The Walking Dead Review – “Grove”: Change is Hard

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The beauty of the Zombie genre is what it allows for:  The ability to talk about very human things and very metaphysical things in a scenario that explores chance, change, and the relativity of ethics all within this modeled world in which there are those who are programmed to “do” (Zombies and Walkers) and actors who are free to choose to “do.”  Should one be “nice” or “mean,” “selfish” or “collaborative”? Actions have consequences which set into motion events that in turn require some sort of action and more choices. The proverbial butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the world,the process never ends its dynamic whirl of change.  At times, chance plays an intervening role, but even that is still a product of a series of decisions that someone has made combined with decisions that you made as well. “The Grove” was about those decisions and how making even the right ones will eventually change you, though as Carol discussed, you don’t always realize that the change is happening until it already has.

As noted countless times before by people writing about The Walking Dead, the experience of the loss of innocence by the gaining of wisdom by the children of the show is a microcosm for what is happening universally. Like  Carl before them, Lizzie and Mika are both struggling with the idea of killing being ok sometimes, as are the adults who are there to protect them (or vice versa as pointed out by Lizzie). They too are struggling with having to do difficult things that also happen to be the right thing. This may make us uncomfortable, but there is a sense of duty in doing what needs to be done even though it hurts us and is painful to do and requires us to stop being the “nice” person that we wish we could ideally be.

Original Sin and Christianity

This episode might as well have been called “The Garden” with its allusions to the violent shattering  of innocence that wisdom leads to. When  Tyrese spares Carol after she confesses  to the  killing of Karen and David because he “knows it is in her,” he could very well be talking about Original Sin.  In the line of Judeo-Philosophical thought, it was in the garden where we became aware of good and evil and from that point on our lives became more difficult and no better than the beasts who roamed the Earth. We became  Animals who also were now aware of “right” and “wrong” and all the grey area in between. As Mika pointed out, sometimes you have to kill and other times you don’t.

Mika is positioned as the most righteous morally in this episode dedicated to the righteousness and wickedness of killing, and those times when the lines begin to blur..  She tells Carol that unlike her sister, she knows that Walkers are ok to kill, but could never kill people, even if they were bad and trying to kill her like at the prison. She states that she would “feel sorry for them.” She is Jesus, or at least represents fully the Christian mindset and the strength of conviction it takes to stand tall even if it means laying down one’s own life.

Carol tries to get her to see the reality of the world around her though; that at some point you will have to kill bad people who would kill you. Sometimes you just have to be mean. Mika refuses to change despite Carol’s pleas and worry that because she “doesn’t have a mean bone in her” that she will end up like poor Sophia.

The beauty of the Zombie genre is what it allows for:  The ability to talk about very human things and very metaphysical things in a scenario that explores chance, change, and the relativity of ethics all within this modeled world in which there are those who are programmed to “do” (Zombies and Walkers) and actors who are free to choose to “do.”  Should one be “nice” or “mean,” “selfish” or “collaborative”? Actions have consequences which set into motion events that in turn require some sort of action and more choices. The proverbial butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the world,the process never ends its dynamic whirl of change.  At times, chance plays an intervening role, but even that is still a product of a series of decisions that someone has made combined with decisions that you made as well. “The Grove” was about those decisions and how making even the right ones will eventually change you, though as Carol discussed, you don’t always realize that the change is happening until it already has.

As noted countless times before by people writing about The Walking Dead, the experience of the loss of innocence by the gaining of wisdom by the children of the show is a microcosm for what is happening universally. Like  Carl before them, Lizzie and Mika are both struggling with the idea of killing being ok sometimes, as are the adults who are there to protect them (or vice versa as pointed out by Lizzie). They too are struggling with having to do difficult things that also happen to be the right thing. This may make us uncomfortable, but there is a sense of duty in doing what needs to be done even though it hurts us and is painful to do and requires us to stop being the “nice” person that we wish we could ideally be.

I find it interesting how the two young girls were made to represent the two adults in the episode to some extent:  cold Lizzie with her understanding that sometimes you have to do bad things because they are the right thing to do is very similar to Carol’s realistic outlook; and passive Mika who like Tyreese sees that there is place for killing but that humans are off-limits (though Tyreese has shown to be very emotional and prone to rage so perhaps he has already lost quite a bit of his innocence). Neither way is completely right, because in a world of roving marauders and rapists forgiveness and passivity will get you killed, but the willingness to kill can lead to the disordered thought patterns of Lizzie refusing to accept that death is the end and that walkers are anything more than automated bags of flesh. You would think that their mindless attraction to fire would make it crystal clear to Lizzie that no one is actually home, but she just refuses to believe.

In actuality she believes too foolhardily that there is an ability to connect with the walkers like one would a pet (an allusion to Fido perhaps?). This is what leads her to become the psycho that they had been hinting she was as she tries to prove that “changing” isn’t a bad thing, though not the kind of change that Carol had been hoping Mika would embrace.  It is yet another action that leads to a painful decision for Carol and Tyreese and one that changes their plans to settle down instead of continuing on the road towards the still mysterious Terminus.

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This painful yet mutual decision to pull an Old Yeller on Lizzie is what finally leads to Carol’s confession and  Tyreese’s forgiveness, something I don’t think would have been possible had he not seen that sometimes no matter how nice you are, you may have to do bad things.  Being forced to make that decision changes him like Carol was changed, the world now a haunting reminder of yet another act that no matter how right is one that they will have to reconcile.

Slowly we change because we have to, and eventually we all become like then. I think that’s why she couldn’t accept their loss of humanity.

I never thought I would say this, but I wish they could all be more like Carl.

 

Passing Thoughts

  • The fire has been a brilliant narrative touch that let we the viewers, have some sort of idea of when all these splintered stories are taking place, and where they are in relation to each other. Plus by having the Walkers attracted to the fire it really brings up more questions of action vs automation and how one (or two) person’s choice can affect others.
  • The acting in this episode was top-notch, which I can’t usually say. The writing too. This may have been the best episode of the entire series.
  • Anybody else really dig the callback to a child with a deer? I kind of figured that it might be curtains for Mika after that. Kids and deer don’t mix.
  • Also a really neat flip of the roles when Tyreese was having nightmares as the children helped to look over him.
  • I am not very confident that Terminus will be a very nice place.  It means “End” right? That can’t be good at all.

Author: Josh Richer

Josh lives in NYC (OK OK! Staten Island) and would love it if you employed him. Send Josh an email