A review of tonight's “The Walking Dead” coming up just as soon as I offer to take the top bunk…
Given the way the last few episodes had been structured, I assumed we would eventually get an episode like “Consumed,” which would both explain how Carol wound up in the hospital with Beth and reveal who was with Daryl in the woods after Bob died. I still think the editing on the latter scene was awkward, but I don't know that having Tyler James Williams emerge from the woods with Daryl would have had any more impact on the audience than us being left to wonder who else was out there in the night. But in terms of the timeline, three of our four main story threads have tied together now, as we're all caught up on things at the hospital, with Daryl, and with Rick's group at the church. Now it's just a matter of staging a daring assault on the hospital, and whether Abraham's shell-shocked group will make it back in time to be of some use in the matter.
More than any episode so far this season, “Consumed” felt like a throwback to those wandering hours from last spring: two characters isolated from the rest of the group, musing on who they used to be and how the apocalypse has changed them, occasionally running afoul of walkers, and slowly but surely making their way towards linking up with other lost members of the flock. In this case, our group in miniature was made up of two of the show's most interesting characters, played by two of its best actors, and even if there hadn't been car crashes and fighting and whatnot, I think The Carol and Daryl(*) Power Hour would've been pretty darned compelling.
(*) As a child of the '80s, every time I see their names together, I think of the line in Run-DMC's “It's Tricky” where they complain about the girl named Carol who follows Darryl to every gig they play. (“Then D dissed her and dismissed her; now she's jocking Jay.”)
The device of intercutting Carol's current adventures with tragedies and violence in her recent past (being exiled by Rick, burying the little girls, the aftermath of her one-woman assault on Terminus) had me a little concerned that we were heading towards Carol's death. And that may still happen – given how well fortified the hospital is, and that the group all survived their captivity at Terminus, odds are someone we know isn't making it out of a similar situation twice in short order – but it's less of a binary decision than when it seemed like only one of Beth or Carol would be in the woods with Daryl. Given all the talk in the episode about how much Carol has transformed from the mousy abuse victim we met in the quarry, the show probably could have stood to expand those flashbacks at least back to season 1, but I don't know how logistically difficult that might have been. As it is, McBride's a good enough actress, and the sequence in the battered woman's shelter written well enough – particularly in the silent sequence where Daryl takes care of the woman and kid who suffered such a horrible fate in a place where they thought they'd be safe – to get the point across.
As for the action sequences? It seems pretty ridiculous that the two of them would escape that van crash with only minor injuries, especially since Carol's seat had no air bag. But the idea of them being in such desperate circumstances that they would view the Thelma & Louise approach as their only option made the scene work despite that. I'm also trying to figure out exactly how all those people got turned into zombies while zipped into tents and sleeping bags that were largely undamaged – were they all bitten but not killed, after which they all zipped in for a good night's sleep? – even though the imagery of them writhing around inside the camping gear was creepy.
It's a transitional episode, but also a strong character piece – and one I'm hoping doesn't signal the beginning of the end of Carol's tenure on the show. Once upon a time, I couldn't imagine caring this much about her staying alive. But as she and Daryl discuss at length here, they've changed a lot from who and what they were.
Before we go to the comments, it's time once again to explain how this blog's No Spoiler rule applies to this show:
1. No talking about the previews for the next episode.
2. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources – and, yes, that includes anything Gimple and Kirkman have said in interviews.
3. No talking about anything that's happened in the comic that hasn't happened in the TV show yet. (Or anything that's been revealed, like character backstory and motivation.) As with “Game of Thrones,” the goal is to treat “The Walking Dead” TV show as exactly that, and not as an excuse for endless comparisons with the comics. If you want to talk about the comics, feel free to start up a discussion thread on our message boards.
With that in mind, what did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org