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The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is a drama about a zombie apocalypse. It is based on the 2003 Image Comics series. AMC 2010-???

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Episode 14 - The Grove

21 March 2014

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Tyreese, Carol, Lizzi and Mika find a house by the train tracks on the way to Terminus. They decide to stay a while.

The Good: This was a very brave piece of writing. I've often shrugged at any threat to children's lives on TV shows. Understandably not many networks or show runners want to dabble with such an upsetting topic. Of course The Walking Dead did kill Sophia but we hardly knew her and never saw the actual moment. We didn't see the moment here either but the impact was far stronger.

The conception of the story was very strong. If you were pre-pubescent in a world turned so horrifically upside down, what coping mechanism would you develop? Could it be a sort of Stockholm syndrome where you began to view the Walkers as your friends? Perhaps because you see them as your own after life. If you will become them one day then why not join them sooner? It's a fascinating idea.

The writing was fairly explicit in differentiating between Lizzi and Mika. Not all children born into this madness will go mad. Had the apocalypse not happened it's possible that Lizzi would be shoplifting her way into sociopathy because of some genetic predisposition. But we don't know that. All we know is that her affection for the Walkers was exposed as deeply unhealthy when she screamed her lungs out when Carol killed one of her friends. Brighton Sharbino was asked to do an awful lot at such a young age but I'd say she did pretty well in letting out such unsettling cries.

Again it was understandable why we didn't actually see the murder. Beyond the acting required it probably would have been too disturbing to contemplate. And yet AMC and Scott Gimple still went there. Whatever it was that Glen Mazzara fell out with the network about - it clearly wasn't about taking the show in a darker direction. It was a truly shocking sight to see Lizzi standing over her dead sister insistent that she would be proven just in her actions.

Poor, poor Carol. After all the hard work she put in, to prevent what happened to her daughter happening again, it does anyway. I thought she did an excellent job throughout. But that moment when she has to convince Lizzi that she has accepted her insanity and convince Tyreese to follow her charade was a sight to behold.

The big emotional moments after that were all solid rather than spectacular. Other than abandoning Lizzi or tying her up at night they had little choice and took little time over the decision to kill her. Carol's face post-execution was suitably broken. Tyreese's decision to forgive her was understandable. Given the trauma they'd been through, the fact that she saved him by showing up and the need to look after Judith made his own survival contingent upon her.

In a season full of spectacular imagery this had perhaps the most ingenious. The tease sequence shows a seemingly pre-Apocalypse kitchen with the sounds of children playing in the yard. Through the familiar halting gait we can see that it's actually a Walker chasing Lizzi in the yard. It set the episode up beautifully and in a sense told the whole story in one shot. Naturally the episode ended with the kitchen and yard now abandoned, a symbol of the life everyone has had to give up.

The Bad: You do wonder how this episode would have felt on a show where all the characters were well established and developed. After that episode of Game of Thrones I was desolate for about a day. This won't resonate with me emotionally. It was as well executed as it could be. But despite the great work she's done this season Carol is still someone I'm only just getting invested in. Tyreese I know even less well and it hurt his story that we barely knew Karen at all. And of course we couldn't really know Lizzi and Mika. They were introduced this season and given just enough time for this to not feel like a total shock. It was a very strong story told about a weak group of characters.

So far Chad Coleman has portrayed Tyreese like the quintissential gentle giant. If that's the character as written then that's fine. But I felt like another actor might have brought more emotion, more conflict and more desperation to his big moments here. Both his speech by the tree and his gripping of the gun didn't grab me.

The Unknown: I am certain that someone with children of their own would have viewed this differently. That's not to say that they will have been deeply moved but simply that my perspective as your childless TV critic means I am removed from the direct association of what losing Lizzi and Mika might represent. That is an experience gap I can't bridge and yet I have seen more shocking and devastating television on multiple occasions and this did not feel like it.

