A landmark episode, for one reason:

I had the same reaction, as did The Atlantic. It’s not just the dialogue that’s tended to drag in seasons past; typically, once Rick and the gang land in a new spot or meet a new enemy, you can count on them being bogged down in that place or with that enemy for, oh, 13 episodes or so. That would be sort of tolerable if there were any suspense about how the story arc would end, but there isn’t: The bad guy will be dispatched without the loss of anyone from the show’s nucleus and Rick et al. will be forced to hit the road again, Bill Bixby style, after hulking out. (The few times the show has killed off a core character, like Shane or Lori, the death has come naturally or from someone else in the group, not at the hands of the bad guys. I wouldn’t count Herschel as core.) Predictable story arcs are a bad, bad sign in a show set during the apocalypse, when nothing should be predictable. Last night was — at last — a break from the M.O. Sure, you knew Gareth and his boys were going to eat it eventually this season, and sure, you knew the writers wouldn’t have the stones to let Rick or Daryl or Michonne die, but at least we didn’t need to wait six months to have all of that confirmed. Just three episodes in, Gareth’s taking a machete to the face from Rick, who, for some inexplicable reason, didn’t celebrate his turn towards fire-with-fire morality by cutting out Gareth’s heart and eating it. But let’s not nitpick: Things are finally starting to happen. The zombie apocalypse isn’t just an excuse for Rick and Herschel to sit on the porch smoking pipes and having long chats about leadership and corn. Hallelujah.

Time for grumbles. One: The “tainted meat” thing with Bob was a nice twist but they didn’t do anything with it. Bob has a sinister laugh over it and Gareth and company have a momentary freakout, and then half an hour later the lot of them are being hacked into bits in the church by Rick and the gang without a thought about it. Gareth doesn’t even mention it when he’s pleading with Rick. Would have been cool to see at least one bad guy turn zombie from the cooties he caught by eating Bob’s leg, but I guess that would have required keeping Gareth and the rest alive for a few more episodes. Trade-offs, trade-offs. Two: Why did Gareth and his crew dump Bob back at the church so that he could warn Rick and the others? The Terminus people underestimated Rick’s group once before and lost their base and nearly their lives because of it. So instead of ambushing them this time, they decide to … telegraph the fact that they’re in the area by leaving Bob to warn everyone? What? I kept thinking of Seth Green in the Austin Powers movies asking Dr. Evil why he insists on elaborate methods of death instead of just shooting Austin. If anyone should appreciate the ethic of “kill as soon as you have the chance,” it’s the people who were brutalized by the gang that took over Terminus and then started raping them, right?

Three: Did I miss something or was it never fully explained why Rick and his crew returned to the church just in time to ambush Gareth and the Terminus guys? It seemed like the Grimes gang really did leave with every intention to go out and find supplies, a job that would have taken hours. Gareth shows up right as they’re leaving, and then suddenly there’s Rick right behind him, machete at the ready. How’d that happen? No one from Gareth’s group fired off any rounds that might have alarmed Rick’s outfit as they walked away as far as I can remember. Come to think of it, if Gareth and his band were watching the church and waiting until Rick left, why didn’t they just ambush Rick from the woods? Why’d they let him leave? Fourth: Why is it that the supposedly emotional death scenes never involve characters who might evoke real emotion in the audience? It’s always Dale or Andrea or Bob, characters whom the audience either dislikes or doesn’t care about. If you want to pull the wistful deathbed “Swan Lake” send-off, man up and make, say, Daryl the one who’s dying. That’ll grab the audience. Last night’s Bob/Rick exchange was like Yeoman Johnson saying farewell to Captain Kirk.

Exit question: Any theories on who was behind Daryl in the dark during that final shot? I assume he found Beth and brought back a prisoner from that gang who took her but I’m open to suggestion.