‘The Walking Dead’ Plumbs The Bottom Depths Of Darkness In This Week’s Traumatizing Episode

For a drama that drew us to it in large part because of the the fantastic gore, the special effects, and the zombie stomping, it’s ironic that two of the most — if not the most — harrowing moments of the entire The Walking Dead happened off screen. Thank God, too, because it’s a horrifying thing to know a child has been killed — and to see the blood of the aftermath — but it’s quite another to watch it happen. In the most gut-punching episode of this season of The Walking Dead, Scott Gimple — who wrote the brilliant episode — pulled no punches, but he held back a pinky finger, and I’m actually grateful the series spared us from the kill shots.

Mika and Lizzie Samuels did not survive “The Grove.” Mika died because she was too nice for this zombie dystopia, and Lizzie died because she was too horrible for it. We’d seen the signs, of course. The lines had already began to blur for Lizzie back in the prison, when she was naming walkers. She’s just a kid, of course, and the trauma of losing her father, and seeing him turn, and then to see him die a second time was too much for Lizzie. There was something already strangely twisted about the way she looked up to the very woman who had snuffed out her father’s re-animated life. That, on top of the fact that the walkers were all around them, had created too much familiarity for Lizzie. She stopped being afraid of the walkers. She began to sympathize with them, to care for them, to feel something for the undead.

Somewhere along the way, Lizzie’s brain broke. Alive, dead, and undead all became twisted in her mind. She detached from reality. We saw it when she nearly suffocated Judith. It wasn’t entirely because Judith’s crying had created a threat, it was also because Lizzie didn’t see anything wrong with a zombie baby. In “The Grove” last night, she prevented Tyreese from taking out a walker who posed no threat because she felt something for it, and when finally Lizzie was forced to shoot walkers to spare her sister later in the episode, Lizzie “knew what she had to do.”

What neither we nor Carol understood, however, was that Lizzie thought what she needed to do was to prove to everyone that the walkers were not, in fact, a threat. So she killed Mika. She stabbed her sister. Not with malice, but with hope. With no concern that Mika would stop being her sister, and with every belief that everything would be the same, save for the fact that Mika might be a little slower, a little hungrier, a little less articulate.

Jesus, what a moment.

Carol did what she had to do, of course. The only thing she could do. Because that’s the woman that Carol has evolved into. As she did when she killed Karen and David, Carol killed Lizzie, ending the life of the girl she’d considered her surrogate daughter. She did it because Lizzie couldn’t be trusted around anyone ever again. She did it to save herself, to save baby Judith, and to save Tyreese. She made a decision no one, even in the zombie apocalypse, should ever have to make: She killed a child who was too far gone to make it in that world. Carol put a bullet in Lizzie’s head as she looked at the flowers.

That’s f**ked up, people.

With that barely behind her, Carol confessed to Tyreese that she had killed his girlfriend. Tyreese, who a day earlier had dreams of living a peaceful life in that house with Carol, Lizzie, Mika, and Judith as his family, found it within him to forgive Carol. He understood why Carol had killed Karen, because he’d just witnessed her make the same brutally difficult decision to end the life of Lizzie. She didn’t do it because she’s a bad person, or a cold-blooded one. She did it to protect the living.

As Tyreese had suggested earlier, “the people who are living are haunted by the dead.” No one, it seems, is as haunted as Carol, who has lost a husband, who has lost a daughter, and who lost two girls she loved and vowed to protect. Carol is saddled with more weight and more guilt than anyone should have to bear. Tyreese’s forgiveness is small consolation, but at least it’s something.

What an episode.

Random Observations

— Melissa McBride is absolutely killing it this season. Literally no one on this show has evolved as much as Carol, and I have to remind myself sometimes that, four seasons ago, Carol was a meek, stepped-upon, kind-hearted character who had allowed herself to be controlled by her abusive husband. Daryl’s redneck past may have made him perfectly suited to the zombie apocalypse, but the zombie apocalypse itself transformed Carol into the same kind of person, perfectly suited to that life. She and Daryl really are meant for one another.

— Likewise, Chad Coleman was terrific in last night’s episode, and I think for the first time I finally thought of him as Tyreese, and not Cutty from The Wire.

— I guess they lost a day or two, but it appears that Tyreese and Carol are not too far behind Daryl, who could possibly be responsible for the fire that Carol and Tyreese saw in the distance.

— So much for part of that Bob theory. The immune part hasn’t been completely ruled out, but any notion that Bob was using rats or rabbits to experiment on a cure was put to rest once we learned, for sure, that Lizzie had been behind feeding the rats to the zombies.

— One of the things I really liked about this episode is that it demonstrated that Scott Gimple really had planned it out well in advance. He’d been building the Lizzie character up for this moment since the opening episode of the fourth season. I’m sure if we went back and rewatched it, we might even pick up some more troubling signs.

— Was that the darkest moment of the entire series? According to AMC’s poll, it was. Unanimously.

— Here’s a moment of levity to go out on, from The Talking Dead. It’s much needed after that episode.