The Walking Dead Recap: “The Grove” (Season 4, Episode 14)

Well. This week’s episode of The Walking Dead was a doozie, eh? When I woke up on Monday morning and googled The Walking Dead, the first few headlines to appear were “Did AMC go too far?” and “Was last night’s episode a misstep?” Due to some Facebook and Instagram spoilers I was pretty certain we were going to see Lizzie bite the dust. Following Alanna Masterson (@lucytwobows), as it turns out, led to following Lauren Cohan (@laurencohan), and their creepy Instagram fans (“PERF!” “Ugh WHY CAN’T I BE HER?!?!?!”) gave some stuff away. If it’s any consolation to those of you who think the show “overstepped,” it also fell short of what the books did here.

Tyreese, Lizzie, Judith Walking Dead

I can’t be the only one who cringed EVERY TIME they left Judith in her arms, right? Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

The episode opens on a seemingly serene scene (I’m feeling onomatopeoic today, apparently): the camera watches from inside a dusty window as two girls scramble about in the yard; a staticky record croons, and a kettle crescendos to a boil. I dunno about you, but I spent this scene squinting at my screen, trying to decide if this was play or chase – or some combination of the two. How right I was.

After the credits, we cut to Carol and Lizzie watching over Tyreese as he sleeps on the railroad tracks. Lizzie matter-of-factly tells Carol she could take Judith if there’s trouble…urgh. When Lizzie asks, Carol tells her about Sophia (remember Sophia, the reason for shitty, terrible season 2?). “She didn’t have a mean bone in her body,” Carol says. “Is that why she isn’t here now?” inquires Lizzie. This kid who’s so out of touch with humanity somehow hits that nail right on the head: only the mean survive the apocalypse.

Carol applies fresh sap to Tyreese’s wounds as she lets him in on the dilemma with Lizzie. “She’s confused about the walkers,” Carol tells him. “She thinks they’re just different.” What an understatement. Mika, Carol says, is worse: she “doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.” Which, as Lizzie mentioned previously, doesn’t indicate a strong chance of survival. Tyreese discovers a walker collapsed and incapacitated between two uneven railroad ties, and Lizzie, carrying Judith (NERVES, I have them), tells him they don’t have to kill it!

Yeah, they can totes be besties. (I love bastardizing the English language.)

Meanwhile, Mika seems to be on the up-and-up; at the very least, she isn’t naive. “I’m not like my sister, I’m not messed up, I know what they are,” Mika tells Carol, at Carol’s assertion that Mika’s gotta toughen up. But, Mika attests, she can’t kill a human. “People came in and killed our friends,” Carol says, trying to convince her of the necessity. “And I feel sorry for them because they probably weren’t like that before.” Carol tells her you have to change – “things don’t just work out.” The woman is cold as ice and pragmatic as fuck; somebody needs to be. I think one of Rick’s biggest mistakes was banishing Carol.

Carol, Lizzie, and Mika

The new normal? What an intoxicating thought. Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

After the ragtag crew finds a serene grove, complete with homey cottage, Tyreese and Carol leave Lizzie with Judith…again. Lizzie, holding the baby, stares at a grave in the dooryard; perched atop the makeshift cross are baby booties. Lizzie begins to expound on what the walkers are going to do: “They’re going to find a baby in there and they’re going to…” But Mika stops her in her tracks, reiterating again that they aren’t people, they can’t feel, they aren’t what you think. Lizzie apparently was envisioning the zombies digging up a cute new family member? I don’t even…what? “You’re wrong, all of you are wrong,” Lizzie says ominously, and just then a walker topples over the railing. After three tries, Mika takes it out. Lizzie is dangerously saddened by this loss. Carol and Tyreese don’t entirely seem to realize the problem on their hands here – and it’s bad news.

Inside the cottage, the new “family unit” remains comfortable; Tyreese sits in the recliner while Mika plays with a newfound doll whose given name is Griselda Gunderson. The “family” resumes its routine. They crack pecans and toast them; Carol lets Mika put the pan in the oven. Tyreese isn’t sure about this whole thing: “We in a living room, in a house,” he says, wide-eyed. It is all eerie and foreboding. Nothing gold can stay, guys.

Here we discover what we were watching in the pre-credits scene: Lizzie was “playing” with a walker in the yard. When Carol rescues her, stabbing the walker through the head, Lizzie once again flips shit. “You killed her, you killed her! She didn’t want to hurt anyone! She was my friend.” How do you teach this? How do you show someone that the walkers will never be her friends? That they’re not the same?

Lizzie and Carol

Tiny psycho. Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

When Carol takes Mika hunting, she absolutely refuses to shoot a deer. She really doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, and she isn’t meant for this world. This season is largely focused on the kids, the difficult choice between growing up or remaining static. Carl’s striving for independence from Rick but realizing he isn’t quite ready yet – and he’s becoming attached to Michonne. Beth’s kindness, her “goodness,” her inability to accept the world for what it is now, nearly got Daryl killed. Mika can’t even hurt a deer to keep them alive. The kids (and the adults) are growing, changing – nothing stays the same, and if you’re implacable, you’re pretty much dead.

