[y’all know there’re spoilers, right? okee doke]
This episode. Was. Ahhhh well, okay, lemme start at the beginning.
As I was watching my thoughts were something like, “oh no, Walking Dead, you’ve done it: you’ve ruined the season’s momentum.” By the end I decided I was wrong, but the second act was still draggy af. It threw off the whole episode for me, and it only barely redeemed itself by the end.
The episode picks up with Carol and Maggie in the woods the night the group was raiding the Saviors’ compound. A guy (
Ed, I’m pretty sure Donnie!) sneaks up on them, and even though Carol could have killed him, she pulls her shot and gets him in the arm instead. Carol and Maggie are then captured by a small group of Saviors led by Paula (Alicia Witt), and now we’re caught up to the end of last week.
Over the walkie talkie, Rick offers to trade their guy for Carol and Maggie. Paula says she’ll think about it, and in the meantime they whisk Carol and Maggie off to another of their waypoints. A slaughterhouse, I think? They’re waiting on backup to arrive, stalling Rick as they do.
Carol seems to be flipping out. She’s hyperventilating, crying, and otherwise losing her mind. Maggie’s looking at her like she’s nuts, because who is this crazy person inhabiting Carol’s body??
The place is full of walkers, and as Paula kills one of them, Carol grabs the dead woman’s rosary and acts like she’s praying. Carol has never shown any sort of Catholic (or particularly religious) leanings before, so we kinda know something’s up—but combined with her recent crises of conscience and her excellent weepy face, I was a little bit worried for a hot minute.
Carol tells the Saviors (through her tears) that she doesn’t care what happens to her; just don’t hurt Maggie or her baby. Paula is all Ms. Cynical, clearly functioning as Carol’s foil, and she is fairly dismissive of Maggie’s current condition.
One of the other women takes Maggie away to question her while Paula and Molly stay behind with Carol. Paula tells her about her life Before, that she was a secretary who spent her days fetching coffee. She lost her husband and four daughters (3-upping Carol’s “I lost my daughter” confession), and she tells Carol a story she read in an email about eggs, coffee beans, and carrots in boiling water: the egg goes from soft to hard, the carrot from hard to soft, and the coffee changes the water.
Okay, that’s a little harsh; it wasn’t that bad, but I was beginning to worry about the fate of this episode by that point. The whole “be the coffee” thing was so…I mean, it was meant to be a cheesy story thing that a Facebook mom posts with a picture of a Minion beside it, but it became even more heavy-handed when you realized Paula is the egg and Carol is worried about becoming an egg herself. Thanks, show. We get it.
When Molly and Paula leave to go meet their backup, Carol sharpens the crucifix on the ground and uses it to cut through the duct tape around her wrists. Ah, there’s the Carol we know and love! She goes to get Maggie, and when they return to the room where they had been held, Donnie is dead and changing. They tie him to a bit of machinery, and when Molly opens the door he bites her. Maggie then attacks her and pistol-whips her pretty thoroughly while Carol looks on in horror.
Paula walks in to see Donnie and Molly dead, and she confronts Carol and Maggie in the hall. They’ve been stopped by a group of walkers the Saviors set up as a roadblock. Carol holds her gun on Paula and Maggie urges Carol to shoot her. Carol, with tears in her eyes, begs Paula to run away. A walker comes loose and charges at Carol; the gun goes off, and Maggie kills the walker before it can bite anyone.
Meanwhile the girl who’d been interrogating Maggie comes back and attacks her. She thinks Maggie was lying about the pregnancy and slashes at Maggie’s belly, which obviously freaks Maggie tf out. Carol shoots her in the head, unhesitating this time, and they return to a wounded Paula.
She mocks Carol—honestly there was this whole long thing about eggs and people being soft and etc., but even though I literally just watched the episode I don’t really remember it—and eventually attacks her. Carol shoves her onto one of the stakes that had been impaling a walker, and another walker bites Paula’s face off.
The backup group radios saying they’re close, and Carol impersonates Paula to tell them to meet “at the killing floor.” Carol and Maggie hide to wait for them, and Carol’s a mess. She’s shaking and half-crying. She tells Maggie if she’d just shot the guy to begin with none of this would have happened. Maggie, sporting a thousand-yard stare of her own and with blood on her face, tells Carol not to think about that.
The Saviors show up and go into the killing floor room. Carol shuts the door behind them and throws a lighted cigarette into the room…into a puddle of gasoline. They burn alive while Carol and Maggie stagger out.
It was a LOT, y’all. Like Maggie going all Terminator and Carol losing her mind and them burning people alive…just wow. Both of them at this point seem to be reliving something Paula said to them earlier: you aren’t the good guys. Maybe, they think, we aren’t. Do good guys burn people alive?
When Maggie opens the door to outside, Glenn is there with a gun in her face. They both drop their guns and embrace. Daryl runs to Carol and hugs her. “Are you all right?” he says.
Actual footage of Carol at that moment.
Of course she’s not okay! Luckily she tells him that, and he hugs her again. It’s a wonderful tender moment, and I swear the most they’ve interacted all season. My shipper heart grew three sizes that day.
The last shot is of Carol’s hand: she’s squeezing the sharpened crucifix so hard that her blood drips out onto the floor.
I can’t help but think that last shot was a sort of foreshadowing. As I discussed last week, all of Carol’s current character growth is pointing toward her being TOTALLY DONE with this whole zombie apocalypse thing. If, in the last ep of the season, Negan needs someone to kill, I wouldn’t put it past Carol to volunteer. She would sacrifice herself for the group without hesitation at this point. It seems as though her will to survive in the way this new world forces one to survive is gone.
There are some viewers, I’m sure, who are unhappy with this development, but I’m not. I wish it had been slower coming, rather than just two episodes from killer-Carol to crying-Carol. I don’t want any of this attributed to her being a mom; y’all know how I feel about that super uterus nonsense; but I think it’s natural for someone to reach the point Carol has. She’s killed 20 humans by now; that takes a toll, and it’s good to see it.
Speaking of taking a toll, as Maggie and Glenn embrace she tells him she can’t do this anymore. Her breakdown is different from Carol’s, but I have a feeling they’ll both be spending a lot more time around the homestead in the episodes to come.
I have mixed feelings about this one. Obviously Maggie is going to be a mother, and that’s incredibly important to her. I don’t want the show to make Maggie’s entire world become focused on the baby. I don’t want her to be Mama Maggie above everything else she is. But at the same time I understand what babies symbolize to everyone in this post-apocalyptic world. Paula scoffs at the “children are our future” idea and says that staying upright is the future. The only future that matters. Maggie tells her that’s what walkers do, and she wants more.
This isn’t a show known for its subtlety (see the egg metaphor, above), and I’m worried about how Maggie’s pregnancy is going to play out.
No word on Tara and Heath, but it doesn’t seem like Negan’s men found them. Of course I’m sure there are other Saviors lurking around out there, so we’ll see what happens.
Episode grade: this’s a tough one. Act 2 was a DRAG and a HALF, but the ending was pretty good. Maybe a C? An A for Caryl interaction, though.
Images courtesy of AMC