What was touted as ‘The Adventures of Carol and Daryl’, ultimately turned out to be a relatively slow moving and serious episode focusing on identity and rebirth. Not gonna lie, I thought this episode was a serious bummer. I'm not blaming it on the lack of action, but given the themes of ‘Consumed’, I now truly believe that something horrible is going to happen to Carol. Soon.
Fire and smoke became important symbols in this episode, connoting specific life altering moments in Carol’s recent life. There has been a great deal of focus on Carol in the first half of Season 5, and I can’t help but think that she’s doomed.
The episode is punctuated with Carol flashbacks, filling in small gaps of time for the viewer. We begin as Carol drives away from Rick, exiled after killing Karen and David back in the first half of Season 4. (Side note – This happened over a year ago for us, but in WD-time it’s only happened a few weeks ago.) Carol drives out onto a main road, and allows herself a brief moment of grief, sobbing at her steering wheel. She collects herself and then drives into a small town, setting up shop at a small law firm. Settling in for the night, Carol clutches her gun tightly to her chest.
The next morning Carol gets up and sets to work creating a makeshift camp. As she hangs plastic bags from the windows as rain catchers, she glimpses a plume of black smoke rising in the direction of the prison. Panic on her face, she hops to it. She gets in her car and flies down the road. As she approaches the prison, a blazing inferno is reflected in her windshield. Damn, they totally could’ve used Carol. Would she have taken the Governor out? Probably. There’s a good chance things may have gone another way in that situation if Carol had been there. Rick has terrible timing. He’s kind of the worst sometimes.
Now we know how and why Carol came back. Just about a day after the exile. She wasn’t on her own for very long at all, and even though Rick shut her out she remained loyal to all the people there and rushed to their side when she saw danger. If Carol’s only thoughts were for self-preservation, she would’ve stayed as far away from that situation as possible. But she didn’t.
Back in the present, we pick back up with Carol and Daryl as they pursue the mystery car. Daryl notes that the car is running low on gas, and Carol suggests that they run the car off the road. She’s kind of like a wild card here. She has definitely proven herself to be a bold risk taker, but in this case she’s not thinking too far ahead. That is what makes her and Daryl such a great team.
As the duo soldiers on, the camera pans back to show us a brief shot of Atlanta at night. It is eerily black, silent, and foreboding in the distance.
The white cross car stops at an intersection, and Carol and Daryl park their car and watch from a distance. A passenger gets out, and Daryl asks, “Is that a cop?” with a bit of surprise in his voice. (Side note – its interesting to note that Daryl doesn’t say its someone ‘dressed like a cop’, he immediately assumes that the person is a cop because of the uniform. Those societal mores are powerful, and Dawn of the Walking Dead knows it.)
A walker starts to claw at the car window, potentially giving up their position. Both Carol and Daryl stare at it with disgusted indifference, like “be cool, dude, just be cool.”
After pulling what appeared to be random debris off the road, the cop passenger gets back in the car, and the car drives away. Daryl tries to turn the key, but it’s a no go. Carol says she knows a place they can “hole up”.
They make their way into a building as a small contingent of walkers starts to wobble down the city street like the lamest Thriller video knockoff ever. As they make their way into the building, Carol finds a key ring on a body lying in the hall. They barricade the door and make themselves at home. Daryl asks Carol what the place is, and she explains that it’s temporary housing. She and Sophia came there before the world fell apart, but they didn’t stay.
Carol flops on the bed next to Daryl and the two have a heart-to-heart about their lives and what it means to have an identity in this new world. They both seem to agree that they’re trying to start over, and trying to still believe that what they’re doing matters. Daryl asks Carol what she would’ve done if he hadn’t shown up at the car earlier, and Carol says she doesn’t know. But we know. Gareth and the Termites would’ve grabbed her and made a delicious feast out of her lady leg. (Side note - It’s kind of interesting that as this conversation takes place, the rest of our gang is hard at work taking out the Termites.)
There’s a noise out in the hallway, and they go to investigate. Two walkers press up against the frosted glass. A large, adult sized body appears next to a smaller body, presumably a child. Carol goes to take care of it, but Daryl stops her, telling her she doesn’t have to do it. The next morning Carol wakes up to see a fire burning outside. Daryl has covered the bodies with sheets (definitely Beth’s influence) and is burning them. Carol gets a sad but hopeful look on her face, and thanks Daryl as they watch the curls of black smoke rise into the sky.
