[This is a review of The Walking Dead season 4, episode 10. There will be SPOILERS.]
There's a brief instant in 'Inmates' where The Walking Dead comes close to having a team-building moment. Not the kind of thing where one person falls backwards into the waiting arms of a co-worker, so they know if the TPS report doesn't get filed properly they can count on their "teammate" to help bail them out. No, instead, it's the kind of team-building moment that normally takes place in works of fiction, where characters that were once at odds with one another, had gone missing, or were perhaps thought dead return. Shortly thereafter, everyone generally works together to achieve a difficult goal, and there's (hopefully) a smile one the face of everyone watching at home.
There's a chance that Carol's return elicited a response that went something like that, even though her unexpected arrival will undoubtedly be riddled with conflict soon enough. But for now, Carol's reunion with her surrogate kids is ostensibly a happy one, and not just for Judith (the second of three surprise survivors of the episode), who was nearly smothered by Lizzie – one of the likelier suspects in the rat flaying that was going on in the prison before the walls came down. As capable as Tyreese is, the poor guy seemed like he was on the verge of being overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for three children – especially when one of them is little more than a pudgy dinner bell calling walkers to come grab a quick bite – so having the pragmatic hand of Carol there to assist was probably taken as a sign he's still got some good karma coming his way.
While 'Inmates' didn't quite get to the kind of storytelling last week's satisfying 'After' did, the episode did manage to play with the chronology of Daryl and Beth tracking Tyreese, Carol, and the kids in such a way that still managed to build some tension outside of people whacking zombies. The discovery of the sign marked with the not-at-all-ominous-sounding word "Terminus" being linked by the railroad tracks both sets of characters appeared to be on at least puts half the characters on the same page, even if they're not there together. In that sense, the episode did a nice job of spreading the storylines out, without it feeling like a complete disconnect. While Maggie's bloody search for Glenn didn't get her, Sasha, and Bob any closer to the rest of the group, it did act as a nice bridge to the reveal of Glenn's location.
The third and final surprise survivor of the episode was Glenn's discovery of Tara, who, like him, failed to escape the prison before it was overwhelmed by the undead. Looking back, Tara's ethical conundrum during the mid-season finale, 'Too Far Gone,' was a good hint that she'd earn herself the chance at a redemptive arc – though all she's really guilty of is being conned by the Governor…and maybe a little too gung-ho to start a preemptive attack on a group of strangers – so chances are, sticking with Glenn when Abraham Ford and his aggressive facial hair show up looking like more trouble than anyone needs at the moment, will be step one in Tara's redemption.
Sure, if you've read the comics, you know what Ford's deal is, but if there's one thing The Walking Dead has trained its audience to expect, it's that well-armed strangers who seem more organized than they have any right to be are not to be trusted…until they are.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with 'Claimed' @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview below: