This week’s episode focused on life outside the prison for some of the group, allowing us to get inside the heads of a few of our major players. We learned of Bob’s inner demons, the depth of Tyreese’s anger, Carol’s justification for her kills, and where Rick draws his line within the prison walls.
The conversation between Lizzie and Carol set the tone for this episode. It was all about how “people change.” In this case, Lizzie’s stance was that if people died, at least they would get to come back, even if they were different. Carol, however, quickly reminded Lizzie that what comes back isn’t human. Carol also provided a pep talk of sorts, telling Lizzie that she will live, but she needs to let go of fear (i.e. change), and do what needs to be done, even if it means killing. When Lizzie asks how to let go of the fear, Carol tells her to fight it, and then one day change will just come. The real question of this episode – and in fact, that of the whole series- isn’t about whether the walkers are in some way human, but if the survivors are. That is, amongst this horrific landscape, does their humanity remain?
In this episode we got to see two parallel stories playing out. The juxtaposition of scenes between Rick and Carol’s trip and that of Daryl’s group worked well; avoiding lingering on either one moved the story along at a good pace and often painted a portrait of emotional intensity, but without those moments feeling too forced.
We pick up with Daryl, Michonne, Tyreese and Bob as they make their way to a town called Barnesville (also known as “hell” thanks to the price on a gas station sign being turned upside down) in search of a new vehicle. When they find one, and decide to look for more among some overgrowth, they hack through the vines and uncover a group of walkers, providing us with one of the night’s two action sequences. As the group fights them, Tyreese inexplicably grabs hold of one of the zombies and won’t let it go. Alright Tyreese, we get it – you’re angry. Somebody you cared a great deal about just died. But you know what, you’re not the only one. So stop doing things that endanger your whole group and yourself, and hack those walkers’ heads off like you’re supposed to! As Michonne so aptly puts it later, “Anger makes you stupid; stupid gets you killed.”
After Daryl and Bob find a new car battery, Bob reveals that he is the sole survivor of two previous groups that fell to the walkers. After what he’s seen, he needs alcohol to sleep at night. He tells Daryl about his guilt over Zach’s death at the Big Spot, brought on after Bob knocked down a shelf while putting down a liquor bottle, thereby attracting walkers. Daryl, point blank, tells Bob he doesn’t buy into his guilt trip. As they are leaving, however, Daryl lets Bob know, “You ain’t gonna be standing alone. Not no more.” Aww, Daryl is a man of few words, but he’s got your back, Bob.
At the veterinary college Daryl and the rest of the group get the antibiotics needed for the sick. Once again, these runs drive me crazy. Can’t they just grab a few more bottles of whatever else is on those shelves? Why do they always leave so much behind? They had the room in their bags. Those other medicines might just come in handy later, and for once they could possibly avoid making a special run.
Of course, no run would be complete without some walkers showing up (though we wouldn’t have it any other way). This time, some of the walkers are infected, and Bob lets us know that the zombies’ blood can still contain the virus, so they can’t do the usual head shots and risk becoming sick. After the group picks door number two, slashing their way through and making an escape route, Bob falls – his bag left dangling in the walkers’ grip. When Daryl finds out Bob was holding on for dear life not because the bag contained antibiotics, but because it had a bottle of booze in it, he gets in Bob’s face, and decides to lay a little of that guilt right back on Bob. He also threatens him that once the meds are being administered to the sick, Bob better not have a drop (lest it cloud his thinking). On a side note, it is always amusing that the walkers can climb, scramble and even trot after their prey, unless a dramatic scene needs to unfold, at which time they just shamble in place and hold their hands out, unable to get through an opening the size of a small car.
Simultaneously, another trip is being undertaken. With food and other necessities left in D block, Carol and Rick go for a supply run to a nearby town. On the car ride there, Carol begins to justify her actions regarding Karen and David, maintaining they would have died from the virus anyway, but Rick is not convinced. The two go to a residential area and find a house to scavenge in. Once inside, they are startled by a walker tumbling down the staircase, but are even more surprised to see two happy hippies, Sam and Anna (AKA the red shirts) emerge from a bedroom.
After Carol fixes Sam’s dislocated shoulder and Rick tells them they could come back to the prison, Sam and Anna volunteer to sweep the surrounding area, and the new foursome separate. As Rick and Carol find a few more supplies in the house, the root of the issue is laid out in a mesmerizing exchange between the two:
CAROL: “…Its’ about facing reality. It always comes for us, and over and over again we face it so that we can live.
RICK: “So that we can live.”
CAROL: “That’s right. That’s what it always comes down to. You can be a farmer, Rick. You can’t just be a farmer. You were a good leader. Better than I probably gave you credit for.”
Zing! Carol gives it to Rick straight. Somebody had to step up and do something. But when Carol remarks on Rick’s past leadership abilities, we get this dialogue that deepens the conflict even more:
RICK: “I never murdered two of our own.”
CAROL: “Just one.”
RICK: “He was gonna kill me.”
CAROL: “So were they. They were going to kill all of us.”
RICK: “You don’t know that.”
CAROL: “If you thought it would save Judith or Carl would you have done it then or would you have just gone back to your crops and hoped it’d all be ok? You don’t have to like what I did, Rick. I don’t. You just accept it.”
There it is. We are shown the major difference between Carol and Rick. She has become a woman of action; Rick questions everything, including himself and his decisions. The writers make us ask ourselves, which is more dangerous in a leader, indecision or hasty judgments?
The differences between the two are further showcased during Rick and Carol’s conversation by the tomato plants. Carol sees Sophia as “somebody else’s slideshow.” Rick is still affected by memories of Lori. Carol is no longer afraid; she’s not that scared, abused woman any longer. She’s willing to fix what needs “fixing.” Rick still mourns the loss of his life before the apocalypse, and continues to be uncomfortable in a leadership role (hence his recent attachment to farming).
On the way back to the meeting house, Carol and Rick see that Anna has succumbed to the walkers. Ever the stoic one, Carol reminds Rick that Sam is probably waiting and they should get back. Later, though, when Sam doesn’t show, she tells Rick they need to move on and leave the area.
Ultimately, Rick tells Carol that the decision to kill Karen and David wasn’t hers’ to make, especially because there was a chance they could have lived. He can’t let Carol stay at the prison, and he won’t have her around his children.
As they part ways, Carol gives Rick her watch, as much to cut loose ties from the past (it was a present from her husband) as to replace the one Rick gave to Sam. The last scene of the episode is also the most poignant: Rick, driving down the road, continues to look back in his rearview mirror, hoping to catch a glimpse of Carol… but it seems she has gone down a different path.
Though it’s easy to see both sides of this argument, Rick’s hypocrisy can’t possibly go unnoticed, can it? In season 2, Rick did kill Dave and Tony from the bar when he felt threatened. Later, he was also planning on executing Randall because he felt his group might be at risk if Randall survived. And just last season, Carl killed a teenager from The Governor’s group that was about to surrender. Though Carol acted harshly, is it that much different from acts Rick committed, or allowed others to commit?
Only one – Michonne’s line regarding The Governor. “If he was here right now, I’d cut him in two. Cause that’s how it needs to be. But I’m not angry.” Well Michonne, you might be a little angry, but you’re also very, very cool.
This episode broke from the prison action, and instead told a story that peeled back more layers of some of our characters. I sincerely hope this isn’t the last we will see of Carol. I have avoided all spoilers, so I don’t know what her fate is/will be. It seems, though, that at least right now, the enemy of the group is not only the existing virus, but the infrastructure within the group itself.