Episode 14 - The Grove
21 March 2014
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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