Spoiler-Free Recap, “The Grove” – A
We turn to Carol, Tyreese, and the girls on this week of The Walking Dead as they continue on their way towards Terminus. While taking a much needed break at an abandoned farm, some ugly truths come to light, threatening everyone’s safety. “The Grove” is one of the most powerful and gut-wrenching episodes of this entire season—make sure you have a box of tissues on hand!
Massive Spoilers Ahead!
Although I groaned a bit when I saw the sneak peek for this week’s episode, “The Grove” completely blew all of my expectations out of the water. Carol’s return is definitely a welcome change, and we see that she’s still dealing with the ramifications of murdering Karen and David back at the prison. Of course, Tyreese is still in the dark, but Carol’s every interaction with him, Mika, and Lizzie are telling symptoms of the creeping guilt she feels over what she did.
More specifically, Carol’s conversations with Mika are a clear analog for her own wrestling with her conscience. Mika is a sweet girl without a mean bone in her body, unable to agree that some people—not just walkers—need to be killed in order for everyone else to survive. It’s obvious that in trying to make Mika acknowledge the necessity, Carol is still trying to convince herself that she did the right thing. Not only that, but Mika reminds Carol strongly of her own daughter, Sophia, who was just as sweet and harmless—qualities that left her ill-prepared to survive in this new world.
So Carol looks at Mika and sees Sophia, which drives her to teach Lizzie and Mika how to protect themselves since her own daughter wasn’t able to do so. It’s perhaps this determination to save that blinded Carol to Lizzie’s darkness, leading to the most shocking moment of The Walking Dead since Lori’s death. We’ve seen little hints that Lizzie doesn’t accept that the walkers are a danger, feeding them rats at the prison and giving them names. While everyone knows that she’s not quite right in the head—even her own little sister states the fact boldly—the adults just chalk it up to naïveté and try to teach her better.
They soon learn that was a mistake. Lizzie’s firm belief that the walkers are just a different kind of people breaks through more and more, endangering the lives of everyone around her. As she “plays” with a lone walker out on the yard, a terrified Carol rushes to put the monster down, and Lizzie dissolves into paroxysms of grief over losing her “friend.” Later, Mika follows Lizzie out into the woods, where she’s feeding a “pet” walker that’s gotten stuck in the train tracks. During their conversation, Lizzie admits to hearing the walkers talk to her, telling her that they just want her to change, and she’s tempted to let them bite her.
Unfortunately, Mika’s not old enough or aware enough to see the danger her sister represents, and Carol and Tyreese don’t understand how far gone Lizzie actually is. When Lizzie tells Carol that she knows what she has to do now, Carol misinterprets this as acceptance of the fact that they need to kill walkers. The result? Lizzie kills Mika in order to show Carol and Tyreese that turning into a walker isn’t bad, just the next step in life. Not even Herschel’s brutal murder was quite as gut-wrenching as the moment when we see Lizzie’s bloody hands and a lifeless Mika on the ground behind her. Even Lizzie’s frantic pleading with Carol to just wait, wait for Mika to change and then she’ll see, is more chilling and frightening than anything the Governor could do. It’s the nascent raving of a burgeoning serial killer, and it’s all the more disturbing because it comes in the voice of a little girl.
There’s very little discussion between Tyreese and Carol after that—they know that they have to kill Lizzie. As Carol says over and over, “She can’t be around other people.” That fact is made even more glaringly obvious when Carol leads Lizzie out into the grove, and the girl becomes frenzied and panicked that Carol might be angry with her, not because she killed her sister—Lizzie doesn’t believe that she actually killed Mika—but because she drew her gun on Carol to get her to stop. She doesn’t want Carol to be angry over her reckless use of a gun, yet is unable to comprehend the true source of the horror Carol feels.
The grief of losing both Mika and Lizzie pushes Carol over the edge, and she finally admits to Tyreese that she was responsible for killing Karen and David. It’s a telling reminder of how much they went through that Tyreese is able to look at her and forgive her, rather than take up his weapon in revenge. After what he’s seen with Lizzie, Tyreese can understand why Carol did what she did; and although he can’t forget it, he manages to get himself to forgiveness.
At the end, a voiceover reminds us of a conversation Carol had with Lizzie about fear:
Lizzie: I’m not afraid to kill. I’m just afraid.
Carol: You can’t be.
Carol: You fight it. And fight it. You don’t give up. And then one day, you just change. We all change.
That exchange provides us with some insight into Lizzie’s mind, echoing what she told Mika about how the walkers just changed. Lizzie doesn’t see undead monsters—she sees people who have gone beyond fear. Maybe she’s right? Probably not, since we as the audience have seen more of Lizzie’s darkness than the others (remember how she almost smothered baby Judith?). It’s still an alarming thought, though, and we’ll see the repercussions of Lizzie’s actions for a long while to come.
“The Grove” – A
The Walking Dead: Season 4 Episode 14, “The Grove” aired March 16th, 2014 on AMC.