Plot: While on their way to Terminus, Carol (Melissa McBride) and Mika (Kyla Kenedy) find a very well kept house. It isn’t long until the group begins to question if they should go to Terminus at all. Carol meanwhile is exceptionally concerned with how Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) views the horrible world around her.
When The Walking Dead shambled onto our TV screens way back in 2010, the question of what the show was willing to include from the comics was raised. TV or film adaptations tend to stray from source material so they don’t drive away the much larger viewer numbers. The comic version of The Walking Dead is packed to the brim with some really graphic and horrible scenes that simply don’t work on a non-premium TV broadcast. The show has had plenty of its own disturbing moments, clearly, but there have been several dark corners that it has refused to visit. For good reasons mind you. Yet “The Grove” showed us last night that the writers don’t want to leave those dark corners entirely unexplored. In a moment that naturally shocked everyone, “The Grove” almost exactly recreated one of the most harrowing moments in the several year history of this franchise. It was a tragic capper to an episode that, despite some other high points, wasn’t more than “good” until the final quarter.
I can say with certainty that I didn’t expect Lizzie and Mika to die in such a manner. Yet looking back on it, the foreshadowing was there. When the episode opened up Carol was taking some hard looks at how these two sisters have developed in this world. Lizzie had seemingly concocted a veil of childish ignorance around her while Mika had simply not grown up enough to handle the harsh truths. The red flags were there throughout the episode but tragically Carol and Tyreese (Chad Coleman) never saw them until it was too late. Lizzie had gone so far off the deep end that the act of murdering her sister didn’t even faze her. Even until the last moment, when she repeatedly apologized to Carol, Lizzie didn’t understand her actions as she was only sorry for upsetting her mentor. Murdering her sister wasn’t a big deal in her mind. Mika’s sweetness brought her too close to see the danger while Lizzie had become too much of a murderous sociopath to connect with anyone else. It was a ruthless mixture that tragically spelled doom for two children, and was also ripe with Old Yeller and Of Mice and Men similarities.
A lot of people were disgusted with what happened and obviously for the right reasons. When this occurred a couple years ago in the comics (Issue #61 in 2009 for those interested), it was horrific. Killing children is such a taboo element in so many mediums. This was one moment especially where I seriously wondered if the show had the confidence to include it, and to such exactness I might add. While the comic counterpart was more horrible (SPOILER: Carl executed the murderer in the comics, not Carol), it was a nearly identical. The quote, “Don’t worry. She’ll come back. I didn’t hurt her brain,” was lifted directly from the comics, save for the gender difference. A child murdering another child and not fully understanding is immensely disturbing. The comic is known for not holding back and clearly this version won’t either, and it really shouldn’t. Mental instability of this scale is a harsh truth of that world. Like him or not, Carl (Chandler Riggs) really has his shit together. There is no way that can happen with every child though. Lizzie and Mika were prime examples of how this life can absolutely ruin a kid.
Shortly after what will be remembered as one of the most insane moments of this series, the show doesn’t let up. Carol finally confesses to Tyreese about her murdering Karen (Melissa Ponzio). It was an appropriately intense moment as Tyreese runs a whole gauntlet of emotions. For a period of time you seriously believe that he will kill Carol right on the spot. Yet in a moment of clarity and strength, Tyreese forgives Carol for her actions. The torment he feels over losing Karen isn’t enough to blind him from Carol’s strong logic. If her plan had actually worked and the illness was stopped, people would consider her a hero. Instead her plan failed and she’s a murderer. Tyreese knows he needs Carol, not just for survival but also for companionship. Tyreese giving forgiveness but swearing he will never forget what she did was undeniably powerful. Keep being awesome Chad Coleman.
As ridiculous as this may sound, all of this happened within the last 15 minutes or so of the episode. If I was just reviewing those moments “The Grove” would receive a perfect 10. But I’m not reviewing just those, I’m reviewing the whole episode, and the rest of the episode wasn’t as spectacular. It’s clear that the writers want every group to have their own focused hour so they had to find a way to fill in time. They did this with a bunch of dialogue and a general repetition of events. Lizzie snuck away so many times last night I couldn’t understand why no one was keeping a better eye on her. We didn’t need so many examples of how passive Mika was either. There were also Carol, Lizzie, and Mika cooking pecans, Tyreese talking about a living room, and the extra conversations about why living in that house is a good idea. This was all basically episode fluff. When the apparently obligatory walker attack happened at the halfway mark, I was appalled that only thirty minutes had passed. It felt like I was watching for an hour already. I actually got bored at times.
The way “The Grove” ended was enough to keep it memorable though. At the end of the day, I’m going to look back at this as a great of example of the show not shying away from the source material. Lizzie’s descent into madness and Carol coming clean was done beautifully. However, the events leading up to this shocking conclusion needed some definite work. A lot felt like filler that primarily existed to give this episode a reason for occupying a full hour, Lizzie toying with walkers notwithstanding. Yet it’s hard not to be happy with “The Grove” tying up past questions like who was feeding the walkers (Lizzie), who mutilated that rabbit (Lizzie), and when Carol will tell Tyreese the truth. The group talking about a fire in the distance was a great touch too. Remember when Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Beth (Emily Kinney) set that cabin ablaze in “Still”? It’s those connections between episodes that make me smile. I was all set to discount “The Grove” as an okay episode, but the mind blowing ending saved it whole heartedly.