Sunday, March 13, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Walking Dead' - Carol Struggles with Death as She and Maggie are Taken Prisoner in 'The Same Boat'

AMC's The Walking Dead - Episode 6.13 "The Same Boat"

Two different groups leave Alexandria on supply runs. While both are concerned with the future of the community, immediate danger will derail them.

"The Same Boat" is a very intense but equally frustrating episode of The Walking Dead. The show has had varied success when it comes to doing very small and focused episodes. Last fall's run of episodes definitely struggled because the show couldn't find any consistent momentum with the story - even though it created a number of great moments as well as the fantastic "Here's Not Here" episode. "The Same Boat" focuses entirely on the small group of Saviors who have kidnapped Maggie and Carol. That shows that this big conflict with Negan and the Saviors isn't done just because Rick and his group were successful in killing everyone in the main compound last week. This episode brings much more focus and nuance to the conflict as well. It truly fleshes out the emotions both sides of this conflict are feeling in the aftermath of Rick's attack. And yet, there are a number of character beats that play as the show going through the motions in order to create a suspenseful plot filled with tension for the future.

Carol is easily one of the best characters on the show. Her transformation over the years has been phenomenal and very intricate. It's a type of change that can only occur over time. She has changed so much because of the zombie apocalypse. She has become a different person because of it. But that's also a person who knows how to survive and thrive in this world. Over the last few seasons, she has proven herself to be quite the badass who should be taken very seriously. She single-handedly took down Terminus in order to save the rest of her group. She saved Alexandria by ruthlessly killing the wolves when they attacked the community. She took to action when the walls fell and the walkers invaded the city. She has proven herself to be a complex character who is willing to kill in order to survive. And yet, her story in this episode is a little hard to grasp which does make the episode as a whole a little disappointing.

It was just a few episodes ago when Carol and Morgan were fighting over whether or not the wolf in captivity had the ability to change. Carol had no sympathy for the man based on what he and his friends did to Alexandria at the start of the season. Morgan wanted to believe that everyone in this world still deserves compassion and the opportunity to change. After that debate and a couple of episodes off, it seems Carol may be starting to embrace that point-of-view a little bit. In last week's episode and especially in this one, she's agonizing over the fact that she will have to kill in order to survive. Again, that has never been something she has struggled with. But now that it's known that she has kept count of every human she has killed, it's suppose to mean something as this agonizing thought. A thing that cripples her a little bit as she is faced with this harsh reality of being held prisoner by Alicia Witt's Paula.

This is a very necessary episode for the whole Negan arc during the second half of this season. So far, the Saviors have been seen as these very one-note antagonistic bad guys. The same types of villains the group has encountered all the time throughout their journey in this world. They were nothing new to get excited about. It was simply the show doing the same old thing once again. But with Paula and her group of survivors, it's different. They are multi-dimensional characters who mimic Carol and the rest of the protagonists. They believe that they are the heroes of this story and that Rick and his group are the bad guys. That's a shift in perspective that could be very enticing for the remainder of the season. Last week's episode pushed the brutality of the characters past a point of no return. They are all murderers now in the hopes of survival. That has changed all of them into darker creatures. Paula's group have done similar things in order to survive. She shares a tale of what happened to her when the city first fell and she was trapped in her office with her incompetent boss. She welcomed this world immediately despite her family being violently taken away from her.

It's an interesting parallel to see Paula and Carol opposite each other. They truly are similar. They lost everything in this world but have still managed to find a way to thrive. But it seems that Carol is still haunted by the actions she must take in order to survive. Paula has just accepted death as a part of this world. With Carol, it's uncertain on whether or not this is just a lie in order to fool Paula into a false sense of confidence. As the hour goes along though, it seems as if this truly is what Carol is feeling right now. It's a little hard to wrap your head around that idea though. This is still an episode building to a showdown between the two groups - with Carol and Maggie eventually being able to outsmart their captors. But it's still set in this emotionally murky area on whether or not Rick and his group can still see themselves as heroes. Can heroes still exist in this world? Rick is doing all of this in order to secure a future for Alexandria. But it's also at a great personal cost that will change the mood of the community.

Carol shows no hesitation in killing other humans when it comes to surviving. When Maggie's baby is threatened, Carol pulls the trigger as quickly as possible. But when she holds Paula at gunpoint and is able to have a conversation with her, it becomes much more difficult for her to do. Carol doesn't see herself as a cold-hearted killer. She has made a life for herself in Alexandria that she is happy with now. But the time in the gated community has also left her with time to think about her actions of the past and the woman she has become. She looks at Rick as a man who has been broken by this experience and will now kill without hesitation. She takes a lot of comfort in seeing Daryl appear alongside the rest of her friends following this endeavor. But she's still taken aback when Rick kills his prisoner once he continues to elude his questions. Carol is now starting to think about what her reality has become. She believes that Maggie should be different now that she is pregnant. And yet, Carol is the one who uses that news to appeal to the human side of their captors. Maggie has become a ruthless leader as well who is willing to kill in order to survive and protect their future. Carol has experienced a ton of change over the years. But now, she's questioning if too much change can be a very bad thing. And That is interesting storytelling for the future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Same Boat" was written by Angela Kang and directed by Billy Gierhart.
  • So much of this episode worked because of the intense focus on this group of women surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Men have become the go-to faces of villainy on this show. But here, it's important that the women are in charge and the men are simply the people who act irrationally and mess things up.
  • It's not at all surprising that Melissa McBride is so fantastic in this episode. She has a number of really great moments. But it's also a terrific hour for Alicia Witt who is able to go toe-to-toe with Carol in so many phenomenal ways that showcase the similarities between the characters.
  • Whereas the Carol-Paula connection was crucial to the episode, the dynamic between Maggie and her counterpart wasn't all that great. They had a conversation that pointed out just how alike they were. But that literally went no where - until they were fighting in the hallway later on.
  • It's already annoying that the Saviors have taken on a complex that they are all Negan and that name has almost a spiritual meaning to it. It's a plot that seems aimless and annoying - especially considering it's built around the mystery of whether or not Negan is real which is something the audience already knows to be true due to casting.