It was always going to be difficult following up last week's intimate and focused episode of The Walking Dead, but the latest instalment, Alone, was a meandering, listless affair, with few memorable scenes and lots of empty tension.
Daryl and Beth continued to provide the most interesting elements of the episode, but their nuanced story was blown out of the water by first a massive zombie attack and then Beth's kidnapping. Elsewhere it focused on the travails of Maggie, Beth and Sasha, who I've always found three of the least interesting characters in the show, and sadly it did little to change my aspersion.
"I don't think the good ones survive."
The unlikely pairing of Beth and Daryl really click; her sweet and gentle nature bringing out the warmth from the grizzled curmudgeon when they visited the ramshackle house before. Now he's teaching her to hunt, listening to her sing and play the piano in the abandoned funeral home, and even saying he wouldn't mind trying to make a life of it there with her and the owner.
For the pristinely kept place must be occupied. In stark contrast to previous buildings, this house is completely clean, with food and supplies neatly stacked in the cupboards. Not only that, but the murdered walkers have been dressed up in the morgue below as if for a funeral, to which Beth states:
"Whoever did this cared. They wanted these people to get a funeral. They remembered these things were people before all this. They didn't let it change them in the end. Don't you think that's beautiful?"
"Why hurt yourself when you could hurt other people?"
There's nothing wrong per se with these scenes of quiet introspection being interrupted by multitudes of walkers, zombie attacks are part and parcel of the show; it's just that they often feel thrown in to keep the viewer excited, as though they don't have faith that their characters alone will keep people interested.
The attack splits Beth and Daryl up, and by the time he gets outside to look for her, he finds her bag on the ground and a car driving off in to the distance. We don't know who kidnapped her, but it doesn't appear to be the same group who Daryl encounters, the dangerous posse who Rick had a run in with before.
The other story focused on Maggie, Bob and Sasha, and their fear of what's happened to the others and being alone. Maggie remains resolute to find Glenn, and so goes on without the other two down the tracks towards the mysterious 'terminus' which promises sanctuary for all.
Bob and Sasha debate whether to go after her or not, but there's little dramatic tension in the decisions of these rather boring characters. We learn Sasha is afraid of what happened and just wants to try and establish a new home rather than search for the others. We also learn the reason Bob is so drily upbeat is because he's use to ending up alone after twice before the groups he was with ended up all slaughtered.
Neither of these provide riveting drama in their conflict of whether to stay or go with Maggie, with Sasha's arguments not to carry on ahead always feeling like an artificial set-up in order to provide a conflict to overcome by the episode's end. We always knew they were going to decide to go on ahead together, with pretty much every group now heading down the tracks towards terminus. What they'll find at the end of the line is the running mystery that is scantily keeping the second half of this season together.