The Walking Dead: The Grove review

This week's The Walking Dead went to a very dark place...even for a show like The Walking Dead. Here's Marc's review of "The Grove."

This Walking Dead review contains spoilers. Lots of ’em. You’ve been warned.

Holy Jesus Christ in a cardigan sweater, Lizzie is freakin’ insane. How do you react to that? How do you make sense of the senseless as The Walking Dead takes things one step further? Remember when zombies were a dirty little genre secret? Something tucked away on the nether shelves in Blockbuster, films with foreign names directors attached, something to be devoured late at night with cold pizza and cheap beer? The Walking Dead, thanks to episodes like “The Grove,” has taken that filthy little secret and transformed it into Emmy-level television. Horror hounds celebrate, our day has come.

How and why? Because of episodes like “The Grove.” An episode that presents taboos and smashes them into a million little pieces and takes a dump on their remains. This is why The Walking Dead has become a cultural phenomenon, and why fans obsess over every little last detail of the show. This episode is why The Walking Dead rules.

Let’s just do a breakdown before we react to the holy shit, did they really, for realsies do that moment, shall we?

Ad – content continues below

“The Grove” begins with a tranquil shot from a window that reveals Lizzy, giggling, playing a game of tag, like any normal little girl but…with a walker. Now, if that doesn’t establish a tone, nothing does. It also foreshadows so much.

The show proper begins with Carol and Lizzie watching over the others, two killers, two souls who have taken human lives and had completely different reactions to the act. Carol is the pragmatic killer, the woman who did her duty, she doesn’t like it but she embraces the act while Lizzie, little broken Lizzie, revels in death. They have a poignant discussion about Sophia. Carol confesses her daughter is dead because, as Carol puts it “she didn’t have a mean bone in her body.”  Sophia’s death seems so long ago, and Carol’s acceptance of it is chilling.

The group ventures towards Terminus, the one plot point that binds the multiple groups together this season. I would do a whole dissertation on the symbolic potential of Terminus, but this episode sucked all scholarly discourse from my marrow. Anyway, Carol is concerned that Lizzie sees the walkers as “different,” not as the disease infested murder sacks that they are. Carol calls back to the conversation about Sophia by expressing her concern that Mika is too much like her daughter. Mika still has the stink of civilization on her. Carol understands there is no place for innocence in this world.

Boy, could she not be more right. Every time the kids are shown, the tragedy of this world is exemplified. Carol compares the two little girls to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, implying that Lizzie is the feral survivor like Huck, because she’s not afraid of dead rabbits. Sadly, she is fascinated by death not accustomed to it. Comparing the girls to Huck and Finn is some powerful imagery; keep it in mind, though as it is not quite accurate.

The group of injured and sullen alpha male, pragmatic dragon lady, death obsessed ragamuffin, innocent little sunflower, and useless baby find an abandoned house. Carol and Tyreese go inside, leaving Lizzie and Mika to stand watch. Lizzie has the baby while Mika has the gun. Of course, a walker pops out. Hey, maybe Lizzie should be the shooter and Mika the baby wielder. Surprisingly, Mika kills the Walker, showing that she has grown a bit more used to this world. She will kill when she has to, but unlike Lizzie, she won’t like it, nor does she have an odd fascination with the walkers. Mika is maturing, and boy, does this become horrifically tragic very, very soon.

The crew settles in the cabin and like so many others on the show have had a taste of, the girls get to experience some domestic bliss. Didn’t work out for the other two groups, and by Robert Kirkman’s mighty beard, it doesn’t work out here either. The show does an amazing job showing Lizzie’s crazy PTSD. She represents an honest look at what the world would do to the mind of a child, especially one that already has some borderline tendencies.

Ad – content continues below

While Lizzie obsesses over Walkers, Carol tries to toughen Mika into being a survivor, because Carol knows that Mika will have to protect Lizzie, because big sis has some serious flowers in the attic. With all this going on, the two little girls have brought down more zombies than Tyreese. At this point, Judith might be more useful than mopey Tyreese.

Meanwhile, Lizzie is feeding rats to a zombie stuck in train tracks as her descent into madness has gone from Dexter Morgan to May Dove Canady with a dash of Aileen Carol Wuornos. This is followed by an ass clenching sequence with walkers still smoldering from Daryl’s country club fire. The crew have to hold off the walkers, and even little Mika has become quite the little zombie shooter. The look on Mika’s face is thunderous as she now understands the nature of survival. This is why the show has so many so riveted, the weaving of stark character moments with asshole puckering intensity.

Lizzie’s character is going to be dissected and debated for years to come. She sees the walkers feel no pain, that they possess all the power, so she envies them. Sort of understandable from a little girl’s point of view, which, of course, doesn’t mean she isn’t window-licking insane. As for Carol, she is a constant reminder that killing has consequences. She now bears this burden of her actions. It’s hard to imagine this powerful woman came from the weak character from the comics who committed suicide by zombie.

Ok, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. As Tyreese and Carol return from an unsuccessful deer hunt, while sharing a joke, they find that Lizzie, this is even hard to type, no shit, has killed Mika. She wants to see her innocent little sister, a little girl who is successfully adapting to the world while maintaining her hopeful spirit, come back as a walker, and she was about to do the same to Judith. Let that sink in for a minute.

The world had so damaged Lizzie that she sees being a zombie as being preferable to being alive. She enjoyed killing the Governor’s men, but she went into hysterics at the death of a walker, and now she has taken her perfect little sister and condemned her to an unlife of pain and constant hunger.

That’s cold right there.

Ad – content continues below

Carol takes Lizzie to a field and tells her to look at the flowers. Look at the last bit of beauty in a world where a little girl desires to see her sister return as an abomination.

Carol then shoots her in the head.

Lizzie and Mika were not Huck and Tom Sawyer, two pure and innocent children exploring the potentiality of the vast American heartland. No, that literary allusion was not accurate. They were really Lennie Small and George Milton from Of Mice and Men, two souls with no place in a cruel world. Like Lennie, Lizzie was killed in a field by a person who could not allow any more suffering to the innocent soul.

Damn, that’s some smart television.

All this suffering delivers a catharsis as Carol confesses to Tyreese that she killed Karen, Tyreese’s lover, back in the prison. Tyreese forgives Carol, somehow ending this bleakest of episodes on a note of promise.

A masterpiece if I ever saw one.

Ad – content continues below

Zombie Kill of the Week: Nope, not going to do it this week. I’m a bit too verklempt.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!



5 out of 5