Happy post-Halloween, zombie-friends! Are you well-rested from that extra hour of sleep? Good, because tonight's episode of The Walking Dead made me shriek out loud at two distinct points. Zombie scares are the best! So, how many of you dressed up as walkers on Thursday night? One of my friends went as a Walking Deadhead, which is pretty damn clever.
Where we left off: Rick found out that Carol murdered Karen and David from Decatur. Daryl, Michonne, Bob and Tyrese fled from the zombies surrounding the veterinary college. And lots of people we care about were quarantined in Cellblock A: Glenn, Sasha, Doc S and even little Lizzie.
Where we pick up: We begin this episode as Rick prepares to go off on a run. He fills his favorite hybrid with gas but needs more. Where can he find it? Oh right, Carol brought a gas can to burn those flu-ridden corpses. While Rick loads up the car, Carol tells Lizzie to be strong and to kill if she needs to. Lizzie accidentally calls her "Mom" and Carol will have none of it. She reminds Lizzie to take care of her sister Micah and to run and run until she's safe. And most tellingly, she reminds Lizzie that people change. Once, Carol was a timid battered wife, and just look at her now: teaching survival skills to the children to prevent another Sophia incident and murdering flu victims to prevent the spread of disease. Carol's certainly changed; she's evolved way beyond the woman doing laundry at the quarry we met in the first season.
Tonight's episode follows two storylines, both with the underlying theme of letting go. The antibiotics brigade realizes they'll need to find a new vehicle since they abandoned Zach's car when they ran into that enormous zombie herd. They set out for a town a few miles down the road, where they discover an abandoned service station. Daryl tries to hot-wire a car but the battery's dead – plus, they'll need to hack away at the overgrown vines and branches to get it free. Tyrese is still filled with blind rage and the need to destroy, to avenge his dead girlfriend and to feel like he's doing something to save his sister, and he smashes open a shed filled with zombies. Michonne makes quick work of one with her sword, but Tyrese is attacked by a walker and just can't make himself let go of it. He needs to let go. Michonne warns him to let the anger go and he counters by telling her to let go of the Governor. Touché, Tyrese. Well played, sir.
Inside the service station, Daryl and Bob forage for a new battery and whatever other supplies they might need for the mission. There's puke on the floor. It turns out the shed zombies took themselves out by drinking antifreeze – they wanted to leave the world together. Does that make them douchebags, or just a zombpocalypse Romeo and Juliet? Is that car battery half empty or half full?
Bob reveals that he was the last survivor standing of two different groups – it's like his lot in life is to watch other people's destruction. He likes a drink now and then when it gets quiet. In fact, he blames himself for Zach's death because he picked up a bottle back in the Big Spot and then set it down so hard, it brought down the whole shelving unit. Daryl tells him to let it go.
The medicine mission makes it back to the veterinary college to grab all the antibiotics they can possibly find. The college is crawling with zombies, many of whom must have been alive until pretty recently because they're infected with the eye-exploding flu. Trapped in a stairwell, the gang makes their own exit when Tyrese hurls a fire extinguisher through a window. They scramble outside, but Bob trips and his bag flies over the edge of the roof they're on. The zombies below snatch it and Bob refuses to let it go. LET IT GO, BOB! LET IT GO! The rest of the posse has other medicine – but wait! There's no medicine in that bag. Just a bottle of booze. Daryl is furious and spits that he should have left Bob where he found him, alone on the side of the road. He nearly shoves Bob off the roof and into the snarling sea of zombies but Tyrese, once again the voice of reason, tells Daryl to just let it go. (Are we sensing a theme?)
The group decides to take Highway 100 back to the prison, which will apparently take 7 hours. But last week, didn't we learn the college was 50 miles away? That doesn't seem like it will take 7 hours of driving? I'll just let that go. Daryl plays with the jasper he picked up for one of the old men back at the prison, a man he befriended because he stays put and doesn't go off chasing long-cold trails. Michonne reveals that she's ready to stop the Governor-hunt. She's (say it with me) letting it go.
Meanwhile, Rick and Carol drive to a town eight miles from the prison to loot medicine cabinets and find anything that Hershel might be able to use to help the invalids until the antibiotics arrive. They also need to forage food, since their edibles were all in Cellblock D and are now contaminated with the eye-exploding flu. They meet Sam and his tattooed-leg ladyfriend, who were separated from their group after leaving a refugee center. (There are refugee centers? Where are the refugee centers? How many survivors are there??) Rick, as always, isn't sure he can trust these newbies, but Carol insists that they can cover more ground if they all work together. Carol relocates Sam's dislocated shoulder, a skill she picked up from internet research back in the day when her nasty husband used to abuse her. Sam's tattooed-leg ladyfriend has a bad wheel but she promises she can move okay. Rick gives Sam his watch and tells them all to rendezvous in two hours.
Sam and his ladyfriend aren't very good with guns (it takes them five bullets to bring down a skineater, and they don't know how to use knives) but they're very much in love. Rick starts in with his three questions: "How many have you killed?..."
Rick and Carol continue foraging, and discover a garden just brimming with fresh veggies. Rick, ever the farmer, insists on stopping to reap the harvest. After a heartfelt discussion about the family lives they've lost (Lori used to make crappy pancakes, Carol's husband used to throw her down the stairs), they spot a trail of blood leading to the severed tattooed-leg of Sam's special friend. Damn it. They return to the rendezvous point to wait for Sam (and Rick's watch). Carol makes the decision that they can't wait any longer and they need to get back to the prison with their expired aspirin and first aid supplies. Let Sam go, Rick. And let your watch go. Even though it was a good watch.
Rick spends the entire mission trying to cope with the fact that Carol murdered Karen and David. He can't let it go. He brought Carol with him on the run because he doesn't trust her at the prison when he can't watch her – the two of them are the only people who know the truth about the murder. Even though Rick abandoned his leadership role because he wanted to stop making decisions, he makes a major one: Carol can't come back to the prison. Because Karen and David might have survived the flu and it wasn't Carol's decision to make to end their lives. Carol insists that she had to do something and she finally stepped up to help save the rest of the survivors at the prison but Rick can't cope with this. He assures her they'll all take good care of Lizzie and Micah but she can't come back with him. She has to go and find new people who won't know that she once murdered two sick people in the hopes of preventing the spread of the eye-exploding plague.
"Rick, it's me," Carol pleads. But Rick is done. Instead of bringing Carol back to the prison to let her defend her actions (even facing Tyrese's rage), instead of permitting anyone else to have a say deciding Carol's fate, instead of letting go of his own feelings and allowing Carol to face a jury of her peers, Rick lets her go.
The antibiotics brigade starts their journey back to the prison. Rick drives home, alone. Sharon Van Etten sings her song "Serpents" about how everything changes. And we might never see Carol again.
Will the antibiotics help the flu victims? How will Rick explain Carol's absence, especially to her surrogate daughters? Will Michonne keep beaming her beautiful smile in Daryl's direction? So very many questions, zombie-fans. I can't just let them go.
Last Week: Smooth Seas Do Not Make Good Sailors