There are spoilers ahead for those who haven’t watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead.
Indifference, the fourth episode of the fourth season of The Walking Dead, takes the viewers and it’s characters on a road trip… two road trips to be precise, but multiple threads… and in each of these journeys, moral ambiguity and the theme of letting go of the past play out differently for everyone involved.
After the big reveal last week that Carol was the one who killed Karen and David, Rick decides that he and Carol should head out and scavenge the area for more supplies. His is a journey of reevaluating his role in the group. Does he have an obligation to tell the others what he knows… or does he keep what he knows a secret from the others in order to protect one of “their own”? When he eventually decides what to do, the result is shocking, but you can see him letting go of the fear that kept him from being the decisive leader that he is, and that the group has needed.
Carol, on the other hand, has already let go of her past. Instead of becoming a shadow of her former self, she has become someone stronger and more determined not to allow this new world in which they live beat her down as she had been by an abusive husband and subservient existence. The end result is something potentially far more frightening… she has become cold, hard, unfeeling… and as the title of the episode suggests, indifferent. Hearing her refer to her previous existence with Ed and Sophia as “slideshows of someone else’s life” sent shivers down my spine.
Rick’s decision to exile Carol has been extremely divisive among fans and those who love Carol and her amazing redemptive arc throughout the run of the series. Personally, I believe that it was the right choice… but this is where the fun part of moral ambiguity comes into play.
Sure, Rick has also killed people… and as Carol pointed out, he killed one of their own as well, referring of course to the death of Shane. Her argument is that Karen and David were as much a threat to the whole group as Shane was to Rick… which, once you think a bit more about it, doesn’t hold much water. Shane was going to kill Rick… no doubt about that… there was plenty of doubt as to whether or not Karen and David were a threat once they were locked away in solitary. In fact, Carol exposing herself to them by killing them was more of a threat than they were in the first place.
Was her heart in the right place? Absolutely… but she forgot about the human element to the people she was murdering. They were not just disease vectors to be eradicated, they were still living, breathing people who had relationships and people who cared for them. They may have been ill, but they were not (yet) the undead. And even if they had died and rose again… they were in locked cells.
The pacing of the episode was fantastic. Slow… moody… and everything felt like it had room to breathe. Every scene with Rick and Carol felt tense and loaded with the potential for something explosive to happen, specifically once they find the dopiest of apocalypse survivors in the form of Sam and Ana. Every step of the way Rick is looking to Carol for some glimmer of humanity… some shred of caring for another person… but instead, he sees nothing but an uncaring and relentless soldier; separate from the compassion that has always made Carol such an engaging character… the ultimate underdog has become the machine, and when she looks at Rick who is concerned for the well being of Sam and laments to loss of a nice watch… he knows that Carol is gone.
The other road trip, the search for the veterinarian college with Daryl, Michonne, Tyreese, and Bob; is another exercise in letting go for three of the four travelers. Daryl is simply being Daryl… but Michonne must learn to let go of her search for The Governor and should spend more time with others in the prison; Tyreese needs to let go of his anger for that which he can’t control; and Bob needs to let go of his addictions and to realize that what has come before does not have to repeat itself in perpetuity.
I was genuinely moved when Bob was talking with Daryl about what happened with the two previous groups he was in and how he harbors guilt over the death of Zach. A character I wasn’t too sure about showed a depth that hasn’t been present in the last few episodes, and suddenly his plight is taking on a whole new resonance for me. A well written and well delivered moment… and knowing the redemptive arc that Daryl has taken, and that it was him who found Bob on the road, it was that much more devastating when Bob foolishly feigns to draw on Daryl once his weakness was discovered.
About this scene between Daryl and Bob… I’m not crazy about it, but I did like it. I can understand Daryl getting pissed in that particular situation, and it was super crappy for Bob to only have one bottle in that whole backpack (Plus, why didn’t they all stuff their packs with all those other drugs in the building? It may not have been on this list, but who knows when they may need something else.), but I can’t stand that stupid super-macho “I’m going to shove my head into your head as a display of alpha-male dominance” thing that some guys do. A bit too “come at me bro” for my tastes… but I suppose that is in keeping with Daryl’s character, for better or for worse.