In many ways, this scene echoes the themes of not only this episode, but Daryl’s trajectory on the show as well. It’s no coincidence that following the scene at the shelter, the episode cuts to a flashback of Carol blankly staring at a cloud of white smoke in the distance as she and Tyreese bury Mika and Lizzie’s bodies. Recall that that smoke is from the moonshine shack that Daryl and Beth burned down so that Daryl could leave his life as an abused and neglected child in the past. In burning the bodies at the shelter, Daryl is very likely trying to help Carol move on from her abusive past much in the same way Beth helped him.
Ever since Mika taught Carol how to identify if a fire is still burning from afar in The Grove, white versus black smoke has been a recurring and symbolic theme in Carol’s life. The white smoke from the shack is the only smoke in the episode from a fire that has burned itself out, indicating something is over, done, reborn. Daryl has been reborn, but the smoke from the fires started in Carol’s past is never seen as ‘white’, indicating that she has been unable to resolve her issues and move on. The black smoke from her past, via the flashbacks, clearly haunts her and her self-doubt is definitely still burning.
After the walker bonfire, the duo leaves the shelter and stalks the deserted streets of Atlanta. For some reason, the streets have an overwhelming amount of loose cardboard strewn about. They make their way through an open parking garage into the ‘Skybridge’. Someone is watching from the garage.
They get up to the bridge, and encounter an odd tableau. The hallway seems to have been a camping site for a small group of survivors. It appears as if they were all stabbed to death, and then entombed in sleeping bags and tents in order to immobilize the bodies once they reanimated. Is it a trap? A deterrent? Or maybe it’s just a gigantic piece of performance art? Is Banksy still alive in the apocalypse? Maybe Daryl is Banksy. Woah. Anything is possible in the WD world I guess.
They make it to the end of the hall, but the door is loosely bolted. Carol and Daryl both shimmy through the small opening to find an upscale office that looks to be untouched. They look out onto a scorched landscape, surveying the territory. Again, they have a cryptic conversation about evolution of self, and starting over. Carol seems to want to tell Daryl about what happened with the girls, but then thinks better of it.
Daryl spies something in the distance. It’s a van, marked with a distinctive white cross, stuck in the safety rails of an overpass. They load up on water, and take a moment to look at the piece of art in the office. Daryl says the abstract piece looks like, “a dog sat in paint and wiped his ass all over the place.” Carol disagrees, and says she likes it. I’d hate to think what Daryl might say about a Pollock painting. Yikes.
|Care Bear vomit? Liquefied walker? P.S. I want Daryl Dixon to interpret all abstract paintings forever and ever please and thank you. P.P.S. There should be a web series, ‘Carol And Daryl Go To MoMA’. I’d totally watch that.|
As they shimmy back out of the bolted door, Noah grabs Carol’s rifle and holds them at gunpoint. He asks Daryl to lay down his crossbow, and apologizes to them. As he escapes, he says, “I’m sorry about this. You look tough, you’ll be alright.” Noah slashes into the tents, releasing the walkers from their vinyl cages. Carol reacts immediately, shooting a walker, and then takes aim at Noah as he flees down the hall. Daryl sees this and quickly whacks Carol’s arm down toward the floor.
They start to exit the building, and Carol quickly scrambles to justify what she did. She sums up her motto of self-preservation as she says, “If I’m going to hell I’m making damn sure I’m holding it off as long as I can.” Daryl protests a bit, frustrated with her outlook on the situation. Carol grabs Daryl’s bag, and a book titled ‘Treating Survivors of Childhood Abuse’ falls out. They lock eyes for a moment, and Daryl snatches the book away.
Unlike Carol, Daryl is trying to deal with his past, instead of using it to fuel his future. He is taking the opportunity for rebirth seriously, as a chance to evolve emotionally and spiritually, and not just survive.
On the other hand, Carol is simply trying to survive and help those close to her survive as time passes. This is illustrated with a flashback to the prison. Carol stands over Karen and David’s bodies as they burn. Columns of black smoke pour into the air. What Carol has done in episodes past seems to be in the service of protecting others, not necessarily herself. She’s still carrying the regret of inaction from her previous life, and is constantly in fight mode, counting only on herself, not permitting herself to rest even when she has others to support her. She hasn’t learned how to balance the fight with flight yet, and this is causing her some serious stress.
We return to the present as Carol and Daryl approach the abandoned van with the white cross. Carol wants to go in first because she’s lighter and the van is unstable, front end dangling off the side of the bridge, but Daryl shrugs her off and hops in. They successfully ID a stretcher in the van as originating from Grady Memorial Hospital, but a horde approaches, boxing them in. They wordlessly slide into the two front seats and as they brace for impact, Carol reaches for Daryl’s hand on the dashboard.
