If there’s one thing that’s come to define Carol Peletier’s life, it’s fire. She linked herself inextricably with it when, doing what she thought she had to do to survive, she burned Karen and David at the prison.
And fire has followed her ever since, punctuating the major events of her life. It makes a handy visual metaphor for her journey. If there’s one thing we learned from watching Abraham look at the literal blood on his hands over and over last episode, it’s that The Walking Dead loves its handy visual metaphors.
It’s also a commentary on the condition of her soul. After so much of her has been burned away, what’s left of Carol? In this episode Daryl is there to help her find out.
The episode picks up with a flashback to when Rick banished Carol from the prison. She doesn’t go far. Basically she finds a local office nearby, moves in and is sad for a while. Eventually she sees smoke in the distance and races back to the prison, where she finds it in flames.
Then we snap back to Carol and Daryl following the mysterious car from Grady Memorial Hospital, as they were the last time we saw them. Daryl is running without headlights and has broken out the tail lights, so they follow without being noticed.
Because the fuel gauge is low Carol wants to ram the Grady car off the road and force Beth’s location out of its occupants, but Daryl talks her into his plan of following it. They take I-85 all the way back to Atlanta where the car stops and one of the cops gets out and does something that’s not clear up the street.
It seems for a moment that a walker that was drawn to the car will give Carol and Daryl away, but the cop drives off. Their car is out of gas, however. Carol says she knows a place nearby to shelter for the night.
The place is a shelter for women and children who were victims of domestic violence. Carol had stayed there briefly with Sophia to escape her abusive husband Ed.
Carol and Daryl go to one of the shelter’s bedrooms. Sorry, Caryl shippers, it’s a bunk bed, and Carol takes top bunk. Daryl notices a book in the room, “Treating Survivors of Childhood Abuse.”
“You said we get to start over. Did you?” Carol asks, a reference to what Daryl told her shortly after they escaped from Terminus.
“I’m tryin,’ Daryl says.
Carol shares what’s on her mind, and it’s a dark and gloomy thought. She says she doesn’t think they get to save people any more. Daryl asks why she’s on a rescue mission, if that’s so.
“I’m tryin,’ she says.
He asks her what she would have done out by the car if he hadn’t shown up. She says she still doesn’t know.
They hear a noise and investigate. Through a frosted glass door they can see the shadow of a female walker and a little girl walker, most likely residents of the shelter when they turned.
Carol wants to do something about it but Daryl tells he she doesn’t have to. They go back to the bedroom.
Carol goes to sleep and when she wakes up it’s morning. Daryl took her watch. Through a window she sees black smoke. It’s Daryl burning the female and little girl walker’s bodies.
“Thank you,” Carol says.
There’s a flashback to Carol and Tyreese burying the bodies of Lizzie and Mika. Carol looks up and sees the column of smoke from what I’ve always presumed to be when Daryl and Beth burned down that house. It’s the same one that Mika noticed and said wasn’t still burning because the smoke was white.
They load up and head out. Carol has her rifle and Daryl has his crossbow. The streets of Atlanta are messy and filled with walkers. At one point we see the tank Rick hid in, a nice callback.
The plan seems to be to find a tall building and Carol and Daryl head through a parking garage and across a skyway. But the skyway is filled with walkers who died in their tents and sleeping bags when Atlanta fell. They’re still wrapped up in them, wriggling absurdly.
“Some days I don’t know what the hell to think,” Daryl says.
The door at the end of the skyway is padlocked and chained and they can only open it just enough to squeeze through. Daryl jokes he’s glad they skipped breakfast.
They find a nice office with a good view of the city, including the damage from the bombs.
Carol ask Daryl if he’s going to ask about what happened with Lizzie and Mika. Daryl says he knows it’s bad because they aren’t there, but Carol says it worse than that. She doesn’t go into the details, but Daryl seems to understand.
“The reason I said we get to start over is because we gotta,’ he says.
From the window Daryl notices something. Checking it with the scope on Carol’s rifle shows it’s a van with with crosses on it like one from Grady that took Beth. It’s teetering precariously over the edge of an overpass.
One the way out Carol sticks her rifle through first. And it gets grabbed by Noah, the survivor Beth helped escape from Grady. He holds them up with it, saying he’s sorry but he needs weapons. He cuts open some of the tents in the skyway and lets the walkers out as a distraction and runs away. Carol still has her pistol and tries to shoot him but Daryl knocks the gun aside to stop her.
