Since about 10:00 PM Sunday night a question has been going around message boards, groups of fanatical television viewers and workplace water coolers. No, it’s not about our day to day difficulties. The question concerns the goings on in post-apocalyptic Atlanta on AMC’s The Walking Dead. The show, concerning a group of survivors following an end of the world disease that causes the dead to turn in to zombies has become a hit with genre viewers as well as those who just like good television. In the episode entitled “The Grove,” the show took a dark turn for many when two subordinate characters were killed off. Many are wondering whether this went too far.
Killing off characters on a show about zombies, or walkers” as the show calls them is nothing new for the show. The fact that the victims were (it is long enough past to say so without offering a spoiler warning) children and victims of humans rather than zombies was the breaking point. The deaths of Mika and Lizzie were tragic and violent. In fact, Lizzie killed her younger sister Mika in order to prove that the walkers were ok, almost to be envied. This was an unexpected blow to the viewer and characters. Lizzie’s death, though, was a turn that the viewer could not have foreseen until Mika’s death.
In fact, the entire episode essentially led up to and set the groundwork that these things would happen. The season itself presented Lizzie as a killer in the making. It was not just a matter of going after walkers in a survival manner. She seemed poised to be a psychopath having killed rabbits with some sense of glee. In addition, there were moments where it seemed she would eliminate the baby, Judith. In this way, the viewer had prepared for the idea that she would become a danger to the survivors; a danger that would need to be eliminated like Shane in the first season.
That it would be the strong but maternal Carol to complete this task was not seen. This is what unsettled the viewers who are haunted by the phrase “just look at the flowers” that Carol right before the act. This was made all the more powerful by the fact that Carol lost her own daughter, Sophia, early in the series.
Dealing with moral uncertainties are not the kinds of questions that typical shows ask the viewers. Carol’s task also made her confront her secret of having killed Tyrese’s girlfriend in order to stop a spreading disease. This was arguably even tenser than Carol and Lizzie. Sometimes the answers are uncomfortable. The episode, though, reiterated a position that it began back in season one with the boy Carl. Everyone has been thrown into a chaotic nightmare where the dangers have no discretion regarding the age of their victims.
So did the series take it too far? The best answer is yes. But it was also necessary. The series reminded viewers that danger was all around them. It doesn’t come merely in the form of walkers or villains with eye patches like the Governor. The show, at its core, has been about humans deal with each other in an otherwise bleak future. The episode also brought the show back to its characters as a driving force. This has been the focus of the second half of the season as the characters are spread out from each other and allows quieter yet all the more intense interaction.
The episode has now compelled the viewer to walk with Tyrese and Carol as they walk along the road with this act. Lizzie was a character many knew was a powder keg ready to explode. And she was also a little girl damaged and shaped by her world. Can the viewer apply anything learned from this to their own world? This is uncertain, but the viewer will surely stop and think about those questions. Good television does this.
By Adam Rodriguez