Tonight's episode of AMC's "The Walking Dead," titled "Inmates," was much more what many fans were probably expecting out of last week's midseason premiere: most of the survivors were represented, a lot of the show's lingering questions were answered and, while we didn't see Rick or Michonne at all, fan-favorite Daryl dominated a good chunk of the episode.
Plus, we got to meet some new friends (who, to readers of the comic, were actually quite old friends) and get an intriguing tease.
Check out 17 highlights from the episode "Inmates," which aired on Sunday, Feb. 16. Warning: Spoilers ahead!
1. Down Memory Lane
There's a lot of hopelessness this episode -- something which, if the story follows the comics closely, may start to turn around after that last scene -- but we start with a voice of hope: Beth's diary, winding time back to when they first found the prison and talking about the anticipation of Lori's pregnancy, of working the fields and making a home at the prison, and more. Its enthusiasm is heartbreaking in context.
This isn't the first time we've seen Beth's diary this season -- she was writing in it, for instance, when Daryl came to tell her that Zach had died in the season 4 premiere, "30 Days Without an Accident."
As we noted last week, looking back is something they did quite a bit in the midseason premiere -- both in-story and with cinematic tricks like using similar shots. As the characters continue to long for what they lost through the second half of season 4, might we expect to see more of this? It seems like it, at least right now.
2. Beth the Conqueror
While the comic books have consistently been praised for some of the best female characters currently in publication (believe it or not, it's Andrea who tends to take the cake), AMC's "The Walking Dead" has taken some flak for a lack of strong women (Michonne aside, obviously).
Watching Beth, who at one point tried to kill herself and then spent a few episodes sulking in her bed, step up and push Daryl around a little bit is the second time we've seen one of the show's toughest tough guys get cowed into submission a little bit by a skinny blonde girl (the first was the dressing down Carl got from Lizzie, again in "30 Days Without an Accident").
Following that up by taking out the walker that tries to kill her in the next scene, rather than having Daryl do so, only reinforces the message.
It's perhaps worth noting, as well, that her father was among the most absolutely certain that everything would turn out alright eventually. When Rick was at his most despondent and hopeless, Hershel wasn't hearing any of that crap -- and it seems Beth learned some of that along the way. This picture resolves itself as the episode continues, since her diary entries make frequent references to Hershel and his faith.
3. One of ours?
When we see a child's shoe in the woods, after Beth and Daryl have been tracking some members of the prison community, we don't get a definitive answer as to whether the people being feasted on by walkers are "ours" or not.
Certainly, it seems likely the writers will do away with a number of the old, young and infirm that Rick and his group took on from Woodbury and other places between the end of season 3 and the beginning of season 4. Some of them got so little screen time that it may require a viewing of "Talking Dead," AMC's "The Walking Dead" after show, to determine for sure whether we were supposed to know any given corpse. In this case, it's probably safe to assume that we're looking at Luke and Molly, since that's who our heroes were looking for.
We saw something like this last week, too; on "Talking Dead," it was revealed that Michonne had selected her "pet" walkers from the available livestock at the prison because they specifically were The Governor's people, and deserved to be punished. Nobody I've spoken to recognized the walkers, though, and so the size of the prison community at the time of its collapse might play into our not really knowing.
4. Beth's 19th Nervous Breakdown
Beth's loss of faith and her breakdown after finding the bodies is in opposition to her stated philosophy not just in this episode -- but throughout the season. In "30 Days Without an Accident," she shrugs off Zach's death, saying essentially that people in this new world are ships that pass in the night, and that forming an emotional connection is pointless since everyone dies.
5. Tyreese the Papa Bear
You didn't really think AMC was going to let them kill a baby in their top-rated primetime show, did you?
Some very convincing fan theories surfaced within hours (maybe minutes) of Judith's supposed death in "Too Far Gone," making a GIF of Tyreese running from the prison battle carrying something that looked suspiciously baby-shaped into one of the most-viewed images on the Internet back in December.
