[This is a review of The Walking Dead season 4, episode 3. There will be SPOILERS]
After pulling drama out of a deadly illness and the subsequent horrors that come from it, The Walking Dead finds itself in a familiar predicament, in that the law of diminishing returns has set in and there seems to be less and less actual drama being pulled from the current situation.
One of the main sources of trouble this show has with regard to its narrative is that stories tend to get bogged down. Whether it's the supposed idyllic isolation of Hershel's farm in season 2, or the overly drawn out conflict between the Governor and Rick (and perhaps the overly drawn out conflict between Rick and himself) in season 3, the show's desire to maintain an atmosphere and keep the action (as it were) located in and around one particular place also tends to bring everything else around it grinding to a halt.
While we see that happening in the prison, to its credit, 'Isolation' manages to split the storylines and find a decent change of pace by clustering various characters around one another and seeing what kind of dynamic emerges from that. In that regard, the episode puts Daryl, Michonne, Tyreese and Bob on a mission that manages to supply the episode with plenty of action and splattering zombie heads, but there's not really much in the way of new story generated from yet another search for supplies that winds up intersecting with a migration of the undead. Now granted, the giant swarm of walkers is still an unnerving sight slightly more than three seasons in, but the event, as well as watching someone succumb to his emotions, just feels familiar, and doesn't really add anything compelling to the story at hand.
And speaking of hands, Rick sprains his early in the episode after the discussion into who murdered Karen and David turns violent because Tyreese is now a ticking time bomb of anger and grief. Now, it's clear that the show is trying to draw some kind of parallel between Rick's past issues with violence and instability and Tyreese's current emotional state, but what it doesn't seem to understand is that Rick's issues with instability and violence didn't lead to good storytelling; it just managed to make the character look foolish and prone to bad decisions.
So when Hershel talks to Rick about "falling off the wagon," there's a whole other level of subtext to those words, as 'Isolation' demonstrates how in order to generate some sense of conflict and suspense, The Walking Dead seems to have fallen back into the old habit of characters making unintelligent decisions unnecessarily and justifying them as being for the greater good. To that end, Rick's now faced with Carol being a murderer, but having done it because there's nothing she wouldn't do to protect the people inside the prison.
Bad decisions can sometimes generate the best kind of drama, but they usually don't come at the complete expense of the character's development and previous history. At any rate, hopefully the writers can take Carol's misguided efforts in quashing the outbreak and turn them into a compelling story in which Rick is forced to make a choice between one person and her overall worth in regard to the group's greater good.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with 'Indifference' @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview below: