I forgive you.
I may be dialing back on my rhetoric that this show shouldn’t try to be meaningful. I don’t think The Walking Dead is great on The Big Issues, but when an episode like The Grove is meaningful about people, it quite obviously works.
Am I being inappropriate? It’s hard to even talk about this episode without feeling like I’m treading on a fresh grave. Yet that is my job as a writer about media, isn’t it? The Grove was intricate, and complex, and paid off a lot that was quite carefully constructed, and it was emotional, and hard, and yet, the job here is still to critique it.
Carol has been talking about being changed, about having to change, for the entire season. And Carol herself is a shining example of how “the turn” can change people. She was a battered spouse, then weepy and useless, then, somewhere after her daughter’s fate was revealed, she found a core of toughness. At the beginning of Season 4, we found Carol teaching the prison children how to be survivors, and this episode, we learn that all along it was to prevent the other children from suffering Sophie’s fate.
Had Carol suddenly started talking about how people change in The Grove, it would have been cheap, and cheesy, and indeed, it would have been much of what The Walking Dead has done so wrong in the past. Like giving people interesting dialogue only when they’re about to die, TWD has very often discussed Serious Issues only when they have direct relevance to this week’s plot. But this has been an organic part of her arc for a full season, so its fruition this week didn’t go off the rails.
You may be thinking that I haven’t yet talked about Lizzie and Mica, but I have. Lizzie and Mica are (were) one-hundred percent about how people do or do not change. We have, for four seasons, seen good people become both worse and better as a result of the zombie apocalypse; we’ve seen people like Daryl, Glenn, and Carol, who weren’t all that before, find a core that made them strong, and valuable, and gave them trust in themselves. We’ve seen people go a little or a lot crazy. We’ve seen villains; people who were maybe good before (or maybe not) turn bad, and people who were bad before find a niche of badness in which to live. The Governor and Merle are, perhaps, excellent examples.
But here’s a thing we haven’t seen. We haven’t seen a good person changed, and changed in a horrific and impossible way, and still be a good person. Lizzie was, after all, just a little girl. Maybe, possibly, she was a little girl who would have turned into a demented killer if the zombie hordes had never arrived, but do we really think that?
So here’s Lizzie, changing into a monster who cannot be allowed to live, and yet, who is still lovable, whose loss still devastates. And here’s Mica, who cannot change, and more than that, will not change. And all of this ties directly into Carol confessing to Tyreese.
Professor Spouse and I were both in the camp that believed Carol didn’t kill Karen and David, that she was covering for someone–probably Lizzie. And yet, her simple refutation of that; “Lizzie would have let them turn,” was a perfect answer that brooks no argument. Carol killed them, just as she said, because Carol will sacrifice anything, even her own moral core, to save people.
Having killed Lizzie, Carol cared too little for herself to withhold the confession. Having seen her kill Lizzie, Tyreese understood what she had done in a way that allowed forgiveness. Actions, again speaking louder than words. She explained, but the explanation was truly in what she did, rather than what she said.
Kudos to Chad Coleman and Melissa McBride, who, as Tyreese and Carol, walked through the full range of human emotions in under an hour, with dignity and restraint.
You have to change, and in their new world, you have to be willing to do terrible things. If you don’t change, you’re as dead as Mica. But if you change too much, you’re Lizzie. Tyreese and Carol both know they’re walking a very fine line.
So what do you think, Headcases? Did you see it coming? Did you believe all along that Carol killed Karen and David, or did you think it was Lizzie?