Last week, after the insanely awesome midseason finale titled ‘Too Far Gone’ and a brief hiatus, ‘The Walking Dead’ returned to Sunday nights to catch up with the remaining members of the group that was displaced by the Governor and his attempt to take over the prison. This half of the fourth season of AMC’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s acclaimed Image comic book started by following the Grimes family as they try to survive despite the alleged loss of their youngest member, Baby Judith, and the multiple injuries suffered by Rick in the battle. Through this we got to know Carl and his limits a little bit better, but elsewhere, we also learned about another strong silent type when discovered a little bit more about where the mysterious Michonne came from.

Then, in this week’s episode titled ‘Inmates’, we follow up with everyone else that survived the invasion as they are all paired up in some interesting combinations that found some characters interacting for the first time. Each of the four groups offered very interesting character studies for these people that we never really got a chance to really know previously and showed how close the situation has driven even the most hopeful of the bunch to their breaking points.

Speaking of the most hopeful, the episode kicked off with a narration from Beth, who was traveling with Daryl, who had seemed to lose all hope. This voiceover from one of Beth’s journal entries from when they first got to the prison is juxtaposed by the events unfolding that find the pair slaying walkers and attempting to find the other members of the group. This opening was just so brilliant and really set the tone of excellence that was carried throughout the episode. We were getting ready to see all of these characters like we’ve never seen them before, and this chapter of the story was just kicked off in the right way.

After the kickass beginning, the episode took us to Sasha, Maggie, and Bob by the river, Tyreese and three little girls in the woods, and Glenn and former Governor ally Tara back at the prison. And just as I had said about the most recent episode of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, I loved that whole trope of intertwining stories happening at the same time. Each layer and relationship thematically built and added to the next one. The writing of this episode was just so on point and the show proved once again from a technical and a story standpoint that we’re long gone from the days of Hershel’s farm.

While we’re on the topic of the technical aspect of the show, I loved the whole sequence at the prison that saw Glenn plow through those walkers. The effect of using the camera in the helmet to show his point of view was just so cool. As the writing team continues to step their game up, so too does the production side of things.

But back to the writing, I love that each of these characters now has the opportunity to grow. For the longest time, we really didn’t get much from characters like Beth, Tara, and Sasha. It’s similar to the situation with Michonne where her whole character for a while was just a tough, mysterious gal with a sword. Now, by not having the group end up together right away, everyone else who is left has the opportunity to grow as well. For instance, we now know that Lizzie is completely off her rocker. (Poor bunnies.) In the long run, we’ll have a richer experience on this show because we’ll have a strong group of characters to care about rather than generic one-dimensional stand-ins who occasionally do something important.

Finally, as a fan of the comics, I can’t end this review without mentioning my favorite part of the episode. While there was a lot of great stuff, the introduction at the very end of Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene was straight off of the cover of ‘The Walking Dead’ #53. The director had the shot and the poses so perfectly planned out. That little homage to the source material was so good. Now, I know that the show is the show and the comic is the comic, but when the show takes moments like this or when the Governor says, “Kill them all” at the prison, it just makes me super happy.

Even before the midseason break, ‘The Walking Dead’ has been on an upswing in terms of quality. After having some really slow, dragged out episodes over the course of the four seasons, we’re at a place where it’s all really exciting to watch again. Hopefully this continues for the rest of the season, even if the episodes aren’t all as happy as this one. (Or as happy as this one gets after taking out a bus full of walkers.) And if it does, season four might be the best overall season since the first one.

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