The Walking Dead recap: 'The Grove'
Carol, Tyreese, and the girls find a safe haven, only to uncover a threat within their ranks
It’s easy to brush off the deaths of Lizzie and Mika as just two more character deaths on a TV series. With a shrug, you can chalk it up to annoying kids finally gone. It’s also easy to scoff at the depiction of child-on-child violence and the killing of two children as unwatchable or inappropriate for television. You can be unconcerned about what’s in the comic, on TV — this is unacceptable!
The Walking Dead has always been a dark show. But week after week of awesomely gruesome zombies, violence and gore can seem commonplace, even blasé. It’s with the gruesome, tragic demise of the Samuels sisters that the series receives a jolt, reminding the audience just how torrid and brutal the world of The Walking Dead is. Because, you know, flesh-eating corpses wasn’t enough. For more insights on this game-changing episode, check out Dalton Ross’ interview with creator Robert Kirkman as well as his quick take on “The Grove.”
This episode’s cold open is shorter than most, capturing a glimpse of what’s to come rather than featuring an extended establishing sequence or flashback. All we get is the portrait of a copper kettle rising to a boil on a gas stove while outside, a child giggles and plays tag with a nice zombie lady. Oh, and “Maybe” by the Ink Spots plays in the background, just in case the creep factor wasn’t high enough already.
After the opening credits, Carol and Lizzie keep the night’s first watch as Tyreese and Lizzie sleep on the tracks. With Judith safely in her arms — and not Lizzie’s — Carol tells Lizzie to sleep, too. Lizzie offers to take Judith if trouble arises. Oh yes, give the baby to the girl who did this. In discussing Tyreese protecting Lizzie and Mika, Lizzie asserts that she saved Tyreese, shooting an armed man and woman (Tara’s girlfriend) back at the Prison. “I didn’t mean to shoot her in the head,” she says. An odd comment — one of several clues to to Lizzie’s warped worldview.
Carol opens up about Sophia. She calls her sweet and recalls “she didn’t have a mean bone in her body.” Lizzie then asks, “Is that why she isn’t here now?” Damn, Lizzie way to be tactful. But this is New Carol she’s talking to — this Carol is pragmatic and brutally honest. She simply replies, “Yeah.” Finally acquiescing to Carol’s urges for her to sleep, Lizzie gives Carol a hug — not before taking a furtive (threatening?) glance at Judith.
The next day, Carol treats Tyreese’s scratched arm with sap, or as my stepdad calls it, “tree blood.” She points out Lizzie and Mika’s pitfalls to Tyreese. Lizzie may be tough, but she doesn’t see Walkers as a brainz-craving threat, merely different than other people. According to Carol, however, Mika is worse: like Sophia, “she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.” Lizzie and Mika continue to follow Carol’s lead like chicks after a mother hen.
Never having finished Tom Sawyer, Carol explains to them the ending in a rare moment of levity. Mika wants to be like Huck Finn whereas Lizzie thinks of herself as more of a Huck Finn and Mika as a Tom Sawyer. (In my book, the true Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Brad Renfro, respectively.) But Mika agrees with her older sister, noting that Lizzie is more like Huck Finn because she’s “not even grossed out by dead rabbits.” Yes, she’s not grossed out by the rabbits that she stabbed and made dead. Clue 1,001.
NEXT: There’s something about Lizzie
With Carol and Mika searching for water, Tyreese, Judith, and Lizzie are on guard. Tyreese hands Judith over to Lizzie (No!) as he checks on a Walker threat down the track. He pulls out his trusty hammer, but before he can swing, Lizzie stops him. The Walker has fallen and is now stuck on the tracks, so Lizzie pleads with him not to give it the true death. Clue 1,002 that there’s something wrong with Lizzie.
Meanwhile, Carol gives Mika a stern lesson in New Carol’s Rules for Surviving the Zombiepocalypse. Running away won’t cut it in case of an emergency — it didn’t work for Sophia. Mika insists she isn’t “messed up” like her sister — she can at least try to kill Walkers. Live people are the ones that are hard to kill. Carol is frustrated at her pre-apocalyptic morality. You mean a prepubescent child thinks “killing people is wrong?!” How dare she! Eventually, their lesson is interrupted as they happen upon a secluded homestead and grove. It’s soon revealed to be a technically safe locale, although at first glance, it looks less like a refuge and more like Errol Childress’ hideaway. Fun fact: Brighton Sharbino who plays Lizzie also played the daughter of Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) Macie on True Detective.
