Carol and Daryl search for Beth in Atlanta and find an unlikely ally.

By Kyle Ryan
February 27, 2015 at 04:28 PM EST
Gene Page/AMC
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Ladies and gentlemen of the congregation, please open your bibles–well, browsers–to Psalm 102, the prayer of the afflicted and overwhelmed. Specifically, let’s jump to its third line, “For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth.”

Not for nothing is the sixth episode of The Walking Dead‘s fifth season called “Consumed,” and its most recurring image smoke. We see it repeatedly. Carol references burning away her old selves, and Daryl says, “Hey, we ain’t ashes.” No one mentions Psalm 102 or even the Bible this week, but The Walking Dead has stayed close to them this season, from the Galatians quote in Gabriel’s office to the Samson story that played a role in last week’s episode. And Psalm 102 might as well be the official prayer of our group. Look at line eight: “Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me.” Thine enemies reproach you all the livelong day, oh afflicted protagonists. Walkers never relent, and the living might as well be sworn against you.

My days are consumed like smoke. “Everything now just consumes you,” Carol tells Daryl. She had been talking about her abusive husband, Ed. “Who I was with him, she got burned away, and I was happy about that. I mean, not happy, but at the prison I got to be who I always thought I should be, thought I should’ve been. Then she got burned away.”

We see Carol literally burning someone away in one of the episode’s flashbacks, and smoke serves as both a beacon (from the prison after the firefight with the Governor, from the roof of the shelter as Daryl burns bodies, and from Terminus as she and Tyreese bury Mika and Lizzie) and a conclusion (first, when Carol burns Karen and David’s bodies at the prison, and again after she the causes the explosion at Terminus).

The episode opens with exiled Carol seeing that smoke from the prison in the distance, and heading back to help, even though Rick had banished her. Post-credits, she’s back in a car, this time with Daryl, as they pursue the mysterious vehicle bearing the same white cross as the one that took Beth. They follow the car up I-85 into Atlanta, apparently unnoticed, until a cop steps out of the car to clear some debris blocking a driveway (but not the one to the hospital). It’s a tense moment; will he approach Carol and Daryl? Will he start shooting? Will they get swarmed when a walker stumbles upon them and the car won’t start?

They certainly don’t look like they’re near the hospital, so what were the guys in the car doing? We don’t have a chance to find out, because Carol and Daryl have to flee the walkers—she knows a nearby place. It takes a bit to figure it out once they start moving through a darkened building. With the white marble walls, it looks like a bank or municipal building until a sign mentions temporary housing. A shelter.

With her recent displays of badassery, it’s easy to forget that Carol was once the victim of domestic abuse. The woman we saw living in fear of her husband in season 1 has long since been replaced—or, to use her words, burned away—by someone who’s capable of going all Of Mice and Men on a troubled little girl. The Carol who previously visited the shelter only stayed for a day and a half before returning to her abuser. The cognitive dissonance between those people shakes Carol. After everything she has done and endured, is it possible to start over?

Carol: “You said we’d get to start over. Did you?”

Daryl: “I’m tryin’. Why don’t you say what’s really on your mind?”

Carol: “I don’t think we get to save people anymore.”

Daryl: “Then why are you here?”

Carol: “I’m trying.”

Why don’t they get to save people anymore? Because those who remain are either a threat (as Abraham noted last week, “It’s gotten to the point where everyone alive is strong now”) or already a walker. How quickly Carol forgets they saved Gabriel from certain death, and “Consumed” introduces another character who’s less helpless than Gabriel but not in the same league as they are.

The search for high ground to give them a better vantage point—and hopefully some indication of where the White Crosses are hiding—takes Daryl and Carol into a parking garage, across a walker-infested pedestrian bridge, and into a ritzy office untouched by the collapse of society outside its door. (Keeping with the theme, Daryl distracts the walkers milling around the base of the parking garage with a flaming steno pad.) Although the pedestrian bridge has a good dozen walkers, they’re almost all comically immobilized, either by sleeping bags or zipped-up tents. “Some days, I don’t know what the hell to think,” Daryl says before picking them off. We don’t know why their human predecessors camped here or how they turned, but they present a minimal threat to seasoned survivors like Carol and Daryl, at least at first.

The camera lingers over Carol’s shoulder and on the closing door to the parking garage as she and Daryl enter just long enough to see a figure in the background. Rewind your DVR a couple times and you’ll make out Noah, getting into a car. As Carol and Daryl leave the pedestrian bridge, another shot lingers for a moment through the window, where you can barely make out Noah in the background. Their paths will inevitably cross.

But first, some more staring out of a window and wondering what it all means. “How did we get here?” Carol asks. “Don’t know. We just did,” Daryl replies. She tries to go into more detail about what happened back at the Grove, but in the distance, Daryl spots a van with white crosses dangling over the guardrail of an overpass. No one appears to be with it, but it’s the only clue they have about Beth’s whereabouts. Time to leave.

NEXT: How does Carol not know this by now?

You’d think, if the Walking Dead world had one rule, it’s that you never, ever enter a space back first. Yet that’s just what Carol does on their way out of the office building, after tossing her gun on the other side of the chained door to the pedestrian bridge. Then she goes out back first and, wouldn’t you know it, Noah’s there to take their weapons and leave them to the walkers in the tents they hadn’t killed. Carol’s going into an area that had walkers, but she decides to enter with her back turned? What the hell? She’s lucky it was just semi-hapless Noah and not an undead pedestrian-walkway camping enthusiast.

