In a dystopic world, in which food, shelter and kindness are rarities, our factions are looking for stability. This includes, not only health, safety and companionship but also a sense of home. An environment in which occupants are able to rest and reflect is essential to the mental and physical health of our tribe members. This is why Rick was able to heal his mind after Lori’s death–he had work to keep him busy (Farmer Rick!) and a place to recuperate safely. After the confrontation with the Governor, the destruction of the prison and ultimately, the tribe rupture, factions are not only searching for each other, but meaning and purpose in a very violent and changed world.
S04xE14 “The Grove”
Individuals are shaped by experience, and the children of the post-apocalyptic world have experienced much death and ruin. Mika and Lizzie, orphaned sisters, are resilient but weaker than Carol would like. Mika, the youngest, reminds Carol of her dead daughter, Sophia. Sweet and unable to hurt another human being. While Mika can kill a walker, Carol is worried that the little girl does not fear the living as much as she should. Lizzie, on the other hand, is considered strong and helpful, but she harbors deep mental issues regarding the walking dead and who/what they are. Lizzie truly believes the zombies to be sentient and, when Carol kills a walker that Lizzie seems to be playing with, the child breaks down, screaming at Carol that it is “the same” and what if she (Lizzie) killed Carol? It is a reminder of the tenuous state of Lizzie’s mental health, and, even though Carol and Mika soothe her through the episode, she legitimately does not understand the difference between the living and the dead, a frightening prospect, given the environment.
Although Lizzie’s mental health issues have manifested, each member of this faction will eventually have to face personal hurdles if they are to continue on to Terminus. Carol discovered Tyreese and the girls after being banished from the prison-tribe earlier in the timeline. She admitted to Rick responsibility for murdering his girlfriend,Karen, and another while they were sick with the killer flu. Tyreese doesn’t know of Carol’s act, so she pays penance with her loyalty toward him and struggles with whether to tell him her secret. Tyreese is a kind man and protective of his faction, but he has yet to let go of the idea of vengeance on an unknown assailant and mourns Karen deeply. What his reaction might be to Carol’s admission is unknown. He cares for her and the children, but Carol’s truth has potential to tear this faction apart. The safety of the faction is first order, and so when Carol feels the secret seeping out of her during a moment of heartfelt confession with Tyreese, she pushes it back down and remains silent. In the grove, Carol chooses her own safety (against an unknown reaction from Tyreese) instead of confessing her sins, and so reveals her distinct sense value of self-preservation versus honor.
For the children who have grown up in this dystopic world–Lizzie, Mika, Carl, Judith, even poor Sophia–values have shifted and become confused by training and experience. At the prison, Carol enforced with the children the need to fight and to survive. The environment demands it and is a logical tactic. At the prison, Carol and the children keep the training a secret from Rick and the parents, and Lizzie references it when they are walking on the tracks with Tyreese–foreshadowing for Carol that Lizzie is aware of how to kill, she just won’t kill zombies. It is Lizzie who shoots the RV-tribe members to save Tyreese and Mika who kills the zombie that attacks the girls and Judith as Carol and Tyreese are clearing a house they find in the grove. Time and time again, Carol warns both Lizzie and Mika that they must change if they are to survive. Mika must become more calloused to the living and Lizzie must see the walkers for the violent killers they are. Kindness and trust are weaknesses to be exploited. For children whose parents are both dead, who watched Carol stick a knife into the back of their father’s head when he turned, the girls seem fairly well adjusted. Mika, although she is younger, takes care of Lizzie. She understands the walkers and how to kill them. She tells her sister time and time again, “They aren’t people, Lizzie,” in reference to the walkers because Lizzie has confused them with living. Mika has been taking care of her sister since the prison, but no one really understood how serious Lizzie’s condition was, not even Carol.
When Carol and Tyreese return from the grove, Carol believes she has made her choice on what this faction will become. They will stay at house and perhaps travel to Terminus later. They can be happy in the grove. Carol plans to keep the secret from Tyreese and suffer her sins silently. Everything changes when the pair walks onto the gruesome scene of Lizzie standing over her dead sister holding a bloody knife. Judith is alive but next on Lizzie’s list to turn. The girl believes she has finally found a way to prove what she’s known all along about the walkers and begs Carol to leave Mika to turn. By killing her sister and allowing the others to watch Mika turn, Carol and Tyreese will finally understand the zombies are the same. Mika will be the same. Lizzie will play with Mika and love Mika the same. Carol’s reaction to the tableau is heart wrenching. She sends Tyreese, Lizzie and Judith inside while Carol, presumably, sticks a knife in little Mika’s brain before she turns. Carol, the survivor and nurturer of the children since before Sophia was lost, finally recognizes Lizzie’s illness and the complete lack of resources to deal with it. While Tyreese tries to come up with a different solution, Carol knows that there are none. Lizzie cannot be around people. They can’t go to Terminus with her, they can’t have Judith in the same house as her. There are no psychiatrists for Lizzie, or mental hospitals for her to work through violent tendencies. What does one do with a murderer in a post-apocalyptic world? Carol, who took the life of Karen, is now forced to be the judge and jury to Lizzie. The decision juxtapositions that of what she tried so hard to avoid from Tyreese.
When Carol takes Lizzie out to the grove, Lizzie breaks down. The child doesn’t understand why Carol is mad, she just wanted people to understand. When Carol tells Lizzie to, “just look at the flowers,” and pulls out her pistol, Tyreese watches from the window as Carol once again, does the deed that no one else would be brave enough to do. If it is the right decision or the only one, not even Carol herself can be sure. Still, it is the decision the faction has made, and so Carol tells Lizzie she loves her, and then shoots the child in the head. The choice is just another one Carol has to deal with as an individual living in a dystopic world. Later, Tyreese and Carol bury the girls and in a moment of clarity, Carol admits to Tyreese she killed Karen to stop the illness from breaking out. To stop others from dying. The same reason she had to kill Lizzie. The confession is almost a suicide note, as Carol pushes the gun toward Tyreese and tells him to, “do what you have to do,” but Tyreese is a good man. He forgives her. He understands her choices and he wants to continue to travel onto Terminus with her and Judith. The broken faction moves on the morning after Mika and Lizzie die, more determined than ever to reach Terminus and the promise of a future that the unknown destination holds.