know.
Sasha walks over to Maggie. After filling her in on Bob’s condition, she points out that with the water to their back and good lookout points, it’s a good place to make camp for the night. Maggie says that yes, it will be fine — for the two of you. She, however, will go looking for Glenn, who was on the bus the last she saw. She says that while she has no idea what happened to Beth, she at least knows the direction the bus was going, so it might be possible to track it down. Sasha is concerned about her weaponry — just the knife — and the apparent futility of looking for a bus that with any luck made it far away. She promises she and Glenn will come back for the two of them. Sasha makes one more attempt to talk her down, but Maggie just turns and walks off.
“You said it — we can’t split up!” says Bob to Sasha with another smile, as he walks after Maggie. Sasha obviously doesn’t like this plan, but she’s been outvoted. This trio is sticking together. They head down the road, past a now-moot sign telling them “Hitchhikers May Be Escaping Inmates.” Sasha isn’t happy, whispering to Bob that they ought to be looking for food and shelter isntead of going on a wild Glenn chase. Bob seems to be in the mood to flirt, and Sasha isn’t exactly unresponsive, but she has more on her mind. Bob is more philosophical about the search, saying, “We didn’t survive just to keep surviving.” He’s satisfied to have a mission, something to do beyond purely staying ahead of the walkers.
Maggie turns a bend in the road and sees it first: the bus stopped in the road, no sign of walkers or of a recent crisis, but no sign of human life either. She runs towards it, as Bob calls out for her to be careful. Finally, a female walker pounds at the window, and other undead inside reach through an open window Whether the bus broke down and got overrun, or someone on board died unnoticed and then turned (there were sick evacuees), the rescue mission didn’t make it — which now means everyone who came to the prison from Woodbury except Sasha, Tyreese, Lizzie, and Mika is now dead, one way or another.
Maggie tells the others they should leave now, and heads for the back door of the bus. When Bob and Sasha protest, she says she has to know if Glenn is on that bus. Bob says they will perform the task together. He wants to let them out the door one at a time; Sasha, looking annoyed but resigned, says she will help — they will need two people to keep the horde from pushing the door open. Maggie’s idea is to get a look at the faces of the escaping walkers before putting them down, one at a time.
The door is cracked and a former male, obviously not Glenn, wriggles out. Maggie knifes it. A couple more females follow. But the plan of an orderly dispatching of the undead is too optimistic, as the walkers put too much pressure on the bus door for Sasha to be able to close it again. The walkers, the former friends of these three, tumble out, and everyone goes to work on putting them down — all except Maggie, who is too dazed by the thought that the dead Glenn may be about to try to kill her to move. She is finally startled into action when Bob shoots a walker who is getting too close for comfort. Maggie, Sasha, and Bob set about removing the threat one by one, with Maggie grabbing one woman, beating her dead brains in against the side of the bus, and then stabbing her. Finally she croaks out an “I’m sorry,” paying respects to the people who once shared the prison with her.
Bob comments that the dead were “good people,” not that we ever actually met any of them besides that nice bus driver. Sasha is mostly just stunned that those who were on the bus ended up dead, while the three of them had to improvise an escape from the prison and are still alive. Maggie can see that none of the ten or so walkers lying beside the bus are Glenn, and she heads for the backdoor, ignoring Sasha saying she should be the one to check instead. Maggie enters the bus and walks forward gingerly. Blood is everywhere, but at first it seems as if every walker got off the bus when the door flew open. But up near the front, a figure on the floor is beginning to stir. The walker can’t move because a dead woman is on top of it; Maggie crawls on the seats, pulls the woman off, and tosses her out the front door. The freed walker can now stand, and growls its way towards Maggie. All we can see is that it is, or was, a male with dark hair. Maggie stabs it through the skull, and then sinks into a chair, seeming to alternate between crying and laughing. I couldn’t tell if that was just a strange acting choice by Lauren Cohan, or if we were supposed to sense that Glenn was alive, or at least not on the bus, from the fact that she didn’t howl in agony.
Speak of the devil! There’s Glenn now with blood on his face, seeming to come to. But where the hell is he? He senses, and we see, that there are walkers scrambling beneath him, having noticed something is alive up there. Turns out Glenn has been on the part of the old prison walkway that wasn’t turned into total rubble by the Governor’s tank. The last time we saw him, Maggie had gotten him onto the bus; we never saw him get back off (and he wasn’t really moving too well to begin with, having nearly died only a couple of days prior), but get off he must have.
He can see that the prison is a ruin, and that walkers are everywhere. He calls out in vain for Maggie. Since he can’t get down from where he is, he heads back into the prison, which for now seems walker-free. He makes his way back through the cell block with his rifle poised, using the light from his lantern. He sees and hears nothing. Still careful, he heads into the cell he shared with Maggie, and figures it’s time to get to work. He hauls out a bulky uniform complete with helmet — it looks like riot gear that was meant for use at the prison. He lays down in the cot — this is a lot of work for someone who has basically been bedridden for a while — and spots the photo he took of Maggie asleep in the guard tower.
