“Just look at the flowers, Lizzie. Just look at the flowers.” — Carol Peletier
The Walking Dead tv series has always diverged from the comic book source to keep fans of the books guessing. Some fans of the comic books have complained about this since it would mean discarding certain subplots and characters that they love but were really non-essential to the overall story being told for the tv series version. Yet, the writers of the show, through the comic book’s creator Robert Kirkman, have mined the comic book source for material that remains important to the show’s narrative.
The latest episode, “The Grove”, takes a disturbing but very important subplot from the comics and manages to adapt it for the tv series in a way that made it one of the series’ best.
A cold opening that manages to be both quaint, idyllic and disturbing which sets the tone for the rest of the episode sees the return of the group led by Carol. It’s a group that could almost be seen as a makeshift family unit. There’s Carol the loving, yet stern mother who wants to make sure her daughters learn how to survive in this dangerous, new world while Tyreese remains te compassionate and protective father. Lizzie, Mika and Rick’s baby daughter Judith make up the children who must now adapt to this new world or perish.
First off, Judith remains the blank slate in the show. She’s the first baby born after the world went to hell and thus will have to grow up in it’s new environs and new set of morals and principles. The old civilization is gone and while people try to hold onto what made that civilization tick only those willing to adapt to this new world seem to survive. Now, Lizzie and Mika were already forming their own personalities and sets of morals when the zombie apocalypse hit. We see the two Samuels girl go in differing paths in how they cope with this new world.
While seeing these two girls’ inability to adapt to the world post-zombie apocalypse was a nice theme to explore the episode really focused on the group’s maternal unit. This latest episode was a culmination of the new Carol Peletier that season 4 unleashed on an unsuspecting audience.
This was a character that we saw as being the meek victim of spousal abuse even before the zombies arrived. Her emotional trauma would continue with the loss of her young daughter Sophia in season 2 and almost dying during break in prison security in season 3. Yet, by the time season 4 rolled around we see her become a hardened survivor who has turned the corner and decided she will not remain a victim anymore and make sure those people see as being helpless (the young children in the group) learn how to defend themselves from zombies and humans alike.
The titular grove the group stumbles upon early in the episode has an almost mystical quality to it. An idyllic locale in the middle of literal hell on earth. There’s untainted well water to be had, a pecan grove for food and even a solitary deer that seems to come by at the most opportune time for meat. Hell, the cabin even has a working gas stove (probably a propane tank fed one) and a secure enough fence of barbed wire to fend off the random zombies that may wander by. It’s almost paradise in comparison to the different place Carol, Tyreese and the girls have had to call shelter.
It is no wonder that both Tyreese and Carol entertain the idea of maybe staying at the grove and making a life for themselves with the girls instead of continuing onto the unknown potential haven that is Terminus. But one thing this show has been consistent about when it comes to it’s characters seeming to find peace and tranquility is that it will pull the rug from under them to reveal that things are not ideal and that it’s just a veneer over the ugliness and brutality this new world has turned into.
The rug gets pulled out gradually from beneath Carol’s feet as both Mika and Lizzie continue to fail in heeding her teachings about survival. Mike remains adamant about not ever wanting to hurt anyone alive (she makes some headway in killing off some zombies during the episode) which Carol sees as dangerously naive of the young girl. Lizzie on the other hand begins to reveal an even more dangerous quality which would turn tragic by episode’s end.
By this time many will have written and discussed the events involving Lizzie and Mika that would add another emotional stone on Carol’s back. It’s a sequence that’s as disturbing as anything this show has put on the air in the last four years. It’s not often that children get killed in tv shows (well except for Law and Order: SVU) and yet The Walking Dead manages to do it twice in one night and both times it’s not gratuitous or meant to be entertaining. both Mika and Lizzie’s death become a sort of crucible Carol must go through to find a sort of equilibrium between the nurturing mother she was before season 4 and the cold, pragmatic survivor she has become this season. She still remains conscious to the fact that hard decisions need to be made for the greater good and she makes it ones again when Lizzie murders her younger sister Mika. It’s a murder not done in spite or malice. Lizzie truly believes that Mika will return and remember not to attack her friends and family.
In the end, the grove ceases to be the ideal haven Carol and Tyreese saw it as in the beginning and realize it’s just another place to leave behind with bad memories. It’s become another haunted place for the next people to find and wonder what happened to the previous inhabitants and what caused them to leave behind three small graves in the flower and pecan grove.
- Tonight’s episode was written by showrunner Scott M. Gimple and directed by Michael Satrazemis.
- The cold opening sequence was a nice touch using The Ink Spot’s “Maybe” song that was also used in the Bethesda post-apocalyptic game, Fallout 3.
- Mika definitely came off as being the more intelligent of the two sisters. Though as many would probably point out, just as Carol did, her inability to hurt other people who will want to hurt her will get her killed sooner or later.
- Lizzie’s personality matches very closely that of the comic book Carol who began to see the zombies as more her friends than a danger. I’m sure Kirkman had a hand in helping Gimple round out the character of the elder Samuels girl.
- I noticed that the pistol that Mika carried with her was a Smith & Wesson M&P 9 (full-size one even) just for the fact that I also own one so it was very recognizable.
- The different subplots involving the scattered groups of prison survivors seem to be following an uneven timeline within this midseason narrative. The fire and smoke seen by Carol, Tyreese and the girls would mean that they’re at least a day behind Daryl and Beth.
- Gimple must’ve been a fan of Steinbeck because tonight’s episode had a very Of Mice and Men feel to it right up to the sequence with Carol and Lizzie in the end.
- Talking Dead Guests: Melissa McBride of The Walking Dead, Yvette Nicole Brown from Community and WWE’s CM Punk.
- Episode 01: “30 Days Without an Accident”
- Episode 02: “Infected”
- Episode 03: “Isolation”
- Episode 04: “Indifference”
- Episode 05: “Internment”
- Episode 06: “Live Bait”
- Episode 07: “Dead Weight” (not reviewed)
- Episode 08: “Too Far Gone”
- Episode 09: “After”
- Episode 10: “Inmates”
- Episode 11: “Claimed” (not reviewed)
- Episode 12: “Still” (not reviewed)
- Episode 13: “Alone”