Hard Choices: A Review of The Walking Dead Season 4, Episode 4, “Indifference”

Posted: November 4, 2013 in Reviews, The Walking Dead, TV
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Last week’s episode ended with a huge revelation – Carol killed Karen and David. Tonight, in addition to finding out how Daryl and company manage now that they’re on foot, I’m really looking forward to seeing what transpires between Rick and Carol. He’s facing a huge dilemma; he’s no longer the leader of the group, but people still look up to him. Tyreese, prior to that nasty fight with Rick, asked him in particular to find out who killed Karen, and to bring them to him. With Tyreese on the road, Rick is on his own with Carol. Will he bring Hershel into the conversation? Maggie? Or will the old Rick continue his resurgence, and make his first executive decision in months? Check after the break to see what happened, and some thoughts on what it might mean for the future.

<<Spoiler Alert: The following review will discuss at length plot points of The Walking Dead S04E04, “Indifference.” Read more at your own risk.>>

The episode begins with Rick and Carol getting ready to make a run for supplies. As Carol explains to Lizzie (from behind a glass screen – she’s still sick, but not looking too bad at this point), they lost most of their food when they lost Cell Block D, and Daryl and his team are running late – they need to look for food and any medicine that might help the sick make it through until the heavy duty supplies come through. While the scenes cut back and forth between Carol and Rick, we only hear Carol talking – Rick is silently loading the car with supplies: knives, gas cans, guns. Carol is giving Lizzie advice, telling her she needs to be willing to kill to save her and her sister. This of course echoes a couple of things: her own willingness to kill in order to save the group, as evidenced by her apparent lack of emotion over killing Karen and Dave; her sense of impotence at her inability to give Sophia the tools she needed to survive; and her own self-loathing over her past experiences with an abusive husband. Deserved or not, these self-recriminations and her reactions to them are driving her forward. Her ability to turn off the emotions when the hard decisions need to be made makes her at least admirable, even if you don’t agree with her decision to kill in order to save. It also, however, makes her appear to be sinking into a form of psychopathy. Strength without empathy can be a dangerous thing. Lizzie inadvertently calls her mom at one point, and this elicits the most emotion we see from Carol during the conversation. “Never call me mom,” she says, and repeats it again when Lizzie tells her it was an accident. Looks like there are still some wounds just barely under the surface indeed.

This is by far the most focused of the episodes so far this season. In an approach that hearkens back to the cohesion of Season One, the entire episode focuses on only two story lines: Rick and Carol on a run for supplies, and Daryl, Michonne, Tyreese, and Bob going to the veterinary school for medical supplies. Both stories are interesting, and at times riveting; and hard choices are made by several of the survivors tonight.

I’ll focus on Daryl’s group to begin. They’re looking for alternative transport now that they’ve lost Zach’s car, and make their way toward a small town. Daryl picks up a green stone, and Michonne mentions that the color brings his eyes out. What’s this? Michonne not only working with a group, but flirting? There was definitely some chemistry between them last week – kind of like two predators warily circling each other – but this is the first time Michonne has shown any kind of real interest in anyone outside of Andrea last season (I could also mention the comic books she brings back for Carl, but to me that shows her hidden mothering side, which also expressed itself when she held Judith). She also smiles – and boy does it change her appearance! Daryl has been developing an alliance/possible romance with Carol over the last several months, but nothing has ever seemed to come of it. It will be interesting to see if anything develops here, instead.

They come across a gas station, and find a mini-van outside that will do the job nicely – except that it has a dead battery. They start to clear away kudzu and a fallen tree that are covering up the main entrance to the gas station, when they’re attacked right through the bushes by several walkers. Daryl gets knocked back, Bob is struggling, and Tyreese is trying to pull his zombie right out of the kudzu. Only Michonne seems unfazed, picking her moments and taking out the zombies with ease – except for Tyreese’s. He continues to struggle with his zombie, as Michonne says over and over, “Let it go, Tyreese. Let it go.” It finally falls out of the kudzu on top of him, and he momentarily panics, but Daryl pulls it off of him, and Bob shoots it in the head. Michonne later asks Tyreese if he wants to die, and then gives him a lecture on anger. It would be almost comical to hear Michonne telling someone else not to act on anger, if it hadn’t been for some of the character development we’ve been seeing her undergo the last few weeks. First it’s bringing comics for Carl, then it’s weeping while she holds Judith, and now it’s going on a group mission and saving others’ lives. She tells Tyreese that he’s thinking with his emotions too much, and that it’s going to get him killed. He accuses her of the same, but she says she isn’t angry anymore. “Then why do you still go after the Governor?” he asks, and she says she doesn’t know. “But don’t get me wrong,” she says. “If he was here right now, I’d cut him in two. Because that’s something that needs doing.” Awesomely cold and efficient. Is Michonne perhaps becoming a surrogate for Carol in more ways than one? Her interest in Daryl, her ability to make difficult and sometimes unpopular choices, and her ability to follow through on what needs doing sounds an awful lot like the path Carol has been taking, minus the murder of live group members.

