Major spoilers if you haven't seen tonight's episode of The Walking Dead, "The Grove."
After a couple of just-ok episodes, this series went all Steinbeck on us, in an episode that offered what may very well have been the most shocking moment of the series. Horrible, horrible things happened, as a group of five was down to three by the end of the hour.
Tonight's episode focused entirely on Carol, Tyreese, Mika, Lizzie and Judith, who are on their way to Terminus. It began with a slice of old-timey paradise. A jump forward to a moment when things were kind of perfect. There were pecans and a well of fresh water. There was a somewhat safe shelter with a yard where the kids could play. And then there was the sight of Lizzie, frolicking on the lawn with a walker. Yes, there was that, the one indication that not all was as right as it seemed at first glance.
The timeline moved back a bit to before this group arrived at this cozy safe-haven. Tyreese was having fever dreams while sleeping on the train tracks. Their situation was rough, but they were pushing on, trying to get to Terminus. And along the way, Carol and Tyreese acknowledged the issues with the girls. Mika is too soft. She's like Sophia in that she wouldn't hurt a fly, which is a problem in a reality where some of the flies are reanimated flesh-eating corpses. Lizzie's problem is a bit more complicated, as she seems to have more sympathy toward the walkers than what's healthy or safe. The adults worked with the kids on their issues throughout the episode, as Carol tried to encourage Mika to be prepared to pull the trigger when necessary. And she tried to talk to Lizzie about the dangers of walkers, which you'd think would be obvious but the girl just refuses to acknowledge it.
Mika's innocence and genuine sympathy toward the Governor's people, believing they were once good, makes her death all the more heartbreaking. Despite the horrors she's faced, this little girl held onto the belief that everything happens the way it should. Maybe in time her experiences would've caught up with her, but in the time leading up to her death, she had optimism and kindness in her heart. And unfortunately, this is a world where people like that don't last very long.
As for Lizzie, did she have these problems before the walkers? Or is she a product of her environment? Who knows? She was fixated on the idea that walkers were just different and deserved a chance to live, which in theory is fine but in reality is dangerous, even without actively trying to prove her point. She demonstrated her interest in befriending walkers more than once in tonight's episode, as she fed the train-tracks walker and was playing with the woman walker on the lawn. And then we were kind of tricked into thinking maybe Lizzie finally figured it out when the fire walkers showed up and she joined in on shooting them. She told Carol later she understood what she needed to do, but not elaborating, we should have wondered what exactly she thought she needed to do. Or Carol should have.
Later, Tyreese and Carol went for a walk, during which point Tyreese talked about the dreams he has of Karen and it seemed like Carol was seriously considering confessing that she killed Karen. But she didn't. She saved that for later, and it's a good thing too, as they had no idea what they were about to walk in on. When they arrived back at the house, they found Mika dead and Lizzie standing over her sister's lifeless body with her hands covered in blood. She insisted no one touch her sister so she could be allowed to turn because... she was proving a point? She assured Carol that she'd see when Mika returned from the dead. Maybe Lizzie's not aware that Carol knows what it's like to see a child she cares about reanimated in zombie form. Carol kept her calm enough here to get Lizzie to put her gun down and go back to the house with Tyreese so she could tie Mika up (or more likely pierce her skull so she can't come back).
From what Lizzie said, it sounded like she was ready to kill Judith too before Carol and Tyreese came back. Fortunately for the baby, she hadn't gotten to that far, and she realized it was a bad idea when Carol reminded her that Judith couldn't even walk yet. Obviously.
Anyone familiar with Of Mice and Men might've seen Lizzie's end coming. But would the series really go there? The answer is yes, it would. Did Carol and Tyreese have any other choice? Lizzie murdered her sister just so she could turn into a zombie. She was prepared to kill Judith, and we know from the previous episode that she almost strangled Judith. Of course, Carol and Tyreese don't know that, but we know that this girl is a danger to other people. Option B would've been for Carol to leave with Lizzie, which -- as she and Tyreese agreed -- survival chances for either duo weren't high. And Option C would've been to send Lizzie off to live with the walkers, which probably would've been cruel, right? Either way, they're sentencing her to death.
It's a call I don't think any of us would want to have to make in our own reality, but Tyreese and Carol agreed -- or Tyreese didn't disagree anyway -- that Lizzie had to die. Instead of telling young Lizzie about the rabbits, Carol encouraged her to look at the flowers before putting a bullet into the back of the girl's head. Carol noticing the white smoke and repeating Mika's knowledge about the fire being out, and then repeating the phrase about things happening the way they were supposed to made the whole thing all the sadder. But Lizzie crying about Carol being mad at her only seemed to drive the message home that this girl doesn't understand what she did. She killed her sister and she's crying because she thinks Carol's mad at her.
Beyond this point, Carol unloaded the truth on Tyreese. She killed Karen and the other guy. Lizzie was responsible for the rats and rabbit, but -- despite theories that Carol was covering for Lizzie on Karen's death -- Carol came clean about killing Karen, and essentially left it to Tyreese to sentence her. After killing Lizzie, maybe she'd had enough, or maybe she wanted someone to hold her accountable for the things she's had to do. Or maybe she just decided that Tyreese had a right to know and to decide her fate accordingly. Tyreese was angry, and he wanted assurance that Karen wasn't scared or in a lot of pain. And then he forgave Carol. He won't forget, but he can forgive.
Given what happened with Lizzie and Mika, it really could've gone either way. Tyreese could've lost it completely and killed Carol. The fact that he didn't, despite how much pain it seemed to cause him to let it go, shows what a strong guy he is.
It's time to move on. When things were going ok, Tyreese and Carol were talking about hanging out at the house for a while and enjoying the peace and quiet. But after what happened, their little piece of paradise probably doesn't feel like a slice of heaven anymore, so they'll be moving on. And it's just as well. Assuming Sasha gets to Terminus, she'll be waiting for her brother. At this point, I'm thinking he'll be beyond thrilled to see his sister again, so hopefully that reunion happens soon.
"The Grove" was one intense episode, with great performances by Kyla Kenedy and Brighton Sharbino, as well as Chad Coleman and Melissa McBride.