The Walking Dead
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where to begin these recaps. Or maybe it’s the ending that’s tough to stick. But I can’t remember an episode — not only in this season, but in any other — when there’s literally so little to talk about. Look, I can appreciate a quiet moment to pause for reflection or a momentum shift or a clever tale. Perhaps there’s a setup episode that ambles along, yet establishes something big is on the horizon. The side mission with Gabe and Aaron didn’t need to move the plot forward — it was just a satisfying yarn, and that was enough. Given the previous story with Carol and Daryl was something of a snooze, you’d figure this sequel must get better, right? Daryl’s lady friend returns, or Connie is found alive, or there’s a shocking twist to Dog’s backstory — he’s not a good boy after all!
But no. So let’s allow form to follow function and we’ll summarize this “bonus” episode with the appropriate literary treatment:
A fork in the road.
Daryl’s bike breaks, Carol hates
rats, drywall. Who cares?
Still grumpy, these two.
They used to have chemistry
a long time ago.
There’s also a culinary angle to explore:
Nutritious and tasty, eh?
Stone soup — zero stars.
Let’s consider the wide array of supporting characters:
Jerry gives his all.
Labor, kind words, a big hug.
They don’t deserve you.
Dog’s perspective should also not be overlooked:
Scolded, starved, rat fleas.
Thought Carol would be more fun.
Need a roomie, Jer?
I’m not sure there’s much more you need to know unless you want to take a deep dive into the varieties of knives needed for apocalyptic survival, or to share hot-pot recipes. If you want to bail now, dear reader, no offense taken.
For the rest of you masochists, let’s try to zen out and make the best of this. After finding the cabin where Daryl hooked up with and then ditched a lovely tough-as-nails survivor, he and Carol have reached the nadir of their friendship. They arrive at — metaphor alert! — a fork in the road, and while it diverges in the wood, the paths they take make no difference whatsoever. Perhaps that’s the point — they split up but still end up on parallel tracks, both trying to fix something and find a brief moment of meaning in this hopeless world. But did their journeys need to be so dull? The most shocking development is when Dog chooses to go home with Carol, most likely knowing the chances for finding treats at A-town are slightly better than out in the wild.
Daryl decides to keep looking for food or supplies or whatever the hell they were out here for, but his bike breaks down. Without the knife he loaned Carol, he’s got to find both spare parts and some sort of tool. In what would have been the lamest death since Boba Fett tumbled into the Sarlacc pit, he’s nearly crushed while underneath a car. He also finds not one but two zombified soldiers wearing fatigues and bearing gifts (even Daryl can’t believe it — “You gotta be kidding me” he mutters as the second one appears). He needed one utility knife; now he’s got two, along with ammo and MREs. At least he salvaged something from this debacle.
Carol isn’t so lucky. She rolls into A-town determined to whip up a meal, but the always-genial Jerry says it won’t be easy — Maggie’s peeps are in Michonne’s kitchen, power’s out, and rats got into the grain. This elicits a charming tale of stone soup, which Carol intends as a sort of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” parable. Instead, it leaves Jerry wondering if she’s okay. (Hint: She’s not.) Carol’s not actually concerned about making anyone happy, including herself, it seems. She’s just struggling with her ongoing existential concern: Should I stay or should I go?
Of course, soup-making is not really her jam, and just about everything that could go wrong does: Dog makes a mess, there’s a noisy rat in the garage, she lets it escape from the trap, and the power won’t stay on. An herb-fetching trip turns into an opportunity to do what she does best — murder some dead people. Early on, Carol was determined to put on a happy face, symbolized by the filthy scarf she hoped to turn into something fresh and meaningful. But her attempt at optimism finally fails when that damn rat wakes her and Dog up in the middle of the night: One hole soon turns into a full HGTV-worthy tear down, with Carol going HAM on the garage wall. And after all that, she still can’t defeat the rat. (The scene where she chases it around was played for laughs, but it was more awkward than funny.)
The dawn brings a new day and a merciful end to this story. Jerry stops by and is concerned about both the garage and Carol’s mental state. His mention of Zeke seems to be a trigger, as she asks “can’t you just let people like me suffer in peace?” Jerry responds as only Jerry can: “Yeah, caring,” he says. “It’s a real problem.” Jerry gives her some kind words and a bear hug, and the rat scurries out of its hiding place. Maybe Carol’s luck is turning around.
Or maybe not. Daryl cruises into A-town, the two exchange small talk, and then head their separate ways — reunited but no closer than they were before. Tellingly, Carol throws out that scarf she salvaged, and both her sunny outlook and this episode end up in the trash.