And before anyone says something about being betrayed, I get it… I just don’t imagine Daryl would really be that judgmental about someone wanting a drink… and I have a hard time imagining that Bob is the only person who may be drinking, or at least wants to be drinking. I imagine I would be self medicating myself every which way I could in the zombie apocalypse.
I have my sympathies for Bob… but he fucked up.
Tyreese I genuinely sympathize with. His lover is dead, his sister is sick and potentially dying, and his mission of mercy has been blocked and delayed. I’ve already heard people saying that he just needs to get over it and move past it… but I think folks are confusing the two weeks since we first saw Karen’s charred corpse on television with the single day or two in the timeline of the show.
People… stop being so impatient! In the second season, everyone complained that they were on the farm too long; third season, people were annoyed that they stayed at the prison too long; fourth season, still complaining about the prison, and asking why they didn’t go back to Woodbury (where I assume people would be annoyed with in two episodes). If you have ever experienced a traumatic experience in your life, you know it takes much longer than two days to get over just about anything… ease up, and allow the characters to develop and their stories to unfold. Hell, I think the majority of the third season took place over the course of a few weeks. How could anyone be surprised that Tyreese is still pissed?
Nonetheless, Ty needs to release his anger… as Michonne astutely points out, anger makes you stupid… and stupid gets you killed, and now that Tyreese is becoming more of the Tyreese I know and love from the comic, I am eager to see him develop… and when the time comes, he looks at Bob who is clutching onto that backpack (which I thought was chock full of meds), basically clutching onto the hope of life, and tells him he needs to let go… I think that was very much for both of them. Time to let go.
Indifference was directed by Tricia Brock, who also directed last season’s highlight Clear. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both of these episodes are more slow paced, deliberate, and thoughtful than some of the other more action oriented episodes, as well as being the two episodes that I would consider my favorites thus far for their specific seasons.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Scott Gimple appears to be taking a somewhat different approach to telling the story than his predecessors had. I’m finding the story lines to be more woven and tightly constructed as opposed to being strictly linear, while at the same time finding a fantastic balance between some fun zombie action, true horror moods and cinematics, and amazing character development that often seems to sputter, fall flat, or chance episode to episode in previous seasons.
In four episodes we’ve already seen incredible movement and growth from many of the characters… some more obvious and on the nose than others, but no one has remained stagnant, and everyone has something to lose beyond just their own lives.
When Carol told Rick that he could still be farmer, but he couldn’t be just a farmer, I believe she was telling him that he had to do something with her. Indifference may be what she has chosen, but she knows that it’s not what Rick can choose. The council was a good idea… but when every member of the council is sick or losing their moral compass, a leader must emerge.
Do you agree with Rick’s decision to send Carol into exile… or should he have allowed the council to determine her fate? What is going to happen when Daryl finds out about this? Rick was responsible for leaving Merle on the roof… now it’s Carol. How is Tyreese going to deal with the information? Will he be angry that he couldn’t exact justice Tyreese-style, or will he be forgiving? What about Lizzie and Mika? How will they respond when they find out “mom” has left the building?
For the record… I don’t believe for one moment that we have seen the last of Carol. This is the first season that Melissa McBride has appeared on the main title sequence, I can’t imagine that they would give her regular cast status, beef up her role, then figuratively kill her off in four episodes. Her arc has been too spectacular to simply be shuffled off so easily.
Indifference, an episode that I am anything but indifferent about. A fantastic chapter in what is becoming a surprisingly philosophical and pensive season of a show that promises to only get more dark as time passes. I can’t wait to see what happens when both road trips return home… Hope and Crosby never had it this bad.
Excuse me, I think you dropped a drumstick,
Cornelius J. Blahg