It seems that, with the series tracing the path of the comic books much more closely right now than it has in some time (arguably ever), and Tyreese being a character who was ... well, dead by now, they've given him a new role.
Much of this episode, in fact, is made up of characters who didn't exist in the comics, or were already dead by now, traveling together. Mika and Lizzie are creations for the TV show, as were Merle and Daryl Dixon. Tyreese and Beth were both dead by this point in the story -- and so was Judith, who, in the comics, was killed during the siege on the prison, along with Lori.
All that said, why the heck do people keep putting the baby down all the time?
6. Lizzie (Borden) and Mika
Okay, so there's a general sense out there on the part of many fans that Lizzie is bad news.
"She's not weak, she's messed up," Mika told us in "30 Days Without an Accident," our first introduction to the girls.
We see a little of that here, where she nearly smothers baby Judith to death in order to keep her quiet (addressing one of the big problems with having a baby on the road with you in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where every noise you make is going to attract your apex predator).
In this episode, we get what really feels like a confirmation of these theories when Lizzie is shown killing a bunny in the woods.
But there's more to it than just that -- as fans of the comic books well know.
In the comics, Lizzie and Mika don't exist. However, there's a pair of twin brothers named Ben and Billy, and fans believe Lizzie and Mika may have been created as stand-ins for them.
After the death of their father (which, in the comics, happened in almost exactly the same way as the girls' dad on the show), Ben and Billy were left in the care of the group, especially Dale and Andrea (they both lived longer in the comics). During that time, they befriended Carl and became more a focal point of the cast than they had been previously.
And Carl realized that Ben was not right in the head.
Ben was dissecting animals and became fascinated with walkers -- eventually, he killed Billy, telling those who caught him that it was okay -- that Billy would come back because Ben had made sure not to hurt his brain.
While the grown-ups struggled with what to do about the situation, Carl snuck into the place where they were keeping Ben and shot him. If it comes to pass that Lizzie is the killer, though (and by extension, probably the one who was feeding the walkers and the one who was dissecting squirrels and possibly even the one who really killed David and Karen, with Carol taking the blame to spare the child an adult's punishment), don't expect it to be Carl who takes her out. The pair haven't had all that much of a connection throughout the first chunk of the season. Rather, don't be surprised if it's Carol who has to do it. That's just a guess, though.
Speaking of which, though ...
7. Welcome back, Carol!
In addition to Baby Judith, our survivors are rejoined by Carol Peletier this episode, who's been in isolation for a while. As with Judith, reuniting Carol with the kids she's meant to be watching and Tyreese, whose girlfriend she was exiled for killing, was exactly how most fans saw it unfolding.
Tyreese didn't know any of that, though; just as Rick and Daryl were readying to tell him, all heck broke loose at the prison and nobody ever reconnected for another quiet moment. So ? he's happy to see her.
Also, between the previous two entries, it now seems very, very likely that Tyreese is traveling with the person he wanted to get out of the prison and/or kill not long ago.
First of all, it is just me or are our survivors kind of jerks, leaving that poor man there to live the last moments of his life in despair and then turn into a walker who might kill others? Why not at least offer to put him out of his misery?
The sign for "Sanctuary," and the similar radio call that went out earlier this season and was heard by Michonne and Daryl, isn't as good a thing as it sounds in the world of "The Walking Dead."
For a long time following the death of The Governor in the comics, writer Robert Kirkman didn't have a villain who measured up. He had such a hard time topping The Governor, in fact, that much of the backstory he has in the TV series comes from a trilogy of prose novels that Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga co-wrote about the character.
Eventually, he got somebody just as nasty, though: Negan, who was introduced in "The Walking Dead" #98 is a nasty piece of work, and his home base is called "The Sanctuary."
Beware the Saviors -- but probably not right away. There's a least one more big comic book story they will likely deal with before then.
Assuming they're seeding Negan and company, though, and this is the same "Sanctuary," what's Terminus? Not covered in the comics or on the Walking Dead Wiki. More likely than not it's a real-world location like the Union Station Railroad Terminus in Washington, D.C., since Sanctuary is in either Virginia or D.C.
