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“The Same Boat” is the type of Walking Dead episode that I really love. There was a level of legitimate danger to characters we care about (I was actually worried that Carol wasn’t going to get the better of Paula in that last hand-to-hand fight), and we were given a deeper look into what makes two of the show’s most important characters tick at this stage of the apocalypse. It also didn’t hurt that the episode featured two superb performances from the always reliable Melissa McBride and the criminally underused over the past few seasons Lauren Cohan. In giving these two great actresses the spotlight, the show narrowed its focus- one of The Walking Dead‘s greatest strengths- making “The Same Boat” one of this season’s finest hours.
Much has been written by me and many other critics about the spectacular work the show has done with the character of Carol, so I don’t want this review to turn into yet another piece praising Carol, McBride, and the writing staff for their great work in this particular arena. But, considering the episode was meant to be a closer look at how Carol’s transformation from mousy abuse victim to cold killer has affected the woman, it’s something that must be talked about. We’ve had hints over the past few episodes that Carol may be having some issues reconciling who she has become with who she was before. Unlike Rick, who has reached a point where he can justify the death and destruction he creates, Carol is still holding onto a morality from the world before. Yes, she is able to do what must be done. But we can see now that there is an emotional and mental cost she didn’t anticipate.
So often, The Walking Dead‘s stories become buried under a layer of violence and blood. Heads roll- both of the human and undead variety- and there is very little attention paid to the human cost. Last week, in “Not Tomorrow Yet,” we began to see that to some, the idea of killing another human who has done nothing to them didn’t sit right (the moment between Glenn and Heath was a wonderful indicator of how these characters aren’t always out of blood). “The Same Boat” didn’t continue this same thread, but there were hints of a similar theme. This new world has forced everyone still living to make choices that their old selves could never have imagined. Those who continue to survive are far more alike than they may think. And Carol and Maggie may be two of the strongest of the Alexandria settlement, but there are other women out there in other settlements who are just like them. Even though the symmetry between Carol, Maggie, and the Savior women was a bit heavy-handed, it served a key point: Maggie and Carol aren’t special. They are typical of the new brand of humanity. And some day, they will meet their match just as the Saviors met theirs.
While Carol’s internal struggle was the main focus of the episode, it was wonderful to see Maggie once again get to do something on her own without Glenn. When she’s freed from being known solely as the other half of a couple, it turns out that Maggie is still an extremely effective and complex character. She’s just as capable as Carol- although I was glad she recognized that in her current condition she is a liability more than an asset to the group (which isn’t a knock on her abilities, merely a fact of the situation- Maggie may be much more willing to fight to kill now to protect herself and the baby, but she also has far more to lose than anyone else, as Carol tried to make her realize in “Not Tomorrow Yet”). While in the past I’ve advocated for a spin-off focusing on Carol and Daryl on the road (that reunion between the duo at the end of the episode only made me want it more), I wouldn’t say no to seeing Carol and Maggie team up and take on the world. They make one hell of a team.
Considering how uneven (and, in several episodes, just plain bad) the first half of this season was, it’s been incredibly encouraging to see this string of strong episodes in the second half. With only three more episodes left in the season, I have complete faith that The Walking Dead will manage to string together a few more strong weeks before what will almost certainly be a devastating finale. So long as Carol’s arc continues (and, looking at the preview for next week, it certainly appears Carol’s personal doubts and demons remain), and the tensions continue to ratchet up toward the impending Negan showdown, I can’t think of much I will have to complain about.
— Melissa McBride is really the MVP of The Walking Dead. From the brief snippet of Talking Dead I saw last night before jet lag knocked me out, I’m always amazed at how shy she looks when people praise her work. It’s actually refreshing to see an actress who doesn’t appear to understand how absolutely talented and spectacular her work continually is.
— While I don’t have time to dive too deeply into it, “The Same Boat” was a really interesting look at how women have been affected by this new world. From partnering up with men for different reasons (for protection, for sex, for companionship, etc.) to using physical force and violence to gain the upper hand in groups, it’s a really interesting sociological study.
— Alicia Witt (Paula) needs to be in more things.
— The most interesting Carol element of the episode: She admitted to Daryl that she wasn’t alright at the end. For so long, Carol has refused to admit that anything is affecting her, and that she is anything but fine with the way things are. But now that Carol has admitted she isn’t as invulnerable as she was leading others to believe, I wonder how that will impact her mental and emotional state moving forward.