The Walking Dead 1014: Carol saves herself – why that’s important

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 14 - Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC /

Carol’s story has resonated with many viewers over the years, including former abuse victims to survivors, but “Look at the Flowers” showed the lasting effects of her trauma and how deep it goes.

During my re-watch of The Walking Dead “Look at the Flowers” I was once again struck not only by the incredible acting of Melissa McBride and Samantha Morton, but by the care and honesty about the long-term effects of the trauma Carol has been through.

All too often, abuse and loss are written as a means to an end, something done to set up a character for the inevitable “golden moment”: The character gets the guy (or girl), takes on the big bad and wins, earns the respect of their peers. It all makes for inspiring television yet skirts the real lingering effects of abuse.  Very rarely do shows focus on the “voices” that haunt the survivor, sometimes decades later.

I had previously mentioned how I thought Alpha was the physical representation of all of Carol’s doubts, fears and loss, and that she became the focus of the rage that Carol has suppressed for far too long. “Look at the Flowers” brilliantly built on a similar idea. Using a hallucination of Alpha to highlight just how much mental and emotional damage Carol has suffered.

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC
Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 10, Episode 14 – Photo Credit: Jace Downs/AMC /

Samantha Morton gave a stellar performance channeling the voices of Ed, Lizzie and Mika. Everything Carol feared was laid bare for the viewer to witness.  It wasn’t just prior losses that haunted Carol, but the fear of losing what she still had left in her life.  (More on this later).

Looking back at the season through episode 14, we saw Carol’s struggles continue to build. Saw her popping pills to avoid the “good dreams”, saw her lone wolf it (or at least attempt to) and we watched her break promises to Daryl.  We’ve watched the person she cares the most about try desperately to reach her to no avail. Finally we witnessed what many thought would be the turning point in her arc as she placed Alpha’s head on a pike.  Alpha’s death was just the start for her healing process. The physical threat was defeated, but the mental anguish Carol carries is not so easy to overcome.

Carol has never been allowed to deal with the events from “The Grove” and the actions she had to take to save Judith, she wasn’t given a chance to truly mourn Sophia and she as absolutely never has the opportunity to free herself from the damage Ed caused to her psyche.

For someone who has never been in a domestic violence situation, it can be difficult for them to understand the fact bruises fade, broken bones heal, it’s the emotional and mental abuse that causes the most harm. Whispers in your ear how you aren’t good enough, strong enough, how everything that goes wrong is your fault, how no one will love you or forgive you. How you don’t deserve happiness or joy or peace. How if you tried, you would still lose the last thing you love.   In Carol’s case, those whispers told her she would always fail. Find love and motherhood, something she craves but it is always followed by death. We’ve seen it play out for her that way over the seasons again and again.

It was these whispers Carol had to defeat, and unlike the tropes I mentioned, this was something only she could do. Yes the love and support of friends and family can help but even today’s counseling, which she does not have access to, can only do so much. She had to face herself and find what she had that was worth fighting for, asking herself “what do you want?” What drives her to keep going? No one else could get her to this point, not even Daryl.

Our Sarabeth Pollock did a wonderful interview with Melissa McBride that answered the question of what keeps Carol going:

"I think Carol’s motivation is love. And when I was watching this episode, love and life, all of the things that her subconscious was telling her after Alpha kept asking her what is it that she wants. What do you want? She said she wants to be alone. She answers herself, saying no that’s not it. And whether or not Carol knows what she wants or not, or if she is afraid to even say it because she may or may not be able to manifest it because everything she tries to do, Alpha reminds her: No matter what you do you lose people. Is it worth going forward?And the things that pull her back out, the thing that gives her the impetus to hold her breath and free herself from under this pile of stuff in this metaphorical pile of stuff to fight for her life, was love. Not wanting to lose Daryl. She’s going to go back. She doesn’t want to be alone, she’s going to go back and help the people that she loves."

(If you haven’t read the article, I highly recommend it. It was a fantastic insight into Carol and one of the best interviews I’ve seen in a long time)

In the end, it was as McBride said in the above quote: Carol pulling herself out from under the metaphorical pile of stuff to fight for her life and to fight for those she loves.  It  would have been easy to just give up, like she seemed to do in season 6 when the Savior shot her (“Last Day on Earth”) smiling because her pain would be over.  Instead, we have Carol dislocating her shoulder (in an interesting call back to season 4’s “Indifference”) and uttering the empowering words “it’s never too late”.

Related Story. Interview with Paola Lazaro on The Walking Dead's Princess. light

Carol still has a way to go before she can truly heal and silence the whispers but she has made the first step towards this goal.  She now has the beginning awareness of what she wants and an understanding that it is “never too late.”

If you find yourself in a domestic violence situation and feel talking to someone will help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. They are staffed 24/7: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)