The Walking Dead: The Grove

 Posted by on March 18, 2014 at 12:01 am  The Walking Dead
Mar 182014

I forgive you.

The Walking Dead: The Grove. Carol and Lizzie.

Grave/Grove. Whatever.

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?


  8 Responses to “The Walking Dead: The Grove”

  1. I am a school psychologist, and I have worked with children who have been exposed to violence done to them and people who they love,and sometimes to violence they have done to others. The trauma the children and teens (and adults) in the post-zombie world is so horrific, with little or no change to process. The coping strategy of making walkers as cute pets was ok when thing where stable, but LIzzie being weaker emotionally internalized it too much. It makes Sally Draper or even the Stark Children in GoT pale in comparison.

    • Thanks for the professional perspective, Kevin. This is what I meant when I said I didn’t think Lizzie would have become violent without the zombies. Certainly there is such a thing as violent sociopathy, which isn’t related to trauma, but it’s very rare.

  2. Probably a combination of both. She most likely had some latent schizotypical tendenies that the truma has brought out.

  3. Is it just me or is there something disturbing about regarding the murder of a child (even a genuinely dangerous child) as acceptable if “necessary”. WWDD (what would Dale do)? Didn’t the Governor say that, with him, his latest minion would never have to worry about whether he was doing the right thing or the wrong thing because he would always do the necessary thing?

    • No, you’re not wrong. It’s disturbing. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

      If the world had not collapsed, there would be infrastructure to deal with Lizzie. Facilities. Professionals. Medications. And if the world was not so incredibly dangerous, it wouldn’t be suicide for Carol and Tyreese to split up, so that one of them could care for Lizzie. They both wanted a solution. They just didn’t have one.

      • “There is no infrastructure” , what I see with many of the great dramas of the last 15 years; The wire, game of thrones, mad men, walking dead and breaking bad to name a few is about the center not holding and the death of the American dream, and the aftermath of that death. The tearing down of the safety net, and the war of all against all and calling it freedom.

        • “The tearing down of the safety net, and the war of all against all and calling it freedom.”

          I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I couldn’t help but think of our love affair with the individual, the denial/refusal to acknowledge the brain as another organ, and the convolution of will power can conquer all.

          I don’t think of myself as a cold person, but the whole Lizzie thing didn’t tug at my heart strings at all. I didn’t find it disturbing in the least. It’s what had to happen. It’s what should have happened. It was a moment of strength. If anything, I found it disturbing that Carol allowed it to go on that long. I trust she had strong instincts about Lizzie, but the old, useless conventions prohibited her from her own declaration of doing anything necessary to save people.

      • I understand that it was intended to be disturbing. I simply think that there are bright lines, and that difficult circumstances can not justify absolutely anything.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.