As we come close to The Walking Dead’s midseason finale, we continue to explore individual character’s stories. Each of them is grappling with what they have lost, the choices they have made, and how they continue to make their way in this world. “Consumed” is an opportunity to learn more about Carol and Daryl, not so much for their backstory, but to focus on how they are able to, or unable to, move forward and to evolve. We flashback to when Rick told Carol she had to leave the prison and go off on her own after he realized she had killed Karen and David. We’re glad that whole thing hasn’t been forgotten about. At some point we are hoping to see an actual conversation between Rick and Carol about this in order to understand how each of them perceives what happened and how they feel about it now. We had mixed feelings about it ourselves, since she believed she was saving the rest of the community from their illness, but we can also see that Rick would see her as someone he didn’t feel safe to have his children around. Just as Carol shouldn’t have made her own decision about how to deal with Karen and David, Rick shouldn’t have made that call to force Carol to leave without talking to the others. We see the scene from the end of “Indifference” (S04E04), when Carol drives off and Rick watches her go. After being on the road Carol has a good cry, screams at a walker, and eventually finds a place to stay for a bit. As she stands by a window doing something with plastic bags we can only assume is some form of walker-proofing, she sees black smoke off in the distance. She drives back to the prison, only to find it in flames. Maybe she wasn’t able to help save the prison, but she sure saved her friends at Terminus in “No Sanctuary” (S05E01). During this opening scene the song “Bad Blood” by Alison Mosshart and Eric Arjes plays, which describes wanting peace from a lifetime of pain and greed.
The Hunt for Beth
The present-day story begins at the end of “Four Walls and a Roof” (S05E03), when Daryl and Carol drive off on their own to follow the car with a white cross on the back window. As they drive, Daryl talks about how Beth had disappeared in a similar car with a cross on the window and how Beth is tough. They follow the car for a while, and Daryl mentions that the others back at the church will wonder where they are. Yet neither of them seems overly concerned about how the group back at the church will be affected by their disappearance. Daryl is naturally consumed with the notion of rescuing Beth after she disappeared when they were traveling together. Carol seems a bit disconnected from Rick and his group, except for Daryl. It’s not clear if they think the others will wait for them, but neither gives the impression they are worried about it. The car they are following stops, and Daryl and Carol stop further back, watching. They see a policeman get out of the car and they wait, watching for a while. A walker starts pounding on Carol’s window, and they become apprehensive the people in the car with the cross will have seen them. The police officer does look back at the walker pounding on the car, but eventually gets into the car with the cross and leaves. When Daryl tries to follow him, he cannot get the car started again. They go to find cover. Carol says she knows of a place. Carol takes Daryl to a place in the city. He asks her if she had worked there or something. She replies, “Or something.” She tells him it was temporary housing, but that they didn’t stay. It looks like a women’s domestic violence shelter, because there is a book about surviving childhood abuse and it is highly secured. Carol says, “You said we get to start over,” and she asks Daryl if he has, to which Daryl responds, “I’m trying.” Carol seems tentative, and Daryl tells her to say what’s on her mind. Carol says, “I don’t think we get to save people anymore.” Daryl asks why she is there, then, and she responds, “I’m trying.” Then he asks her she would have done if he hadn’t shown up out by the car. She says she still doesn’t know. They hear a noise and go to investigate. What a world they live in. You hear a scary noise in a dark building with dangerous creatures all around, and you immediately walk towards it. Sure, Father Gabriel or Eugene might not, but Carol, Daryl, Abraham, Rosita, Tara, Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, Sasha, Rick, and even Carl would. We still aren’t sure where Tyreese stands on the killing of walkers or people. Carol and Daryl walk towards the noise and see walkers standing behind frosted glass—and what looks like what was once a mother and children. Carol goes to kill them, but Daryl stops her, telling her she doesn’t have to. In the morning it becomes clear that Daryl has taken care of the walkers when he brings out a child’s body to be burned. Carol comes out and thanks him. This scene reminds us of all that Carol has been through, what she has lost, and what she has gained. With Rick it seems like having his children made him tougher, while for Carol she didn’t become hardened until after she lost her daughter Sophia.
We flashback to a scene from “The Grove” (S04E14), in which Carol and Tyreese are digging graves for Lizzie and Mika. Just in case we forgot about the soul-crushing burden that Carol has to live with.
