Walkers take a backseat to germs in this week’s episode of The Walking Dead. Despite the slower pace, “Isolation” proved to be the standout installment of this new season. The reason behind this is?, Robert Kirkman, the co-creator of The Walking Dead comic book series, wrote the ep.

This episode picks up where last week’s left off, and a deadly illness is sweeping through the prison, killing pretty much everyone who contracts it and instantly turning them into walkers. As Daryl and Michonne go off to search for antibiotics, Rick and his crew deal with a quarantine and the ongoing mystery behind who killed Karen and David. If you thought the second season brought the action to a halt, this episode slows things down to a Downtown Abbey pace as Kirkman delivers character drama and heated conversations that rival the intensity of any zombie showdown. While Rick is still the star of the show, the two characters who are the unquestioned leads of this episode are Tyreese and Carol.

Tyreese opens the episode by fist-fighting Rick after finding Karen dead. Later, while surrounded by walkers with Daryl and Michonne, he goes full-on Rambo and takes on a few dozen zombies by himself with nothing but a hatchet. His mourning Karen’s death would have a lot more gravitas if he knew her for more than a handful of episodes. Now it just comes across kinda creepy. Still, his mania is leading somewhere. 

Speaking of creepy, Carol redefines the word in this episode. When Karen and David were found dead, I immediately assumed Hershel was the killer. Little hints about him were dropped throughout the episode, especially since he went off on a few peculiar rants that led us to believe that the cheese had finally slipped off his cracker. But after a little detective work, Rick comes to the conclusion that it had to be Carol behind the murders. When he asks her if she did it, she turns to him, says, “Yes,” and continues on with her day. No denying it, no fighting it, she owns it. For a character that blended in with the scenery for the first three seasons, Carol has finally discovered her passion in life: murder. The episode ends before we cam glimpse the fallout of this revelation, but I've got the feeling that Rick might keep this one close to the vest for a bit.

As life in the prison begins to sour, Daryl, Michonne, Tyreese, and Bob Stookey (that guy makes doorstops everywhere seem charismatic in comparison) try to secure medicine for the sick. They are soon swarmed by walkers and forced to flee into the forest empty-handed. With the flu spreading and the cure blocked off by walkers, it's all downhill from here. Kirkman has a fetish for killing off fan-favorite characters, and that’s bad news for Glenn and Hershel, who have both been exposed to the virus and are both prime candidates to be the first big death of the season.

Despite “Isolated” being the best episode of the season yet, it’s also likely one that some fans will hate because it’s so character-driven and slow. It sets the stage for many conflicts to come, and even the Carol revelation prompts more questions than answers. This episode proves that even without non-stop gore, The Walking Dead can still deliver some of the best human drama on TV.

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