Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review The Walking Dead each week in a series of letters. Want to join the conversation and see your name on the digital pages of Paste? We publish a Walking Dead Mailbag every Friday to whet our appetites for the new episodes. Mailbags require actual mail, so send your Walking Dead questions, theories and rants to email@example.com before Friday, and Josh or Shane will answer the best ones.)
Congrats to you and I, because we were totally right to be creeped out by Carol last week. Totally right. I’m sorry, but I don’t care how “dedicated” she is to keeping the camp healthy, or how many risky solo runs she’ll take to keep the water flowing; you don’t kill someone for having the flu. You just don’t. ESPECIALLY when ole Doc Elderberry has an all-natural cure a’brewin’. Okay, so that came later, but my point stands. She didn’t keep the flu from spreading by killing Karen and David (who?), and there’s no guarantee they would have died at all. I’ve always prided myself on the idea that I could survive a nasty bird or pig flu, and I think they would have too.
Rick figured it out, and the question that remains is whether he’ll do anything about it. Because Tyreese is still alive, somehow, despite being mobbed by a herd of zombies and essentially left for dead by Daryl, Michonne, and Bob Stookey, and he’s going to want answers.
(Quick side note: We didn’t see it, but Tyreese definitely pulled a Neo-against-the-Agent-Smiths when he was about to be overwhelmed, right? It was also sort of like Elias’ death scene in Platoon, except if Willem Dafoe had lived.)
I never thought I’d say this two seasons ago, but count me in the anti-Carol camp. Where Dale was always too sanctimonious and cautious, she’s become untethered and practically sinister in her misguided ends-justify-the-means approach. The bottom line in Walking Dead world is that you’ve got to be a badass while holding on to a shred of your former sanity. Too weak, like Dale, and you die. Too insane, like my namesake Shane or The Governor, and you either die or have to run for your life. Carol crossed that line by burning two innocent people, and Josh, she’s got to go.
Rick’s decision will be the central emotional drama of the episodes to come, but we will not be lacking for physical drama. First off, how awesome is the foursome of Daryl, Michonne, Bob Stookey, and Tyreese? The writers have found a killer combination there, and I mean that both literally and metaphorically. I wouldn’t be too upset if they had to form an impromptu militia and didn’t return to the camp for a while. I am so down with this splinter group.
Early on in the episode, though, I didn’t think it was possible, because it seemed like Rick had rediscovered his homicidal rage and was about to kill Tyreese when they fought by the charred bodies. Daryl stopped him in time, kinda, but once again the group leader’s sanity is under question. And that’s never great. More than anyone else, Rick seems to be in a state of permanent trauma. It’s either a case of severe PTSD or bad acting, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. Still, it’s hard to imagine who would take over if he couldn’t shoulder the burden anymore.
1. Are you with me that Carl has kinda become likeable in his old age? There was still part of me that half-expected him to shoot Hershel for no real reason when they met in the hallway, but the way he handled the whole situation spoke well for him. It was also nice to see him stop short of unnecessarily shooting the zombie who had been caught in a bear trap with his gun-slash-trumpet.
2. Despite the late Carol drama, I thought Hershel stole the show this week. He’s always been the wise old man figure for me, and I don’t think I fully realized Scott Wilson’s strength as an actor until this week. But they gave him a bigger load to carry, and man, he was up for the job. His monologue when Maggie and Rick confronted him was actually stirring, which is kinda rare in Walking Dead land, and “veterinarian’s orders” is a great line. (Another great one: “I’ll draw you a map,” after Daryl told him he’d have to run if he went with them on the medicine run.) I hope this doesn’t end how I think it’s going to end, with Hershel saving everyone’s life and then dying because he alone had the courage to heal.
3. I totally thought (read: still think) creepy Lizzie zombie-befriending girl faked being sick so she could get in to the sick room and kill everyone.
4. Do you think the writers had Glenn become sick to gauge audience reaction, and if no one really cares, they’ll just kill him off? We’re halfway to being right in our earlier prediction that he’s the next main character to go.
5. This flu still seems to heavily target new cast members.
6. Please write a 1,500-word essay analyzing the two lines Beth was given (refresher: “We don’t get to get upset” was both of them) this week.
Over to you.
As soon I realized that Sasha was sick (and probably not the killer), I started cycling through the other suspects. Lizzy came to mind—and I totally thought she was faking sick, too. But maybe that’s from having three kids (“Dad, I’m too sick to go to school [coughs on cue]”). I thought she was going in to test out her new knifing skills. The zombie show was about to become a slasher show with a creepy kid in the role of Jason/Freddie/Leatherface. But then I realized she was too small to drag the bodies. Then I thought, “Carol?...Carol! CAROL!!!!”
