The Walking Dead goes down the dramatic path this week as various characters wrestle with the past demons. Does focusing the action away from the prison prove successful?
Let’s bitch it out.
I can’t say ‘Indifference’ is one of the best episodes of The Walking Dead, but it certainly takes the title of best episode of the season. Finally we get some real character development that allows us to actually care about the characters rather than simply watching them go through motions.
The biggest surprise this week is Carol’s (Melissa McBride) journey, which had me breathe a sigh of relief as I’ve been complaining about her for the past few weeks. After last week’s revelation that she was the one who prematurely killed and torched Karen and David in an effort to save the rest of the prison folk from the impending epidemic, this episode doesn’t merely focus on the consequences of that action, but gives us a believable and intriguing peek inside Carol’s motivations.
Going off on a supply run with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) we see a decidedly different Carol (well – we’ve seen different Carol since the season premiere) but the difference here is that we can understand why she’s changed so drastically. The way in which she compartmentalizes her past while she and Rick rummage through houses is brilliant – there’s a tinge of nostalgia in her sentiments, but the honest truth is that she’s left what’s in the past in the past, hell-bent on remaking herself anew. Arguably this was the case right when the season started, but having Rick stand in as proxy for us, the audience, as he further questions, probes, and reacts to her statements, does much needed service to Carol’s development that simply wasn’t apparent before.
I felt something for Carol. I can’t say I agreed with what she did, but as she puts it – I accept it. Even more surprising is what Rick does at episode’s end – banishing Carol from the prison group and sending her off alone to find a new group who doesn’t know what she’s capable of for group preservation. Again, I can’t say I agree with Rick’s decision (Aside: Why is it just when a female character becomes tolerable she has be disposed of in some way?) but I can understand and accept his reasoning in wanting to protect his children. But let’s call it what it is – Rick is teetering that moral line just as much as Carol is.
We get many rich points of debate and discussion come out of this banishment: Wouldn’t Rick had done the same if Carl (Chandler Riggs) or Judith were in danger? Hasn’t he done equally deplorable things in his tenure as leader? Was it Carol’s choice to play god before they knew the seriousness of the virus? Didn’t Carl commit a similar mistake when he swiftly shot a Woodbury teen last season? Who gives Rick the authority to send Carol into exile? Is the disposal of Karen and David the baby steps to becoming a Governor-type leader? All great questions, none of which are answered. Although we’ve abandoned the long drawn-out moral debates of seasons past, the questions of what’s right and wrong still loom. Thankfully we haven’t abandoned these discussions, but have found a new more streamlined way of presenting them. Looks like new showrunner Scott M. Gimple has made good on his promise about taking those elements from past seasons and improving on the. Now if he could only do the same for the zombie action…
Some other great moments of character development happens in the medicine-seeking group as we finally get to hear more than two lines of dialogue from Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.). We learn that he’s had the two-time honour of being the last man standing in his previous survival groups, which totally doesn’t bode well for our group. In order to cope he’s looked to comforts of the bottle, which he has proclaimed to have conquered. Of course, this doesn’t appear to be true as later he almost puts the group in danger refusing to let go of a bottle of the sauce in a walker attack, prompting Daryl (Norman Reedus) to take back all of his warm and fuzzy feelings during Stookey’s first confession. It further hammers down how our characters deal with the past, and in contrast to Carol, it’s not as easy for some.
We still need to spend more time with Stookey before we care about what happens to him, but I couldn’t help but grasp my chest in earnest when he hung his head down in shame as Daryl scolded him on that rooftop. Some viewers may find the alcoholic subplot to be pedestrian considering we’re talking about a zombie apocalypse, but I for one find it refreshing. Not all of our characters have to deal with abstract and extreme problems like becoming murderers and sociopaths; some have demons that feel more ‘down to earth’ and understandable, but are equally as challenging. I believe it adds to the richness and complexity of the drama overall.
- I don’t know how I feel about this Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) kid. Part of what she was saying the cold open had me thinking she’s soon going to start up The Walking Dead version of S.P.E.W, fighting for Walker-rights.
- Ahh, our beautiful little Kiwi-Green Hyundai Tucson. Not a single scratch or dent on it despite four seasons in the zombie apocalypse. If that’s not a testimonial, I don’t know what is!
- Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) continues to be hella annoying as he holds on to his impetuous Hulk-rage. He seems to have soften a bit when he sees Stookey wrestling with his alcohol problem, but I wonder how he’ll react once he finds out the Carol was culprit behind his rage.
- Speaking of the banishment fallout – Daryl is likely not going to take the news well. Perhaps our untarnished new leader will return to his less-than-desirable roots when he finds out.
- I find it curious that Carol doesn’t put up more of a fight when Rick banishes her. I’m certain that we haven’t seen the last of her, but let’s hope she doesn’t end up in the hands of The Governor as she journeys to find a new group.
What did you think viewers? Do you think Rick should have went back to being ‘just a farmer’ and kept his revelation about Carol under wraps? Do you think what Carol did was completely in line with survival and the good of the group? What do you think will happen to her now that she’s on her own? Will Rick return to being a ‘formal’ leader? Will the medicine team be able to save everyone whose anxiously awaiting their return? Sound off in the comments below.
A gentle reminder that we adhere to a SPOILER FREE zone here, so please keep any plot points from the graphic novels to yourself.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm EST on AMC.