“Everything now just consumes you.” — Carol Peletier
This latest season of The Walking Dead has been focusing a lot on the theme of guilt and rebirth. With the former we find each episode exploring each character dealing with the many dark deeds they’ve had to do in order to have survived this far into the zombie apocalypse. We also see the season show how through the crucible of the past two years since the world fell into ruin those who have survived this far have been reborn through the very tragedies and sins they’ve had to commit and experience.
“Consumed” starts off with a cold opening that takes us all the way back to season 4 when Rick exiles Carol from the group after having learned that it was her who killed Karen and another and burned their bodies in the prison during the virus outbreak. It’s an emotional sequence as we see her go through so many emotions from breaking down on the side of the road to getting back to survival mode then finally seeing the aftermath of the Governor’s final assault on the prison.
This episode might have been about Carol and Daryl, but in the end it was a further continuation of exploring Carol’s growth from the mousy, battered wife and mother from season 1 through most of 3 and into the badass survivor we saw emerge from the start of season 4. It’s an interesting journey for a character that had been criminally-underwritten and underused by the series’ previous two showrunners (Frank Darabont and Glen Mazzara) who has now found a rebirth under current showrunner Scott M. Gimple.
Yes, we’ll continue to see that theme of rebirth throughout this season and tonight’s episode showed how this new dead world brought out the best in some while many have succumbed to their basest instinct. It’s difficult to say that for someone like Carol who has admitted to premeditated murder and killed a young girl. In the old world and how things were then one would call Carol a monster, but this new world has put out new rules and one such change has been was whether those still left would be willing to sacrifice something of their own humanity in order to survive. Then that brings up the next question of whether those who could make that sacrifice be able to hold onto what’s left of their humanity and moral compass to evade becoming the very monsters they’re slaying.
Carol goes through such a rebirth tonight as we see her internal war to continue being that lone wolf survivor (even with Daryl now by her side). All the dark things she has done since season 4 has been to keep the hell she knows she’s destined for kept at bay for as long as she could. We see her make on the fly decisions that even Daryl blinks at like trying to kill the fleeing Noah who had stolen their weapons.
Was she really trying to shoot him in the leg or was she being pragmatic and trying to kill the scared, young man who they thought was another survivor who couldn’t be trusted? By the end of the episode we see that Daryl a sort of Jiminy Cricket to Carol. Always trying to get her to talk about what had happened since the prison. He has seen the changes in her and he understands what sort of things she has had to do to last this long, but he also wants to make sure she doesn’t fall off that precipice that will forever change her and not for the better.
It was a tough episode to sit through in that the decision to intersperse scenes from the past season dealing with Carol’s shift into survivor mode at times seemed awkward in how they appeared. Last week’s flashbacks with Abraham was better handled yet for all the awkwardness with tonight’s flashbacks it didn’t minimize the message that tonight’s episode was telling. Carol that we knew from the first three seasons of the show has died. She’s gone through the worst crucible of fire one has had to go through. She’s lost her own daughter Sophia and two adopted ones in Lizzie and Mika and yet she has come through that consuming flame not as ashes, but something reborn that’s both mother and warrior.
Yes, this new world has been consuming everyone who’re left since the apocalypse began. It’s not just the zombies but other survivors as well both literally and figuratively. But as we’ve seen throughout this season, while Carol, Rick and those in their group have had to do dark and awful things to survive since their old world ended they’ve avoided being consumed by their very choices and have kept a tight hold on what keeps them human.
Carol and the others might be more willing to kill now than they have in the past, but they also believe that it’s still not too late for them to save those who need saving. Shane never learned that lesson and looked like he never would have. The Governor might’ve been doing things to save people but in the end he was consumed by the power of his position. Gareth started of as saving people, but was corrupted by tragedy and got lost in the wilderness. Even Joe from last season, as well adapted as he and his group was to the zombie apocalypse, took the wrong lessons from this new world and instead took advantage of the weak.
Time will tell if tonight’s episode was a sign of the show and it’s writers building up Carol only to sacrifice her to save the rest of the people she has adopted as her new family. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, but it would be a waste of a great character that looks to have more growing to do for seasons to come if allowed to live.
- “Consumed” was written by Matt Negrete and directed by Seith Mann.
- Fire became a running theme throughout the episode both as a symbol of destruction and one of rebirth.
- Seeing Atlanta again since season 1 was a nice change of pace from the rural and woodland settings since season 2.
- We saw glimpses of places from season 1 like the train tracks and the abandoned tank in the intersection where Rick had to shelter from a herd of zombies.
- The city itself seemed to have very little zombies, or at least not too concentrated, which is a nice reference back to the end of season 2 where we found out that the herd that attacked Hershel’s farm came from those who left Atlanta following the sounds and racket made by Rick and his people after they left the city.
- Scene of the building skywalk bridge was similar to a scene out of novel of the series, The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor.
- Tonight’s guests on the Talking Dead are CM Punk, Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) and, Noah from the show, Tyler James Williams.