A View from the Top
Daryl and Carol come up with a plan to find a tall building to see what they can see. This gives the viewer a chance to see close up how devastated Atlanta is. In “Slabtown” (S05E04) we saw it from a distance, but here we see it up close. Daryl starts a fire to distract some walkers, allowing Carol and himself to find a way into one of the skyscrapers. They are fast and silent, with Daryl’s silently killing crossbow helping to keep them from being noticed. They emerge into a large open walkway and find walkers trapped in sleeping bags and in tents. Everybody in the big city likes to get away and go camping sometimes—even walkers. They are able to kill the ones in the bags and get past the walkers in the tents, with Daryl commenting, “Some days I don’t know what the hell to think.” Us too. We see there is some kind of movement outside, but Carol and Daryl miss it due to the ninja-like speed with which they move through the building. Maybe not quite ninja-speed, but they are still quite impressive.
Carol: How did we get here? Daryl: Um-mm. We just did.” Carol: “You still haven’t asked me what happened after I met up with Tyreese, the girls.” Daryl: “Yeah. I know what happened. They ain’t here. Carol: “It was worse than that.” Daryl: “The reason I said we get to start over is because we gotta. The way it was…” Carol: “Yeah.”
They look out the window to survey the scene. Daryl sees a van with a cross on the back abandoned on a bridge. Though it’s been sitting there for a while, it’s a lead. Daryl looks at an abstract painting on the wall and makes fun of it. Carol says that she kinda likes it, and he responds doubtfully. Carol tells Daryl, “I’m serious. You don’t know me,” to which Daryl responds, “Yep. You keep telling yourself that.” Does he really know her better than she thinks? Does he have an idea of what she has done? Or is it that is doesn’t matter what she has done because he knows who she really is?
One Degree of Separation
They make their way back to the walker camping area and there is Noah! Atlanta must be really, really small. We knew they would meet up somehow, at least we hoped, but not like this. Noah is pointing a gun at Daryl and Carol, and he tells them that no one needs to get hurt, that he just needs weapons. Noah takes Carol’s machine gun and Daryl’s crossbow, and then lets the walkers out of the tents, telling Daryl and Carol, “Sorry about this. You look tough. You’ll be all right.” That is COLD, Noah. Carol points a gun towards Noah as he makes his escape and Daryl stops her. Later she tells Daryl she was aiming for Noah’s leg; she wasn’t going to kill him. Carol justifies her attempt based on Noah stealing their weapons. Daryl angrily responds, “He was just a damn kid.” Carol says without weapons they could die. In her frustration she says that she can’t stand around and watch people die, explaining that’s why she left the church. Daryl tells her, “Well, you ain’t somewhere else, you’re right here. Tryin’.” She continues to argue, saying that they are both different now. Her backpack drops, and the book about surviving childhood abuse from the shelter falls out of her bag. Daryl shoves it back in her pack and says, “All right, let’s get this done.”
We are reminded that Carol killed Karen and David at the prison after they caught a deadly flu virus in another flashback scene from “Isolation” (S04E03).
Back in present-day Atlanta, Daryl and Carol walk up to the van with the crosses on it. Carol offers to go into the van because she’s lighter, but Daryl goes in himself, even though the car is half off the bridge. For some unknown reason Carol comes up into the front seat as well. Seems like more weight in the front that is hanging over the edge of the bridge will only make matters worse. He sees the gurney and suggests the van may be from a hospital. Carol says maybe its Grady Memorial. They get out of the van and try to fight their way through the walkers. When they realize they can’t fight through the walkers, they have to get back into the van for safety. Daryl tries to start the van to back up, but to no avail. Now the walkers are all around the back of the van. Daryl tells Carol to hold on and drives forward off the side of the bridge! The van falls fifty feet and it lands on it tires (not on the windshield, luckily). They sit in the car for a moment catching their breath. Then the walkers start landing on the car. It may not sound like it, but the walkers landing on the van makes for a pretty funny scene. They fall one after another, like the acorns falling on a rooftop in the fall. They get out of the car, and holding on to each other for support, they walk off—two tough warriors. It looks like Carol got hurt, but she is tenacious. It’s only three blocks to Grady Hospital. Daryl suggests they find somewhere nearby to observe what’s going on at the hospital. They find another walker in a sleeping bag. There seems to be an indoor camping theme. We are now looking for more sleeping bags in a “Where’s Waldo” kind of way.
