And now our suspicions have been confirmed that Grady Memorial Hospital will be the next locale for the group to stage yet another “let’s save our friends and take down another terrible group while we’re at it” scene. (The backbone of The Walking Dead is dystopia tourism, where each season offers a closer look at new way humans have found to build disturbing and twisted societies out of the anarchic rubble).
Sims: You’re absolutely right—we knew there was no way Carol and Daryl (Caryl?) would let Noah perish under that bookcase, and still that felt like the pivotal moment of the episode for me. Carol is wrestling with all of her darkness—killing Karen and David, the death of the children last season, bringing down Terminus in flames—each glimpsed in brief flashback throughout this fantastic, quiet episode. She’s also wrestling with her faith, an aspect of her character I’d sort of forgotten. Carol was, at least at one point, deeply religious, yes? Maybe that’s more part of her old identity as a mother and wife, but I remember her insisting at one point that her daughter was in heaven. Well, now Carol’s pretty sure she’s going to hell, which is quite a thing to think when you live in a post-apocalyptic world, but it’s enough to keep her (and the similarly gloomy Daryl) going.
Carol is radiating enough darkness that Daryl has to bat her gun down when she takes a pot-shot at Noah after he steals their weapons. He’s a kid trying to survive, Daryl says—he doesn’t deserve to die. Carol insists she was shooting to wound, but Daryl’s action clearly makes an impact, because when they incapacitate Noah later, she’s the one who convinces Daryl to save the kid’s life. Every time The Walking Dead looks like it’s about to get too dark, things like that happen—Carol and Daryl rescue Noah because it’s the right thing to do, and in turn Noah promises to help Daryl recover Carol, captured by Slabtown goons, and Beth, because both of them worked to help him. Fundamental human decency for the win.
This episode continues an A+ run for the show this season, which is increasingly showing that its recent run of success is no fluke (and other critics who had given up on the show are also catching on). The Walking Dead has always excelled at episodes like this—quiet, atmospheric hours with a lot of zombie-killing and snatches of dialogue that say more than an introspective soliloquy could. It helps that Carol and Daryl are probably my two favorite characters, but I have to applaud the mastery with which this season is being knit together.
Cruz: I’m glad you commented on Caryl’s dynamic in this episode. Though both are clearly the strongest of the strong—as Noah pointed out before he slashed open the tent of zombies for his getaway—that doesn’t mean they don’t need each other. But more than that, neither is above accepting help and admitting weakness around the other, which is especially meaningful in a world where such vulnerability typically comes at a cost. Daryl and Carol just get each other in a way we rarely see with other pairings on the show. Their intuitive synchronicity in navigating the abandoned buildings, or the way they sat in stunned silence inside the crashed van as walker blood streamed down the windshield (maybe my favorite shot of the entire episode), says more about their deep trust and affection for one another than any brooding window-side musing could.