And so, as happened once before with Shane, the most interesting character on the show is sent packing so that we can spend more time on Rick’s eternal struggle with the dynamics of leadership. Let me blow your mind here with an alternate ending to last night’s show: What if Carol, upon being told by King Rick that she’s now persona non grata at the castle, pulled her gun and shot him in the face? Or ran him over while she was driving away? She could have gone back to the prison, told the group that Rick had confessed to her that he’d killed Karen and the other guy, and that he’d then been devoured by a pack of zombies while heroically saving her life. Easy peasy.
When I floated this idea on Twitter, a friend tweeted back that that would be out of character for Carol; she didn’t kill Karen and whatsisname for personal gain, she did it for an honorable reason, to protect the rest of the group from the plague. Fair enough — but the whole point of last night’s episode was that the zombocalypse has changed everyone, none more so than Carol. She went from being a battered woman, paralyzed by the helplessness instilled in her by her lout of a husband, to a den mother so proactively protective of her clan that she’d murder the sick to keep them from being infectious. There’s one really obvious step left for her character to take — and the irony is, we all know she’s eventually going to take it, no doubt by joining forces with the Governor and returning to the prison at some point to do battle with the group from which she’s banished. Odds of Rick killing her while some sort of meaningful glance expressing mutual regret passes between them: 100 percent. And yes, needless to say, he’ll kill her, not vice versa. For all the praise the show gets for being willing to off its core cast, the writers apparently have decided that Rick’s just too precious a pony to be sacrificed. Meh.
One thing I really liked in last night’s episode: We never found out what happened to the blonde kid. That rarely happens on the show but it would be a wrenching fact of life in Zombieworld. People would go out to find food or fuel and they’d just … disappear. Maybe they ran away, maybe they killed themselves in despair, maybe they were injured and bleeding out somewhere, maybe they ended up as zombie chow. It would happen a lot and you’d have to get used to it. Carol has. One thing I didn’t like: What’s with the subplot about Bob the semi-recovering alcoholic? He’s barely a character; he exists, it seems, simply to give the writers a few hamhanded opportunities at depicting Tragic Flaws. Last night’s set piece with the liquor bottle was like Kirk and Spock beaming down alongside a redshirt with a coke problem. If you’re going to give a character a Tragic Flaw that nearly gets everyone killed, make sure he/she’s earned a line of credit with the audience first. As it is, I kept waiting for Daryl to push Bob off the walkway and into the crowd of zombies. Nope. Guess we’re not done with the fascinating “random guy’s drinking again” story arc yet.
By the way: If you’re interested in a gripping show about dead people coming back to life, set the DVR for “The Returned” on the Sundance Channel on Thursday night. It’s not scary and it’s very French, but it’ll get you, I promise. A guy who compulsively blogs about a show he doesn’t much like week after week wouldn’t steer you wrong, would he?