OMG, another episode without Rick! That should automatically give it an A grade. But instead we have histrionics and unearned tragedy. On the plus side, we seem to be systematically weeding out characters I don't need to care about anymore.
We open with a shot looking out a kitchen window. A teakettle is whistling and old timey music is playing. We hear giggling coming from outside but as the camera pans to the window, we see what looks like a young girl playing tag with a zombie. That can't end well.
This episode focuses on Carol, Tyrese, Lizzie, Mika and Judith. They stop for the night along the railroad tracks. While Tyrese and Mika sleep, Carol sits up, keeping watch, holding Judith and talking with Lizzie. Lizzie asks if Carol had any kids of her own. Carol: I did. She was sweet and didn't have a mean bone in her body. Lizzie: Is that why she's not here now? Carol: Yes. Lizzie gives her a hug and then goes to lie down next to the others, stepping wide around Tyrese who seems to be having a nightmare.
In the morning, Carol dresses a wound on Tyrese's arm with some pine sap, to seal it and fight the infection. The group continues walking along the tracks, smelling smoke in the air (from Daryl and Beth's fire, actually). After a bit, Tyrese, Lizzie and the baby sit and rest while Carol and Mika search for water. When a walker gets trapped between some railroad ties, Tyrese goes out to dispatch it but Lizzie runs after him and asks him not to kill it. With misgivings, he doesn't bash its head in since it's trapped and not going anywhere. Meanwhile, on the water search, Carol gives Mika the hard sell, saying that she has to toughen up. Mika says that she isn't messed up like Lizzie - she knows what walkers are and can kill them - but she could never ever kill a person. "I don't even wish I could [kill bad people.]" She is also sweet and without a mean bone in her body. Carol's all, you have to change! Then they find a tidy farmhouse in a lovely grove of pecan trees.
Carol and Mika go back and fetch the others, bringing them back to the farmhouse. By now, a huge plume of smoke is visible above the trees but far enough away to not be a danger. Carol and Tyrese go inside the farmhouse to clear it; Lizzie holds Judith and Mika pulls out her gun. The sisters get into an argument about whether zombies are people or not - Mika: They aren't people, Lizzie, they're just dead! - and then a walker staggers out of the house, falling over the porch railing and crawling towards the girls. While Lizzie just screams, Mika fires off several shots and finally kills it. The adults run out. Lizzie is shaking and crying but won't say why. Mika goes to her big sister and tells her to just "look at the flowers like you're supposed to, and count to three." So, obviously Lizzie has been fucked up since before the zombie apocalypse and this is a coping mechanism her family put into place. Lizzie says that she tries to understand but she gets confused. That night, as Carol and Lizzie crack pecans and Tyrese sinks gratefully into an armchair, Mika looks around with a grin and exclaims, "We should live here!"
In the morning, Carol puts the teakettle on. And then looks out the window to see Lizzie laughing and scampering just out of reach of a zombie. Carol runs outside and Lizzie begs her not to kill it. Carol tosses the girl to one side and kills off the walker. Lizzie freaks out - complete, over the top hysterics - screaming that "she" was her friend and Carol killed "her," etc. etc. Carol stares at the sobbing girl, shakes her head and is all, WTF am I going to do with this?
A while later, Carol and Mika try to go hunting for some fresh meat. They find a deer but Mika can't/refuses to shoot it. The deer walks off. Carol looks disappointed but Mika just shrugs, "We have peaches!" She's pretty cute, Mika. After that, Carol and Tyrese go off to fetch water - why would both adults go, leaving two little girls and a baby alone? - Tyrese echoes Mika's comment from the night before, saying that maybe they don't need to go to Terminus, maybe they could just stay here. Meanwhile, Mika notices Lizzie skulking around the barn. She follows her older sister out to the train tracks and watches as Lizzie feeds the trapped walker a rat. Mika is all, zombies are bad and they want to kill you! Lizzie, a beatific smile on her face, disagrees, saying that the walkers just want her to change to be like them. "Maybe I should change." As Lizzie holds out her hand to the walker, a number of horrifying burned walkers lurch out of the trees towards them. Both girls run back to the farmhouse, screaming for Tyrese and Carol. They duck through the barbed wire fence, Mika almost getting dragged back through. Then all four of them pull their guns and fire on the approaching charred walkers, even Lizzie. They kill them all and everyone gets at least one. Carol pulls Lizzie into a hug: you did it! Man, those burned zombies were gruesome. That night, Carol and Lizzie talk about what happened. Lizzie said that she had to help and now she knows what she has to do. Carol is all, it's hard and horrible but that's what we have to do now. Mika pipes up that she doesn't want to be mean. Lizzie turns to her and says that sometimes you have to, but only sometimes.