He allows himself a few tears, and then it’s back to work. Glenn grabs some useful items (a knife, a lighter, clothes) from various cells — he’s assuming, correctly, that no one will miss them — and ends up with a nice haul. He emerges into the light of day draped head to toe in the riot gear, and simply wades into the walkers, pushing through the throng and seeing them chattering through the visor on his helmet. Using his rifle as a battering ram, he pushes through the mob and runs through the yard. A sight pulls him up short: he sees a young woman sitting on the other side of a fence, apparently safe from the walkers for the time being but not in a position to do much else.
Glenn looks away and sees prepared to head for the outer fence, but then thinks better of it and turns back in the direction of the woman, who as it turns out is Tara, who has lost a lover and a niece as a result of her family’s ill-fated association with the Governor, and proved to be a lot more useless in a shootin’ sense than her bravado to that point would have suggested she would be. Glenn wasn’t really a part of the defense of the prison this time so it’s unclear if he knows Tara was with the attackers.
Glenn pulls a walker off the gate to the little enclosure where Tara sits, and lets himself in. He grabs a pistol out of Tara’s hands, and is surprised to see it’s been unused. He then tells her “Let’s go,” and she doesn’t move. He asks if she has any plan besides staying here and dying. Tara admits “I was part of this,” and Glenn says he knows. She wonders why he would stay and help, in that case. Hie says he’s going to need her help with the escape.
He had spotted a bottle of booze earlier in the cell block; he has used that to make a Molotov cocktail. He gives Tara the pistol back along with a knife, lights the fuse on the Molotov, and tosses it at a car in the yard. The walkers are distracted and begin heading in the direction of the flame, giving Glenn and Tara an opening. He tells her to stay in front, and that he will cover her as best he can. He gathers his gear, puts his helmet back on, and they make their break, with Tara shooting a few walkers at close range but otherwise few problems (zombies love them some burning cars, apparently). They burst through the outer gate, and that may finally, after a couple of false starts, be the end of the prison as a set on The Walking Dead.
We pick up the new odd couple near what appears to be the same sign warning about hitchhikers we saw a half hour earlier. Glenn asks Tara if she saw anything — did any of the prison people make it out? Tara said she couldn’t remember anything except the sight of Lily being swarmed by the walkers — the pistol that she used on the Governor not nearly enough to save her in the end. This surprised me; I just assumed the show wasn’t done yet with Lily. Fighting tears, Tara said Lily wasn’t supposed to be there — that she had come on the mission because she had trusted “Brian,” who turned out to be a maniac chopping off the heads of nice old men.
Glenn had not witnessed the murder of his virtual father-in-law, and asks Tara if Hershel was the man’s name. Tara gives a quick nod and apologizes. She says the Governor had told them the prison people were bad, and she now knows that isn’t true. She’s mostly babbling, and Glenn isn’t really listening to her apologies through his anger and grief. “Why would you want my help?” Tara says, beginning to walk away. He answers that he doesn’t want it, he needs it, in order to find Maggie, who he identifies as his wife. He tells Tara he had gotten off the bus to help out, and they were separated in the chaos. He admits he can’t be sure Maggie made it out, but that Hershel, “a great man” (and he identifies him here as Maggie’s father for further educational purposes) had said that all you needed was belief, and that’s what he was going to do. After all, both have already beaten the odds by living this long.
Glenn says “Things aren’t over,” and starts to walk away. Tara, dealing with her own grief, says she wants to believe it’s so. But before this philosophical discussion can continue. some walkers begin to emerge from the woods near the side of the road. It seems that Glenn and Tara could just shuffle away down the road, but Glenn moves to confront them. He quickly knifes one but is grabbed by another, and nearly exhausts himself wresting himself away to deliver the death blow. Tara finally springs into action with a kill of her own, while Glenn hits the last one with a loaded backpack and sinks to his knees in agony. Tara tries to revive him; when she is grabbed by the Backpack Walker, she bashes its head in with the butt of Glenn’s rifle.
There’s a strange sight as we see Tara bashing the zombie’s head into the ground — the front of a large truck has come into view.Tara spots it and yells out, “Hope you enjoyed the show, assholes!” Whereupon three new characters pop out: a large man with a Fu Manchu (Cudlitz), a young woman wearing short shorts, and a fleshy guy with a bad mullet. The first two are armed; Mullet Man is carrying what looks like a walkie-talkie. “You’ve got a damn mouth on you, you know that?” says Fu Manchu with a little smirk. “What else you got?”
So who are these people? Good, bad, somewhere in between? Are they from Terminus? Do they have something to do with the radio message the drug-seeking search party heard on the car radio earlier in the season? I guess we will learn the answer soon.
The Terminus reveal is an indicator of where the show seems to be heading as we approach the end of the season. One group is already heading there, we know Daryl and Beth can’t be far behind, and the other three groupings, including Tara, Glenn, and the new folks, are all in the general vicinity. I’m just hopeful that what lies ahead is a little more than just Woodbury 2.0. The first version didn’t fully live up to its billing.