Beware of Spoilers! Proceed with caution, survivors. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched tonight’s episode, “The Same Boat,” we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.
Carol (as portrayed by the always exquisite Melissa McBride) is by no means the only interesting character on The Walking Dead. But I’m hard pressed to think of another character on the show who’s given us so many great moments as the ever resourceful, increasingly world-weary widow Peletier. This week’s episode, “The Same Boat”, told almost entirely from Carol’s perspective, is a smorgasbord of such moments.
Caught by a handful of Negan’s people — led by Justified‘s Alicia Witt — in the wake of last week’s raid on their HQ (in “Not Tomorrow Yet”), Maggie and Carol spend most of their time this week imprisoned. But I’ll be damned if they’ve ever been more empowered. Witt’s Paula and her cohorts offer Carol and Maggie glimpses of what they could have become (or could yet become), should their post-apocalyptic lives have turned out differently, as mothers, as wives, as human beings. Paula, especially, stands in marked contrast to Carol, as someone who’s abandoned the sense of remorse that continually haunts our heroine. Having long ago stopped feeling the kills she had to make in the name of survival, after they “hit double digits.” She too has lost family and children, but her means of dealing with it is to shut down and become as relentless and single-minded a murder machine as the undead.
In perhaps the most compelling display of ingenuity we’ve yet seen her display, Carol channels the grief she’s long held at bay into a performance, convincing Paula she’s a frail, frightened bird just long enough to escape her bounds and draw blood once more, as she honestly and unnervingly hinted to Paula she knew she would (“You don’t want me to stick to my own principles”). And there’s a wonderful, almost throwaway moment where she expresses the peace with which she now faces her own mortality: “Women used to just die in childbirth. And they always thought the world was gonna end.” Without getting too academic about it (this is, after all, The Walking Dead), there’s a level on which the three women holding Maggie and Carol — of three distinct ages — represent the archetypal figures of womanhood in folklore and mythology best known as the Furies: the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The fact that they’ve all been corrupted by the barbarism in their society is as dark a vision of the future as any the show’s offered. It’s also as chilling as any physical violence in this episode, and gives us the greatest reason yet to fear the still unseen Negan.
Or is he unseen? More than one character this week admits to being Negan, to which Rick’s immediate reaction is, of course, assassination. We know Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Big Bad will show up sooner or later. But at this point does it even matter? As “The Same Boat” makes clear, “Negan” is something that resides in the soul. A boogeyman that everyone in this next world must keep at bay lest they risk “turning” before their time. Whatever acts of violence the “real” Negan will carry out, they pale in comparison to the savage beatings our protagonists are already administering to themselves.
— Maggie too has rarely been so cold a killer as she is here. Motherhood agrees with her. Though her words to Glen at the end of this episode — “I can’t anymore” — have me fearing for her more than ever.
— “You’re not the good guys. You should know that.”
— I happened to be visiting the show’s Senoia, Georgia set last October when this episode was filmed, and can attest that the POV shots in which we see Carol and Maggie’s feet as they’re led by Paula to the bunker were actually recorded by Melissa McBride, who held a camera under the hood that’s thrown over her.
— And when Maggie, Carol, and Paula speak with Rick on the walkie-talkie? Those lines were actually delivered off camera on a real walkie-talkie by Andrew Lincoln, who came in on his day off just to contribute to the authenticity of the scene. That, my friends, is dedication.
— “You’re good, nervous little bird.”
— While those shipping #Caryl were no doubt disappointed that Carol locked lips with someone other than Daryl last week, here they at least get a warm embrace out of their dream couple when they’re reunited.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).