Season four of The Walking DeadAMC’s television adaptation of the Eisner-winning Image Comics series created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore and drawn by Charlie Adlard, is underway. While the survivors grapple with the apocalypse and each other, ComicsAlliance’s John Parker will be following along all season to see who lives, who dies, and who gets stomped into a pile of meat.

Last week: the flu continued to wreak havoc in the prison, an away team went on a quest for antibiotics, and Carol proved that she's willing to do whatever it takes to keep her people safe. Also, George Romero took a giant, steaming dump on Robert Kirkman's childhood dreams. This week, Rick and Carol go for a drive, everybody is consumed with something, and there's a lot of talking. It's pretty emo.

This week's episode is called "Indifference." Before that was "Infected" and "Isolation." Next week is "Internment." My keen analytical mind detects a pattern. Is this going to continue the rest of the season? Shouldn't episode three have been "Immolation?" Quick, name all the I-words you think would be appropriate episode titles. I call indignant, immaterial, intrusion, and impasse.

So the prison needs meds and everybody's hunting for them, and "Indifference" splits its time evenly between the two groups: Daryl, Tyreese, Bob the alcoholic, and Michonne are already out in the world, and Rick tells Carol the two of them should go and scout on their own. But as Rick loads up the Aztec (a surprisingly sturdy vehicle for the post-apocalyptic survivor) with the same can of gas Carol used to torch Karen and Dave, it's obvious that the embattled gunfighter has something else on his mind. He always does. He's Rick.

Carol, on the other hand, defiantly grabs on to her new, stronger self, and shows off her own brand of pragmatism early, but she might be laying it on a little thick. She tells her new daughter Lizzie goodbye by saying "don't call me mom." I'm not going to lie: that one hurt a little. But after Lizzie's little soliloquy about how being a walker is better than being dead, and that there's a circle of life and we all change, I understand Carol's decision. That kid is dogmeat.

The Walking Dead Michonne

Everybody in the other group has stuff on their mind too. Daryl, as sultry as ever, scolds Michonne about her always leaving; Tyreese is still angry, so angry that he puts lives in danger. The group comes across a gas station that's been overgrown by vines, a subtle reminder of one of the survivors' biggest foes this season: nature.

Too pissed off to notice the significance of the overgrowth, Tyreese hacks into the vines, intent on dragging out a walker to bludgeon to post-death. But when he loses control of the situation, he has to be bailed out by the others. It's almost like Tyreese wants to be killed.

See how this show eats your dreams? In the space of a couple of episodes, Tyreese has been transformed from living hug into despondent wreck, and it looks like he's in for even darker territory. And he has such a great smile.

Over on Rick and Carol's side, it's about as awkward as a first date. Carol knows that Rick no longer trusts her, and defends her decision to off Dave and Karen. She gets a nice dig in too, telling Rick that somebody had to do something, and you can practically smell the smoke from her wicked burn.

Fortunately, Rick and Carol find a couple of kids in an abandoned house, and have something else to talk about. Unfortunately, I'm 34 years old, and when I say "kids" I'm referring to people in their twenties, Sam and his girlfriend. Even more unfortunately, I want them to die. So, so badly.

Have you ever wanted to stab someone as soon as you heard them speak? Sam sounds like a Juggalo with a mouth full of wet garbage. His unnamed girlfriend -- that can't be a good sign -- definitely believes in faeries. They call walkers skin-eaters, they don't even know to use knives, and they're madly, annoyingly in love.

Even though it's obvious that Cletus T. Jagoff and Sunflower aren't good survivors and probably wouldn't contribute to life in the prison, Carol re-locates Sam's shoulder, and Rick asks his three questions. Unfortunately, they didn't include "how the hell are you high right now?" or "what's with the hair?"

Back in the other group, Michonne imparts to Tyreese a little of her philosophy: anger is stupid, and stupid gets you killed. What she's really saying is that emotion is weakness, but Michonne has been showing cracks in her own emotional wall. Tyreese calls her on her bull****: if anger is stupid, then why does she keep going out after The Governor?

That's two sick burns, folks.

