*Yes, we try to keep things spoiler-free*
The mid-season premiere, After, was essentially a character study of Michonne and Carl. This episode, however, gets the story rolling again as it jumps from survivor to survivor, letting us know where everyone stands and how they're coping after the prison assault.
First and foremost, the biggest treat here is the fan service. The last couple of seconds hits us with a major reveal and Lizzie's beginning to show her true colors. While we've yet to see how the cliffhanger will be handled, it's certainly an exciting development for fans of Robert Kirkman's comic and something which leaves me very anxious to tune in next week. Meanwhile, the focus on Lizzie was able to produce a fairly chilling incident. She's definitely acting more and more like someone from the source material and it leaves us wondering if she'll follow the same road as the comic book character. Additionally, it's somewhat interesting to have Tyreese focus on pointing out how different the two sisters are and how both qualities are truly needed for this twisted world. Oh, and there may or may not be a development with a certain someone that is sure to make the group dynamic... interesting. Let's just say there's the potential to cover a lot of unaddressed drama.
Another positive from Inmates is the praiseworthy performances. Quite a few of the actors had the opportunity to deliver at least one compelling display of emotion. Their tears and suffering are unlikely to get your tears flowing, but it's appropriate given the atrocious scenario they're in and each were able to sell the moments well.
Maggie has a big scene that is majorly countered by the episode's promo -- you know, the one which aired immediately after the last episode ended, so odds are many of us watched it. It's a strong performance from Lauren Cohan, but ultimately, we know the end result and that defeats all of the suspense they're trying to build with the scene. Also, there were a handful of moments that I found to be very, very frustrating. The walker apparently being beyond ineffective after grabbing Beth? Tyreese giving Mika the gun instead of making her hold the object Lizzie had so Lizzie can use it? Mika lowering her gun after one shot? A certain character's actions after gearing up? I get the point is he's basically immune to bites in that gear, but to run straight into the group and not even have a knife out was painful to watch. What was going to stop the zombies from ripping apart that bag of important supplies? It felt like a missed opportunity for a solid yet brief action sequence, especially since they decided to use a cool POV shot.
Personal gripe: it's revealed a certain someone is still alive. Considering the violent, desperate and harsh environment they're in, I wish they decided not to go in this direction and instead let it sink in that this is indeed a bloody and messed up place to be. Only time will tell where they will decide to go with it, but for right now, it just made for a somewhat frustrating experience (one disturbing moment with Lizzie aside, that is).
Inmates gives us a moderate look at a whole lot of characters and is a pretty effective way to get the journey moving forward. It's not as engrossing as the last episode, but it delivers some strong performances and builds the hype for what's to come. Plus, the last couple of seconds are sure to make any comic fan excited for next week.