WARNING: This article contains spoilers from previous episodes of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Proceed at your own risk.
– LIKE NERD PRESS ON FACEBOOK –
Episodes like this worry me as a fan. Not because the episode was bad, it was actually quite the opposite, but because they always make me worried that we’re going to see a big death. This show likes to really give characters a big spotlight before they “off” them. Last season Hershel had a lot of build up that led to a big heroic moment before his demise. The Governor, despite being the primary antagonist, received his own heroic moments as well before going off the deep-end and meeting the sharp end of Michonne’s sword during the fall of the prison. Even secondary characters like Karen, Martinez, Lizzie and Mika got their own development before drawing the short straw. I’m afraid that’s what is happening with Carol this season.
I know, I know, there are plenty of rumors to combat this idea. I get it. Still, I can’t help but be worried for Carol. The production staff of this show also have a history of intentionally misleading fans. Just take a look at some of the season reveal trailers. I also can’t help but feel that there aren’t many more places to take Carol’s story. Then again, I probably would have said the same in season one or two. If you couldn’t tell, I’m really wrestling with this. I just get really uncomfortable any time I see a character I really like getting a lot of focus. It’s kind of bittersweet. This would also be a great time to illustrate that no one on this show is safe. Not even the badass, bottle rocket shootin’, guts smearing, kid killing, Daryl loving, firebug that Carol has become.
Getting back to the episode, it was a good one. We got to see Carol and Daryl do some recon in Atlanta, and though dialogue was few and far between, we got meaningful story from each character. The episode focused largely on Carol though. Through the heavy use of flashbacks we got to see that Carol is vulnerable. The episode kicked off with a look at where she went after Rick sent her away, and it wasn’t enviable. Alone and clearly remorseful, Carol took to an abandoned law firm. This was some obvious symbolism, since Rick had essentially tried and judged her for her actions. Whether or not that was right is up to us as viewers to decide. Carol also showed that she may be one of the better survivalists of the group, setting up traps to catch water, searching for clean bottles, and using the good ol’ crayon trick for candle light. One note I took is that I REALLY enjoyed the use of music here. I always love it when I hear a song on this show and immediately want to hop on iTunes to download it. If you’re also into that, this site is usually pretty good at helping track down song titles and artists.
Carol’s solo excursion is cut short though, as she sees smoke in the distance. Carol quickly pieces together that it’s coming from the prison, and takes off to investigate only to find the ruins of what was once her home. Fire is a big theme in this episode, and this was just the beginning of it. This is something they’ve been setting up since Carol shared dialogue with Mika last season about how to tell if a fire is still burning or not. That in itself may or may not be a metaphor for whether or not the fire inside Carol is still burning. Whether she still wants to keep pushing forward not just to live, but to re-establish society.
Once the cold open ends, we see Carol and Daryl tailing the car with the white cross into the city. This was really awesome because we get to see them travel down what I believe is I-85, correct me if I’m wrong, just as Rick did on horseback in season one. It was crazy to see how much nature has taken back Atlanta since we last saw it.
After the car runs out of gas and the two are no longer able to tail the police officers, Carol leads Daryl to a place she knows of where they can hole up for the night. When they arrive, the noise of Daryl trying to crack the lock attracts a few walkers initially, but as he continues a huge mass of them come from out of the woodwork. It’s evident that Atlanta is still very much infested with numerous walkers, and I wonder if this will come into play when the survivors confront the group at Grady Hospital.
After they finally get into the building, it’s pretty quickly revealed that this “temporary housing” she refers to is a shelter for abused women and children. They stay here appears to especially uncomfortable for Carol for obvious reasons, but she doesn’t yet tell Daryl that she spent a few nights there with Sophia before the turn to get away from her abusive husband, Ed.
Scenes like this one are really the reason the I tune into The Walking Dead. The show is very much about character development, and the often stellar actors on the show nail it in these situations. Carol and Daryl rarely speak to one another, but you still get a good grasp on the emotional tone of the episode because of the chemistry between Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus. These two characters can communicate more through body language that what most do through extended monologues.
