Original air date: October 27, 2013

Review (with SPOILERS): This was a pretty mixed episode.  It had strong elements, but also showed signs of being sucked into a rut with the prolonged Flu Story.

The bad stuff… Let’s just get it out of the way…

A little slow: Unfortunately, the main take-away from this episode is how slow things are.  Suddenly things feel very “Season 2” again.  They’re not stuck on Herschel’s farm anymore chopping vegetables; they’re stuck in the Prison doing things like collecting rain water and unclogging the mud from the hose that brings them water from the creek – the creek that zombies walk in… Yuck!  They’re not looking for Sophia anymore, they’re all worried about getting the flu.  It isn’t that a “slow burn” can’t be a good story, but neither the writing nor the acting on this show are good enough to slow down the action.  It’s almost like the talent behind TWD thinks that because the show gets excellent ratings that it can do the same things that the truly A-list shows can do.  TWD is at its best when the action hops along briskly and viewers don’t have time to fixate on boring plotlines or troublesome characters.

  • Carol’s turn for the worse: Even though we’ve seen a new Carol this season – more capable and confident, this episode’s plot development with her didn’t quite turn out right.  The bad thing is that I see what the writers were trying to do. The writers KNEW in advance that Carol had killed Karen and the other sick guy, so they wanted to show in this episode how she was frustrated that her decision to murder two people still didn’t keep the group safe.  But, it didn’t totally come off.  The scene where Carol tries to comfort the little sick girl, but won’t tuck her into bed in the sick ward…THAT scene worked out pretty well.  At the time, we kinda think that she doesn’t want to tuck the little girl in because Carol doesn’t want to be infected herself.  But, in hindsight, she is probably upset that (a) her murdering Karen didn’t keep the little girl from getting sick and (b) she might have to kill the little girl to keep the REST of the group safe.  See, that bit of character development was good.  Now, what fell on its face was the part where Carol got angry and threw the water barrels over.  Either the director didn’t know how to shoot that scene properly or the actress didn’t know how to play angry.  Just leave that scene out and let us have the more subtle scene with Carol and the little girl.  The show’s creative talent has troublesome judgement…
  • Dumb new characters: The episode wastes too much time on characters we don’t really know and care about.  When Karen died last week, it hit home a little bit because we at least remembered Karen as Andrea’s kinda-friend from Season 3 and the sole survivor of The Governor’s rampage.  But, this week, who cares about the new sick Doctor when Herschel gives him a pep talk?  I don’t even know the guy’s name.  Likewise, it’s hard to get too upset about the little girl that Carol is so worked up about because we only met her a few episodes ago.  Nobody cares about the little girl yet.  It’s amazing how this show has no patience for development of minor characters, yet Beth is still around and getting speaking lines.  “I know… it would be awesome if we have TWO scenes with Beth talking to someone through a closed door…”
  • Tyreese’s eye: Amazing that a show that does such good zombie make-up can’t do a better black eye.

The good stuff… (because there was some)

  • Cliffhanger with Carol: What are they going to do with her?  Sometimes the best thing about episodic television (as opposed to binging on Netflix) is the time to wonder about what COULD happen.  What will Rick do?  Remember that both Tyreese and Darryl are out looking for antibiotics.  If Rick hasn’t caught the killer by the time they get back, Tyreese will be angry.  If Rick decides to punish Carol, Darryl will be angry.  Not to mention that killing Karen may have been the right choice anyway.  Rick is stuck…
  • Voices on the radio: Given that TWD will probably keep stirring the same cold soup that is the Flu Story for the first half of the season, I don’t expect any resolution to the voices on the radio for a few episodes.  It could be another settlement, it could be the army, it could be the Governor, it could be the Guys from Philadelphia…
  • Antibiotics run: I loved that we got this group of characters out of the prison.  Good things happen when this show comes up with events that the characters have to react to.  We got to see: a good mix of characters, a zombie herd, and the answer to why you can’t just “drive over them” (in the form of a NASTY zombie-gut burnout).  But most importantly, we got to see the group put a-foot in the middle of hostile territory.  Who knows what will happen to them next week?  Or maybe something really bad will happen at the prison and this group will only find the aftermath?  Wouldn’t it be cool if they came back and the place was deserted and neither the characters or the viewers knew what had happened?
  • More comic book events popping up: As I mentioned last week, apparently Robert Kirkman has wrestled some creative control of this show back from the series of show-runners.  So, we’re seeing stuff like Rick’s busted hand and his fighting with Tyreese popping up.  We saw Tyreese come away from hopeless odds with the zombies.  I just wonder if this is going to lead to a couple of other big events from the comics crossing over.  The show didn’t finish all the material from the Governor/Prison storyline last season.
  • Less Rick: This is a couple of episodes in a row where the story hasn’t revolved around Rick.  That’s such a positive sign.  Rick should always be part of the central cast, but at times this show has veered into it being the Rick Show.  It’s just nice to see that after a few seasons of Rick v. Shane and Rick & Lori and the Ricktatorship and Rick v. The Governor, that the writers aren’t hustling to find another Rick-centric storyline.  Let the dude air out a little bit.
  • Creepy sick ward: Man… I wouldn’t want to go in there.  They really did a nice job of making the sick ward look horrible and bleak.

So, very mixed bag this week.  I guess I’m a little disappointed because I always hope that this show will “turn the corner,” but I’m realistic enough to know that this show is what it is.

Conclusion: All in all, this episode was simply filled with stretches of tedium and lousy plot development. However, they were all punctuated by moments of excellence.

Grade: C

-Dean Stell