I'm sure Terminus is real, given the maps and radio signals. But when Tyreese talked about staying a while in the new home instead of going I began to consider the possibility that Terminus was just a metaphor. We could stay here a while or we could head back out on the road in search of Terminus. You know "Terminus" - an imaginary sanctuary from all the horror. I just wondered for a moment whether someone could have put up maps to a non-existent place just to give people something to aim for. Or indeed for a darker purpose.

Was the fire the one which Beth and Darryl started? Could it have spread around the forest and thus scorched the Walkers we saw?

Best Moment: Do you have to ask?

Conclusion:
This was dark, brave and captivating at times.

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  • :-)

    Posted by The TV Critic, 21/03/2014 11:43pm (5 years ago)

  • ***POST PODCAST COMMENTS***

    This is the best podcast I have heard on the Walking Dead so far in terms of group contributions, ideas and analysis and most of all the presentation!

    All of the loose ends that are out there with survivor groups will probably make the last two episodes of the Fourth Season full of action sequences (I hope) with possibly a very cool new set (at Terminus I hope.)

    Posted by Fluids, 21/03/2014 8:12pm (5 years ago)

  • 'My complaint is more about how the writers seem to be asking the audience to do part of their job. Is anyone watching TWD from Lizzie's apparent perspective? Shouldn't they try to bridge the gap between us and her? I didn't feel bad at all to see her die, because she was annoying; more like a petulant brat than a sick child.'

    It's a great forum topic of discussion that I have set up for us here:

    Walking Dead: Character Development through Story Arcs

    http://www.thetvcritic.org/forums/other-tv-shows/show/168

    Posted by Fluids, 20/03/2014 3:29pm (5 years ago)

  • "Sometimes we have to kill them; sometimes we don't. (Of course, I'll be the one to decide when, and I'll flip the f--- out on you if you disagree.)"

    I take your point, Fluids, about the line from Lizzie, but my complaint is more about how the writers seem to be asking the audience to do part of their job. Is anyone watching TWD from Lizzie's apparent perspective? Shouldn't they try to bridge the gap between us and her? I didn't feel bad at all to see her die, because she was annoying; more like a petulant brat than a sick child.

    Posted by Matt E., 20/03/2014 7:43am (5 years ago)

  • Kenley, you sound a bit like a follower of The Governor, but I appreciate your take on this. I had a similar thought about the possibility that our survivors can't fully understand the walkers. They are only able to view the walkers through the lens of their own horrific experiences with them. They have lost so much due to the walkers - loved ones, their homes, society as a whole, and for some even their moral certitude. It is natural that they would view the walkers as monsters; in fact, it may be necessary for them to do what they need to in order to survive in this world.

    You are very right that some of the people are the evil ones. There is no evidence to suggest that walkers are capable of rational thought or free will, thus they can't be evil. When they kill, it is merely a survival instinct. Where I differ from you on this is in thinking of them as a disenfranchised group of people that could be compared to other races. The closest parallel would be very dangerous wild animals. They should be feared, and killing them is often necessary.

    Lizzie was theoretically correct, though, when she said that you don't always have to kill them. There is no humanity left in them - we know that from Milton's experiments. Wouldn't it be interesting, though, if Mullet Scientist (can't remember his name) actually can cure the walkers. What a new level of tragedy that would bring, if Sophia or Amy or any number of others could have been brought back, but were killed instead.

    I realize as I type this that that would be pretty ridiculous. Not only does it seem unlikely that human tissue, especially the brain, could be restored to normal function from a zombie condition, but there is also the fact that those people all died before they turned, so it seems likely that if you brought them back, they would still be dead. I guess I would be pretty disappointed in the show if they took that approach.

    Overall, I am thrilled with the direction of the writing. It is sad that the earlier lack of characterization is still affecting the emotional impact that episodes like this can have. I think dividing the group into smaller clusters of people who didn't already spend much time together was a genius way to let us get to know people as they get to know each other. It feels organic.