Daryl is clearly sympathetic to Carol in this moment, and appears to feel her pain. Daryl tells Carol she doesn’t need to keep the first watch, and they two lay back on a bunk. A lot of fans were upset that there wasn’t any sort of sexual tension or romantic moment here, but I’m happy there wasn’t. The relationship between these two is much more than what “shippers” want it to be, and although I’d welcome the development of a romance eventually, this wasn’t the time for it. Carol, a victim of abuse, is taking refuge with Daryl, also a victim of abuse, in a shelter for abused women and children. The two are pretty clearly creeped out by being there, and haunted by their past. It isn’t particularly hard to piece it together that “Oh, this probably isn’t the best time for that.”
The two are almost immediate disturbed by loud bangs outside of the room. When they enter the hallway the see a walker on the other side of some frosted glass, in another room. As soon as we have time to accept the eeriness of the lone walker on the other side of the glass, a child walker appears next to it. This scene was very unsettling. This sort of thing isn’t uncommon for this show though, as they often use children and child walkers to illustrate when a situation is particularly ominous. It dawned on me pretty quickly that Carol made the connection that this may have been her and Sophia had they stayed. As Carol steps forward to enter the room and kill the walkers, Daryl stops her and tell her she doesn’t have to.
The next morning, Carol awakens to the sight of smoke outside the window. She appears to be alarmed, but quickly calms down when she sees that it is Daryl burning the bodies of the walkers they saw in the night. She is thankful, and the two watch the pillar of smoke rise to the sky as we get a brief flashback to Carol digging graves for Lizzie and Mika with Tyreese. Carol pauses for a moment as she looks off in the distance toward the pillar of smoke, now white, pouring from the house Beth and Daryl had lit on fire in the season 4 episode “Still.” This was also the smoke that Carol and Mika had discussed in “The Grove.”
I know a lot of fans had issues with this scene as well, considering that they’re on a recon mission. The Grady Memorial crew has no real idea that they’re out there, and sending a giant pillar of smoke into the air is anything but subtle. Considering the fact that they seems to high-tail it out of there afterward, I didn’t really find a whole lot to gripe about. I can definitely see the complaint though.
As they’re packing up to leave, we get a brief glimpse of what’s in Carol’s bag, and it is revealed that she is still carrying the copy of Tom Sawyer that Herschel gave Lizzie last season. The two then set off across the city to seek out a high rise to get a better vantage point. The two stick close to the buildings, and we see more familiar sites including the tank Rick hid in during season one. As the pair comes up on a parking garage, they encounter a pack of walkers that Daryl distracts by lighting a legal pad he took from the shelter on fire, and throwing it in the direction opposite of where they were heading. The two enter the garage and head toward a sky-bridge that connects to a skyscraper they can get a better view from. As the two work their way through the garage and enter the sky-bridge, there is a brief glimpse of someone watching them from behind a car. It’s very easy to miss, and the person is pretty clearly Noah.
The two then cross over to the skyscraper where they find a gruesome site of a camp who appear to have been executed as they slept. Many of the walkers are bound tightly in their sleeping bags, and others are trapped in tents. Daryl utters “Some days I don’t know what the hell to think,” after they put down the cocooned sleeping bag walkers, ignoring the ones left in the tents as they shimmy through a chained door to enter the adjacent building.
Once inside, they appear to be in an executive office. The two peer over the bombed Atlanta cityscape, and Carol ponders “how we got here.” She then begins to open up about what happened with Lizzie and Mika, but Daryl simply says he knows. They aren’t here. Carol tells him that it’s much worse than that, and Daryl tells her that he said they get to start over because they have to. It was at this point that I kind of got the feeling that Daryl is thinking bigger than just moving on from what they’ve had to do to survive. I could be wrong about this, but at this point I think Daryl might be the person in the group that sees the need for community the most.
Daryl peers out the window, then uses the rifle they have to scope out a van across the city that is marked with crosses. The van appears to have been abandoned for quite awhile, and is teetering on the ends of a bridge. Before leaving they fill up their water, and they comment on a piece of artwork in the office. The two take opposite stances on the art, and after Daryl tells Carol to stop because she says she likes it, she utters “You don’t know me,” with a smile. Daryl responds “Keep telling yourself that.”
As they head back out the city, Carol has her weapon stolen as she shimmies through the chained door again. Noah is on the other side, and demands their weapons. They surrender their weapons as Noah apologizes, but tells them they look tough. As he backs away, Noah cuts holes in the tents, freeing the trapped walkers. The pair quickly dispatches them with knives and Carol’s sidearm. Carol raises her pistol toward Noah, Daryl slaps her hand down just as fires. The two share disapproving looks, then take off after Noah, but he jams the door and gets away.