I thought she was taking her new role as mother figure to the extreme. But it’s not about the kids. If it were, she’d have found somewhere else to take Lizzy instead of sending her in to The Worst Place On Earth. Seriously, I’d be like that nameless extra, saying, “It’s just allergies. Please let me go and die in the woods instead of spending my last moments of regular walking in a dimly lit prison block with a bunch of other flu victims who are slowly turning into zombies.” No, Carol has just become ruthless. And kind of dumb. Once those folks were quarantined, there was no reason to kill them.
Yes, Shane, CAROL MUST DIE. She’s made the journey from helpless victim to mourning mother (that word that means opposite of orphan that no one bothered to invent) to badass survivalist to The Butcher of Death Row. There’s no room for Tyreese and Carol in a post-swine-flu prison, and I’m on Team Tyreese.
Because, yes, once Daryl, Michonne, Bob Stookey and Tyreese left that car, it’s hard to even care what happens back in the prison now. Who needs The Avengers when you’ve got The Hammer of Tyreese, Michonne’s katana, Hawkeye’s crossbow and Bob Stookey’s…okay, maybe he’s the weak link—but it is Lawrence Gilliard Jr.
To answer your questions,
1. I was never in the anti-Carl camp. He could be brooding and whiney and, okay, downright terrifying in the comic series, but the kid lost his childhood, had to “put down” his mom and has turned out to be a pretty incredible survivor. Carl is going to be King of Georgia one day.
2. Yes! I wasn’t always a big Hershel fan. But this was his moment to shine. Seeing him hold a wet washcloth to Glenn’s forehead (after his poor response to Glenn’s pursuit of the Farmer’s Daughter) was especially satisfying. By the way, was zee French knight with zee outrageous accident in The Holy Grail implying that Lancelot’s father had swine flu?
3. Don’t fall asleep, Hershel!
4. No, I think Glenn is probably going to make it. Daryl’s team might have gotten derailed, but I think Rick is going to once again save the day by going on a run of his own. Glenn was one of the last ones we saw coming down with it. Earlier victims like the doctor are going to make survival in Cell Block D a little rougher though. I predict Hershel fending off flu-victim zombies to save Glenn and Lizzie just in time for their anti-biotics.
5. This flu is kind of like the Walkers!
6. The word “we” comes from Old English, derived from the Old Saxon “wi” and Proto-Germanic “wiz.” The oldest usage of the plural pronoun is from about 725 AD when it appeared in Beowulf. ... Wait, that’s not what you meant? Beth’s stoicism was threatening to crack when she thought about Daddy going to heal the infected. Everyone has their coping mechanisms, though, and Beth’s is no less healthy than anyone’s at this point.
So, is the A-Team going to encounter The Governor on this mission? If so, I think The Gov is going to have assembled a new group who’s just as oblivious to his psychopathy. If not, I still think we’ve got some new humans to meet. That voice on the radio makes me think it might be a pretty big group. And what do you think of the new season so far, in general. We’re three episodes in, and there are triple threats—disease, zombies and Crazy Carol.
Generally speaking, the new season is really working for me. This has never exactly been a “light” show, but it feels somehow darker now. The writers and directors were smart to realize that even the outrageous novelty of the zombie apocalypse had a shelf life, and while the transition away from a zombie-centric enemy began last year with the Governor and his minions, it makes sense now to spin the camera around and focus on the group itself. Disease isn’t a very sexy adversary, it’s true, but I think so far they’ve succeeded at establishing an atmosphere of psychological horror. I was being jokey-pretentious last week when I mentioned Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death,” but Season Four really does have that same oppressive feeling, and we’ve already seen the scary extremes people can reach when terrorized by an invisible enemy.
And now that I’ve barely touched on the philosophical side, BACK TO THE VIOLENCE! First off, Josh, you aren’t giving Bob Stookey nearly enough credit for his skills with a knife. Sure, it’s not an iconic weapon and he didn’t have to emerge from a pressing swarm of zombies, but I thought his moves were killer. Avon and Stringer would’ve been proud, and then killed him anyway. I really, really like Lawrence Gilliard Jr. in this show. It’s also pretty perfect that he has a history of alcoholism, because for whatever reason, Gilliard just has that look of vulnerability about him. It’s why he was perfect as D’Angelo Barksdale; you could sense the heart in him, and how it made him weak. There’s a similar thing happening here, with the ghost of the past dogging his steps. Somehow, watching Gilliard, you get the sense that if his characters succeed or even experience fleeting moments of happiness, it will be qualified by the shadow some imminent or recently endured suffering.
I love the idea of Carl as King of Georgia. I know this is kind of a tangent, Josh, but as a Georgia native, I’d love to have you nominate five people for King of Actual Georgia, today in the modern age. The only rule is they have to be alive now. Who are your most iconic figures? Does Atlanta have a famous mayor? Does Atlanta even have a mayor? Would it be the kids from the Warner-Robbins Little League World Series team? Would it be you and Nick Purdy, co-founders of Paste? SECOND RULE, NO NOMINATING YOURSELF, JOSH. I SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING. YOUR MEGALOMANIA IS DESTROYING THIS STATE!
