This review contains spoilers.
Having one group stuck on the road, thanks to the zombie horde from last episode, is a good idea, but breaking a second group off and sending them out onto the road is an even better decision. It gets us away from the monotony of the prison and its sick and dying survivors, and it adds a little tension to a face-off that’s been brewing (off-screen) since last week’s episode. Rick, one of the few able-bodied people available in the camp, has to go out and find medicine and food for the sick and non-sick alike. Rather than bringing Maggie, who can be trusted with the sick, Rick decides to bring Carol with him, and that sets off one of the show’s bravest choices of its entire run.
There have been other situations in which Rick and the group decided that their best course of action with someone would be to dump them in the middle of nowhere with some supplies and let them fend for themselves. However, in the case of the kid from the second season, he was a part of a group that had fired on Rick and company, he had been an aggressor against them, and he wasn’t someone the group could trust not to betray them to his larger force of comrades (The Governor?) at the first chance he got. Abandoning that kid to the walkers—after wasting time and resources to patch him up—wasn’t the smartest choice, but it was more humane than letting him get torn apart on the fence or shooting him directly.
However, this week, Rick makes a decision without consulting the rest of the group, without the usual deliberation, and without really thinking through the consequences of his action by bringing Carol with him to scavenge, then leaving her behind. Granted, he gives her fuel, supplies, and a working vehicle, but he still dumped one of the show’s toughest characters (and one of the only characters to really make dramatic changes since her introduction) off to fend for herself. As one of the last original cast members, it’s a shame to see Carol sent off like this, especially given the logic of her arguments made to Rick throughout the episode.
Her choice to try to eliminate the pandemic threat early, while the wrong one, was reasonable given the horrible circumstances. I imagine that Rick coming back from his supply run alone will look pretty suspicious, especially if he doesn’t tell anyone what Carol did. But if Rick does tell the group what he did, and why he did it, he runs the risk of angering the council of leaders and splitting the camp into feuding factions. Rick broke with orthodox AND threw out one of the most important people in the camp, the favourite of the kids, and one of their fellow leaders. Perhaps most importantly, she’s a favorite of Daryl—even as the show tries hard to pair him off with Michonne to silence the shipper protests before they begin. Either choice Rick makes will eventually create problems.
Tricia Brock directed one of the best episodes of last season in Clear, and she’s delivered another corker of an episode this week. There’s a serious tension that pervades the entire episode, in both the A and the B plot, and she does some very interesting shots. There’s nothing too fancy—no real swoops or dives—but the direct camera work (and the way the shots are framed), really help to emphasize the story, not distract from it. Throughout the Rick and Carol storyline, I kept waiting for something to happen; ditto Daryl and Michonne. With the red herring couple from the McMansion on one hand and the great jump-scares in both the abandoned town and the veterinary hospital, there were multiple moments when Brock did a good job of creating tension, then blowing it off.
The script is an interesting mixed bag from first-time Walking Dead scribe Matt Negrete (White Collar, a bunch of kids’ shows). There are a lot of elements that really work (Carol and Rick’s conversation, the two Bonnarooreject kids they find in the McMansion), and some stuff that doesn’t work quite as well. Bob’s recurring alcoholism subplot isn’t landing for me, even if I do like the way Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. plays the character; just watch the way Bob walks up to the zombies and shoots them in the head, rather than sniping them from afar. That’s a subtle nod to realism in a show in which Rick routinely fires a .357 Magnum Colt Python with one hand.
For all the things you could say about Carol’s actions this season, there’s no doubting that Melissa McBride has knocked it out of the park again. She’s been brilliant all year, and for parts of last year, and I like the way that they’ve handled the character and her actions, even if I vehemently disagree with Rick’s decision. It’s going to create a lot of ripples down the line, unlike previous character deaths (or the departing Hispanic family whose names I have forgotten from the first season). After all, Rick’s just a farmer these days, not a leader. Daryl, Hershel, Carol… they’re the leadership council alongside Rick, but Rick didn’t exactly consult with the gang before he decided to banish Carol. Given how important Carol has been to the group, I can’t imagine that they’ll be really happy to hear that Rick ran her off, even if she did kill a couple of people minutes before they would have succumbed to the flu and become ravenous skin-eaters.
Carol has proven herself, Tyreese is a giant liability who occasionally goes kill-crazy with his hammer. Carol has proven herself as someone who’ll put herself in danger to protect the group and ensure the survival of the prison, while Tyreese is, well… he’s busy washing his shirt in the river and waiting in the car for zombies to overwhelm and possibly kill him/everyone else. I understand both sides of the argument, but I’m Team Carol all the way. I’m sure we’ll see her again; I just hope she can make a Merle-like return to favor.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Isolation, here.
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