Walking Dead: reborn

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In an episode where we could already guess what was going to happen—filled with flashbacks that only coloured what we already know happened—it’s good The Walking Dead decided to finally give fans a whole hour of Carol and Daryl to themselves. Because without the characters’ complicated, emotional history, “Consumed” probably wouldn’t have been that interesting.

Ever since Carol’s arrival at the hospital, it was a sure thing that the person in the woods with Daryl was Noah—which means all the episode had to do was take us from Daryl and Carol taking off after the car to Daryl returning to the church without his bestie. And while I was momentarily excited at the thought that we might be flashing back to Carol’s time without the group, that solitary night was quickly lumped in with her return to the prison gang—taking away any other surprising reveals.

But since Carol and Daryl are, honestly, the most evolved characters the series has, giving them a whole episode to reflect on how far they’ve come—and how much they’ve changed since they were last together—made up for the total lack of action. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a full season’s duration since the pair have had any time together, and given everything that’s happened it was worth every minute to see how easily they could still work together while finding themselves on totally different ends of the survival karma spectrum.

Carol’s observation that Daryl used to be a boy but was now a man tied into an old theory of mine that in many ways Carol was subbing in as a mother-figure for Daryl (she’s certainly got the same history). Except now Carol’s a totally different person, twice over. And thanks to Beth, Daryl’s hardly the lost, broken boy that tried to do whatever it took to make Carol happy back in Season 2. Maybe without that compensatory dynamic Caryl shippers will finally get their wishes filled, but even with the two lying next to each other on the bed it felt like there was more distance between them than ever before.

Not that they don’t care about each other anymore, but from the number of conversations they did (or didn’t) have about what’s happened since they last saw each other, it felt a bit like they didn’t know the new versions of each other all that well. And there were hints, when Daryl stormed off after Carol tried to kill Noah, that there’s no guarantee they’re going to like each other unless Daryl can pass on what he picked up from Beth and bring Carol back to her older self. Or at least help her burn away one more version and become the type of survivor who can balance being ruthless with being human. Or at least, that’s what I’m assuming his turn to the Carol side feint with the bookshelf was about.

Then again, given how important confession has been to this season I’m not sure any of that can happen until Carol finally talks about what happened. Daryl may be ready to turn to the self help books (a nod to last week?) in order to really try starting over after confronting and purging his past, but Carol’s initial refusal to mention how she knew their hideout suggests that she thinks the best way to move on is to keep shedding older versions of herself instead of healing. As Rick consistently proves, you can only change for so long before the old you comes back. Maybe the real challenge is finding a way to accept that instead of trying to forget who you were.

Of course, Carol just might be in for some quality time with Beth herself, depending on how quickly Daryl and Noah can drive that dump truck back to the church. Contrary to my expectations, Carol’s going to be a legit patient at the hospital, which means Beth might have to show off how far she’s come yet again in order to save her friend from Dawn’s deal. Although to be honest, I hope next week brings a showdown to Dawn’s gates along with some Daryl/Noah road trip bonding just to speed things up again, even if I’m more than willing to bet that battle will be held for the midseason finale.

Killing it:

  • I wish “Pardon Our Dust” had been the title of this episode.
  • In between last week’s H.G. Wells and that shot of Lizze’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer, we might need to start a compilation of literary references—and what they could mean. (Is Carol the widow, Tom or Huck?)
  • I was not expecting Daryl to be carrying a notepad with him, ever. From now on I’m going to tell myself he’s secretly composing zombie apocalypse poetry while “hunting.”
  • I mean, I don’t want to go Caryl vs. Bethyl here because I’m down for either, but I couldn’t help but contrast Beth’s reaction to Daryl’s rich people rage with Carol’s to try and suss out which was better.
  • “Please lay down your crossbow.” Gotta appreciate how polite Noah was about robbing them.
  • Carol can get dried blood off her face faster than I can get a face mask off. I am impressed.

What did you think of Carol and Daryl’s quality time? Has Carol gone too far? Were you surprised by Daryl’s book choice? Where do you stand on the shipping and has it changed after “Consumed”?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvNIrNeyFEc

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.