This episode was one of the more devastating and jaw-dropping episodes ever for me: heartbreaking, shocking and psychological, I’m giving this one a near-perfect score of 4.5 out of 5 pretty yellow flowers. It started off a little heavy-handed, but once it threw a few very emotional curve-balls in, I was sold.
This episode focuses solely on Carol, Tyrese, Lizzie, Mika and baby Judith as they find a quaint, idyllic house on their way to Terminus. When I say the episode began in a heavy-handed way, I merely mean that some of Carol’s early dialogue stung but in a way that maybe we’ve come to expect from the show (as compared to the rest of this episode which stung in a different way, somehow, which I’ll get to in a moment of course). Lizzie asks Carol about Sophia; Carol says she didn’t have a mean bone in her body, and when Lizzie asks if that’s why she’s dead, Carol answers with an even more cold and concise “yes.” Carol later in the episode tries to train Mika to be more ruthless and strong, using the same cautionary sort of tale– Sophia ran and it wasn’t enough. But Mika simply doesn’t want to kill other people– she believes she can remain sweet in a world of monsters.
So here’s the sort of source or origin for this episode’s ethical dilemma then: Lizzie is a tough cookie who’d rather play tag with the walkers than kill them, and Mika understands the walkers for the danger that they truly are but she is saintly, which makes her weak. It wasn’t until this episode though that these shades of gray were really exposed, all equally raw and sad and difficult to navigate and negotiate no matter how hard Carol tries to. I also didn’t realize just how crazy “Crazy Lizzie” really was until this episode, in which she reacts sensitively to everything, particularly being yelled at, and she is told to just look at the flowers and count to calm down. The whole thing is chillingly reminiscent of Of Mice and Men, and it is a scenario that is all the more unsettling because these are just children whose psyches and dispositions have been destroyed by the destruction around them.
Lizzie, of course, believes that walkers are not dead or dangerous– she believes they’re still people, or pets, and that they’re merely different. The episode cleverly gives us a climax that leads us falsely to believe that Lizzie finally understands: when she and Mika are chased by some char-grilled walkers (assuming they had walked through Daryl and Beth’s burning moonshine house, perhaps), they have to help Tyrese and Carol shoot at them. But, just a few scenes later, Tyrese and Carol return to find Lizzie standing over her own sister’s dead body, holding a bloody knife and yelling that they have to wait, that she has to make them understand that Mika will come back.
The reveal is scarier than perhaps any walkers in the show, because of that loss of childhood innocence and the waste of a life that Lizzie will never understand, her own sister the victim. It is later revealed, even though at this point it could have been assumed, that she had been the one feeding the walkers at the prison. Melissa McBride as Carol is at her best in this episode, acting-wise. She is faced with another controversial, moral decision and her complicated maternal nature is tested and tormented. Carol and Tyrese discuss what to do– none of them, especially not Judith, would be safe under the same roof as her now.
So Carol ultimately shoots her– Lizzie can’t be around other people, they say repeatedly and with a loaded sense of dread. Carol breaks down, and the whole thing is disturbing to say the least, but well-executed and unbelievably powerful. The episode ends with Carol telling Tyrese the truth about killing Karen and David too, which induces a kind of aftershock in the viewer– when you were hoping for a denouement or a reprieve from the heartache you’ve just experienced, you instead get a kind of remaining hiccup of fear and shock and pain. Somehow though, given the bond newly forged between Carol and Tyrese given all these previous events, I predicted rightly that he would forgive her, but it is visibly not an easy or immediate forgiveness. The whole scene is like a pastiche of emotions between and within them both. They leave, childless except for Judith, and we are left feeling more scarred than ever. I cannot even imagine what the final two episodes of this season will have to offer us after we’ve already been left reeling from last night’s.