Spoilers for The Walking Dead -
Children playing tag with zombies looks like fiction on top of fiction, the kind of haunting parody that would creep out characters even in-universe. It happens though, in this episode. The central focus of the episode is Lizzie and Mika, Carol’s adopted daughters. Mika reminds her too much of Sophia, a young one far too innocent and devoid of aggression to survive this new world. Lizzie seems to have too much of what it takes, and a warped lack of understanding of zombies, even worse than when we first met Hershel. She thinks of them as pets, and cries when they’re destroyed. When we first met Lizzie she was even naming them, we find out she’s been feeding them rats (yes, it was her) but along the way we’ve seen other disturbing things. She plays around with blood with her feet, and puts knives through rabbits on a whim, even easier than killing a zombie, hell she takes to violence against living people easier than zombies. She can give in to fear when they overwhelm her, but not without guilt.
A beautiful secluded home with a well gives Carol a chance to educate her adopted daughters. Throughout the majority of the downtime, and the occasional action, she explains what this post apocalyptic life brings. She explains in damning detail, how destroying zombies and killing people are the new facts of life, how they will change you and what you will have to do to protect yourself and those you love. It’s a treatise on what the franchise is all about (one aspect anyway) and would make a great episode about learning lessons – if it didn’t all go so terribly wrong.
Lizzie kills her sister Mika, determined to turn her into a zombie doll and show Carol and Tyreese what great companions they can be, to make them “understand” her point of view. In the comic series, a similar story plays out with two brothers, Ben and Billy. In the comics, it seemed clearer that the world had warped the one brother into what he became. He never developed a sense of what death was, the concept changed before he could grasp it. Here, with Lizzie, it seems more like she has a fascination with the zombies. It’s almost like a coping mechanism. In the comics, Carl eventually takes it upon himself to put Ben down. No one else in the group could bring themselves to kill a child – Carl, being one himself, was the only one who could. As a fan of the comics, I don’t have any problem with these changes. While it was a defining moment for Carl, the alterations from the source material (even if this episode kept some of the exact lines) are not just piling up but also going through a domino effect. At this point, TV Carl seems too old, too above the level of other kids for it to work the same way. It’s also another way for the losses to mount for this Carol, who at this point more resembles the comic Andrea anyway. Seeing no other choice, Carol takes her out to a field and kills her. In her state of depression afterwards, she admits to Tyreese that she killed Karen and David, begging on his retribution. It’s an especially damning scene, as Tyreese had just come to trust her. It’s tense, but Tyreese won’t let her off that easy, preferring to force her to live with her pain. On top of all this, Brighton Sharbino acted the hell out of her scenes, so I really can’t complain about how it all played out.
Unable to stay in the cottage, but determined to survive and move on, Carol and Tyreese pack up Judith and leave for Terminus.
Sophia was sheltered, and died. Lizzie and Mika were educated, and died. Carol putting Lizzie down was even more disturbing than smashing walking corpses or killing the living in self-defense. Just when you think you know how bad it can get, it gets even worse. This episode may have been the most hopeless one yet.
Whew, that was intense! I’m going to go back to some nice pleasant Bethyl shipping now.