Episode 404 of The Walking Dead saw the banishment of Carol from the prison, and many of us gained respect for Rick.
Not all Walking Dead fans have been huge Rick fans. I’ve often found myself at odds with him, and with the group’s often pathetic way of clinging to his leadership. In fact, there were times where Rick himself rejected their dependence on him, and he had a point. Was he infallible? No. Did he always make the right decision, or even the best decision at the time? Probably not. However, Rick’s people have always been symptomatic of the world before the dead walked the earth, which was similarly dependent on strong leaders.
Still, even with all that, Rick did sometimes make some decent choices. One of those was his banishment of Carol in season 4’s “Indifference.” Now, I know a lot of people like Carol, and some would even side with her killing of Karen and David for having the pig virus. Nevertheless, Rick truly returned to form when he decided to “let her go” during a supply run. He was even generous enough to give her some gasoline for her journey by the episode’s end. It was the best, most diplomatic resolution to the problem she presented, and even she seemed to understand it as being fair. Yes, she pleaded her case, but she knew what she did was pretty wrong, even though her growing sense of amorality masked her brutality.
Sam and Ana as symbols
This episode also introduced a few characters, Sam and Ana, who were likable yet obviously not built to last. It was an opportunity for Carol to demonstrate her value to Rick, as she corrected Sam’s dislocated shoulder. However, her value at the prison couldn’t be restored as easily. In a way, Sam and Ana functioned as a device in this episode. They are basically counterexamples to the wiser, more experienced Rick and Carol. It seems like no coincidence that they arrived and dies so quickly. The reaction to their deaths was another example of Carol’s growing indifference to the fatalities around her. Like everyone in the Walking Dead universe, it’s easy to say, “Another day, another loss.”
This time it was a few young strangers. Maybe next time it’ll be someone she loves. I wouldn’t say Carol was cold and unfeeling, but that she had learned to be tough — even tougher than she needed to be. She was so tough that she would kill a possible threat, and sick people are a possible threat to life. In contrast, Sam and Ana seemed to think, perhaps naïvely, that life was still like an open road. However, as we’ve seen previously, the road is now cluttered with debris and miscreants even apart from the walking dead. Of course, that’s how it always been.
Rick surely saw Carol as a threat, just as she did Karen and David. He took the high road both because he could and he wanted to. He also knew she was wise enough to move on, to the extent possible. She saw it as another loss, no doubt about it, but it’s the card she was dealt by her own hand. Carol wasn’t a bloodthirsty murderer, but that doesn’t matter so much. She was still a killer, and murder can still be wrong while society is falling.
When Rick gently ousts her from the group (as opposed to simply killing her as a threat), it’s also a clear message that he’s different from her, and that the prison is supposed to be better than what she did. Rick often makes questionable choices, but most viewers should be able to understand what kind of test this was.
What are your thoughts on this Walking Dead episode? Let us know in the comments!