This episode, man. I needed to sleep on it and let the emotional anguish and philosophical brain-bleeding that I experienced at a steady rate during the episode really settle. Now that I have, I can say with great clarity: this was a flawlessly structured episode.
Finally, we get out of the claustrophobic prison and take ourselves physically, though never mentally, away from the flu-like disease breeding there. “Carol and Rick go on a run” sounds like it could be the set up for a hilarious joke or a childhood riddle or nursery rhyme. On the contrary, however, this scenario sets us up for one of the most shocking (in my opinion, anyway) endings to an episode I can remember.
But It didn’t shock through violence or gore. Although this episode did have a fair amount of that as well. It crosscuts between two separate runs happening simultaneously, the other of course being Daryl, Michonne, Tyrese and Bob trying to get to that medicine on foot or find a car first, with plenty of walkers to take out along the way.
Anyway, what I’m getting at is, this parallel structure is filled with both kinds of drama that I feel like The Walking Dead is known for: horror and emotion. Both build steadily within each of the two individual runs, and the separate conclusions of each, which I’ll write about next, are what sealed the episode and what really brought forward the always-present but ever-changing ethical and moral dilemmas in it.
So let’s start with Bob. And let us not forget Bob’s epic internal battle with that bottle of wine that started the supermarket zombie avalanche of episode 1. I pretty much called it that he had alcohol problems. What I didn’t call was the way he fought for that bag from a herd of walkers below, as if it too had medicine in it. Well, it didn’t: Daryl angrily (for probably equally personal backstory reasons) exposes the bottle and gets literally, not metaphorically, in Bob’s face.
There have been some shows of masculinity in the series before but never as dramatic and intense as this one, maybe because it’s been a while since we’ve seen Daryl lose his cool. When he uttered the fateful words “you should have kept walking that day” to Bob, my jaw dropped.
But the fun certainly did not end there. The episode to begin with Rick walking through the prison, or what I jokingly dubbed as his Hall of Hallucinations, with the smoothly scary voice over tones of little Lizzy telling Carol her zombie philosophy (that they’re still something and that if she got bit, she’d know she was still her but just different; after all, we never end up exactly where we began… spooky outlook for a kid or for anyone in this world, really, but it set the dramatic, intellectual tone for the whole episode).
So with that in mind, I should have known the shock would be more human and real than bloody and tragic, but I would have never expected the show to “write off” (air quotes motivated by my denial that this really happened) Carol or any other character without having them die. That just seems like a waste! And for all the Caryl (or Daryl/Carol shippers out there) today might be a sad day.
To see her battle with Rick over bravery, action, emotion, safety, and all the other issues surrounding her decision to kill David and Karen was one of the most difficult and drawn out confrontations I’ve ever experienced in the series, because I found myself seeing both points of view and wishing Rick could have come up with some other solution than to send her on her separate way. But my opinion is that we haven’t seen the last of Carol just yet, and again, maybe that is motivated by wishful thinking and refusal to believe it.
I give this episode 4 & a half out of 5 fruits, offered to Rick and Carol by the house-dwellers whom they invite back to the prison but who never make it back in the time Rick set for them to do so…which reminds me of another shocking line in the episode I just had to include here now: when they decide to give up waiting for them, Carol remembers Rick had given them his watch so they could be back in two hours and says “it was a nice watch” as if to imply a kind of sucks-for-them attitude that is probably the least of the crazy lengths she’s gone to in her new survivalist outlook, honestly.