On the way out Carol and Daryl have to stop to jimmy a door. While Daryl works on it Carol scolds Daryl for stopping her, saying that she was only going to shoot Noah in the leg and okay, that might have killed him, but he was stealing their weapons.
She says that without weapons they could die, or Beth could die. She says she doesn’t want Daryl, or Beth, or anyone at the church to die, but she can’t stand around and watch it happen.
“That’s why I left,” she says.
Daryl snaps at her and says she didn’t leave, she’s there, tryin.’ She says he’s not who he was anymore and neither is she.
Carol says she doesn’t know if she believes in God any more, but if she’s going to hell she’s holding it off as long as she can. As they leave she picks up Dary’ls bag and the book, “Treating Survivors of Childhood Abuse,” falls out.
There’s another flashback, this one to Carol burning Karen and David. The flames rise up and she covers her mouth so the fumes don’t burn her lungs.
The pair head to the overpass where the van is. It’s unstable, but they climb in anyway and start going through the paperwork they find inside. Daryl notices a marking that says GMH on a stretcher inside and Carol identifies it as Grady Memorial Hospital. Walkers close in on both sides of the van.
They try to fight their way out, but with only Carol’s pistol it’s hopeless. They crawl back inside and buckle up.
The walkers push the van over the edge. It crashes heavily to the ground, but fortunately the airbags worked. Daryl is fine but Carol has an injured shoulder.
Before they can get out a rain of walkers fall and splatter on the top of the van. They head toward Grady, sidestepping a walker that has been cut in half during the fall.
They set up in a building next door to Grady and do a little recon on the hospital.
This is a chance for another conversation. Daryl asks Carol what she meant when she said he’s not like he was before.
“It’s like you were a kid. Now you’re a man,” Carol says.
He asks her how she’s changed.
She talks about how she stayed at the shelter for a day and a half before running back to Ed to get beat up. She prayed for something to happen but she didn’t do anything.
“Who I was, with him. She got burned away,” and at the prison she got to be who she thought she should be.
“And then she got burned away. Everything now just … consumes you,” Carol says.
Daryl takes a moment to think of what to say.
“Well hey .. We ain’t ashes,” he says.
A thud draws them away. The source was a crossbow bolt, one of Dary’ls, that has stuck a walker to the wall through its throat.
They hear Noah squeeze off a burst from Carol’s rifle and run down the hall to see him struggling with a walker. In the commotion he pushes it off himself, and toward Carol. It almost bites her before Daryl takes it out.
Daryl chases Noah down the hall where he finds him in an office trying to move a heavy bookcase that’s blocking a door. Daryl slams into Noah and makes the bookcase fall on him. This exposes Noah to a walker who was on the other side of the door, which climbs on the bookcase and reaches for Noah.
Noah says he wasn’t following them. He thought they were following him. He begs for his life, but Daryl won’t save him a second time because he put Carol in danger. He picks up a carton of cigarettes he finds in the office and lights one and starts to leave.
Now it’s Carol’s turn to say they should let Noah live. Daryl almost walks away as the Walker starts to bite Noah’s throat, but when it looks like Carol is going to take on the walker herself to save Noah he puts a bolt through its head.
There’s a flashback to Carol just after she dabs herself with walker blood and goes Rambo on Terminus. She’s trying to clean the blood and guts off in the woods. She looks up and sees a column of smoke rising from what she has done.
Noah is panicking and says the people from the hospital will come because they’ve heard the shot. Daryl asks if he’s seen a blond girl and Noah tells them about how Beth helped them escape.
Noah tries to lead them to a building nearby where they can hide. He falls because of his leg injury from jumping down the elevator shaft and Daryl stops to help him.
Because of that Carol walks out the door first. And one of the Grady cop cars comes through at high speed and runs her right over. The hospital cops pick her up on a stretcher and start taking her away.
Daryl wants to fight but Noah stops him. He says that Grady is the only one that can save her now.
“We can get her back. We can get Beth Back,” Noah says, but says it’ll be tough because they’ve got guns and people.
“So do we,” Daryl says.
In the next shot Daryl obtains a box truck. He starts speeding back to the church to get the others to save Beth. End of episode.
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