Since they entered the grove, they’ve been warily eyeing smoke rising from a nearby field, a massive pillar of thick black char. Mika follows Lizzie to the tracks, where she’s feeding the trapped walker a rat. Mika tries to tell Lizzie she can’t feed them. “They just want me to be like them. Maybe I should be like them,” Lizzie says, holding her hand out and letting the thing snap at her. Suddenly, a bunch of charred walkers stomp out of the woods after the girls. When her teacher Carol is watching and showing her, Lizzie shoots the undead interlopers one by one – but you can tell she hates it.

On a brief food run, Carol and Tyreese discuss the future. “If you don’t want to go to Terminus we could stay,” Carol says. Tyreese agrees, “Maybe I’m just not ready to be around other people yet.” Everybody’s exhausted from running, desperate for a home. Tyreese tells Carol that he sees Karen in his dreams every night, that he envisions a stranger killing her. “The whole world’s haunted now, and there’s no getting out of that, not until we’re dead,” he says. What we know, of course, is that Carol killed Karen and David. She burned their bodies, charred them black, in a failed attempt to save the rest of the prison from the deadly influenza. She can’t bring herself to tell Tyreese this, yet.

Walking Dead Carol

No one is ever the same as they were before. Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

Here’s where things go sour: while they were away, while Tyreese was telling Carol about his visions as she struggled with honesty, Lizzie stabbed Mika to death. “Don’t worry, she’ll come back, I didn’t hurt her brain!” Lizzie cries. Her dead sister, pale and blood-spattered, lies face-up next to baby Judith, who lies on her belly on a colorful baby blanket, watching.

I mean, what the hell do you do with this? When Carol approaches to make sure Mika can’t come back, Lizzie holds a gun on her. Carol has to hold herself together long enough to get Judith away from Lizzie, who explains she was just going to make Judith change, too! “She can’t even walk yet,” Carol says by way to convincing the girl not to kill this baby.

After they have secured Judith, Tyreese and Carol have to figure out what on earth to do with a murderous 10-year-old. Carol offers to leave with Lizzie, but they agree that nobody will make it if they separate. “She can’t be around other people,” Carol says finally; here again, we know that’s the same reason she killed Karen and David. She takes Lizzie out for a walk, explaining that she loves her, that everything does work out the way it’s supposed to. “Just look at the flowers, Lizzie.” As Lizzie cries over yellow wildflowers, Carol shoots her in the back of the head, execution-style. How else? What would you have done? She’d have killed everyone. On her way back inside, Carol eyes a deer in the field, and can’t bring herself to shoot it.

What did I say about Lizzie going full psycho? Yeah. That.

Graves Walking Dead

“Just look at the flowers, Lizzie.” Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

After she has taken Lizzie out of the equation, Carol is weakened and so very tired. She slides the gun over the tabletop to Tyreese, explains that it wasn’t Lizzie who killed Karen and David, that it wasn’t a stranger. It was Carol. He grips the edges of the table and begins to work through the emotions. “Did she move? Was she scared?” Carol shakes her head. “It was quick?” She knows very well Tyreese may kill her, and she’s allowing it to happen, sort of like committing suicide by cop. However, he takes his hand off the gun. They all need each other. “I forgive you. I’m never gonna forget. It happened. You did it. I feel it. I know you do. Some part of you now. Me too. But I forgive you.” Changing is the only way to survive. He puts his rage, his crazy-eyed quest for vengeance, aside in favor of pragmatism, in favor of survival.

But with this knowledge, and now that Lizzie and Mika are dead, Tyreese knows they can’t stay. They set off toward Terminus, leaving the toasted pecans, the comfortable armchair, the pretty copper kettle, ginger-haired Griselda Gunderson, and two fresh graves behind. “We all change.” They leave Lizzie’s pet walker on the tracks.

So, back to the beginning: that happened. Frankly, I saw it coming from miles, and Lizzie did indeed go full psycho. The two girls weren’t meant for this world, and hey, it probably makes me a terrible person, but I agree with this outcome. Only the strong and wary survive, and Lizzie’s affinity for and lack of understanding of the walkers made her a threat to everyone. What Mika felt toward humans, Lizzie felt toward walkers, and both of them felt too much to survive the zombie apocalypse. Inability to change, or persistence in clinging desperately to a past that no longer exists, is proving terribly dangerous this season.

Just so you don't feel quite so terrible in the end. Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

Just so you don’t feel quite so horrid in the end. Photo credit Gene Page/AMC.

What did you think? What are your predictions for the season finale in a few weeks? Did we ever find out who was burning the walkers?

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