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The Walking Dead 4.03 "Isolation" Review: You Do Your Job

    One should always expect an amazing episode of The Walking Dead when Robert Kirkman is writing the episode. “Isolation,” episode three of the season, does not disappoint. This is only Dan Sackheim’s second time directing for the show, but he has experience in the genre stretching back to The X-Files and dramas such as House MD and Law and Order. Between Kirkman’s exceptional script and Sackheim’s masterful direction, this show delivered one of its arguably strongest episodes.

    The show would be nothing if not for these wonderful characters that the actors have created. The horror of the show is truly in the very real threat that we could lose any one of them in any episode. With this new disease – really just a glorified cold – and doesn’t that piss Glenn (Steven Yeun) off – everyone is in danger in one way or another even if the disease doesn’t kill them. I have to comment on two performances in particular that stood out for me in this episode: Scott Wilson and Chandler Riggs. Funny that is seems to be the oldest and youngest members of the main cast! Both turn in Emmy-worthy performances, and Wilson, in particular, turns in brilliant scene after brilliant scene.

    The episode begins with Glenn digging a grave. Not an unusual occurrence, but somehow, everyone knows this is different and they are just coming off of 30 days without an accident, and now, through no fault of their own they are dying again. The graves are marked by some personal possession – including, tellingly, glasses, presumably marking Patrick’s grave, and a gun, who could be anyone given their violent life.

    Tyreese (Chad L Coleman) wants justice for Karen and David, and he wants Rick (Andrew Lincoln) to get it for him. Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) are there to help figure out what happened and it was great to watch how the three of them backed each other up and respected each other – so Daryl is able to hold off Carol and Rick. Luckily they are there to help break them up Rick and Tyreese when Rick starts beating on Tyreese in response to Tyrees going after him. It’s telling that once Rick starts, he can’t stop. Carol seems appalled by the violence between them. It’s only later that we realize why she is so affected by the violence.

    Hershel (Smith) cleans Rick up after the fight. This is only the first scene in which he plays caretaker/father figure to one of the group. He will later do the same thing for Glenn and even Dr. Subramanian (Sunkrish Bala). He asks Rick if he’s okay – not his hand, but mentally. He tells Rick “We just went through something horrible. Everything we wanted to keep out got in.” Rick replies that “No. It was always here.” They are referring not only to death – the zombie virus is just being replaced by this flu virus – but to the violence and to murder. Rick maintains that like the zombie virus, violence, or the capacity for it, is something we always carry with us. Hershel wants Rick at council, but Rick maintains that he’s done enough damage. Hershel tells him that “it’s like falling off the wagon” which he’s done many times himself. Instead of alcohol, Rick is addicted to violence. Hershel tells him he’s got to simply pick himself up and get on with life because he has responsibilities. This scene resonates with the two scenes between Maggie (Lauren Cohen) and Beth (Emily Kinney).

    Both Cohen and Kinney should also be singled out for their work in this episode. Maggie goes to Beth for comfort when Glenn is put in quarantine. Beth reminds her of their father’s teachings that they don’t get to be upset. They’ve got jobs to do. Whatever happens, we’ll deal with it. It is a comfort to Beth in the first instance and is clearly a way for Hershel to make sure that the women in his life didn’t get overly emotional, but it is also good advice. If you do get upset, you can’t do your job and that could endanger those around you. In the second instance, when Maggie tells Beth that Hershel has gone into the quarantine, Beth can’t stay stoic and finally breaks down. It was a relief to see that she still had that capacity.

    Hershel has become a real father figure for Glenn. When the council decides they need to quarantine the most vulnerable, Glenn is the first to suggest that that must include Hershel. Yuen does a wonderful job conveying Glenn’s feelings for Hershel. In the end, Hershel is the one to comfort Glenn. How much Glenn has become part of the Greene family is underscored when Hershel tells him, “We all got jobs. Believing is yours.” Hershel wants Glenn to remain hopeful that he can survive the sickness.

    Hershel is determined to perform his own job. He breaks the quarantine to go into the woods to get elderberries to make a tea for the sick. Carl catches him and insists that he’ll tell Rick if Hershel defies him and goes into the woods. Riggs does an amazing job of conveying the world-weariness of Carl. Carl does not feel in any sense like a child – Riggs’ delivery of the lines is perfect. In the end, he tries to appeal to Hershel’s protective nature and says that if Hershel must go into the woods, he must go with him. Hershel muses that they might be safer outside the walls right now than inside. Carl, however, has fully embraced barricading themselves behind the walls, and insists they are still safer inside. Hershel convinces Carl not to shoot a zombie that comes upon them because he doesn’t have to. Carl does comply, however.

    For me, the crux of this whole episode was Hershel’s plea to Maggie and Rick before he takes the elderberry tea into the quarantine. He explains why he’s courting almost certain death: “You risk your life, every moment. The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for.” Hershel is clearly risking his life to try to save others, to keep their group and humanity from dying out. He’s trying to provide what comfort and relief he can.

    This theme is then played out in the two subplots. Daryl and Michonne (Danai Gurira) discuss her risking her life – Daryl calls it running away – to find the Governor and get revenge. Daryl is concerned for her safety, and Michonne is clearly still wary of joining the group. However she does agree to risk her life to go to the vet hospital to try to get the medicine as do Tyreese and Bob (Lawernce Gilliard Jr). I’m still not one hundred percent convinced that Bob isn’t up to something but he manages not to get himself or anyone else killed when – as Daryl predicted – they have to abandon the car and run. Tyreese goes into a killing frenzy which is a clear turning point for him after his not liking being on the wall killing or killing on patrol. The episode ends with our group cut off from their means of escape.

    Finally, Carol had taken the job of protecting those weaker than herself upon herself. I have to admit that I suspected Carol had killed David and Karen fairly early on. However, even though Carol clearly thought it was necessary to try to stop the disease from spreading, she is struggling with the weight of her guilt. It almost felt like she was trying to punish herself by getting turned when she was caught outside the gate trying to get the water running clear again.

    Rick investigates as Tyreese requests. Carol also, ironically, accepts Tyreese’s plea to keep an eye on his sister Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). He tells her she’s so kind. Carol also tells Tyreese how sorry she is about Karen. The scene is so subtle that it’s hard to detect the sub-text on the first viewing.

    Finally, Rick confronts Carol. He asks her if there is anything she wouldn’t do for the kids. She tells him no. Then when he asks her if she killed David and Karen, she simply answers yes. It’s a powerful moment and McBride delivers that simply statement almost chillingly, showing no outward emotion. But we’ve seen her anger that it didn’t work to save everyone anyway and she is clearly struggling over having done it – even though we saw her dispatch Ryan last week with barely a flinch. We also see Carol have to go through putting people in quarantine, including Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) which clearly bothers her as she breaks down afterwards.

    I thought this was a fabulous episode, underscoring the horror that has simply become everyone’s job. And the need to fight that by choosing to risk your life by affirming life. Clearly Carol has risked her life by taking the lives of Karen and David in an attempt to save lives. What did you think of the episode? Should Hershel have stayed out of the quarantine? What do you think is going to happen to Carol? What should happen to her? Who will be next to die? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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