In defiance of physics, the van lands squarely on all four tires, like a cat. Walkers begin to rain from the sky, landing with hard thunks on the windshield and roof of the van. As they walk away, Carol is clearly injured, and Daryl holds her up.
They continue their mission, staking out the situation from an abandoned building adjacent to the hospital. As they munch on a lunch of stale chips, Daryl strikes up a conversation. He presses Carol for information on how he’s changed since they met. She says, “It’s like you were a kid. Now you’re a man.” Daryl then asks her to assess herself, and how she’s changed. Even though Daryl did her a solid and tried to burn away her past at the shelter, Carol can’t seem to shake who she was ‘before’. She ruminates on her life with Ed, saying that she kept praying for something to happen, and it didn’t.
Carol goes on and talks about her life since then, speaking about her metamorphosis in stages, seeming to reference the things we’ve seen in the flashbacks of the episode and how they’ve changed the core of who she is. “Who I was…she got burned away, and I was happy about that. And at the prison I got to be who I always should have been, and then she got burned away...everything now just consumes you.” Daryl looks at her with kindness in his eyes and reminds her, “we ain’t ashes.”
Just then, Noah fumbles with something down the hall. Seriously, kid? Out of all the buildings in all of Atlanta, you pick this one? The one CLOSER to the place you’re trying to run away from?! But I digress….Noah is battling a walker as Carol and Daryl approach. He tosses the walker at Carol and she falls to the ground. Daryl helps Carol and then pursues Noah, tackling him and trapping him under a gigantic bookcase as a walker starts to wriggle in through the door. Noah pleads for help as Daryl shakes a stale cigarette out of a found pack and coolly lights it.
Daryl refuses to help, saying, “Nah, I already helped you once. It ain’t happenin’ again.” Noah’s probably pretty confused here, as he didn’t know that Carol had a bullet with his name on it, but no matter. For some reason Carol’s on his side now. As the walker gets closer, she joins in asking for Daryl's assistance. As the walker lunges for Noah’s throat, Carol grabs her knife. She’s about to stab the walker when an arrow slices through the air, piercing the walker’s skull.
Back in the past, Terminus burns, thick black smoke swirling in the distance as Carol sheds her camouflage.
Carol and Daryl help lift the bookcase, and Noah thanks them profusely once he’s free. He goes to the window, and says he has to go because the people at the hospital are following him. Daryl’s eyes widen at the mention of the hospital. “You see a blonde girl there?!” Noah’s eyes widen in kind, “Beth? You know her?! She helped me get out, but she’s still there.”
The trio starts to exit the building when Noah trips and falls. Daryl stops to help him up, and Carol sprints ahead into the road. A station wagon screeches up, slamming into Carol. Her body flies up onto the windshield and then crumples to the ground. Daryl has a freak out, as Noah holds him back, explaining that the people at the hospital “have machines” and that they will help her. As the cops load Carol onto a stretcher, Noah says, “We can get her back. We can get Beth back.”
Daryl asks, “What’s it going to take?” Noah notes that the group at the hospital has guns and people, and Daryl responds, “So do we.”
Noah and Daryl escape the city in a truck. Noah looks at Daryl with an odd look on his face. Daryl stares, determined, into the distance, the face of a man on a mission.
- I just simply couldn't care less about the scene where Carol and Daryl are lying on the bed. They’re just close, ok? They’re never going to make out, and I don’t want them to. This is my final and only thought. They're soulmates at a deeper level. Also, no one ever seems to brush their teeth. Gross.
- Daryl’s actually one of the gentlest souls on the show at this point, and by being here with Carol he was spared from being a part of the Termite Massacre back at the church. I can't help but think that his separation from the group at this point in time was intentional. Same with Carol, but I think that her method of killing would be more akin to Michonne's rather than Sasha, Rick or Abe's. She's a gentle soul too, only capable of fight when something is at stake. Unlike some of the others, she's not in it for vengeance.
- Obligatory Biblical reference of the episode seems to be the Mary on the dash of the van. Very glad we didn't have to listen to any scripture this week. Thanks for that, WD writers.
- The last two episodes reminded me of the storytelling on LOST. Flashbacks focusing on a single character within a larger episode for the sake of character building.
- I really do think that something terrible is going to happen to Carol by the mid-season finale. For some reason I'm holding out hope that it's amnesia, and not her death. She got whacked pretty hard by that car, and an amnesiac episode followed by a 'rebirth' may possibly be what this episode is pointing towards. I don't care if it's too 'Days of Our Lives', any story line that lets Carol Peletier live is okay in my book.