Daryl spends some time with Bob the alcoholic, once again trying out his new role as a leader. But Daryl's idea of being a leader is calling a couple of suicides douchebags, so he definitely has a way to go. He tries again, and gets Bob to reveal that he was in two groups before this one, and in each instance, he was the lone survivor.

That's pretty heavy. I have to admit that I'm starting to like Bob. I've been a fan of Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. since The Wire, and he's slowly revealing more depth to a character that had a quick classification stamped on him in the first episode. He has an interesting back story, and when he puts a former vet out of his misery, he shows a lot of heart. Admitting that he caused the kerfuffle at the Big Spot, Gilliard exudes a quiet pain that only makes him more endearing.

I sure hope he does nothing to disappoint me.

Sam and the flower child convince Rick and Carol to take them by asking Rick whether he's a lefty or a righty. Instead of proudly pointing out that he's ambidextrous, Rick agrees to take them on. He really has changed, hasn't he?

Rick and Carol continue to go back and forth about everything but the elephant in the room until Carol comes right out and makes her argument. I have to say, even though this episode offered little action and lots of talking, the ongoing conversation between Rick and Carol was very well-written. Each character has a valid point-of-view, and neither one of them backs down, and with the pointed "you can be a farmer, Rick, you can't just be a farmer," Carol throws another ridiculous burn up on the scoreboard.

The major theme of this episode was change, and that was most evident in what Carol has become. While Rick still can't let go of Laurie, Carol has cauterized memories of Sophie and evolved into a real survivor. She's more like Rick used to be, and that's probably what bothers Rick the most. They discover that Sam and the unnamed one are dead (hooray! I'm a monster!) and pack up for the ride back, still going back and forth.

Daryl and the others find the veterinary school, and Bob disappoints me. While everyone else stuffs their bags with medical supplies, Bob takes up precious room with a bottle a liquor. As if that's not bad enough, when Daryl goes to throw the liquor, Bob makes a move for his gun. I was going to stop referring to him as Bob the alcoholic, but clearly the shoe fits.

Daryl's crew head back to the prison with all the medicine they can carry, Bob's hooch, and heavy hearts. Each of them changing, none of them knowing how to deal with it, dragged down into the depths not by the walkers, but by each other. If you weren't already depressed enough, it gets worse.


The Walking Dead Rick and Carol


Rick, in a classic Ricktator move, takes it upon himself to banish Carol, his argument being that she'll never fit back into the community; that she murdered two of her own. Carol, absolutely on fire, reminds Rick that he's killed one of his own too. Leaving Lizzie and Mika to be raised by somebody else, Carol takes the gas can she used on Dave and Karen and drives off into the unknown.

Everybody is sad, Carol has been abandoned, and Rick is being a major dick again. The Walking Dead usually ends on down notes, but this is the lowest one so far this season. A quiet episode low on action, but it set up a lot of interesting stuff for next week: what will happen to Carol, how will Daryl take the news, and oh yeah there's still a flu. Everybody be sure to refill your anti-depressants.

On to George Romero. In an interview with The Big Issue, Romero said he was offered the chance to direct a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead, but turned it down because "Basically it's just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally." That's pretty biting criticism from the undisputed father of the genre, and he does have the slightest sliver of a point. Tonight's episode certainly isn't going to dissuade him, with a people-talking-to-zombies-dying ratio of something like 5/2.

But even at its worst -- somewhere in the middle of Season 2 -- TWD is still a pretty good show, with complex relationships, high stakes, and zombies getting wasted in increasingly gnarly fashions. For the sake of argument, let's just say Romero's right. Fine. The Walking Dead is a soap opera. A soap opera where piles of the undead get churned into mulch by spinning tires and fall through ceilings with their guts strung up like Christmas lights; a soap opera where the characters wrestle with their base instincts, tiptoe on the edge of insanity, and douse flu victims in gasoline and burn them to a crisp.

I can understand why Romero has issues with The Walking Dead -- Elvis didn't really "get" The Beatles -- but it smacks of fogeyism. Hey, living legend who shouldn't be called out by some nobody writing a recap: quit being such an adult. Action figures aren't toys and The Walking Dead isn't a soap opera, it's apocalypse porn.

Just not tonight's episode. Tonight was kind of a soap opera.