Oh. My. God. There is so much to talk about in this episode besides that last-second reveal from Carol but man, what an ending, huh? I am going to be devouring Carol theories for the next week until we get some kind of elaboration on that “yes.” Well, besides the theory Marilyn Manson tossed out there on The Talking Dead that one of her motivations might be her menstrual cycle. I welcome all non-misogynistic Carol theories.
This whole episode managed to be super character-driven while totally delivering on the zombie violence and the plot tension we all love so much, and we’re happier for it as fans. Tyreese’s journey through the anger phase of his grief over Karen is fascinating to watch, especially in terms of his current (and probably future) clashes with Rick. Hershel sacrifices his own health to help the sick because he can’t stand to feel useless, and his daughters deal with the crisis in very different ways. Of course there’s Carol, taking care of everybody and admitting to murder, but there’s also a voice on the car radio and a GIANT HERD OF ZOMBIES heading towards the prison. I am so excited for next week’s episode to start dealing with some of this stuff.
First, let’s talk about Tyreese. “Isolation” picks up with him showing Rick, Daryl, and Carol the burnt bodies of Karen and David that he found in last episode’s twist ending. He wants Rick to find who did this immediately and bring them to him to deal with. When Rick tries to talk him out of going the whole judge, jury, and executioner route, Tyreese starts getting physical. Daryl tries to play peacemaker, but the whole thing ends with Rick punching the crap out of Tyreese’s face. He’s only had his gun back for what, a few hours? And he’s already spinning out of control.
Things only get worse for Tyreese when Sasha turns out to be infected. She checks herself into the sick cell block hoping to get treated by Dr. S, but he’s (predictably) sick himself. The promise of heading out to find medication for Sasha and the others in time to maybe save them is the only thing that pulls Tyreese away from digging Karen’s grave and keeping watch on the sick ward and into going with Daryl’s group to the veterinary college. He and Sasha have been through a lot together, just through life as siblings and as partners in the zombie apocalypse. I wonder what they had to go through when the infection first hit and what happened to the rest of their family (if they had any). I’m just selfish and want characters to survive long enough to get some back story.
Anyway, after both his talk with Sasha and Rick’s apology, Tyreese decides to join the dream team of Daryl, Michonne, and Bob to go on the run for antibiotics. We still know nothing substantial about Bob, which is endlessly frustrating for me, but I’m sure he’ll get his day in the characterization sun soon and we can find out what makes him tick. My theory that he was responsible for the deaths of Karen and David kind of got shot to hell with Carol’s confession, but I still maintain that he must have some secret in his past. I wonder how he answered Rick’s three questions?
It’s this team that runs into the most external plot devices on the road: they find a staticy voice on the car radio, and stumble straight into a massive herd of walkers as a result of Daryl’s distracted driving. Kids, see what could happen when you text and drive? When the car is no longer a viable option, the group splits up and heads for the woods, providing some sweet walker kills along the way. At first Tyreese is frozen in place, maybe deciding he has given up on life, maybe agonizing over the lost time in getting those antibiotics; either way, he hangs tight way longer than he should, and gets overwhelmed by a whole group of walkers. It looks grim, but he manages to survive the attack with his trusty hammer, and they set off on foot.
Hershel’s the one who has the idea for them to head to the veterinary college in the first place, and he offers to go with them, but Daryl gently reminds him that they always end up running. Realizing he’s in no shape for that, Hershel draws them a map instead and insists on finding other ways to be useful. Namely, he sneaks out of quarantine with Carl to guard him so he can gather elderberries from the woods to help the sick. It may not cure them, but elderberries will apparently alleviate their symptoms. Maybe we should all stock up on elderberry tea before flu season hits.
Maggie and Rick try to stop him from entering the sick ward, but Hershel gives a great speech about how everything now means risking your life. What’s important is what you choose to risk it for, and for him, the chance to save others’ lives is a good enough reason. He makes his way through the cell block, distributing tea and cowboy Santa wisdom, even ditching his protective bandana after Dr. S literally coughs up blood in his face. Glenn has fallen ill, and Hershel takes special care of him, preaching positivity and the power of a good compress on the forehead.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but if Hershel dies I will cry for days.
The way Beth and Maggie react to the illness and to Hershel’s choice is incredibly interesting. Beth has chosen to wall herself off from her emotional side, even counseling Maggie in stoicism in the face of Glenn getting sick. But when Maggie tells her about Hershel, Beth actually cries. She’s still echoing her father in her words, but it was oddly a comfort to see her actually express emotion, even if it’s sad.
Of course, the big topic at hand is Carol. She spends the whole episode demonstrating her commitment to the group and her caring nature – she fixes the water lines alone in the face of danger, she agrees to look in on Sasha for Tyreese, and she’s a huge comfort to Lizzie when she has to be admitted to the sick ward. There are little things that I’m sure we’ll all be dissecting for evidence, too: she maintains order in the escorting of the sick to the cell block, and doesn’t waver when Jeannette tries to give her some allergies excuse; her decision to fix the water lines alone was uncharacteristically reckless, and she broke down after talking to Tyreese about Karen and Sasha. And of course, there was her straight up “yes” when Rick asked if she killed Karen and David.
That threw me for a loop, I have to admit; I feel like I should have seen it coming somehow, yet I can’t make it fit right in my head. Carol is logical and protective, which lends itself to the “she was trying to contain the infection so she burned them” theory, but to me that makes it harder to believe. She knows how infections work, and I just can’t see her murdering two people in cold blood just because they were sick. I like to think they had already turned, so she took care of them as best she could so no one else would get attacked or bitten, but we just won’t know until the next episode. There’s a theory floating around that Lizzie actually killed them, and Carol’s just covering for her to protect her, but I’m not totally convinced of that one either. It just doesn’t seem to fit with the Lizzie we saw unable to put down her father to prevent his turning. For the record, no matter how it turns out, I think Carol’s gone through some of the most interesting character development on the show and I’ll stand by her as a good character even if she enters into some terrible moral territory.
Any other theories out there for what details there are behind Carol’s confession? Let me know, I want to hear all of them.