And since we’re on tangents, let me say that I’m genuinely really glad to know that the word “we” was probably first used in Beowulf. Back to the subject at hand, though, do you think the Walking Dead writers ever look at each other and go, “wait, why haven’t we killed Beth yet?” She’s the only member of the regular cast who they keep constantly in the shadows, like they couldn’t find a role for her but forgot to have her consumed by a zombie at some point. Speaking of that, here are my Main Character Prominence Power Rankings. The parameters: The characters have to be currently living, and had to at least appear in Season Two (this loophole gets Michonne in). Ahem:
2. Carl (moved way up)
4. Carol (also moved up this season)
6. Hershel (on his way up if he doesn’t die)
7. Glenn (on the way down)
8. Maggie (plummeting)
9. A wide, cavernous black hole, destroying all matter for millions of light years
Agreed? Disagreed? Did I forget someone? Back to you, sir.
I do like how they made the prison into a home, but the epidemic is turning it back into a prison. When Hershel wanted to get out into the woods, I could hardly blame him. Not since Rick left the hospital in the pilot has a place become such an integral part of the story (and the horror) as the prison. If and when they ever leave it, I’ll be sad to see them go.
So if Carl is not going to be my home states king, I offer the follow substitutes:
5. Chipper Jones – If it’s going to be a populist revolution, no one stands a chance against the lifelong Brave.
4. Calvin Johnson – Before yesterday, I’d have gone with Matthew Stafford, but 329 yards receiving vs. the Cowboys? C’mon.
3. Andrew Young – No disrespect to John Lewis, but of the remaining Civil Rights veterans, Andy Young is the one I’d follow anywhere.
2. Samuel L. Jackson – Sure, he was born in D.C. and spends a lot of time in Hollywood, but the Morehouse grad and Falcons fan has enough roots to qualify. Plus, he’s Nick, freakin’ fury.
1. Jimmy Carter. It’s tough to argue with his experience—ruling a powerful nation, keeping the peace and providing us with delicious peanuts.
I’m assuming Ryan Seacrest was the first Georgian one to get eaten by a zombie.
As for Beth, we’ve all got our jobs, Shane, and hers is to be the Cute Stoic. I think we may see more from Beth. Emily Kinney was great last week, and I could listen to her sing every episode. With Lori and Andrea gone, Sasha sick, Carol going all Annie Wilkes from Misery and Maggie getting relegated to mopey newlywed, Michonne is the only female cast member not on the chopping block. I could see the writers wanting to do more with Beth this season.
Speaking of characters who barely utter a line, when Tyreese was trapped in that swarm, I was a little worried that there could be only one black guy at a time—as soon as Tyreese showed up, T-Dog got bit. Now Bob Stookey is here, and Tyreese looked like a goner. Fortunately, he only needs a hammer and one eye to dispatch ALL the zombies. If I was King of Georgia, I’d just tell Tyreese, Michonne and Daryl (and okay, they bring Bob) to go wipe out all the remaining zombies, World War Z-style.
I think you’ve got that list about right, though I’d love to see Glenn recover (both from the disease and his newfound timidity) and be the solo-mission badass that we came to love early on.
How could I forget Jimmy Carter? Of course he’s the King of Georgia.
Right or wrong, I was wondering the same thing about Tyreese. It’s no secret that minority characters are always in severe danger in horror-type movies and shows, and though The Walking Dead is a more equal-opportunity killer, it still feels like you should watch your back if your skin isn’t white. So I agree, total relief in a lot of ways that Tyreese made it out of the zombie flash mob. (Conspiracy theory: Maybe he made a deal with the zombies…his escape without a single bit is too good to be true. If people start disappearing next week in the middle of the night, or somebody opens the prison gate, I’m looking at him.)
I love the idea of the Cute Stoic character. It’s sort of the opposite of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Not nearly as much fun, but probably more reliable and less heart-breaky. You can count on Beth to have your back. If Zooey Deschanel were in zombie land, she’d turn everyone against each other and ruin the whole society. I bet there are no more manic pixie dream people in the zombocalypse. Indie music is probably also dead. I bet all the new music are cautionary folk songs about how to avoid walkers.
Unlike you, I can’t wait ‘til they all leave the prison. In real life, you’re rooting for a society to take root and to have some kind of shelter within the chaos. But in Walking Dead world? I think the show is even more exciting when they’re on the run. That’s why I’m so psyched about our new foursome outside the walls. Time to take this show on the road!
Until next week, please don’t die, Daryl Dixon.
Remember, send your Walking Dead questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and check back on Friday for more Walking Dead goodness. Also, follow Shane Ryan at @ShaneRyanHere and Josh Jackson at @JoshJackson on Twitter.