Inside the gas station, Daryl and Bob seem to be getting along well. Daryl notes some old vomit beside a container of antifreeze, and he mentions to Bob that they decided to go out together: group suicide. Bob can’t understand why anyone would do that, but Daryl points out that you can’t live other peoples’ lives, so you shouldn’t judge them for their choices. Bob, feeling that Daryl is becoming a friend, comes clean about what happened on the run which killed Zach. He takes full blame, and admits to his weakness for alcohol. “That’s bullshit,” Daryl says, and tells him to start the car. He points out any number of things had to come together for Zach’s death to happen, and that we can’t sit around blaming ourselves. Daryl whistles for the rest of the group, and the head out to the veterinary school.

Things are quiet when they arrive. The group makes its way through the school, gathering supplies. Bob sees something on the floor and grabs it, checking around to see if anyone notices him. Now when I first saw this scene, I thought it was one of the books on the floor he was going for, not realizing that there was a bottle of alcohol right beside them. Perhaps that’s an indication of my own proclivities and addictions? They find all the supplies Hershel has asked for, and Michonne fills her bags with medicines that Bob instructs her to grab. On the way out, they gain the attention of some walkers – but these aren’t just any walkers: they have the telltale blood on their faces that is a sign of the infection raging through the prison. Rather than face them, they run further into the complex, getting themselves stuck in a room with no open exits, and a door behind them that won’t latch.

They choose to open a chained door holding back an unknown number of zombies as preferable to facing the obviously diseased ones, and they manage to make it through to another dead end. Tyreese opens a window for them (with a fire extinguisher), and they jump out onto a roofed walkway (they’re on the roof over the walkway). Bob nearly falls, and his bag goes over the side. Walkers jump in and grab the bag, trying to pull Bob down with it. Again, Michonne is yelling “Let it go,” and again the person she’s yelling at refuses. With all four of them, they manage to pull the bag back up to safety – but it makes a rather distinctive clinking sound when it falls onto the walkway. Daryl opens it up and sees the bottle. “For this?” he asks, and goes to throw it away. Bob reaches for his gun, and for a moment it looks bad.

Daryl doesn’t go crazy – he’s killed plenty before in order to survive, but he doesn’t take Bob down. No, instead he gets right up into Bob’s face, literally. He presses himself up against Bob, removes the gun from Bob’s holster, and tells him to stay the hell away from him. Looks like the burgeoning friendship is not to be. This is a great moment for Daryl. Early we see how he is willing to give people second chances, and how hard he works at not being judgmental. But put Daryl or his friends’ lives in danger for purely selfish reasons, and watch out – he won’t stand for it, and he shows his alpha male characteristics. In this scene he reminds me of nothing more than a wolf staring down an opponent, but the intimacy of it all, as he presses himself physically on Bob, makes for an intense and moving act.

Daryl and Michonne get into the front seats, and they talk a bit about her desire to find the Governor. She tells Daryl that she’s done with going off alone. The last we see of the group, they’re started on what they figure to be a seven hour trip – I don’t know what route they’re planning to take, but if I recall correctly from when they left, it was only supposed to be fifty miles. Guess they have to swing around wide to avoid the horde that almost trapped them last week. An interesting point here: the only one of the four of them wearing a seat belt is Tyreese. It seems a little odd that he, being the obviously suicidal one (he’s all but given up on his sister already, as he tells Bob early in the episode), would be concerned about something like vehicle safety in this post-apocalyptic world. Could it be that Michonne made an impression on him, or is it simple reflex? The show is too tightly run for me to believe that it was anything but intentional, so let’s see if Tyreese starts playing a little more carefully from here on out (although I must say that I do love the way he swings a hammer).

The other half of the episode follow Rick and Carol. Once their preparations are done, they drive to a small town about eight or nine miles south of the prison. They begin to scavenge, and talk a little about what Carol did back at the prison. Before we can get to the nub of the issue, however, they are assaulted by a solitary walker, and after dispatching it, meet two young people holed up in the upstairs bathroom. These are Sam and Ana, and they’ve recently become separated from another group of survivors. My initial thought upon seeing these two was “Great! Now we won’t be losing any of the main characters tonight, because we have some zombie bait.” Rick is very hesitant to accept them, although he does begin his three questions: “How many have you killed?” Carol, oddly, seems almost happy to have them along, assigning them work to help clear out the subdivision faster.

