This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 13
Tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The Same Boat,” gives us an hour we’ll be discussing for some time to come. The episode’s strengths lie in its themes and symbolism, presenting us empowered women who have been battered by the men and the apocalypse. We get Paula’s story about having her life as a secretary stripped away for a bigger purpose, to become something more, even if it means that she’s a killer now. Juxtaposed with Carol and Maggie’s changing roles on the show, this illustrates the incredible weight the women carry in the new world, one even the men can’t quite understand.
There’s a line delivered by Paula that has stuck with me: “Guys can’t handle pain.” That made me think about everything Rick’s lost, everything so many people have lost in the face of the brutal next world, and still a lot of that can’t compare with the fact that many/most women have lost the right to be mothers. We’ve seen this most clearly with Carol, who continues to lose her “children,” but I hadn’t thought about all the women that were just too afraid to start a family, to bring life into a dead world.
I really enjoyed watching these women confer with each other, about the state of the world and who they should be, even if they were on opposite sides. I never felt that these Saviors were truly evil, mass murdering maniacs, and that helps us draw a different perspective. How would you feel about the group that just murdered half of your people in their sleep? This is a smart follow-up to last week’s attack on the Savior base, as the Alexandrians’ actions are patiently dissected through the dialogue between both groups. One of the questions left over from “Not Tomorrow Yet” was whether we were really rooting for the good guys anymore. After all, until last week, it seemed like massacring another group in cold blood was something only the bad guys did.
This moral quandary is intensified by the fact that everyone mirrors someone else. Carol and Paula, Maggie and Michelle (the woman with the missing finger), Molly (the chain-smoking woman) and Donnie, they’re all reflections of each other. Carol and Paula are the born-again survivors, while Molly and Donnie are on death row. The moments with Maggie and Michelle are the most poignant, though, as the Savior tells Maggie that “You’re not the good guys. You should know that.”
I also spent a lot of tonight’s episode wondering what I should think of Carol. Melissa McBride showed so many sides of her character that I wasn’t sure who the hell I was dealing with. Was Carol really scared to die or to kill? At different points, it seemed like one or the other. And there was the moment with the crucifix, her hands taped together, when it even looked like Carol was praying. Was she just tricking the Saviors into thinking she was weak? Or did she, for a moment, think that God was her best chance? I just don’t know. It’s to the writers’ credit that we’re still trying to figure this character out, that we’ve never quite nailed her the same way we have Rick or Daryl. Carol continues to evolve several seasons later.
We see a more vicious side of Maggie, too, as her life and her child’s come under attack. Lauren Cohan taps into a lot of anger, pent up aggression from so much loss. Like Glenn last week, she spills her first pint of blood, and it’s in the name of motherhood. I feel that, while Carol gets a lot of the action, Maggie is the true subject of the episode, the character that can make a choice for herself. And she does in the final minutes, when she tells Glenn that she can’t do this (fight) anymore. Meanwhile, Carol doesn’t have the luxury of that choice, a slave to a system that needs her to be a killer. Anything less than that could end in her death. Is she ready to welcome that fate?
My only real issue with the episode is the pacing. We feel the wait for the Savior cavalry as much as the characters do. There’s a lot of sitting around in the first half hour before the excellent and frantic action of the last twenty minutes. How great are those zombie barricades in those hallways? I really like that the survivors are getting more creative about how to use walkers to their advantage. The tense climax of the episode, especially when it seems like Carol’s done for, more than makes up for all of the talking. But this is a small gripe. “The Same Boat” isn’t so much about story and action as it is about its themes, about self-reflection, truth-telling, about accepting your place in the new world…or breaking away from it.
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