The next shot features Daryl and Carol, now freed from the sky-bridge and working their way back through the parking garage. Carol is upset with Daryl, and explains that they have three bullets and no weapons. She tells Daryl that she was only aiming for his leg and had no intention of killing him. Daryl dismisses her, insisting they’ll survive the city and pointing out that Noah is just a kid as he attempts to break the lock on an exit door. Carol tells Daryl that she doesn’t want him to die. That she doesn’t want Beth to die, and that she doesn’t want anyone at the church to die. She claims that is why she was leaving, that she couldn’t stand to lose anyone else. Daryl quips that she isn’t somewhere else. That she is right here, trying. Carol tells him that neither of them is who they used to be.
This part gets really interesting, as Carol, continuing with the theme of burning and atoning for her sins, states that she isn’t sure if she believes in God anymore. She tells Daryl that she isn’t sure in heaven or hell, but if she’s going to hell then she’s going to put it off for as long as possible. She then picks up Daryl’s bag to hand to him, and a book about treating victims of child abuse falls out. Daryl appears to be angry, maybe even embarrassed, but it’s clear in that moment that neither of them are who they used to be.
When we return from a commercial, we see a flashback of Carol standing over the burning bodies of Karen and David back at the prison. Back in the present, Carol and Daryl have reached the van on the bridge, and Daryl hops in to investigate. Probably not the best decision considering that the van is a stiff breeze away from taking of nose dive off a bridge that appears to be at least a few stories high. Inside, the two scour for documents as we get a good look at a statue of the Blessed Mother on the dashboard that looks identical to the statues that played a pivotal role on ABC’s Lost. Being a fan of both shows, and Lost clearly inspiring a lot of the work on AMC’s The Walking Dead, it was a nice nod.
As they gather all of the evidence they’ve found, Carol notices a massive amount of walkers closing in on the van. As they exit and attempt to fight their way through the hoard, Daryl notices the letters “GMH” on the underside of the stretcher in the van. Carol quickly deduces that it may stand for Grady Memorial Hospital, and they begin to take down some of the walkers. Unfortunately it’s all for naught as the duo quickly becomes overrun and their only option is to back into the van.
At this point we see what may be some of the worst editing in the series. Carol and Daryl buckle themselves into the front of the walker surrounded van, and in a real Thelma and Louise moment, Carol grabs Daryl’s hand. The two shift their weight all the way forward, and the van begins to fall. Here lies the problem. The van is tilted, so it falls face first. The shot within the van shows this as well. The van visibly begins to flip in the air, you can even watch the van flip in a behind the scenes video AMC has posted on YouTube and their own website. Somehow though, the van miraculously lands on all four wheels. This took A LOT of suspension of disbelief, and I’m surprised it made the cut in the fashion it did. Usually continuity and realism issues are dealt with pretty meticulously on this show, and it was disappointing to see something that big slip by the wayside both the with physics and the poor decision making with the characters. That said, it was still kind of cool, right?
The following action was kind of neat, despite the shoddy van scene. All of the walkers surrounding the van on the bridge began to fall, and soon the windshield was covered in blood and walker corpses. When the coast is clear and they’ve caught their breath, Daryl helps Carol away from the van as a walker who has been cut in half drags behind them. This walker was particularly reminiscent of the bicycle girl walker from season one, which falls into the theme of the “farewell tour” of Atlanta that the show appears to be doing… but, more on that later.
It appears that Carol took the brunt of the damage from the fall, and is pretty banged up. After licking their wounds for a bit, they decide to work their way toward Grady Memorial. While cutting through a building, Daryl obtains a machete from a walker lying on the floor. Daryl also finds numerous bags of potato chips. That’s cool, I guess. Gotta eat, right? Carol peers out the window and spots two similar vans to the one they had fallen in across the way, parked on top of another garage across from the hospital. They decide to stake out the place for awhile, and they discuss how they’ve changed.
Carol tells Daryl he was a boy when it all started, and now he’s a man. Carol also opens up about her abusive past with Ed, how she and Sophia stayed in the shelter, and that she got to be who she always thought she should have been during her time at the prison, but that version of Carol got burnt away as well. Daryl tells her “Hey, we ain’t ashes,” and they set out toward the hospital.
