Spoiler Alert: If you aren’t caught up on The Walking Dead, and if you don’t want to know about Carol in the comic book, read no further.
No character on The Walking Dead has experienced a more interesting transformation than Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), and no season has meant more to her transformation than Season 5. With that in mind, we looked at some of Carol’s defining moments from this past season and make the case for why she is — like Daryl, Michonne, and Rick — unkillable.
Someone who does what needs to be done.
Slowed and gutted by the death of Lizzie and Mika at the close of Season 4, Carol somehow became a fearless one-woman invading force in the season premiere, setting off a domino effect with an explosion and some sharpshooting that helped Rick, Bob, Daryl, and Glenn escape the slaughterhouse and get to the others on the freight car.
By the episode’s end, Carol had reunited with Daryl and the group in a heavy moment that finally stitched her wound (she had been exiled from the group by Rick for exterminating Karen and David in the early days of the flu outbreak). It was an instance where Carol did something extreme that no one else was willing to do, and she had to do the same when she executed Lizzie beside the flowers after the girl had killed her sister Mika.
Since Season 4, Carol has been willing to do the dirty work that must be done. She will cover herself in zombie guts to blend in with the dead for the good of her friends, and she’ll cover herself in the clothes and persona of the fakely smiling victim she used to be to blend into Alexandria. Carol is the group’s protector, but she’s also someone with a lot of pain who feels as though she has to atone for her failure to protect Sophia, both from the presence of her abusive husband Ed and the viciousness of the new world.
“We ain’t ashes.”
In the sixth episode of Season 5, we got to know a bit about Carol’s journey, both before the post-apocalypse and during her exile. She learned that there is no time to feel sorry for herself when a walker violently makes its presence known. Carol stoically looked at Karen and David’s bodies and later dug a grave for Lizzie, and she collapsed while shedding her zombie-gut covered cloak in the woods outside of Terminus. The actress inside of Carol, Melissa McBride, is ceaseless in her ability to amaze, but she takes it to another level in that episode, specifically at the battered women’s shelter where we learn a little more about her relationship with Ed, and later when she confesses to Daryl that she feels as though the old version of her — both from her past life and the person she was at the prison — have burned away. To which he replies, “We ain’t ashes.”
So often, Scott Gimple and the show’s writers give a physical presence to the ghosts that their characters fear the most. How many walkers seem to look ever-so-slightly like recently departed characters? It’s something that was repeated twice with Maggie in the mid-season premiere, when the walker in the trunk and at the barn slightly resembled Beth’s physical characteristics, but with Carol at the shelter, it’s more heartbreaking. Behind frosted glass, a mother and a child moan and scratch to get out, the embodiment of what Carol and Sophia were. She wants to free them, but Daryl dissuades her. He knows what she sees, but he knows that it won’t help her open that door.
The walking dead.
The dynamic between Carol and Daryl is vital to the show. These characters have transcended trivial will-they/won’t-they bullsh*t to forge something real. They know each other, even though they’ve both experienced wholesale change since the start of the show. In a way, they’re like siblings who grew up together. When Carol sees that Daryl — the show’s resident badass — is hurting over the loss of Beth, and she gives him permission to grieve, it’s as powerful as it is sad when Carol confesses that she can’t allow it for herself, too. That’s how she gets by. That’s how she can kill a monster in a child’s clothing, that’s how she can go toward the smoke at the prison and the danger in Terminus, and that’s how she can smile and talk about missing Ed — “that stupid, wonderful man” — in Alexandria. Emotionally, Carol is the walking dead.
Carol’s continuing existence is in direct defiance of the comic canon of The Walking Dead, but in many ways, Carol’s second life — which began at the prison where the comic version of the character killed herself and left her daughter behind — makes her as useful to the writers as Daryl (a wholly original character) is when they need to differentiate between the two worlds. Specifically in Alexandria, where so much has seemingly followed the breadcrumbs left by the book.