Before we begin, I’d like to give a shout out to Kalan Kucera, who does recaps of The Walking Dead for Kentucky Sports Radio. If you are a University of Kentucky fan, you probably already go there on a regular basis. If you are not a Kentucky fan, then I apologize for our team’s unfair superiority over yours… and you should still go there and check out Kalan’s excellent recaps after you’re done reading mine.
Now let’s get down to business. After last week’s reveal of the Mullet Deception, this week’s installment zooms back over to Carol and Daryl heading off on a mission to find and rescue Beth. Is it good?
The episode opens with a flashback to right after Carol was banished by Rick. We see her alone and angry, but eventually resolving to survive… until a plume of smoke rises out from the prison from seasons three and four.
Flash forward to the present and we see Carol and Daryl pursuing the car with the white cross in the window. Carol wants to run them off the road, but Daryl decides it would be better to follow them and see where they were going.
When the car stops, a driver in a police uniform emerges to clear some debris from the road. We of course know where this person is from, but Daryl and Carol are a bit perplexed as to why someone’s wearing a crisply ironed garment of authority. It also looks like the alleged cop might have spotted them. As the tension over them possibly being made starts to build, a zombie slams itself onto the windshield of Daryl and Carol’s car, much to their annoyance rather than any feelings of fear.
It’s a telling moment in the show, showcasing the tired “people are the real monsters” trope we often see in post-apocalyptic sci-fi/horror in a surprisingly fresh way. Also, the police dude who got out of the car must have terrible instincts and/or vision and hearing, because he totally didn’t see them.
The dynamic duo decides to rest for the night after Carol finds a building that she seems a bit familiar with. Once inside, it soon becomes clear that the place is a shelter for abused family members. It not only serves as a heartbreaking reminder of Carol’s past, but also shows how people seeking refuge there from the horrors of the world couldn’t escape the undead. Their lives were a nightmare before and after the world ended.
Carol wants to put them out of their misery, but Daryl stops her and does it himself, proving that he is both a chivalrous gentleman and a total badass.
At this point, I was really into the episode. The sexual tension between Carol and Daryl was palpable, we were delving more and more into Carol’s past, and things looked to be heading towards an epic rescue mission.
Instead, the episode hits us with a lot of Daryl and Carol staring out of windows and talking about “starting over” and “becoming different people”… all things that anyone who’s watched The Walking Dead for a while doesn’t need beaten into them by expositional dialogue from the show’s poster children for character development and evolution.
There’s also a bunch of of “Are we still good people anymore”-type hand wringing… which I understand the need for once in a while, but c’mon. Enough already.
We do get a few interesting scenes during the episodes impossibly slow middle section, though:
- Carol tries to admit to Daryl in a round about what happened with Lizzie. He all but declares that he doesn’t want to hear it; whatever Carol did, he knows it was the right thing.
- Daryl gives an amazing art critique.
- They find a group of walkers trapped in their camping equipment on a pedestrian walkway. A lot of folks on Twitter found this to be a bit ridiculous, but speaking from personal experience, I can safely say that you don’t have to be a walking corpse to get trapped inside of a sleeping bag.
- As the episode continued to grind to a halt, we are finally saved by a white cross car sighting.
Everybody Hates Chris (Noah)
Horror Movie Survival 101: Never enter a room with your back turned.
Common Sense 101: Never throw your weapon into a room you are entering, especially when hostile people are nearby.
Despite being a survivalist warrior woman on par with Sarah Conner or Ellen Ripley, Carol manages to break both of these rules at the time, resulting in our good friend Noah taking her gun and robbing Daryl of his trademark crossbow(!).
Then in a colossally dick move, he cuts open the tents with the trapped zombies to help cover his own escape. Since Daryl and Carol are awesome (and still armed), they manage to take down the walkers. Carol then tries to shoot Noah only to be stopped by Daryl, who says he’s “just a kid” and that they’ll “find more weapons later.”
