Although last week’s episode revealed Carol’s decision to leave Alexandria, “East” delves into just how she snuck away unnoticed and how that spins the town into a frenzy. But Carol isn’t the only one to head out of town as Daryl takes what is intended to be a less-permanent trip to chase after the Saviors that killed Denise.
Suffice to say, while trouble looms on the horizon in the form of Negan’s inevitable introduction, there’s plenty to put the Alexandrians’ lives at risk even before the man and his bat properly arrive on the scene.
Carol’s excursion is the one that takes most immediate prominence in “East,” which traces her steps to pack supplies, leave a note, and venture out in the middle of the night at just the right time to ensure undetected passage.
She steals one of the cars protecting the front gate from walkers, a freshly placed one that’s difficult to see from the guard posts, and so Carol rides away, spears sticking out from her ride as she heads off to…anywhere but Alexandria.
Her trip eventually forces her to cross paths with a truck coming in the opposite direction, one saddled with five men and plenty of firepower. They shoot her truck out of commission and enter standoff mode with the wandering Carol.
Even as she comes up with a fake identity and backstory, the men aren’t inclined to let her go. They believe she has information, and she seems well cared for enough that they suspect, especially considering her driving direction, that she’s coming from Alexandria.
She tells them, through tears and shallow breaths, that no one has to get hurt as she fiddles with her hands inside her sleeves, one still clutching her cross. The men move toward her, and she takes that time to unload some lead on them from a gun hidden in her sleeve.
Not all of the men are killed, however, and so Carol has to do some cleanup, tricking one of the men and piercing straight through his chest with one of the car’s spears to end his pursuit.
Grabbing some extra firepower, Carol heads out, but she isn’t the only one to make it away alive. One of the men inside the truck played possum until she disappeared (or at the very least was knocked out for a short while). He woke up to the bloody carnage left in Carol’s wake and finds one of his fellow men gasping for air on the ground, but he believes it’s best for him to give up his futile fight for life.
Carol’s escape, while a stealthy one, does not go unnoticed once her letter is discovered, and Rick, despite her parting words, decides to go out and find her. So, too, does Morgan, making for quite the awkward car ride full of embittered discussions of who is right in their beliefs, or even if there is a right.
The duo eventually comes across the scene of the crime, where Rick does indeed kill the man in the road whose end was already close while Morgan surveys the scene. They assume these men must be Saviors because they carry weapons just like those the blacksmith at the Hilltop produces.
But their biggest takeaway is a dissonant one between the two of them. Rick looks at this spot of road and is proud of what Carol accomplished. Morgan sees it and fears what it could mean for Carol’s fate. She left because she couldn’t kill anymore, but she did because she had to, Rick argues. Yet the two remain at odds, following a trail of blood into the field in search of their lost friend (and followed closely behind by the survivor of the firefight, who was hiding in the trees as they arrived).
The two continue following the trail of blood, debating the merits of Carol leaving and, at the heart of it all, the merits of killing versus not killing. Morgan brings up Rick’s decision to send off Carol seasons ago because she killed some of their people and wonders if he would have just killed her today. Rick argues he’d thank her — she would have had good reason for killing them, and he probably would have had to kill them anyway had she not.
She was right to do it, Rick suggests. But this was back then. Carol came back and saved people, and Morgan wants to emphasize that idea — people can come back. It all harks back to the teachings of Eastman, which Morgan still holds onto: all life is precious.
All that talking eventually takes them into sight of a barn, from which they hear noises. They spot and kill some walkers, but there is a living human hiding in the building, who they call out to show his face. He promises he’s just looking for his horse, but he eventually flees as more walkers appear on the scene. Rick and Morgan handle the walkers and notice yet another Hilltop weapon, but Morgan is less interested in chasing down and killing the guy than Rick is. Morgan even stops Rick from shooting him down as he flees because — say it together now — all life is precious, no matter what that life is.
NEXT: Morgan owns up to his actions while more Alexandrians find themselves in trouble