After last week's focus on Carl, Michonne and Rick, "Inmates" gets the audience up to speed with the rest of the survivors. What writers Matthew Negrete and Channing Powell deliver is a collection of vignettes. It makes for an interestingly structured episode, which has a few ups and downs.
There is a greater pace to the proceedings this week and the zombie kill count is higher, but this episode has none of the depth or nuanced character work that was seen in last week's episode. Granted the writers do a good job of showing how everyone is coping with their new status quo, but it feels a little more forced.
We begin the episode with a terribly contrived monologue from Beth, a character who has had little development. The monologue is set before the catastrophe that landed her with zombie assassin Daryl. As a framing device to their journey it almost works, but the dialogue is too obvious and doesn't give any more insight to her thought process that the audience can't garner from her actual actions within this episode. She has hope which is then crushed, the end. Out of the four separate narrative strands this is easily the weakest, even with Daryl doing his usually crossbow shenanigans. Fundamentally it is down to the fact that Norman Reedus gives little to his performance here, which clashes with Emily Kinney's overacting.
Moving on from them we get Tyreese, Lizzie, Mika and Judith making their way through the forest. Set before Daryl and Beth's story, this part of the episode was a little more engaging. The show is going down some interesting paths and creepy Lizzie's story may end up being the darkest. Seeing her nearly suffocate Judith with a look of pleasure on her face was definitely one of the bolder choices the show has made since it started. But evil killer in waiting aside, watching Tyreese look after these kids at least gave his character something to do. Chad Coleman's constantly shocked expression maybe distracting, but for the most part he did a fine job. But the biggest surprise of this narrative came when Carol returned. Yes, the most interesting character of season 4 has come back and it is not a moment too soon. Melissa McBride may only be in the episode for a few minutes, but she leaves a lasting impression. The way McBride delivers Carol's lines is perfect, making her the shiftiest person you could ever meet. With her addition one can only assume this part of the show will become the most engaging.
After Carol's return the episode moved on to Maggie. For the record Lauren Cohen is perhaps the best actor on the show outside of Andrew Lincoln. Cohen has made Maggie into an utterly sympathetic character. The audience is behind her and this allows her scenes in this episode to resonate more. Sasha and Bob are essentially inconsequential, as this was all about Maggie. Of course we knew Glenn wasn't dead, but Cohen's conviction sold the whole bus scene. It added little in the way of plot (other than finding out what happened to Maggie and co.), but it served a greater character purpose.
This leaves us with Glenn's fate. The episode chose to finish on Glenn and new character Tara. The writers teased an interesting solitary journey for Glenn, but reverted back to The Walking Dead formula of adding yet more survivors with guns that seem like they could be dodgy. The cliffhanger isn't exactly exciting as the show has done this type before, but for the brief moment when Glenn was alone it looked like the show would be brave and show a character surviving this world without help. His interactions with Tara are fine and his animosity towards her understandable. However it will be only a matter of time before we find out that these new people are evil in some way and Glenn will put aside his feelings towards Tara and they will become best friends surviving together. Unfortunately Glenn's portion of the episode doesn't really do much to truly entertain you.
"Inmates" has a lot to like. Some solid character work and interesting plot elements. However it opens poorly and ends on a familiar note. The episode has enough satisfactory zombie deaths to keep most of the audience entertained. Also an award must be given to Tara for being the quickest expert marksman the show has ever produced. All in all the show is moving forward at a nice pace and into interesting territory.
Rating: 6 fully armoured Glenn's out of 10.
Review by @gizmo151183