Seriously. That actually happened.
To make matters worse, Carol then says she was only planning to wound Noah—when we all know what she really wanted to do is scream “Look at these flowers, you little punk!” before unloading a few rounds into him.
Another argument/debate ensues about what type of people they’ve become, what they have to do to survive, blah, blah, blah as they attempt to chase Noah down. During the pursuit, a book Daryl took from the shelter about dealing with the effects of child abuse falls out of his bag.
I think we all already assumed Daryl had a messed up childhood, but the fact that he is attempting to exorcise that particular demon from his past in a way that involves introspection rather than violence is another testament to how Daryl has changed…and this time in a way we that hasn’t already been established a few million times.
Daryl and Carol > Thelma and Louise
Later, the pair goes to investigate the van they’d seen before, which is hanging over an interstate overpass.
It’s clear that neither of them have seen Jurassic Park since they both hop in and become instantly surrounded by zombies.
Fortunately, this leads to the episode’s most tense and touching scene as they hold hands and decide to go over the side, hoping that seatbelts, luck, and their main character status will see the through. After crashing hard to the ground (along with a few zombies raining down on top of them), Daryl and Carol survive…and find themselves just a few blocks from Grady Hospital and the white cross group.
Compassion Shell Game
As they head towards Grady, Daryl and Carol hear Noah completely spazzing out with the automatic weapon and crossbow he stole from them. Daryl charges into a room where the young man is trying to move a bookcase by himself (which is clearly an OSHA violation). He violently rams into Noah, causing the bookcase to fall and pin him to the floor.
Now remember Mr. Compassion from before? The guy who didn’t want Carol to shoot Noah because he was “just a kid.” Well now it seems he is totally cool with Noah getting eaten by walkers, lighting up a cigarette and saying that he wouldn’t be letting the kid live again.
Carol pleads with him to help the boy as a walker closes in. Before she can turn to try and lift the bookcase herself, though, Daryl shoots the zombie in the head.
To be honest, I really thought this scene was kind of dumb… at first. But on Talking Dead, guest (and hilarious actress) Yvette Nicole Brown posited that Daryl was never going to let Noah die (as evidence by how quickly he was ready to shoot the walker). In reality, he was actually giving Carol a chance to see that she still had some humanity left in her. I think that Yvette may have been right… and even if she wasn’t, it’s still a much better explanation than a random Daryl mood swing.
Look Both Ways Next Time
After Noah profusely apologizes for almost killing them before, the group discovers that they all know Beth. As Noah begins to lead them towards Grady, Carol makes the classic post apocalypse mistake of not watching for cars as she crosses the street, getting hit and leading us to how she ended up in the hospital at the end of Beth’s episode.
An episode centering around Daryl and Carol should have been good. In fact, it should have been great. And to its credit, there were some truly wonderful and heartfelt moments in this one. But for the most part, “Consume” felt like a lot of existential wheel spinning.
From the repeated imagery and mentions of fire to the constant mentions/discussions about how they’ve changed, the entire hour felt like it was trying to convince us of something that the audience already knew and accepted.
We know that Carol and Daryl are vastly different than how they were at the beginning of the show. Both of their character arcs have been deliberately and careful drawn without any narratively unfair leaps. We didn’t need a bunch of speeches and symbolism to remind us of what’s already been brilliantly crafted over four and a half seasons. Even the good stuff (the shelter scene, Daryl’s book, etc.) felt a tad redundant.
Add in some things that didn’t make any sense (“He’s just a kid!” Seriously, Daryl?), and you have what I consider to be a pretty disappointing episode. Maybe my expectations were too high for such a great team up, but I was hoping for something new rather than a rehash of what had already been established about everyone’s favorite not-yet-a-couple.
Let’s hope that next week allows us to see a bit more action and a lot more stakes being raised as the church group presumably comes back with Daryl and Noah to rescue Beth and Carol.