This week’s episode of The Walking Dead should stand out as it features two of the show’s best characters, a pair who internalize a lot and are the outsiders in a group of outsiders. While we’ve caught up with Beth and Abraham’s group over the last couple of weeks, one piece has remained unclear: the journey of Daryl and Carol. We know that Carol ended up injured in Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, and we know that Daryl ended up back at Gabriel’s church with… someone. But how did they end up separated, and where do we go from here?
I came across some interesting supposition today on the internet, an article about the pending big death in the mid-season finale. The writer put forth the idea that the likely character marked for death is either Beth or Carol, and further put forth the idea that Daryl returned to the church not with either Beth or Carol, but with Noah. Well, the latter guess turned out to be a good one, but as to this death watch though I’d put the more money on Carol than Beth at this point, because while Carol has grown more complex over the last five seasons, she seems now at something of an impasse. As much as “Consumed” is about the search for Beth, it was also about Carol’s struggle with who she is, where she was, and where she might be going next.
That title, “Consumed,” is kind of an odd one. Who is being consumed, and what are they being consumed by? The idea of zombies consuming human flesh comes to mind, and certainly this week Daryl and Carol face a city full of hungry walkers. “Consumed” could also refer to Carol’s feelings of guilt and detachment from when Rick kicked her out of the prison, going back after The Governor’s attack, meeting up with Tyreese and dealing with what happened to Lizzie and Mika, and her Die Hard rescue of the group from Terminus. Daryl presses Carol to tell him where she was going when they see the car from Grady Hospital near the church. She says she doesn’t know, but really, Carol seems to be outrunning herself.
According to Carol, she felt that she was the best version of herself at the prison, and that her old self that hid out at a women’s shelter for a couple of days before returning to her abuser had “melted away.” That best version of herself also “melted away” though when she left the prison. In flashbacks, we see Carol break down after leaving the prison, crying either because she’s realized she lost that best version of herself, or because she was betrayed by her adopted family. Regardless, when a zombie saunters up and starts banging on the car window, she helplessly screams “go away,” and it’s a very human reaction, an involuntary reflex to the woman Carol used to be as she reset from the woman she was at the prison to the one she became in the “wild.”