It seems you simply can’t write an ongoing story set in the zombie apocalypse without making your characters look a little stupid on the regular. Last week we noted with some admiration and appreciation that the characters are finally not doing incredibly dumb, reckless and self-indulgent things every time they breathe, which was making it possible for us to really get to know (and subsequently root for and worry about, for the first time) these characters. A very welcome development in the show’s ongoing evolution. This week, however, we found ourselves wanting at least 3 of the characters to get eaten. And yet, as annoyed and angry as we were watching the hour (note we didn’t use the word “story) unfold last night, we have to admit, it kept us on the hook the entire time and we’re still mulling over some of the choices made, 12 hours after the episode ended. Sure, we wanted to hit Rick in the face with a cast iron frying pan, but we can’t forcefully come down for or against his actions. It’s too gray-area, which was obviously the intent. On that level, this episode worked tremendously well.
On the other hand, it gets harder and harder, 3+ seasons into the show and about two years in-story post-apocalypse (we’re guessing) to watch people like Tyreese wail and whine and generally put everyone around them in danger because of their self-indulgence. There’s a lot of death in this world. We don’t expect the characters to become immune to that, but Tyreese’s deep funk really annoyed us. Besides, it’s hard for us as audience members to truly feel for him when, to be perfectly honest, we can’t even remember his girlfriend’s name and probably wouldn’t be able to pick the actress out of a lineup. In other words, we’re being subjected to an awful lot of grief over someone we don’t even know or care about. Then there’s Bob the alcoholic who reaches for his gun when someone calls him out. Yeah. Let’s keep THAT guy in the group. Oh, and hey, new people who inexplicably survived all this time by being utterly stupid and useless, here’s a couple of guns. Why not come back to our secure prison home with us? Whoops. You’re dead.
That last one annoyed us most of all because it was merely a clumsy insertion into the action to make it seem like Rick was right and Carol was wrong. He didn’t want those two kids tagging along with them while they searched that neighborhood (with its oddly manicured lawns and yards) but for whatever reason, Carol insisted on it, conveniently giving Rick an example of her recklessness and heartlessness to throw back into her face. It was kind of a cheat, because the argument Rick and Carol were having was too evenly matched on both sides; a true moral dilemma. In order to make Rick not seem like a total asshole (too late, we’d argue) two meaningless characters had to die (or one, with the other presumed) in order to make Carol look that much worse in the end. Just like the meaningless character who died in order to give Tyreese a reason to be a big fat baby.
As for that argument, we thought it made for a pretty engrossing set of scenes, as Rick and Carol both go over their pasts, their losses, and the decisions they were forced to make in this new world. It was really wonderful work, and a testament to how far they’ve taken Carol (especially in the last few episodes). She was always the least-defined woman in a show somewhat famous for how badly the female characters are written and somehow, she’s turned into one of the most fascinating people in the story. We were wrong in our wild guess that she was covering for Carl or someone else, but we’re happy to be so, because a person standing on difficult principles is a better story than a murder mystery,
But in order to advance the plot and have her shoved out of the group – which is almost certainly the start of a larger story - Rick had to once again act like the biggest asshole on the planet. We could’ve accepted his decision if we didn’t have to spend so much fucking time on how he just hates having to make decisions and just wants to play farmer and if he wasn’t such a huge hypocrite about it. People died on Rick’s watch and some of them he murdered outright (at least two of the prisoners when they arrived at the prison, not to mention Shane – and he was arguably responsible for that guy’s death last season, when he drove away from him as he pleaded for them to wait for him, and then coldly picked up his fallen knapsack after he died). Not to mention his murderous son, who’s not going to get thrown out of the group any time soon. We could have accepted his decision if he acknowledged all that and simply said, “I know. It’s not my place to judge. But you’ll tear the group apart if you stay.” Instead of his moralizing about how he can’t trust her anymore. Oh, fuck you, Rick. We’re not sure if she did the right thing, but you’re exercising some HIGHLY arbitrary morality there if you think you can judge her for it.
But like we said, we’re pretty sure this is the start of a larger story and we’re willing to see where this is going. Carol’s never met the Governor and doesn’t know what he looks like. That alone is enough to tantalize us as she wanders Georgia on her own. Darryl’s certainly not going to appreciate Rick’s decision and neither will Tyreese, for that matter. We suppose it comes down to this: at its worst, this show subjected us to a bunch of annoying, poorly defined people doing dumb things in boring storylines. Last night, we watched people we’re getting to know really well argue with each other about difficult topics and make very hard decisions.
Yeah, some of them are assholes and most of the decisions were dumb, but we can’t complain about the storytelling, the direction, or the acting. It’s all keeping us hooked and keeping us guessing.
This can’t be the end of Carol. We doubt that very much.
[Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC]