Holy hell, Walking Dead. What are you trying to do to me? If there was ever any doubt that Scott M. Gimple knows exactly what The Walking Dead is, can, and should be, “The Grove” takes that doubt out back, tells it to look at the pretty flowers and puts a bullet in its head. He is the master of this “take a couple of characters, isolate them, and let the actors act” approach to the show, and if you thought that last season’s “Clear” and “This Sorrowful Life” were as good as it gets (and I kind of thought so), then guess again. Last week, when I said that this upcoming episode, focusing on Carol (Melissa McBride), Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman), and the psycho kids, Mika (Kyla Kenedy) and Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino), was “the most laden with suspense and anticipation of any of the survivors’ stories,” I was pretty much on target. This was easily the most powerful and impressive episode of the season and leaps into the top three ever with ease. And the best part is that the anxiety I’ve been feeling about Carol telling her secret to Tyreese (because you know she had to eventually) ends up relieved in a scene less about fear and more about forgiveness. Of course there was some fear in there, but only because Carol had resigned herself to whatever response Tyreese was going to have. McBride and Coleman play that scene, and the earlier scene where Tyreese shares that he still dreams about Karen, with such an honest intensity that I tear up just thinking about them. Honesty is really what the performances on this show are all about now. Most of the cast has such a wonderful handle on just who their characters are and how living in this world has changed them over the seasons, that now that there’s a showrunner who trusts them, we are getting some of the strongest dramatic performances on contemporary mainstream television. And yes, I did just call a show about the zombie apocalypse, based on a comic book, mainstream television. When the show outperforms everything else on cable television by at least 3 to 5 times the audience (with a 6.4 rating – that’s 12.865 million viewers!!) – and the closest thing on broadcast primetime is Big Bang Theory with a 4.9 – I think it’s justified. But let’s get to the elephant in the room. It’s a scene that, if you read the comics, you probably knew was coming at some point; especially with the growing realization that Lizzie was seriously messed up in her mindtank. After deciding that maybe they could make a stand in this nice house in this nice grove, Tyreese and Carol return to find Lizzie standing, bloody and smiling, over the corpse of Mika, assuring them that it was okay; that Mika would be back soon and they’d see that the walkers were just misunderstood. For a show that has taken us some pretty dark and demented places, this was perhaps the darkest. Not only because of the madness on display behind Lizzie’s innocent smile, but because it exposed that last raw nerve that the show had danced around before but never really embraced. That realization that the world had really changed for good and no one, however young, was innocent anymore. Mika’s earlier refusal to kill anything was sweet, but heartbreaking in its own way, because we knew she didn’t have what it took to survive in this world. We knew she was going to be a victim eventually. But for her to go like this was devastating. The bottom fell out of everything good and hopeful and it was immediately clear what had to happen next. I said earlier this season that Scott Wilson deserved an Emmy for his performance in “Internment” and now I’m saying the same thing about Melissa McBride for this episode. She doesn’t just get one powerful scene that would gut the most experienced actor – as she takes Lizzie out to the garden and puts a bullet into her head – but another immediately after as she confesses to Tyreese that she’s the one who killed Karen back at the end of “Infected.” The execution scene is easily one of the most difficult-to-watch scenes on television to which I’ve ever been exposed. And I watch a lot of fucked-up shit. The combination of Lizzie’s sobbing and apologizing for pointing a gun at Carol – completely not understanding exactly what was happening – and the way the camera moves to focus on Carol’s face through the act itself are so intensely disturbing that it’s making me cry just typing this. We see every single emotion, every hesitation, every bit of determination cross across McBride’s face in those moments, but none of it is overstated or exaggerated. It’s all grounded in real emotion and we can almost see the entire through-line of Carol’s evolution in the series. And Brighton Sharbino’s Lizzie is heartbreaking in her absolute madness and disconnect from reality. Then we’re alone with Carol and Tyreese, and as she slowly slid her gun across the table to him, it was clear what was coming next. I’m pretty sure that if he hadn’t just watched her go out and do what had to be done with Lizzie, her confession of Karen’s murder would have played out differently. But until just a few moments earlier, Tyreese was still living in the moral landscape of a pre-apocalypse world. Watching Coleman process his emotions physically in those seconds before forgiving her was simply perfection. And if there was any more evidence required to establish that Rick is absolutely useless in this overall narrative, it was right there. The only time Rick has been an effective leader was in the gap between Seasons Two and Three, which carried over into a few episodes after they found the prison. But overall, his bad decisions have cost the group everything. It’s time for some new leadership from people who understand the world they are in and have given up on the nostalgia for what used to be. The Walking Dead 4.14 "The Grove"5.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 4 Responses Kyle Garret March 23, 2014 Agreed on almost all counts. The only thing I disagree with is the bit about Rick. I think Rick’s decision to dump Carol happened under substantially different circumstances. Had Tyrese found out about Carol right after it happened, she’d probably be dead (along with anyone who got in his way). And I don’t think they could have hidden it from him. The only reason he stopped digging was because the Governor attacked. That’s not to say Rick is a good leader. I could see Glenn replacing him. I don’t think Carol has any interest in being in charge and, to a certain extent, prefers to be solo. Actually, I think Sasha has it in her to be the leader, too. Log in to Reply Paul Brian McCoy March 23, 2014 I think anybody but Rick should be in charge. I agree that if Tyreese had found out Carol was responsible at the time, someone would have died. But even he sees now that while he can’t forget what she did – and I’m sure that will effect their future decision-making – he understands. That’s something Rick couldn’t even try to do. His vision is too myopic to lead. Log in to Reply The Walking Dead 5.15 "Try" - Psycho Drive-In March 25, 2015 […] Michael E. Satrazemis, seeing as how the two other episodes he’s responsible for helming (“The Grove” and “Slabtown”) have both also ratcheted up the tension expertly. I don’t know if he was […] Log in to Reply The Walking Dead 5.04 “Slabtown” - Psycho Drive-In March 30, 2015 […] an Accident.” He came on board along with Gimple. His first time directing was the exemplary “The Grove,” and this week is his second time ever in the director’s chair. The writers this week are Matthew […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.