About three-quarters of the way through this episode, it had all the makings of being the worst of the season, if not the entire series. Lizzie is clearly disturbed, and no one is doing jack squat about it. Carol keeps talking about “change.” Mika has turned into a pint-sized philosopher. Tyreese isn’t doing much of anything. But then Carol and Tyreese take a walk through a pecan grove and everything goes completely bananas. We’ve seen some twisted stuff on this show, but Lizzie’s dark descent may be the sickest yet.
It’s been obvious for a while now that something has been very wrong with little Lizzie, the prime suspect for the rat bait back at the prison, for a while now. More recently, it seemed possible that Lizzie killed Karen and David, and that perhaps Carol covered it up and helped her move the bodies. Over and over, we see signs of her inner Manson. But apparently, we are the only ones who notice, despite Carol’s role as surrogate mother and all the time she spent as Lizzie’s survival guide. Stop giving Lizzie the baby, people!
Somehow, Carol and Tyreese don’t pick up on Mika’s technique for calming down her psycho big sis. After a zombie sneaks up on them, Mika takes it down with three shots, then comforts Lizzie: “Count the flowers like you’re supposed to.” It seems that whatever Lizzie’s malfunction is, her instability dates back a while — and was well established enough that her little sister knows how to calm her down. Still, it’s not until Carol catches the girl playing tag in the backyard with a zombie that she realizes Lizzie is deeply troubled. After Lizzie’s psychotic fit — “What if I killed you?” she screams — Carol finally gives her a look that says I really tried to help you, and although you’re a serious fucking liability, I really don’t want to kill a kid.
At that point, Carol murdering a child still seemed like a stretch. Lizzie’s assertion that the zombies “want me to be like them” suggested there could be change of a different sort — perhaps Lizzie was ready to sacrifice herself in some gruesome way, just so she could “change” into a walker and convince Carol and Tyreese that zombies are not the mindless flesh-eating monsters that everyone else in the world knows they are.
So I did not anticipate seeing Lizzie, hands covered in blood, standing near the body of her little sister, who had been stabbed to death with a knife. Perhaps even worse is the shot of Judith, playing on her baby blanket, followed by Lizzie’s matter-of-fact reveal of her next plan. “Judith could change, too,” she says. “I was just about to …” As Carol negotiates Judith’s surrender, she looks appropriately freaked out.
Prior to all of this, there wasn’t much meat on this episode. They saw the tower of smoke rising from the shack that Daryl and Beth torched. We also met a new zombie type — s’mores zombies who must have been burned by that blaze. (Though I wonder, how would a zombie fry enough to look like overcooked bacon, but not die? Did we miss a passing rainstorm that extinguished them?) Carol and the kids said the word pecan a million times and cooked some in the oven. (Another question: Would ovens work? Seems unlikely.)
Tyreese escorts the li’l psychopath inside and learns a few things — Lizzie was indeed feeding the walkers along the prison fence and nailed that rat to a board in the tombs. Carol wonders — as we do — how she could have possibly missed the signs that Lizzie was dangerous. When she says the girl “can’t be around other people,” it seems inevitable that Lizzie is a goner. Carol has proven that when survival is at stake, no deed is too dirty, including murder. But how do you kill a child, even one who's a threat?
Certainly there are more human solutions (poison pecan pie, anyone?). Yet Carol opts for the direct approach and shoots Lizzie in the back of the head. (“Look at the flowers” is now Walking Dead shorthand for “something very bad is about to happen to you.” And is never to be confused with “making flowers,” from True Detective — that’s something completely different.) To review, Carol’s body count is now two adults she killed then set on fire, and one child she executed. Sort of puts Tyreese’s affirmation in a new light, as he told her, “Don’t ever be ashamed of who you are.”
Of course, he said that before he knew who Carol really was. That night, after the sisters were buried, Carol slides her pistol to Tyreese and the other shoe drops. Maybe it was Tyreese’s heartfelt speech about her character that pushed her to the edge, combined with what she’d just seen and done. But when she admits that she killed Karen and David, it’s not just a confession — Carol sees it as suicide, fully expecting to end up like Lizzie, with a slug to the dome. Tyreese, of course, can’t bring himself to pull the trigger; he forgives but makes it clear he won’t forget. Carol lets go of one burden — her terrible secret — and adds another, with Lizzie’s death. On some level, Tyreese must know that having a stone-cold mofo like Carol around greatly improves his chances of survival.
The episode ends with a voice-over, as Carol again repeats her mantra, “We all change.” For both Carol and Tyreese, it comes with a heavy price, as the looks on their faces confirm when they leave the pecan grove in silence. Neither changes for the better. But hey — they’re still alive.