The Walking Dead Goes Steinbeck by Alex Snider

*Spoilers* The future of humanity looks pretty grim after this week's episode. Seems it's really hard to keep kids alive during the zombie apocalypse, especially girl-children. Rough stuff. I'm still unsettled.

In a way this episode felt like a rehashing of Sophia's death in season two; an attempt by the writers to right the wrongs. The never-ending search for Sophia had diminishing returns, to the point where when she finally staggered out of that barn, the emotional wallop was more like a light slap. The group was devastated and Carol was the perfect picture of maternal grief but the audience had already been put through seven (!!) aimless, tedious episodes during which the phrase "we have to find Sophia" became the surest way to anaesthetize viewers. Did I know she was going to wind up zombie-fied? I had hoped not because I'm a big softie, but as someone who has read a lot of Flannery O'Connor, I always expect the absolute worst to happen.

That being said, I didn't expect both Lizzie and Mika to die this episode. I did read a recap before I watched though (I had heard rumblings of one of their deaths and my heart can't take brutality against children unless I've got warning) but prior to that recap, I thought we'd be with at least one of those kids for a while. Before I saw the episode I was pretty skeptical that it was the right decision so early in the murderous-Lizzie game but now I'm really glad that it was dealt with quickly. Maybe I'd grown too accustomed to TWD dragging out story-lines but I'm happy to be shaken out of that particular Stockholm Syndrome state. It did seem unlikely that a show that's already dispatched every other tween girl would take out another two, especially when they're under Carol's care. (Surely Carol had been through enough! Apparently not because what's worse than killing one daughter? Killing two surrogate daughters and having to stab one in the brain and shoot the other in the head. It's like Carol is in a darker sequel to Groundhog Day.)

My doubts were unfounded as it turns out, this episode was a beautiful tragedy wrapped in a bottle episode. There was no way to avoid Lizzie killing Mika, no way to avoid Lizzie's death – as Carol said Lizzie "can't be around other people". If this had always been a well-written show I'd think that this was an ode to Greek or Shakespearean tragedy: a fatal flaw brings down a family despite the glimmer of hope and initial happiness. I guess that makes Lizzie Antigone and Mika Polynices sort of? It's a working theory.
Of Mice and Zombies (I'm here all night, folks, tip your waitress!)
So there are things we can't change and Lizzie's sickness is one of them. I'm eternally grateful that the show didn't go the Bad Seed route and turn her into a child of the corn. She was, in the end, a little girl with problems (dead bunnies and attempted-infanticides aside). She was sweet, she was caring, she was empathetic; not evil or psychotic or a budding sociopath. Mika's strategies for helping Lizzie calm down definitely suggested that those problems had been there for a while and Lizzie insisting that the walkers spoke to her implied something more than zombie apocalypse PTSD.

But what a sad thing to watch. I started the episode not caring really about either of the girls but by the end (rather by their ends) I liked them both – especially Mika who's optimism I found infinitely more convincing than Beth's (I'm trying to like Beth, I am! Especially because my dear friend who has in my experience never been wrong about anything ever likes her. But ugh, Beth!). I loved her comment on the smoke and missing science class. Also love how she's cute as a button but has one of those older-lady faces like the "60 Year Old Girl" meme.
Liked Adventures of Tom Sawyer but prefers Reader's Digest
Other thoughts:

There was a lot of recurring imagery this episode, all calling back to the second season and the search for Sophia. Of course there's the bucolic farm, the repeated references to flowers (don't forget the significance of the Cherokee roses), the deer (last time we saw a deer was when Carl was shot). At one point, when chasing after Lizzie, Mika runs past an old barn with the doors wide open (no zombie Sophia lurching out this time). It all further cements the parallels between Sophia and the sisters and shows how much Carol has grown.

Wow, there are a lot of dead girls on TV, huh? On TWD alone there's been five, all white, all blonde: Sophia, Zombie Penny, Megan and now Lizzie and Mika. And possibly Beth. Somebody dye Judith's hair asap.

What even is my life now?
The Greek tragedy aspect is up for interpretation but the homage to Of Mice and Men is obvious. I went back and reread the end of Steinbeck's novella and sure enough it's nearly identical. You've got the stern but kind care-giver, the means-no-harm-but-harms-none-the-less sidekick and you've got the picturesque setting for a mercy killing. "Lizzie, look at the flowers" is TWD version of Lenny asking George to describe their dream again. And here I thought Shane's wardrobe choice post-murdering Otis would be the most Of Mice and Men thing on TWD.

Somewhat Raskolnikov-y <- another shoehorned literary reference. I'm a delight at parties
I am really glad that Carol confessed to Tyrese about Karen and David. That was an immensely powerful scene made all the more poignant considering the events prior. Pleased that Tyrese forgave her (even if he swore not to forget) so we can avoid more fighting on the show. It also kind of takes the wind out of the sails for the inevitable Carol-Tyrese-Rick reunion. Any chance to side-step squabbling and waffling is one the writers should take. But Carol and Tyrese! Am I the only one who's shipping those two hard now?

Melissa McBride is the damn star of this show. Portrayed by far and away the best actor on the show, Carol's arc has been my favourite of all the characters'. We got a chance this episode to really revel in how much Carol has changed, from the meek mother and abused wife, she has become one of the most capable and tough characters – willing to make the hard call but has yet to lose any compassion. If anything Carol is more compassionate now. Her difficult actions have amplified her humanity.

I tried to count how many bullets were fired and lost track at 27 during the charred-walker onslaught. YOU GUYS THERE WERE ONLY SEVEN WALKERS. Maggie, Sasha and Bob with their six bullets would be so pissed.

For all its faults, TWD is always so beautiful. The cinematography is fantastic and nearly rivals  that of Breaking Bad. Every shot of the forest and farm this episode filled me with yearning to be there. The direction this week was also great. Loved loved loved the scenes through the window. First the cold open with the music, kettle and slow pan over to Lizzie playing tag with a walker. Then Tyrese watching Lizzie lose her shit at Carol for killing her playmate and again Tyrese watching as Carol shot Lizzie. And the final shot of Carol and Tyrese walking away from the farm. I already mentioned Flannery O'Connor above but this episode really nailed the Southern Gothic – the awful combination of beauty and of the grotesque with the gorgeous atmosphere laced with death.

One day I'm going to start a Tumblr consisting entirely of TV characters digging graves.

There are only two episodes left which bums me out. Nervous about losing any of the characters – at this point I like them all (except the new crews). I do stand by my assertion that Rick's gotta go, though.

Read the previous episode recap here.


Alex Snider watches a lot of TV. Follow her on Twitter where she'll be super active for a week then be quiet for months – she's a social media cicada.


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