Last night's new episode of The Walking Dead caused a lot of pain for fans (we won't go into much detail in an effort to keep this fairly spoiler-free), but it also went a long way to proving that the series is learning from its mistakes.
It seems as though bottle episodes might just be a thing of the past.
In almost every season, but particularly in seasons four and seven, The Walking Dead infuriated fans by introducing standalone episodes, that focused on just one character or group of characters. The series has introduced a vast array of characters for fans to watch, but these bottle episodes take the attention away from the bigger story, and cause audiences to spend an entire week with just one sub-plot. Season 7 consisted almost entirely of bottle episodes, with the hour focusing on Tara, Heath and Oceanside being the most frustrating of the bunch.
Fortunately, after last night's Ezekiel-focused episode, the series has finally shown fans that it has moved past the bottle episode issue.
"Some Guy" was all about Ezekiel and Carol's group, and the ambush that came down on them at the end of episode three. In seasons past, this was a perfect opportunity for a bottle episode. But last night, that didn't happen.
In just one or two short scenes, Rick and Daryl appeared in the episode, chasing down a truck of weapons that came from the outpost where Ezekiel and Carol were located. These scenes could have been a part of another episode, with the characters alluding to where the truck came from, as they have at other points in the series. Having listened to the fans though, The Walking Dead has fixed its own problem, and it's allowing storylines to cross over with one another.
That little glimpse of Rick and Daryl wasn't much, but it reminded everyone that their favorite characters were still around. The Walking Dead took a page out of the Game of Thrones playbook and allowed the fan-favorite characters to appear in an episode that otherwise had nothing to do with them. This keeps fans of all kinds invested in the story, even if you have to watch an episode that focuses on characters that you might not care about.
Hopefully, as Season 8 moves forward, The Walking Dead will continue to use this storytelling technique, leaving the bottle episodes under the dumpster.