Following up with some of the explosive developments in last week’s episode, I suspect that tonight’s will be a slower-paced affair. I’m pretty sure that the Governor story line will be on hiatus for a while, what with Michonne’s injury, and that the survivors will be turning inward as they try to deal with this devastating new illness. Most interesting will be whether or not the dual mysteries of who is feeding the zombies live rats, and who burned Karen and the other sick survivor to death, will be solved this week. The show has at times missed a bit on the pacing of things (such as being stuck on the farm for an entire season, and stretching out the Shane danger-within-the-group arc over two seasons), so I’m hoping that these mysteries don’t get dragged out overly long. They already have the major issue from last season (the Governor), and the so-far major issue of this season (the illness), both of which should have some legs over season four, so having some interim solutions will give the audience a sense of catharsis they might otherwise miss. And all good drama requires a bit of catharsis from time to time that won’t be satisfied by stabbing another hundred sitting-duck walkers through the head with a crowbar.
<<Spoiler Alert: The following review will discuss at length plot points of The Walking Dead S04E03, “Isolation.” Read more at your own risk.>>
Speaking of cathartic releases, the episode begins with Tyreese showing Rick, Carol, and Daryl Karen and David’s scorched bodies. He demands that the perpetrator be brought to him as soon as he or she is found. Rick makes a classic mistake. Here’s a note to all people interacting with a friend or acquaintance that has recently lost a loved one: do not tell them that you’ve been there and that you understand. It is the last thing they want to hear, and this goes doubly for Tyreese. Even as he is obviously becoming further and further enraged, Rick continues to tell him “I understand.” Predictably, Tyreese strikes him, staggering Rick with two blows; Daryl pulls Tyreese back, and Rick takes advantage to kick the ever-lovin’ crap out of him, knocking him down, kicking him in the ribs, and then pummeling him some more, until Daryl pulls him off as well. For anyone calling fake on this – after all, Tyreese does have about one hundred pounds on Rick – I give Rick and the writers the benefit of the doubt here, due to his police training and the amount of fighting he has done.
Things are going from bad to worse in Cell Block D. Sasha comes outside, coughing. Hershel realizes that everyone who survived the walker attack is now exposed, and recommends quarantine. Even Dr. S is showing symptoms, as is one of the main long-term survivors: Glenn. Hershel and the children, including Carl, are quarantined separately in the warden’s offices. In fact, everyone is quarantined save for a handful: Maggie, Rick, Carol, Daryl, Michonne, Tyreese, and Bob Stookey (back from episode one). And there are things that need doing: the water has stopped pumping, two murders need solving, antibiotics need retrieving. Daryl and Michonne decide to go get the medicine. He invites Tyreese, and Bob asks if he can come as well.
Meanwhile, Hershel decides that if everyone has a job to do, he has one as well. He leaves quarantine, but not until Carl has confronted him – and decided to tag along. They go into the woods to collect Elderberries to make tea for the sick survivors’ symptoms. While there, they enjoy the peacefulness of the forest, but do find a couple of zombies. These are the ones from episode one, the Irish woman who killed herself after trying to ambush Rick, and her husband. He’s been sitting against a tree unable to move for so long, that he actually has moss growing on him. She now has one of Rick’s traps attached to her leg, and can hardly move. Hershel asks Carl not to shoot them – there’s no point, as they can’t keep up in any case. There were two interesting things here: one, we now know for certain that Rick respected the woman’t wishes to be left alive, and two, it appears that she must have some basic cognizance or memory of her human life, as the burlap sack covering her husband has been removed – and it couldn’t have been by one of the survivors. Another interesting yet subtle hint that there might be more to these zombies than first meets the eye. Does this mean there’s a possibility we might see Jim from season one again?
An interesting encounter actually happens between Carol and Tyreese before he leaves to help Daryl and Michonne. He comes up behind her and asks her to keep on eye on Sasha – he’s afraid that whomever killed Karen and Dave will do the same in his absence. She agrees, and tells him she’s sorry about what happened. As soon as he’s out of sight, she starts knocking over the rain barrels, and is in obvious distress. This is a clear signal and foreshadowing of a revelation that comes at the end of the episode. Carol decides that her job is getting the water pumping again, and she goes outside the fence alone to do so. Naturally, her attempts to clear the mud in the intake results in some noise, attracting the nearby walkers that she had distracted with a bicycle wheel mobile. Rick comes out just in time to see her in trouble, and the two of them just make it back inside.
Maggie sees her dad trying to enter Cell Block D, and tells him to stop. He explains to her that in this world, everything is dangerous; the only choice we have is to choose what it is we endanger ourselves for. He feels that his Elderberry tea can save lives, keep the ill alive long enough for the medicine to arrive, and Maggie steps out of his way.
