Nothing happened on The Walking Dead, and here's why that's awesome

The gang continues to be separated in The Walking Dead, and "Alone" continues to forgo major developments (barring one) in order to continue to focus on the characters. Not much happens, but it doesn't happen so much better than TWD used to be.

I'll explain myself in a second. The episode focuses on two groups, Daryl and Beth (having quickly realized that Daryl and Beth make one of the most weirdly dynamic relationships on the show), and Maggie, Bob and Sasha. Maggie, Bob and Sasha have the lesser of the two stories, and honestly, Maggie's barely involved. But it's great to see more sides of both Sasha and Bob, who have badly needed fleshing out.

The episode starts with a flashback of when Bob first joined the group; having wandered by himself for so long (the sole survivor of two groups), when he encounters Glenn and Daryl, he's willing to go back to their camp no questions asked. This is why he's actually kind of happy now — not to be alive, but to not be alone (I still say the fact that his two companions are super-hot factors in somewhat to his good mood).

Maggie sees the signs for Terminus, and figures Glenn, if he saw them as well, would head there to look for her. So she's going; Bob is supportive, but Sasha assumes it's going to be horrible (knowing The Walking Dead, I'm guessing she's 100% correct). So Maggie abandons them to search on alone — leaving a pleasant note in the mud of their makeshift campsite to "DON'T RISK YOUR LIVES 4 ME" — but Bob immediately decides to chase after her.

Sasha tries to talk Bob into holing up with her in one of the buildings they pass along the way (they're following the train tracks from previous episodes), because she's essentially so terrified that she'll find out her brother Tyreese is dead, that she assumes he is, but still can't bear to find out the truth in case he is — it's a little complicated, but kind of comprehensible given the constant pain and loss of life in the zombie apocalypse. Bob, meanwhile, is so anti-loneliness that he can't give up on Maggie so he gives Sasha a kiss and heads off down the tracks (it's not like Bob's abandoning her, it's her abandoning both Bob and Maggie).

So Sasha stays and what do you know, she spies Maggie laying down between some defunct zombies (it's a little weird). But the surprised Sasha makes some noise, riles some zombies, and then she has to race down there for a pretty solid zombie fight (man, Maggie can swing an axe). Maggie admits she was waiting for them, Sasha admits she's scared of admitting Tyreese may be dead, they hug it out and then catch up with Bob and continue to Terminus.

Meanwhile, Beth hurts her ankle while Daryl is showing her how to track and hunt, so Daryl carries her to a funeral home. Inside, it's creepy for two reasons: 1) some has clearly been there recently, based on the lack of dust on the foodstuffs and 2) because someone is putting zombies in funeral suits. Daryl also thinks it's creepy, but Beth thinks its nice that someone remembers zombies used to be human, "There are still good people around" she says, instantly dooming herself.

The problem is not that the zombies invade pretty much instantly, although it leads to one of the tensest zombie fights The Walking Dead has given us, as Daryl tells Beth to get outside while he draws them off, which leads into Daryl trying to fight over a dozen zombies in close quarters, neither room nor time to use his crossbow, and the only thing between them and him is a hastily grabbed gurney. It's because when Daryl finally makes it outside, he doesn't see Beth, he only sees her bag on the ground and a car's taillight's zooming away. I sincerely doubt whoever took her is one of the "good people."

Daryl follows on foot as he can, but finally collapses at an intersection, where he collapses in exhaustion… until several denim-clad gun enthusiasts walk up. They're the unpleasant fellows who entered Rick and Carl's house a couple of weeks ago! The leader introduces himself as Joe, and, perhaps seeing in Daryl the shadow of the redneck asshole Daryl used to be, seemingly welcome him into their group.

So here's how this breaks down: Maggie tries to leave Bob and Sasha behind, Sasha tries to stay behind, they all reunite and head to Terminus. Beth gets kidnapped by someone and Daryl encounters what are very likely some bad dudes. It's not nothing, but you see how little really changed this episode.

And here's why I think this is great: It means that The Walking Dead is finally comfortable with taking its time. The show has always been okay with taking its time, but it's rarely done so effectively. In the interminable season at Herschel's farm, the show had no idea how to fill its episodes, so we had plots that went nowhere, constant check-ins on characters that had nothing to add or do, and so many people making bizarre or supremely stupid decisions to pad out the plot. Here, Beth and Daryl bond and then run into unknown forces, and while you could argue that Maggie is being stupid in leaving behind Bob and Sasha, or Sasha is being stupid by trying to stay behind, Maggie wanted to protect her friends, and Sasha's can't process her potential loss. Even if both decisions are stupid, they're stupid in a way that lets us know more about their characters and the characters around them instead of completely wasting our time (also, Sasha stayed behind for like 10 minutes or so, and I don't really know if she wouldn't have come to her senses almost as quickly on her own). Compare all that to pretty much anything that happened in season 2, and "Alone" comes out ahead.

We have three more episodes in season 4 left, and I assume the finale ends (or next season begins) with people beginning to reach Terminus. Three more episodes of groups wandering separately and aimlessly through the woods? I kind of wish there was more.

Nothing happened on The Walking Dead, and here's why that's awesome

Assorted Musings:

• As his little cave fence indicates, pre-prison Bob would do an extraordinary amount of work to get drunk in safety. I can respect that.

• "A serious piggyback."

• Beth and Daryl holds hands at one point. Is this father/daughter thing, or a romantic thing? Romantic makes more sense to me, until I look at them and instantly forget the 45-year-old Normas Reedus isn't 49, and the 28-year-old Emily Kinney isn't 17.

• Maggie leaves messages for Glenn in zombie blood. Seems like that would wash off with the first rain, but whatevs.

• I thought Maggie was sleeping by walkers when Sasha found her, and thought that would be a pretty clever if disgusting way to stay safe while sleeping when you're on your own. But it seems like she was just tired after fighting a shit-ton of zombies.

• Apparently new showrunner/wunderkind Scott Gimple wrote next week's episode. I assume 1) it will be good and 2) shit goes down. The "On the Next Episode" preview makes it look like Carol is abandoning the less psychotic of the Carol Corps. to zombies, which would be the most hardcore thing anyone on TWD has ever done.