The Walking Dead: The Grove

Tyreese: “The whole world is haunted now.”

What better way to show that the world is irreversibly “effed” than to show how it will impact children? And the children in this episode are shown in opposition - the sweet one, continuing to believe in the good of the world and the deranged one who has embraced the ugliness to the point of no return. This episode was woven into the ongoing theme of how the end of the world would fundamentally change us despite our attempts to try to hold onto civilization and our humanity. Most post-apocalyptic scenarios have plucky human survivors who somehow overcome the odds to restart civilization but The Walking Dead challenges that conception to look at the reality that such an event might create. When we watch post-apocalyptic scenarios we mostly see ourselves as the survivors but this show continues to make the point that the survivors are often worse off than the dead.

Tyreese, Carol and the children are “dead on their feet” and by what seems a miracle, they find a farmhouse with a grove of pecan trees. The house is untouched with good water and even gas for the stove. It is so idyllic that Carol and Tyreese consider staying there for good or at least a little while. Unfortunately, the ‘bad things’ are with them, inside Lizzie. There were many hints that Lizzie was unhinged. Her relationship with the walkers was an interesting way to think about how a child might cope with all the horror and death. Instead of seeing the walkers as a threat she sees them as her friends or pets. I could see why this might make sense to a child. Lizzie has turned things upside down and is willing to kill people if they are a threat but hesitates to kill walkers who she seems to see as kindred spirits. Mica, on the other hand has a clear idea of the situation, far clearer than you would expect for her age. She still draws the line at killing people. She is sweet but tough particularly when it comes to walkers. It almost seemed inevitable that Mica had to die, not because she was sweet, she would have toughened up, but because she symbolized a possible human future, a link with children and innocence from the past. This does not bode well for Judith. What kind of child will she be?

My heart broke for Carol in this episode (and kudos to Melissa McBride for her acting). She hasn’t always been my favourite character and I didn’t agree with her actions at the prison but she will make the hard decisions and take the actions no one else can. Watching her face was fascinating as throughout the episode, Tyreese talked about Karen and Carol tried to decide whether to tell him the truth. You could see the struggle and the pain on her face. And then when they came back to find Mica murdered by Lizzie she kept her cool and dealt with that horrific situation. She was the one who had to take Lizzie out into the field and kill her. If they were to save Judith there was no other way but it must have cost Carol deeply. When she finally did tell Tyreese the truth, I was sure that she was hoping that he would kill her. Tyreese in his own way set aside his feelings for Judith’s survival. He may have wanted to kill Carol for what she did but that would also have meant the death of Judith and because of his agreement with Carol on the necessity of killing Lizzie, he must have gained some understanding of her actions. You can see the terrible costs of staying at The Grove weighing on both Tyreese and Carol as they walk away on the tracks.

Bits and Pieces

The scene where Carol talks about Sophia reminded me of how much has happened in a short time.

I always watch the episodes twice. It was very difficult to watch the beginning of this episode knowing the end.

I’m sure there were people wondering why there was still gas for the stove. Where I live there are farms that have their own gas wells.

I was so sad to see Mica go. She would have grown up to be a kick-ass young woman with her head on as straight as it could be in the circumstances.

The lovely interlude with Carol and Tyreese in the forest juxtaposed to the scene of Lizzie standing in front of a dead Mica made it all the more horrifying. The look on Lizzie’s face capped it off.

For those who read the graphic novels this wasn’t as much a surprise as it must have been for everyone else. I was just glad I have read them so I didn’t end up bawling my eyes out.

Things I could live without - the bleakness of this episode (I know it’s important but still...), the crispy walkers, Lizzie covered in blood and sobbing.

Quotes

Carol: “She didn’t have a mean bone in her body.”
Lizzie: “Is that why she isn’t here now?”

Carol: “...you’re little and you’re sweet and those are two things that can get you killed.” (Interesting that these weren’t really the things that got her killed.)