The excursion is going well, Daryl driving along deserted roads as they face a fifty mile ride. He fiddles with the radio, and asks Michonne to pass him a CD – just as he passes a frequency that has a voice. He stops, and tries to tune it in: they hear something about “survivors” and “safe,” and then he glances up just as he plows into a couple of walkers. He almost loses control, but manages to keep the car on the road, coming to a stop. There are literally thousands of walkers in front of them, and he tries to back out, but ends up in a pretty gruesome snowdrift of still moving zombie bodies. You know how when a car spins its tires in slush, big gray-white gobs of it get thrown up in a spray? Now imagine that, except it isn’t slush, and it isn’t gray-white. Daryl doesn’t hesitate: he tells them to head for the woods, as he, Michonne, and Bob jump out. Daryl does his usual crossbow bad-assery (does he remind anyone else of Legolas and his bow in The Lord of the Rings?), Michonne begins slicing and dicing with her usual grace and skill, and Bob hits a lot of things with the butt of his gun after quickly using up most of his ammo. Tyreese just sits there for about thirty seconds; is he becoming suicidal? He finally gets out and begins taking out massive amounts of walkers as he is quickly surrounded, and Daryl gets the rest of them into the woods. My first thought at seeing this was that a) they’re using Tyreese as a sacrifice to save Daryl and Michonne, and b) they’re doing this because they’ve set Carol up as the murderer of Karen and David, and this is going to make it a lot easier for the group to deal with potential fallout.
In the quarantine, Maggie has been speaking with Beth through the door to the Warden’s office (Beth is staying with the children in order to take care of Judith). Beth tells Maggie that Hershel has left, and Maggie tells her she knows, and further tells her why he left. Beth is becoming a realist – I think that Zack’s death in week one has hardened her a little – and she echoes Hershel, saying that they all have jobs to do. Hershel is giving his tea to Dr. S, who tells him he shouldn’t be there before coughing blood all over Hershel’s face. Hershel stoically removes his facecloth, wipes off his forehead, and tells the doctor that he (the doctor) would be there if he weren’t there already. We then see him giving some tea to Glenn, and he’s doing his best to keep up everyone’s morale.
Back to Daryl et al, and they stop to catch their breath. Two walkers come out of the woods after them, only to have one taken out from behind: Tyreese has somehow survived the horde and made it to them. Thus, my theory about his hesitation is in tatters. Perhaps, then, his hesitation is more like the heating up of an engine. His anger, as expressed when he hit Rick earlier in the episode, is becoming more focused. He could be becoming a much more efficient and effective member of the group if this continues; in fact, he puts Daryl and Michonne’s body count to shame in this sequence, and that with only a hand ax.
Rick promised Tyreese that they would find out who killed Karen and David, but Tyreese accused him of not giving it priority. Rick tries to defend himself, pointing out that there are a lot of things that need doing. But in the theme of tonight’s episode, that everyone has a job to do, Rick realizes that if someone is going to investigate a murder, it needs to be him – and it needs to be sooner rather than later. He goes back and checks out the crime scene, and finds a hand print on the door, one made by the killer. He knows.
A little later he catches Carol as she walks by with water. “You’d do anything to protect the people here, wouldn’t you?” he asks. “Yes,” she says. She starts to walk away, and he calls her again. “Carol. Did you kill Karen and David.” “Yes,” she says, and turns away again.
Great ending to the episode, and with Tyreese not only surviving, but bonding with Carol’s guardian angel Daryl, things are going to be very difficult indeed when the group returns to the prison. I don’t think that Rick can do anything about Carol yet. With everyone sick, all the healthy bodies they have are needed to keep things going; but there is sure to be hell to pay, and I don’t see how they’ll be able to come to an accommodation a la Merle and the gang following his return from the Governor’s camp. So one mystery is solved, but a whole new can of worms is opened. The writers could have been lazy and made the murderer one of the throwaway characters from Woodbury, but by choosing Carol they have guaranteed that the survivors will have to deal directly with the morality and ethics of surviving in this changed world. This is a far more interesting choice than the path they could have taken.
I doubt we’re ever going to find out for certain who was feeding the zombies, but online guesswork points toward Lizzie (who is now also sick), and she’s as likely a suspect as any, what with her humanization of the zombies in episode one. There may be a cure for the illness at the veterinary hospital Daryl and his group are heading toward, but no guarantees. And the murderer within is one of the group’s longest standing and, due to her turn toward more kick-assedeness, newly fan-favorite characters. Not to mention the fact that Glenn, Hershel, and Sasha are all sick and possibly dying. There’s a clock ticking somewhere, and it means that the tension in this episode actually ratcheted up a notch, despite the fact that we had no body count at all this week.
Steve’s Grade: A-
A strong third episode to the new season, as we begin to question if it is safer inside the prison or out. Several of the key players running back to season one are now in jeopardy, and it is refreshing to get a sense of danger once again that seems to have not been there for most of the past two seasons. Zombies are again a threat, and Carol’s turn as a post-apocalyptic Ripley continues.