9. Woodbury can't catch a break.
Mass slaughter is common in the world of "The Walking Dead," but apparently if you're from Woodbury it's just the rule.
That bus was full of people and all the "important" survivors got away but the feeble and infirm of Woodbury all got culled out at once -- just as their husbands and fathers did when The Governor killed his entire invasion force after the first attack on the prison went bad.
Is it too much to hope a couple of those people got away and lived fruitful lives?
... Well, probably.
10. Location, Location, Location
Speaking of which, what are the odds that the prisoners killed in the bus and the prisoner whose body Daryl and Beth found being devoured are connected? Are the sisters closer than we ever thought, geographically speaking?
11. Maggie's big breakdown
The ubiquitous promotional image of Glenn at the prison, surrounded by walkers too distant to reach him, pretty much spoiled the drama the director tried to create with the "kinda-sorta-looks-like-Glenn Zombie," didn't it?
12. Do you trust Stookey?
In the comics, Bob Stookey was an agent of The Governor whose alcoholism proved problematic for the survivors. We flirted with that a bit early in the season (the alcoholism, not The Governor) and now, he's ... oddly chipper.
13. Where Glenn woke up
When Glenn woke up at the prison, he did it in an interesting spot: that obliterated bridge looks to be exactly where Tyreese was when we saw him making his escape with Judith. Actually, it was in the process of being obliterated as he ran past it. Could Glenn have been hiding in that shot somewhere, too? [We don't see him in the GIF]
In any event, we get the prison-as-ghost-town reference loud and clear here, and poor Glenn is forced to walk through the shadow of their peaceful life in much the same way Rick was in the pilot-after waking up disoriented and not really clear on what happened or where his wife is.
Remember that, everybody? When the first season was being promoted and Andrew Lincoln was all, "This is really a human story about a man searching for his family?" Well, we're there again.
14. The watch
When Glenn gathers his belongings to make his way into the world in search of Maggie, one of the things he makes sure to take is Hershel's pocket watch.
The filmmakers have said repeatedly that Hershel's presence -- and absence -- will continue to be felt throughout the rest of the season, and this episode features quite a lot of how and why.
15. Strange allegiances
Tara was standing directly behind Hershel when he was murdered by The Governor and his men, with Tara's girlfriend pointing the gun at Glenn's father-in-law in his final moments. Glenn, as actor Steven Yeun has said in interviews, is one of the few people who don't know how things went down.
16. Choosing Life
He found out this week, and chose to stick with Tara anyway, because it was more important to find his family than to make her feel even worse about the people she helped kill.
We'll see whether Maggie and Beth feel the same way. Many viewers probably don't.
Weirdly, we get to keep Tara, but Lilly, who killed The Governor, we're told was swarmed for her troubles.
17. The Three Amigos
The three people we see at the end of the episode are Abraham, Rosita and Eugene. They're major, major players in the comic book series -- with two of the three still alive and the third having lasted about 50 issues -- that's longer, for instance, than Lori or Hershel did.
Their introduction is very different here than it was in the comics -- not least of which because in the comics, their moment of "big tough dangerous people with guns" was almost immediately undone by Andrea, the group's sniper, who disarmed them.
AMC has made the unusual decision to blow a big twist regarding Eugene's character in character descriptions that were officially released after New York Comic-Con in October, where these actors were first introduced to the fans. We won't spoil it here, in case they elect to use it in-story, but we'll say this: there's a very good reason AMC might have revealed it, and it ties all the way back to season 1. More likely than not, next week will see us tackle that one.
In the comics, Tyreese and Carol were a couple. After he cheated on her with, and then left her for, Michonne, she killed herself. While that's unlikely, bordering on impossible to imagine for this different, stronger Carol, it doesn't seem totally outside of the realm of possibility that she could be driven to that kind of despair if she were to lose Lizzie and Mika -- one theory for which we outlined above.
Meanwhile, could the pair hook up? It would make many Daryl fans furious and possibly soften the blow of Carol's death if things went that way ...