Daryl asks Carol about how she thinks he was before—going back to her much earlier comment about both of them being different now. Carol says it was like he was a kid earlier, but now’s he a man. All the Norman Reedus fans at home are in agreement. He asks about her—how has she changed? Carol explains that she and Sophia stayed at the shelter for a day and a half before she went back home to her husband, where he continued to beat her. She said she kept waiting for something to happen, but she didn’t do anything. Carol talks about how she has changed since that time: “Who I was with him got burned away.” She describes how at the prison she became the person she always thought she should’ve have been, “And she got burned away. Everything now just consumes you.” Daryl remains frustrated with her point of view and her despair, saying, “Well, hey… we ain’t ashes.” They hear noise and go to investigate. They find a walker with an arrow in his throat—it’s one of Daryl’s recently stolen arrows. They hear gunfire, and naturally, run towards it. They find Noah trying to move a bookcase to stop a walker from getting in the room he is in. Daryl knocks Noah into the bookcase and it falls and traps Noah under it, half releasing the walker Noah was trying to keep out. Daryl yells, “Why you following us?” but Noah says he is not, that he thought they were following him. Daryl picks up a carton of cigarettes and takes one out to smoke. Noah begs for help. We see Carol watching Daryl carefully as he tells Noah he already helped him once (not letting Carol shoot him). Despite Carol’s protestations to help Noah, Daryl walks away just as the walker finally gets free and heads for Noah. Carol finally moves in to help Noah, but one of Daryl’s arrows whizzes by and kills the walker. We didn’t really think Daryl would leave someone like that, even if he looked villainous when he lit that cigarette up. Carol jumping in to help Noah tells us that perhaps Carol still believes people can be saved – at least from being killed by walkers, if not from what they have become as people. Though it looked as if she was trying to save Noah from being killed by walkers, her motive may have been to save Daryl from being the kind of person that would let someone die in that way.
Carol as Survivor
We flashback to Carol just after she went all Sarah Connor and destroyed Terminus. She is covered in blood and exhausted. She takes off her bloody cape, wipes off her face, picks herself up, and moves on. Despite her despair, Carol manages to keep going, time and time again. She is truly a survivor. They let Noah out from the bookcase. Noah is scared that the people from the hospital will hear the shot and come for him. It becomes clear that they all know Beth in this crazy small post-apocalyptic world. They have a second or two to bond over this and forgive everyone’s previous attempts to kill each other before they start running. Daryl, Carol, and a limping Noah start running to get into the building across the street that Noah says is clear. Noah falls, and Daryl stops to help him, telling Carol to keep going. Carol opens the door and steps into the street, where the only moving vehicle for miles around immediately hits her. What is the accident rate in Atlanta? It turns out that it is one of the cars from Grady Hospital that hit her as we see policemen get out of the car. Daryl tries to run after her, but Noah stops him with his secret orderly strength. He convinces Daryl to let them take Carol to the hospital where she can be treated. The hospital police get out of the car and put Carol on the gurney, then drive off with her. Noah tells Daryl, “They got guns, people,” to which Daryl rejoins, “So do we.” Noah and Daryl manage to steal a truck and drive off—which must bring us to the last scene in “Four Walls and Roof,” when Daryl shows up back at camp with a mystery person, who ends up being Noah. We knew, though, from the moment we saw Beth smile her big smile at Noah in the linen closet during “Slabtown,” that this young man might have a longer shelf life than first suspected.
Despite all the coincidences, we like that things move quickly and our characters to get to where they need to be. We don’t need to wait six months for the Beth plot to resolved when it can be sorted out in Season 5. To be fair, the number of human survivors seems comparatively small. Besides the people at the hospital, Noah, Carol and Daryl may be the only humans left in Atlanta for all we know. So perhaps now they live in a world where there’s like only three degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, assuming Kevin Bacon survived, which you know he did. During this episode we kept hoping that Carol would open up and be honest with Daryl about what happened with Lizzie, but now we aren’t so sure. The worst-case scenario is that he is appalled, which would seem unlikely if it weren’t for the way he reacted to Carol trying to shoot Noah. Yes, yes; it was shortly after that incident that Daryl himself almost left Noah to die—but he didn’t. Of course, the situation with Lizzie was different, because Noah isn’t delusionally homicidal—he was more consciously homicidal when he unleashed those walkers on Carol and Daryl. But he was very polite, so that’s got to count for something. It’s hard to make a good argument for any moral stance in the world of The Walking Dead—though Daryl’s frustration with Carol seems more about her being consumed with guilt and despair and giving up, rather than questioning the choices that she has made. “Consumed” does help us understand more about how Carol sees herself and the burden she lives with. It would have been helpful to see how the deaths from Season 4 connected to the despair Carol must continue to feel over Sophia’s death. What happened with David, Karen, Miki, and Lizzie were awful events which certainly changed Carol, but it’s hard to imagine that they compare to losing one’s daughter. It would seem losing a child would be a defining part of who you were from then on, more so than other traumatic experiences shape you as a person. We loved the interaction between Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride in “Consumed.” They are both strong actors whose characters have remarkable backstories. They are even more interesting together than when they are apart. We are eager to see if Abraham, Rosita, Tara, Glenn, Maggie, and possibly Eugene make it back to the church next week. Clearly some kind of raid to rescue Beth will be planned, and we hope it will bring them altogether. Though we enjoy the individual stories, we just feel better when everyone is together.