Carol: “People came in and killed our friends.”
Mica: “And I feel sorry for them.”
Carol: “Why?”
Mica: “Because they probably weren’t like that before.”

Tyreese: “Stand strong little lady.”

Lizzie: “She was my friend and you killed her.”

Mica: “When we were giving them names we were just pretending things weren’t bad. Things are bad. Those things are bad. They are. We can’t pretend anymore.”
Lizzie: “I’m not pretending. You were.”

Lizzie: “I can make you all understand.”

Tyreese: “The people who are living are haunted by the dead.”

Tyreese: “I forgive you. I’m never gonna forget.”

Carol: “Just look at the flowers."

11 comments:

Jess Lynde said...

I’ve been looking forward to your take on this one, Doc. Based on some of your past reviews, I could see you being really put off by the direction things went, so I was curious to see which way you’d fall. Great review, as always.

I thought this was a fantastic and incredibly difficult episode. It hit me hard enough that I had to watch The Talking Dead afterward to decompress a little bit. The funny thing is that I’ve been expecting something horrible like this to transpire with those girls all season, and yet was still entirely unprepared when it did.

So many kudos to Melissa McBride. She’s always been very good, but she was really, really excellent this week. Carol’s pain and regret was pretty much the entire reason I found this episode so affecting. That, and Tyreese’s reaction to her confession. For the practical reasons you noted, I didn’t expect him to kill her after learning the truth, but his offer of forgiveness was a lovely and unexpected moment of grace. Something positive that came from all the horror and tragedy, and a really wonderful moment for both characters. Now they can move forward together with mutual understanding. “It’s ugly and it’s scary and it does change you. But that’s how we get to be here.” Great stuff.

Surprisingly, I was rather sad to see Mika go, too. She managed to grow on me in this episode, and I felt rather gut-punched to see her lying there dead. The death of another sweet, hopeful girl makes me wonder even more about what awful fate Beth has met or may be enduring. The hopeful ones always seem to get smacked down or killed.

I felt really awful for the baby playing Judith in that front yard scene where Mika kills the walker. That whole scenario must have been really confusing and incredibly stressful for that poor little one. (Side note: I think they changed babies on us. This Judith doesn’t quite look like the same kid who was banging cups together back in 4.2.)

Freeman said...

I liked the "point" of this episode. Over and over again I see other people complaining about how there's been so little action recently but really all these recent apisodes have been my jam. Real dark, real depressing, real real.

Probably my least favorite thing about the episode was the fact that Tyreese was in it. He just hasn't clicked with me yet. All of the new characters have, just not him. And it kinda bugs me that he goes on and on about Karen, whom he met like what, a month ago, and he hasn't even mentioned his sister's potential fate? His sister spent the whole time worrying about him but I don't think he's mentioned her once. You wouldn't even think they're related. I guess it would be rather redundant storytelling-wise but at least let him say anything about her.

Then again, I feel this episode resolved the "Tyreese angst" rather well. Maybe now he'll have more to do in the series. This episode showed Tyreese's potential leadership skills on display at least. He was able to put aside his feelings for the bigger picture.

Jess Lynde said...

Freeman, I'm with you on the "not mentioning his sister" thing --- the same thing bugged me with Maggie last week --- but in fairness to Tyreese, he and Karen first met at least 6 months ago (back at Woodbury), and could have been coupled up through a decent chunk of that season gap. He clearly had deep feelings for her. I know it doesn't seem like it, but her death was only 1 to 1.5 weeks ago for him (roughly). It makes sense that he'd still be deep in mourning and having nightmares. Especially with how he found her and with so many questions regarding what happened to her. I'm hopeful he can start healing now and focusing forward, taking Carol's example to heart.

(These timeline issues really muck up the impact of the overall storytelling sometimes. If the audience can't keep track of or internalize how much time has passed, it can make it really hard to buy in and respond to the emotional space the characters would naturally be in. It's fascinating and frustrating.)

topher darling said...

