In the wake of the zombie apocalypse no one is who they were. Everyone makes choices they never would have made before. Every member of the group faces who they have become. Some of them accept it. Some of them run from it. At the end of this episode, it’s Rick’s choice that will change them forever.
From beginning to end, the fourth installment of season 4, entitled‘Indifference’ and penned by Matthew Negrete, is one of the most captivating pieces of television you will ever see. It leaves you feeling anything but indifferent.
In fact, the title of the episode leaves me puzzled. I don’t view any of these characters as indifferent. Everyone is wrought with emotions. This episode is not about indifference. It’s about what you can live with. It’s about how strong you are. It’s about the degree to which you can compartmentalize and be practical.
Michonne (Danai Gurira) echoes this when she drags Tyreese out of his sorrow. She gives her version of a pep talk. It’s practical. It’s to the point.
“Anger makes you stupid. Stupid gets you killed.”
This doesn’t mean you wall off your heart. It means that you must keep it in check. You can’t let your emotions overrule your reason. Michonne is a great person to deliver this message because in the past she has been so guarded and cold. This season, we’ve seen her laugh and engage with her fellow survivors. She even smiled in this episode, something that we never saw last season.
Michonne does love – but she understands that love alone won’t keep you alive.
Carol (Melissa McBride) has been learning this lesson her whole life. Carol is a survivor of domestic violence, a fact that was revisited in this episode. When we first met her character, she was mousey. She thought love would change her husband and protect her and her daughter.
Love accomplished neither of those things.
When Sophia died, Carol realized that you can’t be ruled by your heart or your compassion. You have to be practical to survive.
Practicality does not equal cruelty or lack of emotion as the episode title seems to suggest. It’s clear that Carol cares about killing Karen and David. We saw her breakdown last week. But her breakdown was brief, because she believed she did what was best for the group.
She had to compartmentalize her pain and move on. She can’t stay the woman she was – someone lost in sorrow. That woman wouldn’t survive. She put the pain of what she did away and went back to helping her community.
Carol accepts that the world has changed and she must change with it. She tells Rick,
“It’s about us facing reality. You can be a farmer Rick, you can’t JUST be a farmer.”
You can see it on Rick’s face that he knows she’s right. She’s logically right, but emotionally, he can’t get on board with it. Because he doesn’t want to change. He wants to hold tight to the world before the apocalypse when things were simple and his wife made pancakes every weekend.
If anyone is indifferent, it’s Rick. He is indifferent to reality. He ignores his own history of violence. He ignores the people that he is killed. Even when Carol reminds him of it, he denies it, saying first that the people he’s killed weren’t a part of their group – as if that makes them non-people.
Rick believes he has the moral high ground here. He doesn’t. People are people. They don’t have more intrinsic value because you love or know them. Carol understands this. Rick doesn’t. He thinks that because he did not know those two people he killed in a bar in season 2 that they don’t matter as much as Karen or David.
He didn’t know that those men would harm their group. He assumed they would. He hedged his bets. Carol hedged hers.
Carol tries to get him to accept reality one more time by reminding him of Shane. Again, Rick tries to justify saying “He was going to kill me.”
Without missing a beat, Carol says “so were they.”
Andrew Lincoln plays this part so well. You see the subtext on Rick’s face that he knows she is right. He knows he has lost this debate. He knows he is a hypocrite.
But it doesn’t matter.
He makes a choice. A choice that is not his to make. He exiles Carol.
I wonder how he will explain this to Daryl? Will he repeat Carol’s words and tell him “you don’t have to like what I did. I don’t. I just accept it?” Will he realize that he is no different than she is?
Will Rick realize that he can’t stay the same, that he must change in order to survive?
I certainly hope so, because I have zero interest in watching the return of the Ricktatorship.
What do you think nerds? Are you Team Carol or do you agree with Rick?
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.