The Walking Dead: “The Grove”- An Intense and Brilliant Hour
It's clear from watching these last several episodes that Walking Dead
showrunner Scott Gimple (who wrote this episode) has fully committed to giving us more character development within the series (in an effort to solve one of the biggest knocks against the series). That being said, there have been serious issues this season in finding the correct balance between awesome zombie kills and getting deeper into the still living characters' psyches. But when this season is over, I have a feeling people will continue to point back to "The Grove" as one of its greatest successes.
There's a lot to unpack with this episode, and while Carol and Tyreese didn't really move much closer to Terminus, a great deal actually happens to move both character's stories forward. In my mind, this episodes is Carol's episode. I've mentioned in past reviews how incredible Carol's arc has been over the course of this series. She's really the only character to have had a true arc over the course of the series. And Melissa McBride is a rock star for the work she has done throughout the series. But more on how awesome McBride is a little bit later.
We've known for a while that something is not right with Lizzie. This week we receive confirmation that she was the one feeding the walkers at the prison, and that she doesn't quite understand that the walkers are dead and dangerous (a bit like a more mentally disturbed version of Milton from last season). Lizzie has no trouble killing the living, but cannot kill the walkers. On the other side of the coin, little Mika cannot kill anything living (not even a deer), but has absolutely no issue killing walkers. If Carl is being set up as the ideal child of the future- a boy who can kill both the living and the dead with a finely tooled sense of survival- by comparison, neither of these two girls appears to be cut out for survival in this new world.
We see Lizzie's actions in this episode through the perspective of the other three characters. Through her conversations with Mika, Tyreese, and Carol, we watch Lizzie slowly descend further into whatever alternative mental reality she has created for herself. When neither Mika nor Tyreese can bring Lizzie back from the brink, it falls to Carol to try and coax her into recognizing the danger posed by the walkers. While watching Lizzie berate Carol after she kills Lizzie's new "friend," we realize that nothing will be able to bring her back.
The success of this episode rests solely on the shoulders of Melissa McBride and Chad L. Coleman. The underlying tension between Carol and Tyreese, with the audience and Carol knowing that the dark secret Carol holds could result in a truly horrific reaction from Tyreese once it is out in the open, continues to pervade each scene they are in. Each scene between the pair crackles with what has been left unsaid, and the emotional undercurrents are ratcheted up even more in the face of Mika's death at Lizzie's hands. Watching the varying degrees of pain and confusion flash across Coleman's face as he tries to comprehend what Lizzie has done is juxtaposed with the pain, anger, and understanding we see from him upon Carol's confession. As for McBride, she deftly portrays Carol's deep despair at losing yet another daughter and having failed to see the true depth of Lizzie's issues. But it is her work during Carol's confession that highlights her value to the series.
The showdown we've known was coming between Carol and Tyreese turns out far different than I think many of us thought it would. The calm and controlled manner in which Carol confesses to Tyreese speaks to her utter exhaustion- both with this world and the people in it. She lays out her case, highlighting that sometimes you have to sacrifice the one to save the many, and offers her life to him in exchange for Karen's. But, thinking back on what has just happened, Tyreese opts to forgive, but not forget, sparing Carol. Anytime the writers of The Walking Dead
aren't sure about what some of their cast are capable of, they should watch the final 15 minutes of "The Grove." Because when given the right script, this series can be truly great.
-- I have to give major props to both Brighton Sharbino (Lizzie) and Kyla Kenedy (Mika). It can often be hard to watch child actors, but these two did some good work this season.
-- Another indication as to how good Chad Coleman's performance was? I never really bought that Tyreese and Karen had a serious relationship until this episode. He really sold Tyreese's lingering pain.
-- This was the third episode in a row without Rick and Carl. And I really didn't miss them. Or anyone else, for that matter.
-- As a fan of the comics, I had a feeling about how the Lizzie-Mika storyline would end (and, the fan theory on who they represent from the comics turned out to be spot-on). That doesn't make seeing it on screen any less harrowing. This was a tough one.
-- That opening tag? One of the most gorgeous and haunting scenes I've seen on The Walking Dead
. It set the tone for the episode perfectly.