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The Walking Dead #413 - Alone

4

Daryl and Beth stumble upon a place that seems too good to be true. Meanwhile, Bob, Sasha, and Maggie decide where to head next.

The Walking Dead continues to give a little more depth to its cast of unfortunate survivors. While last week's episode had some noticeable pacing issues which may have lead to some viewers taking an unexpected nap, this week's chapter jumps between two groups and creates a far more engaging and entertaining episode. Not only does it remain character-driven, but it also moves several plot pieces forward and manages to give bloodlusted fans a pleasant amount of zombie slaying.

Remember Bob? You know, the guy who likes booze and didn't have the best luck with two other groups? Yeah, that's basically all we know about him. However, Alone changes that and shines its strongest spotlight on the man. The episode successfully humanizes Bob and transforms him into a legitimately likable character. The opening sequence revolves around him and, thanks to some fitting music and solid editing, it's a truly absorbing experience. It may seem "unnecessary" to go backwards at first, but ultimately, it helps establish a more powerful emotional connection to him and allows us to better appreciate the decisions he makes as the episode progresses.

Without spoiling anything, I will say I've mostly enjoyed the bond the series has established between Daryl and Beth. Previously, it didn't move the story forward at all (in the intro, the last episode was literally just recapped with Beth saying she misses her family), but it's most definitely critical for what's to come and, in this episode, it makes two very intriguing developments. Daryl's path and upcoming dilemma feels like a predictable one, but despite that, it's still loaded with potential and has my interest.

Thank the maker for that conclusion! With so few episodes left, it's nice to see they're literally putting one character on the "fast track" instead of giving them an entire episode. We already know the person incredibly well, so there's better ways to spend the few episodes we have left in this season than giving them yet another character study and ending it with the "oh look, a map!" ending. There sure is a lot of hype behind Terminus, eh?

Alone also does a fine job immersing us into this horrific world. There aren't any disturbing set pieces like in the previous episodes, but it does effectively show us why getting a proper night's rest would be a difficult task in this world... even if you've got a friend watching your back. Alone also did a great job hitting us with some fun bits of action. Zombies emerging from the fog won't make you soil yourself, but it's still totally creepy and, honestly, who doesn't love seeing Maggie decapitate a walker with a street sign?

I have a couple of minor gripes -- they honestly aren't even worth mentioning -- but the main one is the handling of the plot with Sasha. Maggie's drive makes sense, but the attempt to give Sasha a little more depth didn't feel nearly as effective as the attention other characters have received and definitely took awhile to get its pretty obvious point across. Not to mention the building scene certainly took its time to get going. The more emotional moment is a good one, but everything sandwiching that was moving at the speed of the walker Rick mercy killed in the very first episode. It's not a long scene so it's hardly a big deal, but it did slow down the flow of the episode for me.

Personal gripe: I wasn't the biggest fan of Beth sitting behind a piano and getting yet another excuse to sing (is there a singing quota in her contract?). Look, I get it's there to help further convey how Daryl's changing, but there's already so many scenes illustrating that point.

The Walking Dead's shift to a much stronger focus on character development is handled well in this week's episode as it bounces between two groups and even creates brand new storylines. On top of that, Alone made a major accomplishment: it made me care about Bob, a dude I formerly had zero emotional investment in. Overall, it successfully juggles quite a few key elements (character depth, narrative progression, action, horror) and the end result is a really good episode.