The Grove, the fourteenth episode of the fourth season of The Walking Dead, is a perfect example of an episode whose impact is lessened for me due to my knowledge of the comic series. I thought it was a fantastic episode and an incredible hour of dramatic tension, but I do wish I could have had the experience that many who haven’t read the books had last night, which I imagine was outright shock and horror. When The Walking Dead goes dark, it gets fucking pitch black.
For the third week in a row, we don’t get any of Rick and Carl’s story (the first time the show has done this, along with Still which was the first episode to only feature two characters), but instead return to Tyreese, Carol, and the kids. The Grove effectively deals with two big events, and answers a couple of other lingering questions. Those events are both serious “oh shit” moments… Lizzie killing Mika thus prompting Carol to take out Lizzie, and Carol admitting to Tyreese that she killed Karen and David.
Before we discuss those particular happenings, let’s look at the questions we finally have answers for. Who was feeding the zombies rats? For all the back and forth early on about whether it was Bob or Lizzie… Lizzie is the winner! Everyone’s favorite psychotic child still doesn’t understand what is what when it comes to the undead, and as we finally got to see first hand, she not only considered them living, but she also considered them her friends… and for all of the emotional difficulty this episode brought to the table, it was her feeding that rodent to the walker on the tracks that caused me the most stomach churning. Not sure why… but, ugh… that was just foul. Maybe it was her eventual desire to be bitten herself in order to show everyone what she apparently “knows”, that they are communicating and just need some love and affection, that disturbed me so much in that scene… or the one where she was playing “tag” and lost her shit when Carol effectively saved her crazy little ass… or perhaps when she blew a gasket after Mika saved her once again and had to take a time out to look at the flowers and count to three. Good gravy… that child is (was) messed up.
We also can finally put to rest the question about who killed Karen and David. Carol was the killer, and she has finally come clean about it to the one person it mattered the most to… and in an incredible moment between Melissa McBride and Chad L. Coleman, both of whom gave performances of a lifetime, she was able to unburden herself and to explain why she did what she did, and he was able to put this mystery to rest and to allow himself to show forgiveness. He won’t forget, but he will forgive… devastating. My next question with regards to Carol’s position within the group, will Rick forgive as easily, and will the fact that she assisted in keeping Judith alive help her case?
Although The Grove was certainly an emotionally draining episode, it was another more slow paced examination of character, and after the crazy action of last week’s episode, Alone, this was a welcome chapter in what is becoming one of the most unusual, and in my opinion, extremely effective seasons of the show to date. When all is said and done with the fourth season, my guess is that it will be seen as a true turning point for a television series that has struggled with it’s tone and direction since the beginning, and much if not all of that can be attributed to Scott M. Gimple, the current showrunner. His desire to bring The Walking Dead closer to the original source material, while still creating something different for those of us who don’t just want a rehash of the books, has taken full effect, and the results have been staggering… especially when considering that much of this second half isn’t in the books at all… but tonally, bang on.
I would love to dissect which aspects from this episode match up with the events in the comics and the changes made in order to fit into the television universe, but instead… I will direct you all to listen to the episode of The Walking Dead’Cast that will review The Grove. Grace and I will be doing a Comic Talk segment for the podcast and will break it all down then. So make sure you tune in and hear our comparisons between the show and the book.
So… Lizzie finally showed her true colors… and those colors are various shades of disturbed and separate from any reality we all know and love. It’s not as though this comes as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, but the level in which her psychosis rose this week was frightening, and Brighton Sharbino was magnificent as the mentally troubled Lizzie. As I mentioned earlier… I found so much of what she was doing this week disturbing, upsetting, and just plain creepy as all hell. Whether it was feeding the zombie the rat/mouse, playing tag with a walker (that scene in particular… I was almost hoping that she would just get bitten in order to avoid what I knew was coming), freaking out over anyone killing a zombie, and eventually, killing her own sister and not realizing that THAT was the problem, not pointing the gun at Carol… she found a way to make us as the audience alright with the decision that Carol had to make… and it was a very similar decision that Rick had to make she banishing Carol from the group… only this solution was a bit more permanent.
Do you believe that Carol did the right thing? Would there be any way for Lizzie to have continued on within a group? If she could kill so easily and not have any remorse for her actions, could anyone have slept knowing that this murderous child was near? I don’t imagine so… and Melissa McBride was spectacular in her portrayal as the grieving mother figure; unable to prevent the death of one innocent while having to deliver the fatal shot to a young girl she took in as her own, only to see that person devolve into something frightening and unhinged.
How about Tyreese? Chad L. Coleman also sold the shit out of his role this week as well… watching him grieve over the death of Karen, and hearing about his dreams as Carol stood there, tears rolling down her cheeks, knowing that it was her that took his love from him… and eventually, to have him grant forgiveness… my chest was heavy… some seriously difficult television. Did you see his look of utter shock and disbelief as they came upon Mika’s dead body? A masterclass in how you deliver a “what the fuck” look.
If I have any complaint about the episode it would be that I was a little surprised to hear Carol doubling down on all of the “you have to be tough” talk with both girls. For whatever reason, I thought maybe she shouldn’t be putting that much pressure on them. Mika was never going to be the tough survivor that Carol wanted her, and by extension Sophia, to be… and if you know Lizzie is that unhinged, maybe you should try a different tack. Then again, I suppose that was simply in keeping with Carol 2.0… you have to do what you must in this world in order to survive. I just would have liked to see her support the child that cared for the living a bit more than the one who didn’t understand the difference.
Overall, The Walking Dead has followed up one of the best episodes of the series, Alone, with what may be an even more emotionally devastating chapter in this already bleak tale of survival in the zombie apocalypse. The Grove will stand out as being one of the more daring and horrific moments in television history, as well as one of the better episodes of this or any season. If you can think of another program that dealt with such difficult subject matter, a child killing another child followed by an adult exacting immediate and final justice, I would like to know what that is. Other shows have gone dark, but few venture to go into this black pit of despair as frequently and deftly as The Walking Dead.
I’ll never look at a pecan the same again,
Cornelius J. Blahg