*UNDEAD SPOILERS AHEAD*
DING! DING! DING!
Welcome ladies and gentleman’s to this week’s The Walking Dead Battle o’ the Wills!
In the white corner, we have Farmer/Fighter/father Rick (Andrew Lincoln), 5′ 10″ and 170 lbs of simmering contemplation and halting conversation.
And in the red corner, awash in blood and guilt in equal measure, is Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), 5′ 6″ of justification and enough nervous energy to power a small Georgia hamlet for year.
Who will win? Who will lose? Who will drive away with a rolled up sleeve of knives and no watch, never to be seen again? (Possibly.)
OK to be fair, neither Rick nor Carol actually came to physical blows but they did spend the entire episode sparring, passively and aggressively, with each other on a run to a nearby town to raid houses for food and medicine.
They were like a some sort of weird mobile court with Rick as judge, jury and executioner and Carol as an alternately quietly defiant and then tearfully pleading defendant.
The dynamic was awkward to say the least with Rick only speaking sparingly, only truly changed when he (a) challenged Carol about the fact that she never mentions Sofia’s name anymore – an accusation batted away almost immediately by Carol, who has toughened up so much she is in danger of losing that which made her so appealing and human in the first place – and (b) when he calmly delivered his eventual verdict on her actions.
(Evidenced of Carol’s over-armouring of her emotions was the way in which she co-copted a charming and eager-to-please young couple, Sam and Anna, who they find in one of the houses they’re raiding, to help them search for meds and vittles despite the fact that neither is in optimum physical shape; Rick wants them to stay put and stay safe but his opposition is drowned out by Carol’s dogged insistence and Sam and Anna’s voluble eagerness, his reluctant capitulation something he comes to regret when neither of the young lovers makes it back to the meeting point, one of them quite demonstratively, and messily, dead.)
Their one heart to heart of sorts, where Rick shared tenderly and with grief still clearly red raw (watch out for the emotional walkers!) about Lori’s persistence in cooking pancakes despite her lack of talent in that regard sinply because she “wanted us to be a family who ate pancakes”, was a rare moment of semi-verbosity from a man who was otherwise lost deep in thought for much of the episode.
Carol, for her part, took every chance she could to plead her shaky case, stressing that she did what she did for the group as a whole, fearful that Karen and David were a threat and had to be dispensed with by any and all means.
“You don’t have to like what I did, Rick. I don’t but you do have to accept it.” (Carol)
Or you don’t,Carol, and Rick, well, did NOT.
After listening to Carol justify herself into intricate pretzel shapes worthy of a yoga master, Rick looked her in the eye as they began to pack up to go home and asserted that Karen and David might have survived – the case for this is the fact that all the infected back at the prison are still alive, something we see in a quick scene at the start where Carol rather ominously farewells Lizzie (and encourages her to get all gung ho with a knife if needed … AGAIN) – and that taking them out of the equation in the brutal manner she did was not her decision to make.
Carol did counter that Rick has killed a member of the group too, referencing Shane of course, but Rick would have none of that, asserting quite correctly that his once close friend has tried to kill them and his killing was an act of self-defense.
Just like me, chimed in Carol, which earned a quick, and dismissive “No” from a she-doesn’t-get-it Rick.
Whatever the moral equivalency of their actions, Rick had made his mind up, and making it clear that Carol had no say in the matter, exiled her from the group, pointing out as further evidence he was doing the right thing that Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) would kill her as soon as he found out she was the murderer and no one else in the group would want her around even if by some miracle he did let her live.
Of course, Carol, who admitted to Rick while they gathered tomatoes rather pastorally in a vegie patch, that she was “stupid” to have once been so weak and was proud of her new Armadillo-like toughness, knew he was right.
Spent from her vigorous counter-arguments, she responded only with a timid “It’s me Rick” before giving him her watch – he had lost his to the now presumably lost Sam – and hopping into a dusty, well stocked car, driving into what passes for the sunset on The Walking Dead.
It was elegant, poetic and far more tragic in its own way that simply having Carol killed.
