Life in a zombie apocalypse is tough.
It’s all blood, sweat and fears battling walkers and people, and it’s easier to catch a cold than it is a break. Except, now sickness is just another problem added to the list of dilemmas the survivors have to worry about.
And while it’s exciting to see the hacking and slashing of decaying walkers or the facing off against human foes, struggling with a virus allows for a real look at characters. It’s a quieter way to expose certain truths like Tyreese’s anger, Carl’s responsibility or the mic drop at the end of this episode — Carol willing to do whatever it takes to survive.
It’s an interesting direction for the series, a positive one, and The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 3 took full advantage, even if there were times when it felt like the hour dragged a bit.
Tyreese went into rage mode over the death of Karen and David (who, like viewers, Rick didn’t really know), but it was great to see a transformation from the laid back, go easy person. Did anyone notice Rick flinch the couple times Tyreese stepped up to him? Sure, Rick got his own angry punches in, but it also stirred Rick to take action. Forget pumping water, sheriff, do something about the murders!
Unfortunately, Tyreese’s problems kept on going with sister Sasha getting sick. It was enjoyable to witness the care and concern for her while expressing that they should only have positive thoughts.
Really, that’s all anyone can do at this point with the pesky prison plague continuing to spread. It’s seemed to have infected most of the new survivors (poor Dr. S), but also Glenn and Sasha. And I like that possibility that either of those two could meet their demise not in a blaze of glory but by a quiet and glorified cold.
It’s also good to see characters like Maggie and Beth, who have stood tough in the face of danger (Beth even more so recently) have a tearful heart to heart about their situation and remaining resilient even if that scary feeling is that things won’t be OK.
Having someone like Hershel step up and try to do something - even if it means putting himself in danger - provides a possibility he could certainly die also, but ultimately that he isn’t willing to just sit idly by.
Granted, Hershel and the Carl hall monitor scene felt a bit awkward, but the point was there. Even Carl has stepped up while trying to work with his father. He’s not just running off somewhere and causing trouble.
And I liked that rather than have Carl and Hershel turn around in the woods and see a bunch of walkers, they only had to deal with one creepy foot dragging one and a mossy tree walker. Carl didn't have to go trigger happy either.
If anything, it made the scene where Daryl and the gang running into that massive group of walkers that stretched out over the horizon more shocking. That’s what playing with the radio while driving gets you.
I didn’t quite understand why Tyreese decided to just sit in the car while Daryl, Michonne and Bob were desperately trying to escape, let alone hack his way out when it seemed like he should have died. Kind of similar to the Governor’s escape in The Walking Dead Season 3.
It just seemed odd for his character to do, even if it was supposed to be a cool moment where he miraculously appeared and survived afterward.
And I like that having Bob along for the ride didn’t mean that he was the obvious one to become walker food. I still have my suspicions about him, but I liked his short bonding moment with Tyreese while digging the graves and trying to wait for Tyreese after the zombies swarmed the car. I’d really like to see Bob’s character last and not have a few episodes later where we learn about his past and then he’s quickly killed.
But the real surprise of the hour was all about Carol.
She’s no longer that timid wife from The Walking Dead Season 1. She’s so much more hardened from her experiences. Lest we forget, she lost her daughter Sophia. She’s so intent on surviving and protecting the ones she cares about that killing a few for the greater good is worth it to her.
Sure, she’s not a robot about it all. Carol feels guilt and perhaps regret, especially after Tyreese asked her to watch over his sister. It’s going to be an awkward conversation between those two when he finds out what she did.
But I liked that a scene where she almost got herself trapped and killed for the water that could have been just writing the characters into dumb decisions was instead called out as a stupid move by both Rick and Carol. She knows that those sick might not have extra time (although it took Daryl a real long time to get the car gassed up, right?), and she’s clearly trying to step up to help even if she has to struggle with her thoughts and emotions over the whole ordeal.
And yet, having her so calmly and openly admit to Rick’s question about killing Karen and David? Cold, chilling and a perfect illustration of just how far Carol has come as a character. It’s fantastic to see her as more than a background player and really getting into the fray of it all.
Too bad those deaths didn’t stop the sickness like she had hoped. There’s definitely going to be some fallout.
While "Isolation" did feel a little slow in parts, it took time to focus on characters, still get in some bloody walker gore, and provided a great ending. If only getting to next Sunday's episode was as fast as Zack's car...
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.