As Rick and Carol work together, they get closer to dealing with the real issue between them. She tells him that he can be a farmer, but he can’t just be a farmer. She’s trying to prick his pride, to help bring back the kick ass decision making Rick that used to lead the group. Rick tells a story about home life before the apocalypse, and how Lori used to make them pancakes every Sunday – even though they were horrible, and she knew they were horrible. She just wanted them “to be the kind of family that had pancakes on Sundays.” Carol is no longer a pancakes kind of lady, however. Rick is trying to tell her, not so subtly, that he wants as much stability out of the world as possible – and she counters that that just isn’t possible anymore. She even refers to Sophie as someone else’s bookmark. Inside one of the houses, she claims she did nothing more in killing Karen and Dave than Rick did in killing Shane. “He was going to kill me,” Rick says, and she counters, “So were they.” “You don’t know that,” Rick replies, and he has a point. There’s no way of knowing whether Karen or Dave might have survived the illness, but by taking their lives, Carol made it so that they didn’t even have that chance. The fact that the illness continued to spread shows that her actions were not only in vain, but ill-thought out as well. If two people were already exposed, and no one knew how or when, any number of them (including Carol herself) could have been incubating the disease.

As they speak, Rick notices a fallen basket of fruit. They follow a trail of blood along the ground, and see Ana’s tattooed leg, severed beneath the knee – then they see the rest of her, being eaten by a pair of walkers. They head back to the house to see if Sam is waiting for them. After waiting for a while, Carol pushes to get going. Rick again questions her lack of compassion, and she questions his weakness for helping others to his own detriment. At the car he finally addresses the quandary he’s in. “Tyreese is going to kill you,” he says bluntly, and Carol says, “I can handle Tyreese.” Oddly enough, I believe her despite her obvious physical weakness beside the much larger man – she has become easily as capable as anyone else in the group. Carol suggests that Rick doesn’t have to tell anyone it was her. He tells her he can’t do that, and that she is going to have to leave the group. She accuses him of trying to make decisions for the group (a truly hypocritical last gasp which I found a bit disingenuous, especially considering her intense character development and show of inner strength recently), something he’s said he no longer wants to make, but he denies it: “I’m making this decision for me.” He doesn’t want her around Carl or Judith – he sees her as a dangerous liability. She realizes he is banishing her, and says she wants to come back for Lizzie and Mika. Nope – Rick’s having none of that either. He won’t let her come back. At this point I became a little worried, sensing an almost Shane-like tension between them. Carol of Season One would break down and cry, pleading to be brought back to the prison (of course, Carol of Season One would never have murdered anyone); Carol of Season Four is just as likely to pull out a gun and claim walkers got Rick. However, no such dramatics ensued. In fact, her entire pragmatic approach to survival dictates that she does exactly what she ends up doing: getting in a secondary vehicle with some supplies, and driving away.

Their conversation is some of the strongest writing I’ve yet seen in this series. The comparison between the two alternatives (pancakes versus “not just a farmer”) really nails the inner struggles Rick, and others, have been facing. Carol has decided to give up some of her humanity in order to survive, whereas Rick has been struggling to find his again. Their two leadership styles are similar, but where Rick draws the line at killing humans only in self-defense, Carol is willing to take extra steps to protect those she sees as part of her group. Obviously the Woodbury group are not among those she sees in this way (with the exception of the sisters). I don’t doubt for a second that when she says she can deal with Tyreese, it would likely involve a bullet. She is a very dangerous woman to cross. The question is, by banishing her, has Rick crossed her? Again, her pragmatic side might just allow her to see the bind he is in, and allow her to understand the choice he has made, even if she doesn’t like or agree with it.

I’m sure we haven’t see the last of Carol, but it was almost like seeing a death among the core group of survivors losing her in this way. Of course, we have experience of this from Season Three, when the core group wasn’t aware that Andrea had survived and was living with the Governor. I imagine we may get some side story time for Carol, and her bad-assery shall continue unabated. I wonder how long Lizzie and Mika will be at the prison? I don’t see her leaving them there for long if there’s any way she can take them with her – she made a promise to their dying father, and she takes her word and honor very seriously.

Steve’s Grade: A-

Another strong episode, with a focus on only two story lines that meant for much more time being given to fewer characters. Bob continues his spiral into self-loathing and destruction; Tyreese appears to be shaking off suicidal thoughts; Michonne is going all kum ba yah with the group; Daryl is becoming a strong leader. But the real drama came in the much quieter moments between Rick and Carol, and their examination of the philosophy of survival in the post-apocalyptic world.

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  1. Br'nn says:

    This was a fantastic episode. The theme of “letting go” was carried throughout for many characters (Bob’s alcoholism, Michonne’s search, etc). While the Daryl group stuff was good, the true strength of the episode was the Rick/Carol arc. I’ve waited for a Carol spotlight episode for a long time and it delivered big time. This will definitely not be the last we see of Carol, I’m thinking, as there’s still the eventual return of the Governor and the casting of Abraham that was announced to hint at another possible direction. Either way, Rick’s decision will have lasting repercussions and lead to more drama, in particular when Daryl finds out. Looking forward to it. This has been a very solid season thus far.

    • zillwood says:

      I definitely need to read the graphic novels – I have the two omnibus editions sitting at home, but they’ll have to wait until my marking is done. The episode was the best of an already strong season; I especially liked the focus the writers gave on only two stories, rather than the usual catchall approach. I’ve heard rumours of Carol being pegged for the spin-off series, but I hope we see more of her here.

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