“You fight. Fight. Don’t give up. And one day you just change. We all change.”
Episode 4, “Indifference,” continues along the same vein as the other episodes from this season, with a heavy emphasis on character development punctuated by strategic encounters with walkers. They’re taking their time ramping up the big storylines for this season — anyone who thinks the survivors can talk about the Governor so much without us seeing him again this year might be a little naïve — but we’re clearly seeing the themes. There are probably fans out there who feel the pacing is a bit slow. If it were another week stuck inside the prison, I might have agreed, but instead, except for the brief introduction, this is a road show piece.
The Away Team
The encounter with the horde caused the group to lose a whole night’s travel, which to Tyreese means that his sister is dead. We don’t really know enough about Ty to be sure if he’s a natural pessimist or if the circumstances over the last couple of days have completely crushed his spirits, but he’s practically suicidal at this point. While fighting with some kudzu-wrapped walkers, Tyreese refuses to let go of the one he’s tussling with, thereby allowing one of the others to get in a kill shot, and is basically saved by luck and Bob.
Michonne has some light-hearted moments in this episode and a couple of rare smiles, which has led to a lot of “Michonne was flirting with Daryl” speculation, especially in light of certain developments in the episode. However, I don’t believe she was necessarily flirting. We got so little of her actual personality last year that any show of warmth seems notable. But in the time that’s passed between seasons 3 and 4, it’s clear that she’s opened up to the other survivors and is forming actual emotional bonds to them. That’s what we’re seeing when she gives comics to Carl or teases Rick about his stubble, and compares the jasper to Daryl’s eyes. And that’s also why Daryl keeps giving her shit about taking off on her wild goose chase. Every time she goes out, she puts these bonds at risk. It’s entirely more likely that she’ll meet her death at the hands of some walkers rather than find out where the Governor has taken to ground. She’s weighing her need for revenge heavier than her friends. Daryl’s a good counterpoint to this attitude — he’s the loner who discovered the worth in being bonded to others.
Michonne confronts Ty about his behavior but she’s not exactly a paragon of responsibility. “Anger makes you stupid. Stupid gets you killed,” she says to Ty, but he’s right back in her face pushing her to admit anger is why she’s still chasing a boogeyman. She’s “not sure,” she says, why she still goes out there, since she’s not angry anymore. Later, she tells Daryl she’s gonna stop, something he acknowledges with a terse “good.”
While hotwiring a car, Bob gets to spin out his backstory. He’s the lone survivor of two different groups of refugees and watched both get slaughtered. He almost hid from Daryl’s rescue. Alcohol helped keep the memories at bay — that’s why he went to the Big Spot, and he blames himself for Beaver’s death. That guilt is “bullshit,” Daryl points out, because it was the walkers who killed him, not Bob. It was always a risk. Despite seeming to have integrated into the group, Bob steals a bottle of hooch at the veterinary school and puts his life at risk when he refuses to give it up to a bunch of walkers.
Daryl’s been trying on this whole leadership thing, with the council and the rescuing and the advice giving and whatnot. He’s been doing a pretty good job with it. But when Bob gets caught with the booze, he gets angry in a hotheaded way that Rick wouldn’t have. And then when Bob puts his hand on the butt of his gun because Daryl threatened to throw his liquor out, Daryl gets up in his face. He won’t beat Bob down now, but he will if Bob’s drinking affects the rest of the group.
Daryl had a hard day. I predict it won’t get better.
Rick and Carol
The first shot we have of Rick is a close up of his wedding ring, then his hand framed against his gun. This is gonna be an episode about the dead that hang over us. Lori’s death almost drove Rick insane. It’s the backdrop to all of his actions since — the hardness of leaving the hitchhiker behind in “Clear,” the frenzy that drove Tyreese and his gang from the prison, his decision to become “Farmer Rick.” We’ll see another shot of Rick’s wedding ring and gun at the end of the episode, framing this part of the story.
Last week, Carol admitted that she killed Karen and David in a misguided attempt to keep the outbreak from spreading. There was some fan rumor that she was covering up for the girls, but I don’t buy it on a practical level — Lizzie hasn’t shown that she’s willing to kill anyone, and the other is too young, not to mention dragging adult bodies outside to burn. Carol makes hard, desperately practical decisions. I think maybe it’s a little extreme to buy that she’s taken up cold-bloodedly murdering people, but by the way Carol strokes Karen’s hair in the flashback, I can see her reasoning that this is both the right (practical) thing and the humane thing.
Rick enlists Carol to go on a food run with him, admitting he needed to leave Maggie behind as someone he could trust. I’m not sure that’s entirely true — I think Rick knew what he was going to have to do to resolve the Carol-Karen-Tyreese issue before he left, and that the whole trip is an extended version of Rick’s three questions.
Back in season two, I talked a lot about the two leadership options (Shane vs. Rick) and what they represented. At that point, Rick was still Team Humanity and Shane was Team My Own Damn Self, Plus Maybe Lori and Carl, Depending on the Circumstances. Shane had a practical and cold-blooded view of how to deal with the new world – you did whatever you needed to do to survive, and you do it to whoever you have to do it to. If that meant murdering the hostage to lure Rick out into the moonlight and a shoot-out, so be it. If that meant crippling Otis to save his own ass (and inadvertently making himself a hero), he did it.
It’s clear that Rick is viewing Carol in somewhat of the same vein. And it’s a fair enough comparison. There’s a certain hardness to each of their approaches, though one can’t imagine Carol shooting Glenn in the knee so that she could get away. She really believes in the survival of the group, of her new family, where that was just the window dressing Shane used to cover up his self-serving ways. When Carol agrees that the new survivors they encounter — a man with an injured shoulder and a woman with mobility issues — be allowed to prove their worth by helping to scavenge houses, Rick accuses her of challenging his decision to rescue them. To which she points out, it might be the humane thing to do to say you’ll rescue them, but is it right to bring them back to a plague house?
During their foraging, they dance around the murders until Carol makes Rick talk about it, saying he can play at being Farmer Rick, but he can’t just be Farmer Rick. He doesn’t get to pass on leadership and then complain about other people making the choices he used to make. He said he was done leading, done giving orders, but as soon as things go in what he’s decided in the wrong decision, he’s back making choices for everyone — picking up the hippies, bringing Carol on the run — and Carol is quick to point out his hypocrisy.
They talk Lori and Carol’s ex-husband and Sofia, and Rick asks Carol why she can’t bring herself to say Sophia’s name. But he misunderstood her. Rick’s grief about Lori destroyed him. He hallucinated her, he talked to her on a telephone, he ignored his children all for the memory of his dead wife. Carol cauterized the wound. She took an iron to it to keep from going down the same path as Rick, became a different person in the aftermath. Neither is right, neither is wrong. They’re just two different ways to handle horror.
In the end, Rick refuses to let Carol come back to the prison. Tyreese would kill her — Carol’s ineffectual protest that she could handle him seems laughable. Tyreese would kill Carol. Daryl would kill Tyreese. The factions between the Woodbury and prison groups would spring up again, and there’s a whole horrible future before them because of Carol’s choice. This is Rick being the dictator again, even though theoretically there’s a ruling group that could be charged with punishing Carol. Maybe Carol would have been banished anyway, but there’s no way to know, because Rick has taken the choice away from the group, and he’s taken the choice away from Carol. He makes sure she has a car, gas, and supplies, and he knows she can take care of herself, but he casts this woman he’s been living with for almost two years, who cared for his infant daughter when he was going insane, and made sure his boy was fed, and defended his family, out into the world. Maybe she’ll find another group. Maybe she’ll find the Governor. Maybe.