They say “Once is chance, Twice is coincidence, and the Third time is a pattern.” Okay, I’m gonna have to add Tricia Brock to the shortlist of go-to Walking Dead directors. She only debuted with the best episode of the series “Clear”(which followed a single narrative) and followed that up with this season’s “Indifference” (which said goodbye to Carol in one of two storylines). Her third outing is another extremely strong episode, demonstrating an easy control over four separate storylines as we catch up with the other survivors of the prison attack.
But this isn’t her first rodeo. She’s earned her stripes with over twenty years in the business, starting out with a couple of scripts for Twin Peaks‘ underrated second season, writing and directing the feature film Killer Diller in 2004, and then moving into television directing full time since 2006.
She is paired up with her “Indifference” writers, Matthew Negrete and Channing Powell. I’m not familiar with a lot of their work, but just going by what I’ve seen from their two Walking Dead scripts, I’m ready to trust them to a steady workload of high-intensity post-apocalypse drama.
Not only does this episode establish once and for all who survived, particularly Baby Judith and Glenn (Steven Yeun), it is excellently paced as we watch each group of survivors almost link up, with some crossing each other’s paths just hours apart.
The opening duo, Beth (Emily Kinney) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) establish the tone for the entire episode and it’s not an upbeat one, despite the readings from Beth’s prison diary. Those words of hope and love for her father are a gut-wrenching contrast to how things worked out, and Beth is trying to keep it together. Daryl, on the other hand, is broken. It’s another very nice surprising contrast as Beth continues to push and maintain some hope for the others while Daryl works more like a hopeless automaton.
By opening the episode with what is, chronologically, the most up-to-date narrative line, the creators build a little more tension as we see the aftermath of a disastrous run-in with the undead at a nearby train track. The emphasis on the dead child’s shoe and Beth’s emotional breakdown is emblematic of everything this season is doing right.
Then, we roll back in time to find Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) playing babysitter with Mika (Kyla Kenedy), Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino who also just showed up on HBO’s excellent True Detective this past week), and Baby Judith. See? They aren’t big enough bastards to have killed off the baby. It’s not like this is a comic book or something.
Over the course of this vignette, we are shown — but not told — that Lizzie is probably the one who was slaughtering rats in the prison. How? By the casual way she stabs some baby bunnies to death while no one else is paying attention. It’s a cold and detached act that is then echoed later when she goes into a daze while almost smothering Judith to keep her quiet.
The girl has issues. And if you’ve read the comics, there may be some groundwork there for what’s to come. Which resonates nicely with my biggest fanboy squeal moment of the episode as Carol (Melissa McBride) returns!!
Did I mention I was Team Carol?
I suppose it was just a given that she’d get paired up with Tyreese and end up lying to his face about where she’d been. That’s where the biggest dramatic payoff will be, so there we go.
And I almost forgot! They’re on their way to Terminus. What’s that? I don’t know, but signs claim that it’s a safe place. I, personally, wouldn’t name a place Terminus and expect good things to happen there.
The final two storylines give us a central focus on Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glenn as first, Maggie, Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) discover the bus — the last place Maggie saw Glenn — abandoned and filled with zombies just dying to get out. It’s a pretty brutal sequence as they clear the bus, killing each and every walker that comes pouring out. But it’s not just about the violence; it’s about the emotional impact of the violence.
These aren’t just random walkers lining up at the fence and getting a stab to the head. These were other people from the prison. They knew these people. And Maggie’s sobbed apology is short and effective — again sidestepping the overwrought melodrama that we might have seen in an earlier season.
Glenn, on the other hand, doesn’t get the opportunity to really deal with anything emotionally as he wakes up back at the prison, where he had gotten off the bus and somehow passed out someplace safe. How? Not sure about that, but I’m willing to roll with it at this point. They’ve earned that.
So with his fever breaking, Glenn does what any right-thinking man would and gathers up the protective riot gear and a bunch of supplies (in another nearly silent sequence that really allows the acting to shine as he says goodbye to the prison and their lives) and sets out to make his way in the world.
But not before picking up a few new additions to the cast. Well three new and one we’ve already met. Tara (Alanna Masterson) is still at the prison, the only survivor we’ve seen from the Governor’s band of lunatics, and she’s not doing too well psychologically. But Glenn needs help and she’s the only one around, so he gets her up and moving and they escape the prison together.
Kind of sucks that he finds out about Hershel from her guilty ramblings, though.
As the episode draws to a close, we meet three new characters who have LITERALLY just stepped off the comic book pages. Sgt. Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz), Dr. Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt), and Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos) are cast and costumed so perfectly that they made me want to go pick up the comics and re-read their introduction just to refresh my memory about what might be coming.
There have been huge changes in the TV show compared to the comics and I’m encouraged by Cudlitz saying ininterviews that Abe is going to be almost identical to the comics’ version. I can’t wait to see how these characters interact with this Walking Dead world as we barrel into the final stretch of episodes of Season Four.
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Paul Brian McCoy is the Editor-in-Chief of Psycho Drive-In, writer of Mondo Marvel, and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.