Who is Carol? She was a battered wife who became a desperate mother who became a pragmatic killer who, now, after so many versions of herself, is someone who may seem aimless, who may seem weak, who may seem shook. Now that there is relative peace in Alexandria, there is time for Carol—time to think about what she’s done, time to realize she may not like it, time to regret. And that time, and the perhaps-unwanted reflection that comes with it, may be Carol’s undoing. It may be what gets her killed.
It certainly is what gets her and Maggie captured last night in “The Same Boat,” which does what “The Walking Dead” has been experimenting with this whole season—spending time with certain groups of characters almost exclusively as a way to dive deep into their psyches. That meant this episode wasn’t particularly exciting for a long while, but it cemented things we already know about Carol and Maggie: that Carol’s doubt about her actions only goes so far, and that Maggie’s insistence that her and Glenn’s child is a good thing is hardening her into someone we never could have imagined a few seasons ago.
Carol and Maggie share a motivation—keeping Maggie and Glenn’s baby safe—but it’s making one of them the carrot and one of them the egg. Neither of them, really, is the coffee grounds. And with that terrible anecdote out of the way, let’s discuss what else happened in “The Same Boat.”
+ “You people have destroyed my home. You have no idea the things I’ve done. What I’ve given up. What I had to do.” Peace out, Paula! We knew that Alicia Witt’s time on The Walking Dead wouldn’t be very long once she started talking about her tragic past as a D.C. secretary with a husband, four daughters, and a shitty boss who made her fetch him an IV’s worth of coffee daily, and I’m glad, because Witt annoys the hell out of me. (She was intolerable as Wendy Crowe on the fifth season of FX’s otherwise-excellent “Justified,” but anyway, that is neither here nor there.)
But her existence as a foil for Carol was perfectly clear: Once upon a time Carol was a put-upon woman, too, and she fought back once the apocalypse happened and found herself. Paula found herself as well, but this new world can’t sustain women like Paula and Carol if they’re not on the same side—one of them had to die. But think about how Paula described herself, though: “I’m still me, but better. I lost everything, and it made me stronger.” That used to be how Carol thought of herself. Do we like Carol more than Paula just because we’ve spent more time with her? Because we know about her friendship with Daryl? Because of her habit of making weird cookies, with acorns and beets, and passing them out to community members? What inherently makes Carol better than Paula or Paula worse than Carol? Those are questions our favorite mama bear will probably be considering as this season continues, and ones we’ll be thinking about, too.
+ “What do you think you know about Negan?” The Negan mystery continues this week, as various members of the Saviors group—Paula, Molly, and Primo—all claim that Negan doesn’t really exist. This “Spartacus”-style posturing makes it seem like Negan is a boogeyman they made up to intimidate other groups, but we’ve seen how organized the Saviors are—we know that the group Rick and Co. killed aren’t the only people around, and we learn from Paula that the group that Daryl attacked with the rocket launcher was “T’s group,” and so it’s entirely possible that the Saviors have other hiding spots, too. Couldn’t the real Negan be out there somewhere, with instructions to keep his identity secret? That would be the smart move.
But Rick is an idiot, and so he shoots Primo immediately when the guy claims, “I’m Negan, shithead.” Wouldn’t—as I suggested last week—keeping Primo alive and torturing him for information be a sounder call? A more long-term decision? But Rick and Co. don’t do long-term, and I feel like they’re digging themselves deeper and deeper into a war here that they think is done, when it’s only just beginning.
+ “The point is to stay standing.” “No, walkers do that. I’m choosing something.” Perhaps it would be easy to underestimate Maggie, given that she’s pregnant. But her commitment to this deal that she made with Gregory, plus Glenn’s return from that awful fake-out death earlier this season, has invigorated the character in new ways. She’s not going to let Paula push her around. She’s not going to let Chelle kill her. And she’s the one urging Carol to keep going, to stick around to SET ON FIRE the Saviors backup who arrives, who brushes off Chelle’s analysis that Rick and Co. are “not the good guys.” How will this new, harder version of Maggie continue to develop? And if she isn’t the “someone else” Carol wants her to be, does that mean there’s a division within the group that will start with the two of them and grow to other people?
+ “Your people are killers, Carol. That makes you a killer.” Not wrong, Paula. Not wrong.
And some odds and ends:
+ “Dammit, Maggie, let’s go!” “Not until it’s done.” Interesting how this exchange between Carol and Maggie could have been swapped between the characters not so very long ago. Carol wanting to eliminate the threat and Maggie wanting to get out of there was who these women were, but it’s not who they are anymore.
+ Some great images from this episode: The burning bodies behind the door to the Kill Floor, Daryl’s hug with Carol at the end of the episode, Glenn immediately putting a gun to Primo’s head after he learns that the Saviors have Maggie, Carol’s blood dripping through the filed-down cross in the rosary she claimed, and Paula’s cheek getting gnawed off by that walker. Gross stuff, good stuff.
+ They’re really pushing the Saviors as a mixture of weirdo hillbillies and thugs, aren’t they? Consider some of the insults they threw at Carol and Maggie last night: “Evangelical second-graders,” “dumb uppity bitch,” and “murderous bitch.” Although I did smirk at Paula’s dig on Maggie’s pregnancy: “You’re some kind of stupid, getting knocked up in a time like this.”