‘The Walking Dead’ 5×6: Consumed

Carol on The Walking Dead.

Carol on The Walking Dead.

Every Sunday, I watch the new episode of The Walking Dead with Ed, the guy who sleeps on my couch. It’s a real pain in my ass, because Ed never pays attention and needs everything explained to him. Also, he’s a zombie.

Ed: Grrrr, argh?

Me: OK, so this opening bit is a flashback, taking us all the way back to when Rick kicked Carol out of the group. Looks like we’re finally going to get to see how she survived all that time before joining up with Tyreese, Lizzie and Mika.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Remember this, back in the prison? Rick kicked her out because she unilaterally decided to kill and burn some of the people dying from the plague—including Tyreese’s girlfriend—in what she thought was the best way to protect everyone else. Rick was nice about it, but was clear that he didn’t want her there anymore. So she took off in that station wagon, and we didn’t see her again until after the Governor raided the prison.

Ed: Grrr. Argh.

Me: Right, and now we see that’s what brought Carol back, seeing the smoke rising from the prison after the Gov’s men hit it with their tank.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: And now we’re back in the present. Well, the present-ish. The show has branched off into a bunch of parallel storylines once again. Carol and Daryl are currently chasing a car with a white cross taped to the rear window to look for Beth, who was kidnapped in a car with a similar cross. They took off in pursuit after Rick’s party started camping out in the church, but before they killed the crazy Terminus cannibals and then Abraham & co. lit out for D.C. Meanwhile, Beth is in that hospital in Atlanta, and has just seen Carol brought in on a stretcher—which means everything in this episode also predates the end of “Slabtown.”

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: They’re pretty clearly headed to Atlanta. The driver’s one of the cops who are in control of the hospital, Grady Memorial. They’re on the outskirts of the city somewhere now, which is how Carol knows her way around—at some point before the apocalypse she and Sophia stayed there in this “temporary housing,” i.e. a shelter for battered women.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Well, we don’t really know what Carol’s deal is at this point. That’s what this episode is all about. She was changed by what happened with Lizzie, then she became a crazy badass, and lately she’s been acting pretty weird. She keeps saying she doesn’t know what she was up to when Daryl found her gassing up the car, but it sure seemed like she was about to take off on her own again. Also it’s completely obvious that she’s in love with Daryl, even though the show keeps acting like it’s some deep dark secret.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Now we get a brief flashback to Tyreese and Carol burying the bodies of Mika and Lizzie, before returning to the present, where she’s packing The Adventures of Tom Sawyer into her bag. This was the book that she used to read to the kids, including crazypants Lizzie and doomed Mika, back in the prison. Seems she’s been carrying it around ever since.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Well, there are lots of ways to take the reference. When it was connected to the kids, it seemed more like a story about how children can be cleverer than adults. But we know how that storyline turned out. Now, in Carol’s hands, it resonates more as a tale rife with moral ambiguity. Not to mention a story about someone who returns to life after everyone thought he was dead.

Ed: Grrr. Argh.

Me: Yeah, who wouldn’t get a kick out of Daryl Dixon the art critic? It does emphasize what he’s saying about starting over, though. The two of them come from different backgrounds, which their divergent approaches to abstract art underscores. But now they’re the same. Do we really think it’s possible to go back to a time when they weren’t? Why would we want to?

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: The enterprising young thief is Noah, Beth’s friend from the hospital. She got caught, and got roughed up pretty well by Officer Nutbar, but he managed to hobble his way out. He’s actually a good guy; he’s just doing what he has to to survive. Like they all are.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Well, we know that Daryl was abused by his alcoholic father when he was a kid, and it’s implied that Merle might have whaled on him some too. The fact that he took the book is evidence that Daryl has changed too—he’s been pretty closed off to even thinking about this until now. And Carol has something to do with this change: their shared history of abuse is a deeper part of what bonds them.

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: This is back in the prison, when Carol made her solo decision to burn the plague sufferers. Note how all of these turning points in Carol’s recent past seem to involve columns of smoke? As she says later on, they’re successive layers of her personality burning away. But, Daryl answers: “We ain’t ashes.”

Ed: Grrr. Argh.

Me: That was a neat trick with the van, alright. The only question is, which one of them is Thelma and which Louise?

Ed: Grrr, argh?

Me: Aaaand that’s how Carol ended up on that stretcher. The Grady Memorial cops hit her with their car. There’s a weird symmetry here: Daryl lost both Beth and Carol just by staying behind for a brief second. And now we know that the person in the woods with Daryl three episodes ago must have been Noah. They’re returning to the church to convince Rick and crew to invade the hospital, so that Daryl can get both of his girlfriends back.

‘The Walking Dead’ 5×6: Consumed