Then, in another bewildering twist, Carol tries to wound the fleeing Noah only to be stopped by Daryl. This kid took their weapons and freed the tent-bound walkers to attack them, but he gets a pass? “He’s just a damn kid,” Daryl says, dismissing Carol’s concern about their weapons by saying they’ll simply find more. Whatever you say, Mr. Easygoing! This dopey kid takes your character-defining weapon, and you’re all like, “Easy come, easy go”? Again, what the hell?

This, naturally, prompts a heated exchange between the two of them. Carol confesses she left the church because she “had to be somewhere else”—she couldn’t sit around and watch anyone else die. “Well you ain’t somewhere else! You’re here, tryin’,” Daryl retorts. “Look, you’re not who you were, and neither am I,” she says. “I don’t know if I believe in God anymore or heaven, but if I’m going to hell, I’m making damn sure I’m holding it off as long as I can.”

And then, a telling accident: From Daryl’s bag falls a book he swiped from the shelter, Treating Survivors of Child Abuse: Psychotherapy for the Interrupted Life, a real book designed for caregivers. One editorial review on Amazon notes how well the book “summarizes the effects of childhood trauma on cognitive, interpersonal, and self-regulatory functions,” which I’m guessing were significant with Daryl, if he was in fact abused. Someone noted on GoodReads, “Although the authors claim that they have tested the process on men, the entire book was written using female pronouns and examples from their original study with women.” I don’t think Daryl needs to feel more emasculated than he probably already does sneaking out a book about child abuse, but it’s an interesting—and not surprising—development in his backstory.

Visiting the stranded van has an incredibly high risk level: The van itself is unstable, dangling as it is over an overpass; they’re completely exposed, the only shelter being that unstable van; and they have no way out should the walkers come at them from both sides. Daryl thinks nothing of bounding onto the van as walkers shuffle closer, and it all looks to be pointless until he sees the hospital’s initials on the gurney in the back. Carol identifies it as Grady Memorial, and now they have their first real lead—just in time to be completely surrounded by walkers.

Someone in the comments mentioned a couple weeks back that set pics of this scene had leaked—how couldn’t they, considering all that open space. This episode didn’t offer much in the way of big action set pieces, but the van dropping from a 30-foot overpass was pretty great. (The walker bodies following and landing on it was a nice touch—though, as much as I hate to be the guy invoking 9/11, the sound of them hitting the van reminded me of one of the most gut-wrenching scenes of the Naudet brothers’ 9/11 documentary.)

Carol’s injured, but luckily they end up only a few blocks from the hospital—and here begins another action-heavy closing of The Walking Dead. Posted up in another building to observe Grady, they encounter the trigger-happy Noah, who’s wasting arrows and ammo clumsily battling walkers. Carol and Daryl give chase, which leads to Daryl pinning Noah with a fallen bookcase. Suddenly Mr. Compassion is ready to let the walker pawing at the door on the other side of the bookcase have his way with Noah. “I already helped you once,” he says. “It ain’t happening again.”

Carol may have wanted to wound the kid, but she doesn’t want to leave him to die—and when is it ever a good idea to leave a walker roaming in your shared space? Then again, everyone knows Daryl’s a softie. Noah is saved, and it’s a good thing, because they all quickly realize they know Beth.

Now we can dismiss the theories that Carol intentionally had herself captured so she could infiltrate the hospital while Daryl and Noah went back for reinforcements. We don’t know the extent of her injuries, but she won’t be in ass-kicking shape and ready to lead an uprising at Grady, at least not right away. And with only two episodes remaining before the mid-season break, there’s not a lot of time left.

Etc.

• Carol’s down for the count, but Melissa McBride talked to Dalton Ross.

• “We can get her back. We can get Beth back.” “What’s it going to take?” “A lot. They got guns, people.” “So do we.”

• The woman and child from the shelter who turned into walkers is a brutal touch: Even the victims of the pre-apocalypse world aren’t spared from the horrors of the aftermath.

• Daryl Dixon, art critic: “I bet a dog sat in paint and wiped its ass all over the place.”

• Dalton received the best email of all time this week: a press release announcing Blindsided by the Walking Dead a one-man show by T-dog himself, IronE Singleton. Despite the title—you see, he was in The Blindside and The Walking Dead—the show doesn’t seem to have much to do with his experiences. Its purpose, per the show’s website: “Blindsided by the Walking Dead is a solution that is sure to help create positive change in our society by providing women insight into the thought process and tendencies of a man thereby promoting healthier relationships, helping individuals cope with adversity and by promoting AIDS awareness, social and self-awareness, leadership and responsibility, adaptation to cultural differences, alternatives to violence, drugs, sexual promiscuity and other ills that are glamorized by our many media of entertainment.” So… did season 2 feel really slow to you, too?

• Also in Walking Dead cast extracurricular activities: Lauren Cohan is getting her first solo magazine cover on the December issue of Women’s Health. She talks about the show, actors she admires, Christmas traditions, etc. Turns out shooting in Georgia is a pleasure! (If anyone can name that Simpsons reference, I’ll give your comment an up-vote.)

• Everyone who called it that Noah was the guy hiding in the bushes, well done. But if you also theorized that Carol got caught on purpose, it’s a wash.

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.
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