Carol and Rick clash on a decisive episode of The Walking Dead

What does the worst episode of season 4 of The Walking Dead look like? Still pretty darn good, and it includes the biggest shake-up to the series since Carl had to give his mother a post-natal bullet to the head.

Having just learned that Carol did in fact kill and then burn the bodies of David and Karen, Rick decides it’s time for them to go get some supplies — partially because Daryl and the others are late, having gotten their car stuck in a valley full of zombies, and partially because the plague effectively destroyed the food they kept in cellblock D. The episode starts with a wonderful scene where Rick goes to get gas for the car, and has to go get the tank Carol used for her murder; Rick imagines the crime scene all while Carol is telling little Lizzy about how she has to be strong while in the quarantine and be ready to kill. It’s pretty great.

They travel to a suburban cul-de-sac and start rooting for medicine and food while Carol explains her actions. They would have choked on their own blood anyways. They could have gotten everyone else sick, including Carl and Judith. Carol did it for the safety of the group. She has no qualms. Rick stays mostly silent, taking it in. Eventually they find two sweet kids hiding in a house who might as well have been wearing shirts that said, “WE ARE NICE AND GOING TO DIE AND MAKE YOU SAD.”


Immediately Rick goes into moral quandary mode, trying to figure out if they can be trusted, trying to weigh the safety of the group versus the clearly imminent demise to two dumb, too nice kids. Carol has the solution — let them search some of the houses for supplies for two hours as well, and then Rick and Carol can pick them up. The kids are happy to volunteer to do this — they so want to be useful.

Meanwhile, Daryl, Tyreese, Michonne and Bob are still on the hunt for the badly needed medicine at the veterinary school. This requires 1) finding a new car, 2) fighting some zombies, 3) getting a new battery for the car, 4) driving to the school, 5) getting all the medicine, and 6) fighting more zombies. Which they do, admist a few moments of character development for everybody. It’s clumsy and the dialogue is pretty on-the-nose, but compared to early seasons it’s still wonderfully improved. Anyways, Tyreese is furious that they were delayed and his sister is thus probably dead. Michonne tries to tell him to let go, which leads her to finally give up hunting the Governor, so that’s good. Bob Stookey admits to Daryl that he broke the shelves back in the season premiere by picking up a bottle of booze, setting it down too hard, causing the shelves to crash, attracting the zombies, and thus getting Beaver from Veronica Mars killed. Daryl answers with a perfect, “That’s bullshit.”

Somehow, this confession and forgiveness leads to Bob immediately picking up a random bottle of booze he finds at the school instead of medicine — as opposed to “in addition to” — a ruse that’s quickly discovered when zombies grab his bag and Bob refuses to let it go. When Daryl discovers the bottle, he goes into Enraged Redneck Fight Mode, which involves him mostly pressing his face right next to Bob’s and breathing heavy. Daryl’s pissed because 1) Bob had severely endangered the group for his own selfish reasons, and 2) Bob literally confessed about the booze thing and hour ago and somehow managed to do the exact same thing again an hour later. It’s forced and easily the worst part of the episode, but again, given what we’ve been through, it’s not that big a deal.

Meanwhile, Rick and Carol continue to argue and discuss what Carol did. The arguments are cogent and reasonable and it’s not a question easily answered. Carol points out that Rick killed one of the group once — Shane. “He was going to kill me,” Rick explains. “So were they,” Carol replies, meaning Owen and Beru Karen and David. The only thing that stops them arguing is discovering the freshly severed limb of the girl they just met; Rick is aghast, but Carol doesn’t even shrug, she just moves on. They wait for the boy — well after two hours — at which point Rick tells Carol she needs to leave the group.

Here’s why this scene was both important and well done, when it’s so similar to all the other “humanity vs. safety” conundrums the show has posed over the last few seasons: Rick isn’t making an all-defining moral judgment against Carol. He’s not even saying she isn’t right. All he is deciding is that he feels he has to tell the group what she did — that he can’t hide her secret. Given Rick’s journey back from the Great Rickator and Noted Lunatic, this is simple and meaningful and a good sign.

He doesn’t order Carol to go as much as advise her to, because when he learns she’s the killer, Tyreese will kill her, definitely. Even if he somehow doesn’t, the group will be appalled. Yes, Carol was doing the smart thing, but she wasn’t doing the humane thing — if only because David and Karen might have, against all odds, gotten better. So Carol decides to leave. She takes a few of the supplies, gives Rick her watch — Rick having given his to the boy so he’d know when to meet them — and drives away. And so the group, as well as The Walking Dead, loses one of its most integral characters.

This is quite a shake-up, and while there’s no guarantee Carol will ever come back, the fact that she leaves alive does leave the possibility of her returning. But still, it’s a great scene with two characters who are wholly justified in their actions, with a conflict that presents no easy answers. Carol was just doing what she thought needed to be done. Just like Rick telling the others who the murderer was is something he thinks needs to be done.

Carol and Rick clash on a decisive episode of The Walking DeadS

Assorted Musings:

• Andrew Lincoln is so damn good playing Rick when he’s not talking. I don’t know if he’s just really good at conveying thoughts and emotions without dialogue, or if he’s bad at dialogue, or the writers are trusting him more, but everything Lincoln did in that opening was perfect, and he never said a word.

• Other than when Rick and Carol leave it at the beginning of the episode, “Indifferent” completely avoids the prison. Three cheers for the showrunner who realized not everyone needs to be in every episode, especially if they don’t have anything important to do.

• Daryl does a lot of the car engine work while smoking a lit cigarette. I’m pretty sure that’s a bad idea.

• Also, why did Daryl et al. check the radio again in their new car for that mysterious radio signal that caused them to nearly crash in the first place?

• Anyone else think Carol was going to try to kill Rick?

• Daryl’s already in a bad mood from the Bob incident; something tells me he’s not going to like hearing that Carol left. Him tracking her could be a way to bring her back.

• Also, it’s clear that Carol’s legacy of pragmatic murder will continue thanks to her protégé Lizzy. I wonder how Rick will deal with a kid killing people, especially given Carl’s past actions. Or maybe Carl will be the one to deal with it…