This episode of The Walking Dead was crazier than Dale Horvath’s eyes. After binge watching True Detective this past week I didn’t think I could handle another slowburn tale of horror. I don’t even do recaps of TWD anymore but for this one I just gotsta. Maybe not a full recap but at least some reflection, ya know, to process my feelings and stuff now that I’ve seen…
OF MICE AND THE WALKING DEAD.
Scott Gimple has done a tremendous job with season 4. I spent most of seasons 2 and 3 griping about the claustrophobia of the farm, prison, and even Woodbury. One of the best parts of apocalyptic fiction is to see a world devoid of people and everyday locations reimagined. Dynamic settings and protagonists on the move is why stories like Zombieland and The Stand will never get old.
And this season continues to move around. Not only did the Governor’s prison bomb scatter everyone all over rural Georgia, each small group keeps moving. Most of them are making their way to the mysterious end zone called Terminus, and this episode The Grove focused on the journey of Carol, Tyreese, baby Judith, and those two little blonde girls Lizzie and Mika Samuels.
The show starts off by giving us some quality time with Carol and Lizzie
Borden while the other sleep. The pattern for the first few scenes is Carol attempting to make her adopted daughters better survivors as we learn that Mika is sweet and cool, kind of like a mini Beth. What we learn about Lizzie is that she’s insane. Basic interaction example:
Everyone in the rational world: Lizzie, do you understand?
Lizzie: Yes, I understand*.
*If by understand you mean am I certain that the best way to handle things is to start murdering people but not hurting their brains. Check.
We’ve already known the young lady had issues since she used to feed walkers outside the prison. Her delicacy of choice is live mouse sushi, and she gets back to feeding a broken zom on the train tracks near the opening leading our crew to the titular grove where a lovely house, apparently complete with a working gas oven, awaits their arrival.
Other red flags include Lizzie’s total meltdown as little sister tries to calm her by getting her to focus on pretty flowers in the well-kept apocalypse garden. By the time we see her playing ring-around-the-rosy with a snarling flesh-eater the situation is apparent that Lizzie has problems. But it’s the apocalypse right? Who DOESN’T have issues.
Just when Carol thinks an attack by a zombie horde has shown her young protege the way, Tyreese and Carol return from a stroll in the grove to find Lizzie holding a bloody blade next to her little sister’s corpse.
Did I mention this show hasn’t stopped shocking me yet? She wanted to help her and was careful to not hurt the brain. It’s all way more terrible than it sounds.
Carol and Tyreese realize no one is safe as long as Lizzie is around, so Ms. Peletier walks the troubled girl into the grove to another patch of posies. This is where the story goes all Steinbeckian, as in Of Mice and Men, and I’m not just talking about shoeboxes full of furry snacks for the living dead.
Carol is George, Lizzie is Lennie. Even the names of the latter are similar, as are their tendency to play with dead things. If you don’t read books there’s a 1939 movie version with Burgess Meredith as Carol, er, George, and Lon Chaney, Jr. as Lennie. As the camera closed in on Carol’s tear-streamed face I almost expected Lizzie to say, “I can see it George!”
And as intense as everything was up to that point, it was a later scene that really got me.
The show was crafted in a way to really bring Carol to the brink of confessing to Tyreese that she had been the one who murdered his girlfriend Karen. Would she? And then she did. And it was beautiful. Because Tyreese forgave her in one of the best scenes of season 4.
He had seen what needed to be done, objectively, with Lizzie. He had no answer. Detached from the emotion of Karen’s death he understood the motivation for killing her. He learned that she had not been callously murdered by a stranger. He learned about the mercy of her final moments. Did he consider how impossible it will be to survive and keep a baby alive without help? Perhaps, but he seemed to be moving on. And if Judith is somehow a part of a cure, Tyreese will one day know that the mercy and forgiveness he offered was a part of his own salvation.
It really is a one way track, this lane to Terminus. Carol can never go back to being a woman able to protect her girl, and Tyreese can never go back to being a man who demands selfish retribution. Won’t it be interesting when Carol encounters Rick at the end of the line and the woman he evicted hands him his child?
Not that they can ever truly find a safe destination though, right? There’s no staying put as The Grove once again demonstrates. Safe havens fall, and sanctuaries get spoiled by the death of their world. And therein the beauty of forgiveness shines brighter than ever.