The Walking Dead focuses back in on Daryl and Carol this week, with their quest to find Beth taking them to Atlanta. There, they try to reconnect after being apart for so long, resulting in a nice, slowly paced character study. There’s nothing too crazy about “Consumed”, but after three episodes away, it’s nice to catch up with two of the most interesting characters on the show.
“Consumed” is primarily about Carol. Her motivations have been in question ever since she caught back up with the group, and this episode takes the time to explore her headspace, both in a series of flashbacks and in the present.
Carol’s problem is that she no longer recognizes herself. She’s neither the meek victim of the early apocalypse, nor the strong leader of the prison. Her subsequent experiences have left her conflicted about who she truly is and if there’s enough of her left to start over, as Daryl suggests. Over the course of the episode, Carol wrestles with who she’s become post-Lizzie and Mika, even revealing that she believes that she’s going to Hell when she dies, an echo from her more religious days.
Daryl, her best friend and fellow abuse survivor, is the bouncing-off point for Carol’s thought processes. She and Daryl have always shared a rapport, and their quiet conversations about their perspectives of life act as the meat of the episode. When not conversing, the two operate as a cohesive unit, wordlessly making decisions even when those decisions are as dangerous as falling off the side of a bridge in a van. Daryl acts as an uplifting force for Carol, offering her sympathy, support (the burning of the child walker), and assurance that even as she feels herself being burned away, she isn’t dead.
It’s interesting to note that even though Daryl and Carol get along as well – or better- as they always have, they’ve both gone in opposite directions in development. While Carol has become more and more unsure of herself, Daryl has developed more confidence in himself than ever before. His outlook on life is fairly optimistic (“we ain’t ashes”), and his compassionate nature is more openly displayed. One poignant moment features Carol discovering that Daryl has taken a self-help book for survivors of child abuse from the women’s shelter. Before, Daryl would have never taken the book, but this Daryl has bared his soul on his journey with Beth and come out the other side knowing who he really is. He has transformed, as Carol points out, from a boy into a man.
Daryl and Carol’s conflicting viewpoints – and how they develop over the course of “Consumed” – are perfectly demonstrated by their encounters with Noah, Beth’s recently escaped friend. When Noah gets the jump on the duo and robs them of their primary weapons, Carol attempts to shoot him dead. Daryl stops her, upset that she’d harm a kid, but the tables are turned when they encounter Noah again later in the episode. By this point, Daryl isn’t about to give Noah a second chance, but Carol has made to decision to try and retain whatever’s left of her humanity, convincing Daryl to spare Noah.
Carol and Daryl’s final encounter with Noah is the only point in “Consumed” that truly advances the plot. Noah reveals to an intense Daryl that Beth is indeed at Grady Memorial Hospital. They begin to form a plan of attack, only for Carol to be hit by said hospital’s car and taken, much like Beth. Already heavily injured in the van incident, Carol looks even more worse for wear after being hit by the car. Only the prospect of her receiving decent medical care prevents Daryl from immediately running to her rescue.
“Consumed” is a slow episode, but not in a bad way. Carol’s internal conflict contrasted with Daryl’s more positive outlook on life makes for some fascinating character interactions, especially when presented in front of the relatively unexplored Atlanta backdrop. Besides, it’s fun to watch The Walking Dead‘s two biggest badasses do badass things.
Beth and Carol are in one convenient place (unfortunately for the denizens of the hospital), and Daryl and Noah are on their way back to Rick and the group to gather reinforcements. “Consumed” likely marks an end to the character study episodes. Now’s the time for action. With two more episodes left, things are bound to get chaotic, which makes “Consumed” the calm before the storm. With everything more or less narratively set up, operation Hospital-rescue is a go. Let’s just hope they don’t botch it.
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