She is now separated from the group that gave her safety and a reason to be – the fact that she will miss Lizzie and Mika terribly despite her coldness towards them at times (she tells Lizzie at the start of the episode to not call her “Mom”) was evident in her request to take them with her; Rick swatted that one down with an incredulous “NO” – fated to re-live her ill-thought out actions back at the prison, again and again, with no forgiveness or absolution from Rick, or any of the people she claimed to be protecting.
He was not quite back to being hard-ass Rick, countering her assertion that he was acting like the Ricktator again, by assuring her he was doing this off his own bat, and not as spokesman for the group, clearly no longer able to trust this once trusted member of his group around.
And so she went, saved in a way by Rick whose just actions, though necessary were mercifully delivered, all things considered.
Meanwhile Daryl (Norman Reedus), a visibly angry Tyreese (whose rage might get him killed if he’s not careful), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) finally found themselves a car – after they lost their last ride in a bumpy bog full of snapping walkers – at a ramshackle country garage overgrown with vines.
Realising the battery is shot, they began hacking their way through the thick tangle of vines into the building to get another, only to have Tyreese almost bring a whole mess of country bumpkin walkers down upon them when he angrily slashes through the wires holding the doors shut (anger is Tyreese’s default position these days; at least until Michonne sets him right with some brusque but needed to be heard words).
While the others quickly dispatch their attacking walkers (all part of a family group who committed suicide, who decided to go out “kum ba yah” style according to a disapproving Daryl who clearly hated what he perceived to be their deplorable lack of a will to fight for their lives) – is there anything more balletic than Michonne’s almost nonchalant swinging of her katana blade? – Tyreese hung on to this bundle of undead aggro, refusing to let go, determined to have it out with him.
Clearly the man wasn’t letting his anger do his thinking for him and doesn’t come around till Michonne, exasperated at his stupidity, gives him the aforementioned what for.
“I get that you’re pissed off and you have every reason to be. But anger makes you stupid and stupid gets you killed.” (Michonne)
With Tyreese sorted, and the needed drugs and medical equipment obtained at the vet hospital, it’s now up to Bob, battling with the bottle Bob, to come close to dooming them all.
Secreting alcohol in his backpack, he slows them down almost fatally after a pack of pursuing zombies (a number of them displaying the same weeping blood out of various orifices infection as the one ravaging the prison; a fearsomely worrying sign indeed) grab his bag and he fights back for it you assume because it contains life-saving drugs.
Oh no, no NO, alas NO.
All it has is alcohol and he could have just let it go, with the group merrily on their way.
But he needs a drink, in his mind at least, and almost loses his life and those of his companions.
It’s a stupid, rash move but nothing, seriously nothing compared to when he reaches for his gun as Daryl takes umbrage at his weakness in risking the group’s survival over a bottle of alcohol.
Bob, you’re seriously going to take on Daryl – who by the way has got a whole kinda cute flirting thing going on with Michonne, hinting at a rather kickass romance to come perhaps – I mean really Bob? Are you mad?!
If only for the intervention of a now much calmer Tyreese, who has the cred given what he’s been through, to talk Daryl down from his barely contained rage, Bob would have been shoved off the awning and become walker chow.
It was a tense, beautifully executed moment and put Bob on the outer with the people he was so desperately trying to call his new family.
Suddenly his admission that he was the last survivor of two other groups – he called himself “cursed” as a witness – makes perfect sense; could it be that he is an accidental angel of death thanks to his inability to control his cravings and thus inadvertently threatening others in whatever group he happens to be in at the time?
Certainly Daryl seems to think so and I imagine it will only take one more weak-willed decision by Bob for him to be taken down by Daryl.
Refreshingly “Indifference”, which seemed to be all about letting go of the things that ail you (goodbye Carol, welcome Tyreese and WTF Bob), took place largely out of the prison, which is increasingly looking like a straitjacket on The Walking Dead‘s dramatic forward momentum.
(Whether their one time sanctuary, which is increasingly looking like a cross between a slum, a nineteenth century mental health facility and an abattoir, will be jettisoned isn’t known but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is left behind at some point soon.)
On the whole, “Indifference” was a well-executed, a fetching balance of character exposition and blood-curdling action, a clear sign if anyone needed it, that the great moral conundrums of being alive in an age of apocalypse are not going away anytime soon.
Here’s a great pic from AMC’s Twitter feed …