The next day, Tyrese and Carol go out again together, leaving the girls home alone. There's a lot of talking, Tyrese going on and on about his dead girlfriend Karen and how he dreams about her, how she's haunting him. Carol listens, a guilty look on her face. It almost looks like she's going to confess to having killed Karen (and the other guy, Whatsisname) but she doesn't, instead saying that the dead aren't haunting them but reminding them of everything they have to do to survive. He pulls her into a hug and she clutches at him.
They walk back to the house and here it is. Judith is crawling around on a quilt spread on the lawn. Mika is lying on the lawn too, Lizzie standing over her, a knife in one hand and up to her elbows in blood. "Don't worry!" she says, smiling, "She'll come back. I didn't hurt her brain!" Tyrese's jaw hits the ground. Carol pulls out her own knife and steps towards Mika. But Lizzie draws her gun and points it at Carol, saying that she just wants to wait for Mika to come back and show them all. Carol coaxes the gun from her, suggesting that Tyrese and Lizzie take Judith back to the house for lunch. Lizzie says that she was just about to change Judith too - Carol breaks in that the baby can't even walk yet, so that's a bad idea. Carol says that she'll just tie Mika up so she can't wander off. Lizzie agrees to this and goes back to the house with Tyrese. After they've gone, Carol staggers, dropping her gear, gasping. Then she straightens up and takes her knife in hand, stepping towards Mika's body.
The grownups lock Lizzie in her bedroom, making sure to take all her weapons away. Then they talk about what to do. Carol's all, she can't be around people - she and I will go away. Tyrese says that they'll never make it out there alone. He suggests that he and Judith continue on towards Terminus (they certainly can't have the baby under the same roof as Lizzie) but Carol points out that they wouldn't make it either. He says maybe they can help her but Carol shakes her head: "This is just how she is. She can't be around other people."
Carol and Lizzie go for a walk, ostensibly to pick wildflowers to give Mika when she comes back. Carol is sad and Lizzie picks up on it. "Are you mad at me? ... I'm sorry I pointed my gun at you, I just needed you to wait. I'm sorry!" But she's only sorry for the gun and doesn't know that killing her sister was at all wrong. As Lizzie cries and looks at the flowers, Carol steps behind her and cocks her gun. She's crying but her hand is steady and she puts Lizzie down with one shot to the head.
That night, sitting silently in the house after burying the sisters, Carol slides her gun across the table to Tyrese and says, "I killed Karen and David. I had to stop the sickness from spreading ... It was me. You do what you have to do." She sits there, crying quietly and watches as Tyrese as he works through it. But he is tired of all the death and, after asks if Karen's death was quick, he says he forgives her. He'll never forget it but he forgives her. "We don't need to stay here," he continues. "We can't stay."
In the morning, they're back on the train tracks, Tyrese carrying baby Judith on his back, continuing on towards Terminus.
Here's the thing. This was tragic, of course, but it was also not at all subtle and a shameless play by the show to make us feel bad about children dying. We hardly knew these little girls and yet now we're supposed to feel terrible about what happened to them. If they'd stuck around for a while, if Lizzie's madness came out more organically over time, if we'd gotten to know them, then maybe I'd cry. But no. This was ugly and violent but it was unearned.
Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead
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