“We don’t get to be upset. We all have jobs to do.” When did Beth become the wisest person in the zombie apocalypse? It’s been a reoccurring theme this season, repeated by Beth a few times. It’s nice to have people in your life who you care about, even as the entire world starts to fall about. And it’s nice to have people care about you. But when people leave, get sick, die, and come back as a flesh-eating zombie, there comes a time when you can’t get upset anymore. If you were devastated every time you lost a new friend, there’d be no way to continue to living.

“Isolation” finally began to explore the ways that our survivors deal with the reality of the flu that’s been turning their friends into walkers. So many of my earlier complaints about the season were about how this pivotal storyline was being handled. Maybe the writer’s feel that the show can’t exist without showing a hundred or so limping, decaying dead people per episode, but they’re always moving away from internal human struggles in favor for yet another fight scene. I might be alone here, but I’d rather see a whole episode of each character reacting to this breach of sickness into the prison. Seeing Daryl and his crew fight past a ton of walkers to get to the veterinarian school could have worked as an episode itself without taking away from this interesting plot twist.

That being said, it was a breath of fresh air to see so many characters get to react to this sickness. Tyronne takes his anger about his girlfriend, Karen’s death by arsonist out on Daryl and Rick. It’s the most character development we’ve seen from his character so far, making him a more vivid character than ever before. Rick takes a more proactive approach. He wants to find out what happened to Karen and David, while ensuring that his children are safely quarantined away from the sickness. Hershel is more suicidal than anyone else, leaving the shelter of the prison to gather berries and then entering the room of the sick to try to help them with a berry tea. (At one point Dr. S coughs blood on his face and Hershel rubs it on his face. Gross.) Maggie feels self-pity and worry, leading Beth to sweetly knock some sense into her. Carl seems insulted that his father wanted to quarantine him with the rest of the children, so he rebels in a very Carl way: by wearing his dad’s hat and wandering in the woods with Hershel. (He also does a very un-Carl like thing by not killing those walkers in the woods.)

Meanwhile, Glenn has gotten sick. It’s a great move by the writers. If only people from Woodbury and random extras were getting sick and dying, there’s not much for a viewer to invest in. However, Glenn is beloved by many viewers so his sickness has created a ticking clock on the plot. They need to find cure and quickly because somebody our heroes actually care about is close to death. Also, it keeps viewers from being eager for somebody to simply kill off all the sick in hopes that it won’t spread any further. I’m not very worried about whether Glenn will die, but I’m interested to see where it brings the other characters.

Carol’s reaction throughout the episode was the most fascinating to me. Last week I was so sure that her new guardianship of those two creepy girls was going to lead to a darker, more desperate character. I thought she was going to do everything for those girls that she failed to do for her daughter, Sophia, including teaching them to kill and protecting them from any outside sources when she could. But when Lizzie came to her a bit sick, Carol pushed her into the room of the sick. It was a cold, yet understandable, action from the mothering character. Then out of anger, she throws a barrel of the prison’s water supplies on the ground. And if that wasn’t aggravating enough, she decided to refill the supply by herself in a heavily walker invested area.

That should have been hint enough that something was up with Carol. Nope. It was still a total shock to me when it turned out that Carol was the one to burn Karen and David to a crisp. It seems like such a heinous act from a woman who started the series too meek to stand up to her husband. Will this lead to a dark Carol that becomes an antagonist? Or is it just another reminder that, like everybody else, Carol has been deeply changed by the world she’s in. She’s not upset that she killed those people. She doesn’t get to be upset. She has a job to do.

Other Musings:

  • Hershel calls Rick beating Tyronne “falling off the wagon.” As an alcoholic, Hershel knows all about that. But what is Rick’s alcohol? Anger? Batshit crazy behavior?
  • Among the new people who are sick are Dr. S, Sasha, and a random Woodbury resident named Jeanette.
  • Michonne on Daryl: “He’s already given me fleas.” She’s smiled and admitted she liked people and NOW she makes a joke. This is not your season 3 Michonne.
  • Nobody knows anything about David, which is either commentary on his extra status or just poor character planning.
  • The Michonne and Daryl are a good pairing because they’re both monosyllabic badasses, but I’m actually more interested when they’re paired up with people who are unlike them like Michonne/Carl and Rick and Daryl/Beth or Carol. They’re gloomy, loner characters so it’s fun to see them in different pairings.
  • Where did Carl get the giant silencer?
  • Bear trap zombie is the saddest one we’ve seen in a while. She clearly died stuck in that bear trap, either from blood lose or starving to death. Not a great way to go.
  • The radio broadcast that Daryl and Co. hear in the car is clearly a hint to a future for the gang when they inevitably leave the prison. I couldn’t really make out what it said. What would be more fun: a more organized group of survivors looking for more people or a government agency?
  • Tyronne killed his way out of a zombie horde in case you were wondering who the biggest badass is now.