by Thom Yee
While this week’s episode is entitled “Inmates”, because that sounds dour and downtrodden and reflective of the state of this world (and ours?), it may as well have been called “Meanwhile” because it’s nothing more than whatever else was happening while the things we actually cared about happened last week.
Whereas last week’s “After” allowed itself to breathe some actual, real life into its characters by not focusing on too many storylines at once, this week’s episode really just serves to catch us up with everyone else. Everyone’s split up into mismatched factions — Beth is with Daryl, Tyreese has the kids, Maggie’s with Sasha and Bob, and Glenn’s on his own until he finds Tara, the annoying younger sister of Lilly — in a way meant to ensure that no one feels very comfortable or reassured. So basically, no one important has died, everyone misses the prison, both as a shelter and as a symbol of hope, and everybody assumes their loved ones are dead.
Two major revelations come up in the episode, first, that Judith’s alive, being cared for by Tyreese, and second, Carol comes back into the picture and meets back up with one of our surviving groups. And of course that group is Tyreese’s since, as we all remember, Carol’s the one who killed Karen (that girl we were supposed to believe Tyreese was dating and then whose death he was supposed to be all torn up about [but of course this romantic story beat was handled so poorly that nobody cared]). And of course, Tyreese never found out that Carol was the killer, which will probably be used to create some tension later.
The Walking Dead the television series has occassionally been posed to readers of the comicbook as a “What if…?”-style take on the story (i.e., What if… Dale got killed early on?, What if… Andrea became really annoying instead of bad ass?), and it’s interesting that neither of these reveals happened or could have happened in the comic. First off, in the comic, Carol and Tyreese were both dead before there was any prison escape (and we never really followed any kids, one of whom is clearly going to have social issues as a storyline). Second, and more importantly, Judith and Lori died together in the attempt to escape the prison after the Governor’s attack. It looked like this:
There’s a part of me that knows that the viewing audience generally doesn’t have an appetite for those kinds of deaths, and that’s kind of too bad since that’s what makes the comic so great. Out of context, the image of Lori and Judith being shot may seem gratuitous, but it’s all part of what makes reading the comic such a riveting and breathtaking experience. While it’s a rather graphic image (and it originally appeared as a full-page), it’s the kind of horrifying moment that makes everything count and matter so much more in the comicbook. It’s a truly polarizing, game-changing moment with visceral impact, rather than the types of melodrama the show continues to wile away in (e.g., Lori dying in child birth, is Judith dead or alive?).
Ultimately “Inmates” goes back to that same question I asked in my first review of this show: Did you, as a viewer, benefit from watching the episode? Like “30 Days Without an Accident”, most of us could have easily skipped “Inmates”. It’s a plot mover of an episode, almost entirely devoid of the storytelling or meaning that last week’s episode embodied so comparatively well.
The Walking Dead “Inmates” final score: 6
Items of Note:
-Seeing Glenn suit up in riot gear, it really makes me wonder why none of these groups have made any real attempts to make bite-resistant clothing. I know the show takes place in “Hotlanta”, but everyone’s running around in tank tops and t-shirts, almost inviting walkers to take a bite.
-In retrospect, last week’s “After” got an unfairly low review more reflective of my overall feelings toward the show than the episode itself.