In the same quiet way this season introduced the new arc the gang is facing, we have a shocking, almost unbelievable, and understated exit of a main character. To get to this quiet exit, we go on a journey with our crew in a quiet episode focusing only on a small group of characters – one of those Walking Dead style bottle episodes. We examine the idea of what it means to “let go” and also call to question what the philosophy of this new world means.
In a brilliant and dramatic cold open, we intercut between Rick ruminating over the idea of Carol taking it upon herself to “mercy kill” Karen and David before the illness struck them worse while Carol comforts a young girl she has grown close to in between the seasons – Lizzie, whose father passed away and the man Carol mercy killed during the Cell Block D attack. Carol tries to impress on Lizzie the philosophy she’s adopted – you can’t be afraid in these times when you’re called into action. Lizzie shares her belief that walkers still contain some semblance of the people they once were – likening turning to natural change and transformation humans constantly undergo.
We find that Rick decided to go on an emergency search for supplies since Daryl, Bob, Tyreese, and Michonne have yet to return. He chooses Carol to go on the mission with him. We follow his journey with Carol while also following the still stranded Daryl, Bob, Tyreese, and Michonne as they continue their mission to the veterinary school.
Rick stays quiet through his journey with Carol, observing her the entire time. Carol continuously tries to defend her decision, noting that all she was trying to do was save lives for the greater good of the group. We see the two of them go through the motions of what it takes to be part of Rick’s group as they encounter a stranded couple in a suburban neighborhood where they loot for food and any meds they can find. Rick proceeds with hesistance and caution as the couple relishes in the human company and fight to prove themselves to Rick. Carol overrides Rick, suggesting they can actually help them scavenge the houses for more materials and to give them a chance – it’s the “humane thing to do.” Rick concedes, and continues to listen to Carol fighting to prove herself. It’s amazing the transformation SHE has undergone through the series. She’s become this cold, stern force of knowing what “needs to be done” in this walker-filled world: mercy killing walkers even if they’re friends who turned, not being afraid of rising up to that challenge, and letting go of things that upset because you don’t have time to worry about it. She assumes this role of massive responsibility with immediate trust, taking on an otherwise motherly role in the group. However, it is clear Rick feels she has gone too far. When Rick is outnumbered by the stranded couple and Carol, he asks one of this 3 questions: how many have you killed? After Rick and Carol lose the couple, they pack the car and finally Rick reveals that he can’t have Carol in the camp, given what she’s done. After having stepped down to the role of a farmer, even as Carol mentioned he was a better leader than she gave him credit for, he steps up to make a decision about Carol’s role for the group. They argue about killing in cold blood one of the group – which brings a great call back to Shane as Carol notes Rick’s done the same too. Rick insists that Karen and David could have lived if Carol didn’t take it upon herself to determine what “had to be done” in the wake of the disease outbreak. He packs her a car and they drive their separate ways.
Meanwhile, Daryl, Michonne, Tyreese, and Bob deal with their own inner demons, and their inability to let go. Tyreese’s anger and frustration get the best of him, making him nearly give up, with him lagging behind the group as they venture forward, and him literally not letting go of a zombie attacking him at an abandoned gas station even though he let out his fury cutting through the vines. Tyreese and Michonne have a one on one, Michonne calling Tyreese out on his anger and not being able to just let go. He throws it back on her, asking why she’s still on the hunt for the Governor. Bob admits to Daryl that his alcoholism led to the department store attack that killed Zach. At first, Daryl brushes this off. The gang makes their way to the veterinary school with success, picking up all the meds on Hershel’s wish list. However, they encounter a walker attack on the way out. They’re almost home free when Bob slows them down, his bag hanging over the raised platform they jumped onto to escape the building. He refuses to let go of his bag – and his problem – and manages to salvage his pack. Daryl angrily pulls out a bottle of whiskey that was swiped and threatens Bob, warning him against taking a sip before they return to the prison. On the ride home, Michonne concedes and lets go of her issue, telling Daryl she’s going to stop hunting for the Governor.
Overall, what happens in this episode is fairly basic. But again, very quiet. It was a very understated episode – there wasn’t even a ton of music or score (except, of course, the dramatic music during the driving at the end) It’s like the quiet allowed everyone to stew in their issues and inflame them to the point where things that needed to be confronted finally were. While the episode was otherwise slow for me, I AM very curious about the repercussions. Again, the Carol philosophy is a philosophy that had gone too far. We’ve seen countless times how determining the human law of the land for the group has created moral issues, especially with Rick. For it to come now with Carol, who was otherwise looked upon as a motherly leader, means ripples are about to take shape. The person we once saw with compassion and strength has now become someone with questionable values. We’ve seen her all this season try to impress upon the kids in the group her vision of how to approach the walker world. Though she has tried to encroach this philosophy on the group, the humaneness Rick has tried to uphold is going to win out. It already has, really, with the whole group, as seen by Tyreese’s enraged reaction over the deliberate killing of one of their own.
Aside from telling us where people lie on the moral compass, we also have to think about what happens with Carol’s absence. We know Daryl’s not going to be pleased, we know the girls Carol has taken a liking to will be distraught and disappointed. Who steps up in Carol’s wake? Beth? What WILL happen when Tyreese finds out about Carol? (There’s no way he won’t when he discovers she’s gone)
Lastly, we all know that everyone has had their own issues with letting go of things holding them back, Rick included. How will this change for the rest of the group? Will Daryl spread the seed of suspicion about Bob? How will Tyreese manage his anger? Is Michonne truly letting go of her hunt for the Governor?
Hopefully, we see some answers to these questions next week. Till then!