    Viewer score: 74 / 100

    Posted by DrewP, 19/03/2014 11:53pm (5 years ago)

  • Hi Matt E. Great comments! This is the most lively set of comments I have seen with this show in a while.

    Your points about consistency are well taken.

    Lizzie does say to Tyreese on the railroad tracks when
    he was about to kill the walker she was feeding:

    “Sometimes we have to kill them; sometimes we don’t.”

    Does that help explain what you pointed out? A little...

    I am no psychiatrist, however I don't think a crazy person
    is necessarily going to be consistent with anything they do.

    They're crazy right?

    Therefore, that's another way to explain the inconsistencies
    and also demonstrate the insanity within Lizzie.

    Posted by Fluids, 19/03/2014 4:52pm (5 years ago)

  • The entire episode was designed to build up the murder of children; one brutally by another and one mercifully by an adult.

    Lizzie died believing she did the right thing. This was merciful.

    Carol continues to be a favorite character. I think the actress does an amazing job of selling her.

    Tyrese is less compelling and I am glad they resolved the revenge storyline for him. I hope they'll have something more interesting for him to do going forward.

    I do like these so called bottle episodes but am eager to return to more varied storylines.

    Side note: I am reading The Fall of the Governor. Will review in the Forums.
    Anyone thinking of reading them should be warned that a page is not turned that the F-bomb isn't dropped at least once. And it is far more brutal than the show.

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 19/03/2014 1:34pm (5 years ago)

  • @Kenley: I wish the show put that much thought into the walkers. In the pilot we saw Morgan's wife demonstrate remnants of humanity, trying to open the door of her old house. Now the walkers are whatever fits that week's plot...

    Posted by Matt E., 19/03/2014 1:24pm (5 years ago)

  • I have a very different take on this episode and now Lizzie than I had all season. I admit it's kind of out there, but here it is...
    After the show, I was very disturbed. At first, I just thought it was because two little girls were killed -- and of course that was part of it, but there was something else. There is one point in the show where Mica tells Lizzie that Lizzie is like Huck Fin because she likes dead rabbits. But, that got me to thinking there must be more than that. How else is Lizzie like Huck Finn? Well, Huck Finn also had a friendship with someone who was not considered human – the slave Jim. And, then it struck me that in the real world there have been so many groups of people that have not been considered human, and importantly, the people who declared that these groups of people are in fact human were probably considered crazy too. It is the people who dared to see and think about people differently that helped change the world we live in today. And, aren’t children who are free from the fears and prejudices that plaque adults often first to see a different truth, to see light where others see only dark?

    In the Walking Dead world, Zombies are considered the monsters, but are they really? Zombies don’t choke out people for a softer bed. Zombies don’t rape women. Zombies don’t kidnap helpless women. Zombies don’t delight in hurting others. Zombies don’t steal from each other. Zombies don’t banish their friends. Zombies don’t kill mentally ill children. Zombies aren’t the real monsters. Humans are.

    I finally realized that in this episode, I was so disturbed because Carol and Tyrese only thought of one way to try to save Lizzie. They quickly dismissed it and opted to kill her. They didn’t think about banishing her or even trying to figure out a way to imprison her. They feared Lizzie so they had to kill her. What if the lesson that Lizzie is teaching, a lesson that is far beneath the surface, is that as long as our first response to something that is different is to fear it and to kill it instead of trying to understand it, then humans will always be the real monsters.

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Kenley, 19/03/2014 2:08am (5 years ago)

  • @Fluids: Yes, the show consistently showed *that* Lizzie had a mental condition, but never explained *why*. If they just want to call her different or crazy, fine, but why have her run from the burnt walkers? If she considers them harmless, why lead the walker in the sick ward of the prison away from others? I will be the first to admit that these details aren't important to everyone, but for me they help sell the story. Seeing Lizzie standing over her slain sister may have shocked me even more had Lizzie not been shown shooting walkers a few scenes earlier, as if she had finally realized the threat.

    Posted by Matt E., 19/03/2014 12:45am (5 years ago)

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