As Tyreese and Carol scout the property for threats living or otherwise, Lizzie (holding Judith again!) and Mika keep watch. Lizzie is fixated on a baby’s grave, which is just what you want from someone holding a baby. Mika tries to convince Lizzie (again) that Walkers aren’t people. She calmly shakes her head and murmurs, “You’re wrong. All of you.” Unlike her sister, Mika makes developmental progress, shooting down a Walker that lunges towards them. Mika is stunned after the incident but recovers quickly. Lizzie has a panic attack. Her little sister calms her, reminding her to “look at the flowers like you’re supposed to.” Counting the flowers in the grove’s garden soothes Lizzie — just as looking at flowers did when Carol “took care of” the girls’ infected father after Walker Patrick‘s rampage in “Infected.” Mika is young, yes, but how has she failed to explicitly mention her sister’s history of mental illness? She’s obviously aware of her unique coping mechanism, right? Was this approach used before the Zombiepocalypse or sometime after its onset? Wouldn’t she have mentioned the times her sister went to the “special doctor that helped with her messed up brain” rather than just call her stupid?
The next morning, Carol prepares a copper kettle to boil water. (How do they have gas for the stove?) This quickly develops into the opening scene — it is Lizzie (of course) playing tag with the nice zombie lady. Carol runs out to the yard, knife at the ready. Lizzie pleads with her to keep her friend alive. When Carol ignores her and stabs the Walker in the head, Lizzie melts down. She screams a string of troubling proclamations such as “YOU KILLED HER!” “WHAT IF I KILLED YOU?!” “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!” and “SHE WAS MY FRIEND!” (I happened to hone in on “WHAT IF I KILLED YOU?!” as particularly troubling but that’s just me.)
Apparently not too bothered by Lizzie’s outburst, Carol takes Mika on a hunting trip later that day. Mika notices that the nearby fire is still burning, as black smoke can still be seen rising in the air. In another life, Mika would have been a big GoldieBlox fan. Carol tries to instill a less harsh version of New Carol’s Rules for Surviving the Zombiepocalypse, now aware just how much Lizzie will have to rely on Mika rather than vice versa. Against all odds, Mika is still a sweet, innocent girl who can’t shoot a living thing, in this case, a deer. I understand Carol’s insistence on teaching Mika. Nevertheless, if I was Carol, I’m pretty sure I would take it upon myself to kill this first deer as it would be the only meat anyone has had in weeks.
NEXT: I know, I know, oh, oh, oh
Because leaving an unhinged, unpredictable girl to her own devices is always a good idea, Lizzie runs off with something in her hands. (My first thought was that she had stolen Judith!) Luckily, Mika spots her and follows her back to the tracks. She witnesses her sister feeding the trapped Walker a mouse. Finally, definitive proof that Lizzie is the Walker Feeder — confirming the suspicions of many commenters. (I kept holding out for the Walker Feeder to have been Carl or some mysterious, unknown saboteur.) Mika scolds her big sister, telling her, “When we were giving them names, we were just pretending things weren’t bad. Things are bad.” Lizzie’s having none of it. See, she’s the one who “knows” the truth about the Walkers: “I know. I can hear them.” Lizzie isn’t just unstable — she’s on Patchface-level crazy. (Don’t even get me started on theories about Patchface and those Other zombies.)
Caught up in her delusions, Lizzie says that they — meaning the Walkers — want her to change, to be like them. She reaches towards the Walker’s mouth to be bitten. “Maybe I should change,” she murmurs. Replayed at the end of this episode, Carol urged Mika to change and not be afraid in “Indifference.” I don’t think this is what she had in mind.
Suddenly, a host of burned Walkers march towards the sisters. They run back to the grove’s fence. Mika’s tights get caught in the barbed wire, and a Walker grabs her leg. Lizzie pulls Mika towards her and out of the Walkers’ clutches. Tyreese, Carol, Mika, and even Lizzie defend themselves from the Walkers, shooting each one down.
That night, Carol and Lizzie talk Walker-shop as they crack pecans. Carol asks, “You understand what they are now?” Her face stolid and serious, Lizzie replies, “I know, I know what I have to do now. I know.” Carol assumes that means yes, she does understand what the Walkers are now. Assumptions, as Carol learns the hard way, can be dangerous.
The next day, Tyreese and Carol go deer hunting — leaving Lizzie, Mika, and Judith on their own (again). For most of the episode, Tyreese has been on the back burner, relegated to carrying Judith and having nightmares. A lot of the episode centers on Carol’s maternal relationship with Lizzie and Mika as well as the Samuels’ own sisterhood. The portion that does significantly involve Tyreese is framed from Carol’s perspective — her anxiety (and therefore the audience’s anxiety) on Tyreese learning the truth about Karen and David’s deaths. Tyreese confesses that he dreams about Karen; his nightmares involve her death at the hands of “some stranger.” No mention of his sister Sasha, though. Maybe Sasha and Tyreese similarly don’t want to talk about losing their sibling.
