When we last left the jaunty band of zombie-apocalypse survivors in AMC’s The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was getting sucked back into his role as the-guy-who-has-to-make-horrible-decisions, and Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) discovered two burned bodies in the prison yard. Overall, things weren’t looking particularly rosy between this, a plague tearing through their ranks, and walkers about to crash through the fences. Will this week’s installment, “Isolation,” find them in less dire straights? Read on to find out.
Beware, spoilers ahead.
Tyreese is pissed and out for revenge. One of the charred corpses was his lady friend, after all. Glenn (Steven Yeun) is frustrated because he can’t do anything. You can fight against walkers and people, but as he says, with this illness all they can do is dig graves. The council decides to isolate the most vulnerable among their ranks, the young and the elderly, and more and more people start hacking up blood, with a few even turning. So no, things are not getting any better, in fact, they’re getting much, much worse. Basically the only people in the prison who aren’t infected with this mystery sickness are the core characters. If you haven’t seen them before this season, they’re probably screwed. Though that doesn’t mean that the regulars are safe, because Glenn and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) have both come down with a nasty case of the sniffles.
“Isolation” is an episode that, while many things actually happen, they unravel at a gradual, deliberate pace. There’s not much running or fighting going on. In fact, when Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Hershel (Scott Wilson) head out into the woods to find holistic remedies that may help the afflicted, they encounter zombies, but simply walk away without having to fight. The Walking Dead is spending time here doing a few things it hasn’t always done in the past, developing characters and storylines. It’s a welcome change from the series that pounded a minimal amount of plot into the ground for three seasons.
In a scene that mimics Robert Kirkman’s comics, Tyreese and Rick come to blows over Tyreese’s perception that Rick doesn’t want to do anything to find the killer in their midst. Daryl (Norman Reedus), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.), and a reluctant Tyreese, eventually go on a run looking for antibiotics and any medicine they might be able to use. If they can stop the symptoms, which are killing people, they just might pull through.
In an ongoing trend this season, Carol (Melissa McBride) continues to grow and expand as a character. She’s compassionate and caring, but tough, and has, in her own right, become someone capable of making difficult choices. Instead of coddling a young girl who gets sick, she comforts her as much as she can in a short time, but makes her go into the quarantine zone, because that is the best decision for the group. It isn’t an easy option, and she sheds tears over it, but is has to be done. In her newfound role as both caregiver and parental figure, the others heap problem after problem upon her, and you have to wonder, how much she’ll be able to take before the weight finally crushes her.
“Isolation” also features one of the most emotionally affecting moments thus far in season four. When Beth (Emily Kinney), who is in quarantine, and Maggie (Lauren Cohan), who is on the outside, talk through a closed door, their conversation is subtle and moving, more about what remains unsaid than what actually comes out of their mouth. There are shades of gray here that haven’t existed in the show before.
“Isolation” is the best, most complex episode of this young season. It weaves together multiple story arcs, and avoids falling into the trap of focusing solely on Rick and his issues—he’s still the least interesting character, everyone else had made great strides except him. Though this continues this season’s forward progress, there is still some ground to make up before it reaches heights like “Clear,” or before I can declare that it has become the show fans want and deserve. We’re still only three episodes deep, but they’ve been some of the most consistent of the franchise, characters we’ve been with for years are growing and changing at an exponential rate, and you legitimately feel that everyone is legitimately in danger.
Like the two previous episodes of this season of The Walking Dead, “Isolation” ends on a cliffhanger that makes you want to tune in next week to see what happens. After hearing what may have been a voice on the radio, Daryl and the team on the run becomes stranded, and you walk away with a revelation that will change the way you look at Carol forever.
Check out a sneak peak for episode 4, “Indifference,” and let us know what you thought of this week’s show in the comments section below.