The last five episodes of The Walking Dead in my opinion have been an act of genius by the writers. First, they provided much-needed character development for some on the show who we barely knew existed, let alone had any clues on their backstory. Second, the perceived slowness in the last few episodes have made everyone comfortable, thus allowing their guard to come down. We haven’t had a real Walking Dead death since the Governor’s attack on the prison in the mid-season finale, and after a while, you forget what show you’re watching. Then, out of the clear blue sky, they slam an episode like “The Grove” in front of us, shocking the freaking crap out of everyone, but also snapping fans back down to the grim reality these characters live in.
Before the episode even began, the opening scene gave us an eery feeling that something very bad was going to happen, and much more than having to fight a small group of walkers as we have grown accustomed to. We see water boiling on the stove, nuts and fruit on a table, and outside the window we see a girl playing tag with… something. Then, immediately, we go into the opening theme and credits. We soon learn that the girl was Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino), and she was playing tag with a walker. A freaking walker! We’ve known Lizzie (AKA “Crazy Lizzie”) is messed up for quite some time, all the way back since dead rats were found outside the fences of the prison. And, of course, how could we forget her trying to smother Judith in “Inmates.” However, Lizzie’s obsession with walkers hadn’t been visited in a while, and until tonight, we didn’t get to see just how psychopathic and delusional she was.
Carol (Melissa McBride) and Tyreese (Chad Coleman) stumble on a grove, and while it appears to have been well-kept no one is to be found. A baby’s grave is in front of the house, but whoever lived there before was long gone now. And, with the abundance of pecan and fruit trees and a wooded area with deer, they decide to stay there for a while to regain their strength, and if nothing else, give the girls a stable place for them to just be kids. A good deal of the first half of the episode is focused on Carol and Mika (Kyla Kenedy). Mika asks Carol about her daughter, and Carol talked fondly of Sophia, saying “Sophia was sweet. She did not have a bad bone in her body.” Later on, we hear Carol speaking of Mika with the exact same phrase, indicating that Carol sees a likeness to her dead daughter in Mika. Knowing what we know about Sophia’s fate, Carol emphasizes to Mika that if she wants to survive, she has to learn to kill, and not just walkers — but people too. Mika claims that she can just run, but Carol quickly corrects her, saying, “No. My daughter did nothing but run, but that didn’t save her.”
If this wasn’t a foreboding, I don’t know what else is. With the comparison between Mika and Sophia, it seemed pretty clear that Mika probably wasn’t going to make it to the end of the episode. The only question was how she would die. I don’t think anything could have prepared us for what came next. Lizzie was convinced that walkers are still real people, just different. Remember Lizzie playing with that walker at the beginning of the episode? When Carol came outside and put down that same walker, Lizzie had a fit like a raving lunatic, screaming that Carol had killed her “new friend.” Okay, Lizzie. I guess Lizzie decided to try and prove to Carol and Tyreese that walkers are real people, because when they returned from a run for food, they discover a ghastly scene at the house. Mika is dead on the ground and Lizzie is covered with her blood after having stabbed her. To top it off, she says that Judith is next.
Don’t worry, she’ll come back. I didn’t hurt her brain — Lizzie
Carol and Tyreese just stare at her, frozen with shock, as I’m sure most of the audience was.
After this horrific scene, you can pretty much deduce the rest of the episode. Lizzie is clearly a sociopath, and there’s nothing that can be done to cure her (you can’t “grow” a conscience). There’s no psychiatric hospital that Lizzie can go to. Carol can’t survive on her own with just Lizzie. Tyreese can’t survive with Judith without Carol’s help. And, it is obvious that Lizzie can’t be trusted around people, including any new survivors that they may meet at this Terminus and definitely not around Judith. So, Carol does the kindest thing she can think of for Lizzie. She doesn’t yell at Lizzie, and she tells her that she’s not mad at her. In fact, she tells Lizzie that she loves her (and, I truly believe she meant that). They go for a nice, leisurely stroll, and while Lizzie is looking at the wildflowers, Carol shoots her in the head. Ironically, Lizzie and Mika are buried next to the baby’s grave that they discovered when they first arrived at the grove.
The last plot point centered around the big elephant that has been in the room since the beginning of the season — the murders of Karen and David. With everything that had happened and with Tyreese having nightmares about Karen, Carol decides that Tyreese needs to know the truth – she was the one who killed Karen and David, and she did it to protect the rest of the group (sorry to all of the conspiracy-theorists who were certain Lizzie had done it!). She then does the noble thing of handing Tyreese a gun, instructing him to “do what he has to do.” She was willing to accept her fate, even if that meant her death. I thought this scene tied back very nicely to the deaths of Mika and Lizzie. I truly believe that if Tyreese and Carol hadn’t decided together to kill Lizzie for the protection of other people, Tyreese would have killed Carol right on the spot. But, he saw what a threat Lizzie was, and he now understood that sometimes you have to kill people for the greater good. He may not have agreed with Carol with what she did, but I think he did understand her logic. So, he forgives her, but points out that he will never forget what happened.
The episode ends with Carol, Tyreese and Judith getting back on the train tracks, heading towards Terminus as they were at the beginning of the episode. The only difference is the atmosphere between them is now cold. They arrived at the grove, chatting, laughing and smiling. Two children are now dead, and Tyreese is walking next to the person who killed the woman he loved. Things will never be the same between these two (former) friends. They are only still together simply because they need each other to survive.
The last thing I want to mention is Melissa McBride. Brighton Sharbino (“Lizzie”) had a very difficult role to play in this episode, and actually this entire season, and she did a fantastic job. But, Melissa McBride’s performance blew away them all. Wow. In all honesty, Carol is a very tortured soul, and McBride depicted this to perfection. This woman has lost her daughter, killed two people at the prison that maybe she regrets now, and tonight, she lost the two girls who in many ways was her lifeline. To make matters worse, she is the one who taught Lizzie how to use a knife at the prison, and so, I’m sure a part of her blames herself for the girls’ deaths. This is heavy shit to have to carry every single day. I’m sure every last fan could see and feel Carol’s pain in tonight’s episode, and this would not be possible unless the actress does her job, and McBride did a stellar one.
This episode had been advertised as one of the best, and I couldn’t agree more. The writing was superb, all of the actors and actresses did an excellent job, and ironically, “The Grove” was terrifying but without a single walker attacking a human. Instead, it drilled home the theme that has been repeated over and over since the beginning of the season — the real threat aren’t the walkers, it’s the people.
The penultimate episode of season 4 of The Walking Dead airs next Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.
Most memorable quotes and random thoughts
- I’m not like my sister, I’m not messed up — Mika to Carol
- She was my friend, and you killed her!! — Lizzie to Carol
- The whole world is haunted now, and nothing can change that — Tyreese to Carol
- Don’t worry, she’ll come back. I didn’t hurt her brain — Lizzie
- Just look at the flowers, Lizzie. Look at the flowers — Carol to Lizzie
- If you are familiar with the American classic Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, the ending of “The Grove” should remind you of the ending of the book. Lizzie and the main character in the book, Lennie, were both threats to people, even though they really did not understand why. And, both characters were shot in the back of the head by people who loved them in order to protect everyone else.