After spotting a walker pinned to the wall by an arrow, they deduce that Noah is nearby. Gunshots in the distance lead them directly to him, and Noah pushed a walker onto Carol, possibly on purpose. Daryl follows Noah into an office where he is trying to move a bookcase that is blocking a door. Daryl tackles Noah into the bookcase, which promptly falls onto Noah as Daryl rolls to safety. As Carol limps her way into the room, a walker begins to work it’s way through the door that was blocked, and Noah begs for help. Daryl, suddenly having a change of heart about what Noah’s fate should be after he threw a walker onto Carol, denies him help. Daryl pulls a carton of cigarettes out of what appears to be Noah’s pack, and lights one up (again with the fire and burning theme). The brand, Morley, was thought to be a nod to the X-Files, but it’s since been revealed that Morley is a fake cigarette company used in numerous shows including the X-Files and Breaking Bad. Dale even smoked Morely’s at the beginning of the series.
Carol, stunned by the sudden aloofness of Daryl, pleads with him to help Noah. Daryl points out that she almost died because of him, and Carol points out that she didn’t. Daryl still denies Noah, and begins to walk away. The walker falls onto Noah, and after pleading again, Carol gets Daryl to kill the walker. With this scene I began to wonder if it wasn’t continuing to play on the painting Dr. Edwards had in his office, the Denial of St. Peter, and the Last Supper paintings we kept seeing at the church. This season appears to deal a lot with denial in many ways, I’m interested to see where that goes.
When we come back from another commercial break we see another Carol flashback of her in the woods, wiping the walker guts off of her after the fall of Terminus. She peers off into the distance at the black smoke, then keeps moving. In the present, Carol and Daryl help to life the shelf off of Noah, and after thanking them Noah panics and heads for the window. He begins to frantically look around the citsyscape muttering about how “they” heard the gunshots and would be looking for him. Daryl asks him who “they” are, and Noah reveals he’s from the hospital and after some prodding, that he knows Beth. Carol looks outside and sees a cross-marked station wagon patrolling the streets.
The three hurry downstairs and begin to slap together an exist strategy. Once they reach the lobby of the building, Noah falls and Daryl helps him up. Carol runs outside and is blindsided by the station wagon. Daryl tried to run after her but Noah holds him back insisting he let them take her. Noah tells Daryl that shell be okay because they have medicine, machines, and a doctor. He tells Daryl that they can get her back. He tells him they have people, guns, and that it’ll take a lot to get them back. Daryl retorts “So do we.”
The episode comes to close with Daryl lighting yet another fire to distract walkers so that he and Noah can take an abandoned box truck. The last scene we see is the two in the truck, Noah looking nervous and skeptical, and Daryl looking like he is on the verge of tears.
– Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride have some amazing chemistry onscreen together.
– Not a lot was said, but a lot was conveyed.
– While this episode could probably be filed under “filler,” it was incredibly enjoyable.
-Stunts and continuity maybe need to get a little more attention from the showrunners.
– Daryl has lost pretty much everything at this point. They always seem to rip it all away from right as he gets close to happiness.
– It was nice to see the two open up a bit more about their past, but really it was Carol that did all the talking.
– It was also nice to see Daryl trying to help himself. I think the separation and eventual death of Merle opened his eyes to a lot of things.
– With the group presumably about to head north with half thr group not knowing the truth about Eugene and Noah’s knowledge of a camp in Richmond, VA, it feels like we’re getting a farewell tour of Atlanta. A lot of the commercials during the show have been clips from previous seasons focusing on places we’ve been and things we’ve seen before. In this episode alone, we got to see Atlanta, the prison (sort of), the grove, and the woods outside Terminus. If and when Morgan joins the group, all narrative ties to Georgia will have been cut.
-Next week it’s FINALLY back to the main group.
8.5 out of 10 = Great.
It was a great episode with fan-favorites. There really wasn’t a whole lot to complain about. That van scene though…
+ Great acting from Reedus and McBride.
+ Everything that happened at the shelter.
+ Meaningful flash backs.
+ Noah is finally with the good guys.
– The van.
– Poor decision making by Daryl and Carol at times.