Carol’s anxiety is projected onto Tyreese’s every move and expression. We see in his eyes a secret loathing; he’s waiting for the right moment to carry out his vengeance. His hand grips his gun conspicuously, ready for the right moment to aim at Carol. But it’s just not there. It’s all in Carol’s mind and our perception. There’s a moment where she seems as if she’s going to confess, but she doesn’t. The tension of the scene is palpable. Yet, it is only the audience and Carol who feel it. For Tyreese, it’s a moment of comfort — he shares his torments and takes comfort with someone he thinks he can confide in and trust. While I don’t think Carol feels guilty for killing Karen and David, I do think she regrets the impact and pain it has caused Tyreese. That part of the secret seems to weigh on her the most.
NEXT: Of Mice and Mentally Unstable Girls
Carol and Tyreese return to the homestead, discovering Mika dead, Lizzie covered in blood holding a knife, and Judith crawling on a blanket next to Lizzie. “Don’t worry. She’ll come back,” Lizzie shrugs. “I didn’t hurt her brain.” No, Lizzie didn’t “hurt” Mika’s brain; instead, she stabbed her torso numerous times. “Judith can change, too,” Lizzie later adds. I am not emotionally prepared for a zombie baby! I wasn’t at the midseason finale, and I’m not now!
Frenzied, Lizzie brandishes a gun at Carol and Tyreese, but Carol’s (false) promises of waiting for Mika to “change” placate her. Tyreese takes Judith and Lizzie back to the house, carrying on Carol’s ruse that nothing is wrong. Alone, Carol lets herself cry out for a short moment until she unsheathes her knife to ensure Mika doesn’t in fact change.
After, Tyreese (safely guarding Judith in his arms) explains to Carol what Lizzie told him. He confirms that Lizzie was the dreaded Walker Feeder as well as the Rat Vivisector. She told Tyreese that she was “just having fun.” (Ugh!) Tyreese speculates that perhaps it was Lizzie who killed Karen and David. Carol shakes her head, knocking down her potential out from taking responsibility, as she notes that Lizzie would have let them turn if she killed them. After a short deliberation, they reach the silent conclusion that I’m sure many were screaming at the TV. “She can’t be around other people” means it’s time for Lizzie to go.
Carol quite literally takes Lizzie out to pasture on the auspices of picking wildflowers for Mika. A white cloud of smoke billows from afar — whatever violence occurred over there has ended. Unfortunately, the grove will see more bloodshed. Lizzie thinks Carol is upset with her for pointing a gun at her. She gives no mention of killing her sister. She tells Lizzie to “look at the flowers” in order to calm her down. Tears streaming down her face, Carol takes out her gun and shoots. Covered in sweat and tears, she returns to the house, spotting another deer nearby. She can’t bring herself to see to the end of another innocent life. Tyreese and Carol add two more small graves to the makeshift cemetery on the grounds. Unlike Tyreese’s frenzied digging after Karen’s death, this act is much more subdued and somber.
At night, Tyreese and Carol sit in front of a table; a puzzle remains relatively untouched before them. Carol pushes a gun over on the table towards Tyreese and finally confesses that she killed Karen and David. Tyreese grips the table, but he does not spew a tirade of unbridled rage and vengeance. He asks if Karen felt any pain, to which Carol replies no. He grips the gun for a moment and lets go. After the spread of the virus, the fall of the Prison community, and now the deaths of Lizzie and Mika, Tyreese’s initial angry and violent reaction has dissipated.
He stares at Carol and whispers, “I forgive you. I’m never gonna forget. It happened. You did it. You feel it. I know you do. It’s a part of you now. Me too. But I forgive you.” While Mika and Tyreese previously entertained thoughts of staying at the grove, too much has happened since then. Carol confessed the truth about Karen and David. Mika and Lizzie are dead. They abandon the house and grove and continue down the tracks towards Terminus as Carol’s encouraging words to Lizzie from “Indifference” return.
Lizzie: I’m not afraid to kill. I’m just…afraid.
Carol: You can’t be.
Carol: You fight it. And fight it. You don’t give up. And then one day, you’re just…change. We all change.
With the deaths of Sophia, Lizzie, and Mika, Carol has lost all of her children — all daughters. After Sophia’s death, she changed into harder, tougher New Carol. Still having to care for Judith, what will Carol change into next?
Walker of the week: Char-grilled Walkers from the mysterious fire. The extra, extra crispy Walker is especially menacing as he approaches the girls like a newborn Uruk-hai freshly hatched out of the mud of Isengard.
Questions to consider:
Will Tyreese ever truly forgive Carol?
Who or what caused the fire? Who are the people who were set aflame while still alive?
Will Tyreese and Carol reach Terminus? Or will they only find ruins?
What is the overall sequence of events for all of the groups? How much time has passed since the Great Scattering?
No, seriously, who’s Gareth?!