This week’s episode of The Walking Dead brought us a few milestones, but perhaps the biggest moment came courtesy of Carol’s power move.
As Melissa McBride reached her 100th episode on The Walking Dead, commemorated with a hashtag started by a group of dedicated Carol fans, Carol experienced a few major achievements: Her first scene with Eugene, which was a delightful and sweet moment of understanding that Carol (and her fans) desperately needed, and her first (and obviously not last) scene with Negan – one that was just 4 words but will hopefully replace “look at the flowers” as the newest Carol meme
“Walk With Us” also brought the payoff of Alpha’s death, something that has been a driving force for Carol since Daryl convinced her to come home. With that death, I have to ask myself “What’s next for Carol”?
Her arc since season 4 has been about loss. Loss of children, loss of friends, loss of family, loss of home and the most heartbreaking loss, the loss of herself. There have been brief moments of happiness for Carol, but sadly they have been very brief. It’s been a rough few years for Carol and for those, like me that love this character. Given Melissa McBride’s incredible talent, the scenes rip at fans’ hearts and we FEEL every drop of her loss and pain. At times its been too much for her fans and has led to questions of “Does Angela Kang hate Carol?” with fans pointing out that her arc feels like a rehash of earlier seasons.
Kang has improved a lot of the issues fans had with seasons 6 through 8 and with her at the helm there was hope that Carol’s (and Carol fans’) suffering could finally be over.
Unfortunately Alpha’s death won’t fix everything for Carol. Far from it.
For the most part, I’ve always felt Alpha and Carol’s focus on Alpha was more than just the loss of Henry. Looking at her history, she’s never been able to share her grief or to grieve at all. Alpha became the focal point of years worth of rage, pain, regret and self-blame. With her death, all that pain, rage, regret and especially the self-blame has no where else to go. She will have to finally face it instead of pushing it aside.
As Carol said in her talk with Eugene, she has pissed off everyone around her. Not only that, but she has actively tried to push even her closest companion away. It’s easier to push them away than to have them walk away. Her veneer of not caring what the others think is for her protection, but it is also very thin. She wants those she loves to hate her, while at the same time dreads that condemnation.
The scariest thing for Carol right now, unlike her comment to Daryl in season 5’s “Strangers”, she can’t just forget it, she is letting all of it out. She desperately needs to unburden herself to be able to heal. The first step in healing is talking about it, all of it, to someone. The logical choice of the person that it has to be is Daryl, based on their conversations in earlier episodes this season, but as of right now, it could be anyone including Lydia.
Carol needs to forgive herself, whether fans think she deserves the blame she heaps on herself or not. She believes she deserves it. Sophia’s death wasn’t her fault, nor were the deaths of Sam, Lizzie or Mika. She may have pulled the trigger on Lizzie, but she really had no other choice. She’s carried the secret of “The Grove” and the only other person that shared it is long gone. (R.I.P Tyreese). Thanks to her scenes in “Ghost” (episode 1003) we know it still haunts her to this day. These are the “what if’s” that keep her from moving on. What if she had left Ed? What if she had kept Sophia a bit closer that day on the highway? What if she had known or seen the insanity in Lizzie?
Carol needs to rebuild her relationships, the ones she went out of her way to distance herself from, Daryl, Lydia, and the rest of her family. One thing I have never doubted is Carol’s love for her family and that hasn’t changed. Carol has mentioned a few times over the years that she “couldn’t lose them” and that fear of losing them causes her to keep driving a wedge between herself and team family. She can’t lose them if she isn’t there to see the loss. When in doubt Carol runs from those she loves the most and I wonder if she’ll run again, I hope this time, someone finds her and gets her to open up. No more running and no more guilt eating at her soul.
My only wish for Carol at this moment is she finds some peace and heals. As impressive as McBride is as an actress, I would appreciate seeing her get the opportunity to show her acting chops in ways that weren’t just Carol suffering and occasionally tossing out a snarky one liner. After 6 years, I feel Carol fans have earned it.