I too am glad I read the graphic novels ahead of time but it still shocked me. I think I've underestimated Melissa McBride because she was absolutely outstanding in the episode with the weight she carried. After everything she's been through, I almost thought it would be a mercy killing if Tyrese had killed her.

On a lighter note, my friend watched Of Mice and Men earlier in the day. At the end of the Walking Dead, she exclaimed, "They Lenny'd Lizzie."

Scott Riggan said...

After Lizzie's freak out over her "friend," she said she knew what she had to do now. Did anyone else shudder? Carol and Tyreese both heard "I understand I have to avoid walkers now" but she clearly meant "I have to prove that walkers are our friends."

I really expected that she would kill herself to prove her point, so I was shocked when it became clear what she actually did.

drnanamom said...

It is interesting that even as I was writing this week's review I kept remembering that scene from last week. @Scott I shuddered as well and kept hoping that Mica would tell someone about the things her sister was doing.

Anonymous said...

Just watched this.. in the last scene, anyone else felt like they were leaving without Judith??

Elfie said...

Gosh this episode was so, so bleak. It was intelligent and it hit really hard, and I know it's necessary but it is another episode that makes me wonder WHY AGAIN DO I WATCH THIS SHOW? All the good people die, the babies die, the little kids die, the old men die, everyone whose ever left an impact on the audience ever -- dies. I've also been spoiled about a certain character death (I won't mention who, I know how you guys are about spoilers.) but it just drives home the fact that this show is awfully depressing. Someone explain to me, what exactly the writers are trying to achieve here? I mean... What is the message? Reality sucks? We know that already! Don't get me wrong, I love realistic portrayed television but it's TELEVISION for a reason, can we please have something at least a tinge less dismal? I don't know, you guys. I'm just sick and tired of this gut-wrenching stuff.

Mica was such a good, brave girl. She would grow to be someone kickass and level-headed as you mentioned. Sad to see her go. Lizzie was obviously too far gone. What pained me the most, however, was how Carol and Tyreese were on a random stroll outside. Once again, I must suspend disbelief to believe that these two mature adults would leave these two fragile little girls alone with the freaking baby!? It makes no sense. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but it irks me no less.

Also, Anon, you aren't the only one who thought they were leaving without Judith. I didn't see the baby either.

Jess Lynde said...

The "dismal" and "gut-wrenching" aspects are definitely a deal breaker for a lot of folks, Elfie. I constantly wrestle with the "why do I watch this show?!" question. I guess some of us find enough glimmers of hope to keep hanging in there, or find the group's ability to keep going through all the misery hopeful in itself. And some of us are gluttons for punishment. It can certainly be damn depressing. And that seems pretty baked into the show's DNA, so I doubt it will ever change. Characters we've grown to like are always going to die and the ones left behind will struggle. You'll have to figure out where the "I like these characters, but I just can't watch them suffer anymore" line falls for you.

Strangely, I haven't reached that point yet. I've been wondering how long I'd be able to take the misery since mid-Season 3, and I fully expected to hit the wall long before now, but I just haven't yet. There's always something around the edges of the death and misery that keeps me not just hanging in with the show, but eagerly anticipating it. My husband thinks I'm a nutter. :)

Lamounier said...

Wow, Carol. Just wow. Major kudos to Melissa McBride. She killed it, no pun intended.

I was mildly bored at some parts of the episode, but those last ten/fifteen minutes were very powerful television. They didn’t back away. They had Carol kill a young girl! I think this is the darkest scenario the show has come up with so far.

This story was just another examination of how these characters don’t have the “luxuries” we have when we live in a functional society. I mean, what would we do with a psycho kid? Try and help them become a healthy adult. Carol and Tyreese can’t do that, though, so Carol has to put Lizzie down, no matter how much that costs her.

Sad to see Mica go. For a moment, I thought Carol would let zombie Mica live and lock her up with Lizzie or something.

Did the director just forget to have Judith with Carol and Tyreese on the final shot? That was somewhat disturbing.

Billie Doux said...

I thought one of them had Judith in a backpack or a frontpack.