This week is a character vignette. That's a welcome throwback to the type of isolated episodes that formed the last half of Season 4. In this case, Carol and Darryl are a pleasure to watch together, their obvious familiarity with one another adding depth to moments of alternating compassion and cynicism.
The framing device is a history Carol's transformation in this new world. It begins with her banishment from Rick's group. In a sequence of scenes after each commercial break, we see her alone crying in car, alone establishing a new base of operations, alone seeing smoke on the horizon from the prison and heading back toward her former friends, alone by a child's grave as Tyreese brings a second body, and alone again after saving the group from Terminus. Altogether, that evokes a sense of exhaustion, of the cost of constantly evolving. We've marveled at Carol's growing strength. She marvels at the awfulness of it all. Of being consumed over and over again.
Do you think the phoenix ever gets tired of that shtick?
The linear plot picks up with Carol and Darryl where we left them four episodes ago. Darryl is following a car that has a cross on the back windshield in hopes of finding Beth. The chase leads them to Atlanta, which we haven't seen since Season 1. That makes for an effective change of scenery. An urban environment is much different from the various rural settings to which we've grown accustomed. There's something grandiose about abandoned cities. They drive home the depth of the fall.
There's not that much of a plot. The episode is just Carol and Darryl wandering the city while getting ever closer to the truth that Grady Memorial Hospital is their target. They spend the first night in a shelter where Carol and her daughter Sophie went back in the day when Carol had almost worked up the courage to leave her abusive husband. One of her many lives since consumed. They're disturbed in the night by two Walkers at a locked door. One shadow is a woman, the other a child. The bond between Darryl and Carol is brilliantly detailed without a single word the next morning. When Carol wakes. Darryl has released both Walkers, wrapped the bodies in sheets and carried them up to burn on the roof.
The creepiest single scene in this episode occurs when they make their way to a sky bridge to cross a main thoroughfare. There they find a number of Walkers writhing in sleeping bags, others undulating in sealed tents like some grotesque caterpillar. What you realize is that these people were survivors holed up in the sky bridge. Then someone robbed them, murdered them, and left them there. An ugly new world indeed. Darryl puts the ones in the sleeping bags down.
From a high-rise apartment, Darryl spots a van with that white cross on its back window. It's crashed on the edge of an overpass. Back at the sky bridge. Carol lays down her gun to squeeze through the chained entry doors only to have it stolen by Noah, the guy Beth helped escape from Grady. He takes Darryl's crossbow as well.
Bad move. Nobody takes Darryl's crossbow.
On the overpass, they find the crashed van and identifying paperwork for Grady Memorial Hospital. Besieged by Walkers from either end, they have no choice but to retreat back into the vehicle. Fortunately, it's pointed nose first off the overpass. So as quick as they can buckle up the weight of so many Walkers sends it over the edge. In real life, Darryl and Carol would almost certainly die, or be too seriously injured to survive for long in a world full of Walkers. On TV, the van flips to land on its wheels. We do, however, get two good bits out of that.
Thud, thud, thud! That's Walkers landing on the van's roof. Splat!
Carol also manages to put things in perspective: "We made good time going down."
Conveniently, they run into a panicked Noah who's firing shots blind. Darryl takes him down and gets their stuff back. Darryl almost leaves Noah to his fate until Carol convinces him otherwise. Good thing, too. That's how they confirm that Beth is at Grady Memorial.
The shots Noah fired bring cops in Grady cars. As they flee, Carol gets hit by one. Noah says there's too many of them to fight, that they'll give Carol the attention she needs in the hospital. It's a bit too abrupt of an end, but it telegraphs what the rest of this half season is going to be about: (1) Darryl's gonna' get Rick, and (2) Grady memorial is going to be introduced to The Real World, Atlanta style.
All in all, a nice little character study. I hope the assault on Grady doesn't fall as flat as the episode about it did two weeks ago.