Monday, November 4, 2013

There's No Room for Hipsters in the Apocalypse

A personal note before I launch into my synopsis: I quit smoking two weeks ago! Yay! I am still chewing the delicious Nicorette mint gum with my daily allotment of coffee, but cigarettes are thankfully out of the picture. I bought myself a new bag to celebrate. It’s the perfect storage place for my gum.
Anyway, when we last left our heroic survivalists, Carol just admitted—well, she only divulged the information after being pressed by Rick—that she killed Karen and David. Indifference can plague the living in the post-apocalyptic world. If you end up caring too much, you will have your heart broken again and again. Soon all of your energy will be spent, and you open yourself up to dying yourself. Carol’s character beautifully illustrates this notion throughout the entire episode. First, Lizzie (whom many TWD fans have mislabeled “creepy”) rhapsodizes about the dead at least coming back as “something…someone.” She’s comforted by the fact that if she dies, she’ll still be herself afterwards, but different. Lizzie has found a way to cope. Zombification for her is a form of resurrection. “We all change.” Maybe turning into a zombie ain’t so bad after all!
Carol, in an equally creepy moment, tells Lizzie that she has to be ready to kill at any moment. Carol is a far cry from the meek washerwoman of season one who was abused by Ed, her glowering husband. But is she turning into a feminized version of Shane? The answer seems to be leaning towards YES. She even tells Lizzie not to call her mom, which slips out by accident. Carol’s parting words to Lizzie: You keep fighting, never give up, and “one day we change. We all change.” Carol’s transformation is not to be admired. These themes of transformation constantly run through the show: the obvious one is that of human to zombie, the transition that every one makes at some point from life to death. A well-placed, sharp blow to the head spares one from living death, but every one is infected, so what happened to Patrick could happen to any one of our characters. Transformation happens within the living as well, as we have seen with all of TWD’s characters.
            Rick and Carol go on a run. Awkward silence. Small talk could be, “So, how does it feel to be a cold-blooded murderer?” Carol all but answers the unasked question by saying she was trying to save lives. Rick seems semi-sympathetic. That is, he doesn’t perform a citizen’s arrest, or even give lecture her as has been his previous wont. However, Rick has learned some valuable lessons along the way regarding cancers in his group; cut them out early before they metastasize. They pull up to a housing development. I guess you’d call it a cul-de-sac.
            Tyreese has a death wish, embracing an attacking zombie. Since Karen died I guess he really doesn’t value life anymore. Doesn’t give a damn. Perhaps his anger is turning into indifference; maybe he simply doesn’t care whether he lives or dies. Remember, his sister Sasha is back at the prison sick with the swine flu. He is on the verge of losing every one close to him.  However, his outsider stance is endangering the group. When one individual does something stupid, it imperils the others who have to step in and save him from self-destruction.
            Rick and Carol stumble upon a walker who takes a Jackass-like dive off the staircase. After killing her, new (human) characters emerge from the shadows, which is always exciting, because we’re down to just the tightly knit bunch at the prison. And they have fruit! Finally, a bit of black humor on one of the bleakest shows on television. They seem like hipsters. Of course. It’s not a real zombie apocalypse without hipsters! They make any neighborhood they move into just a little bit cheerier, not to mention the fact that they raise property values as well. I’m surprised this pair wasn’t traveling by bike. Hipsters are rarely spotted without their bicycles. Rick tells them to stay put and meet up with them after their run, in a couple of hours. However, they want to help by scavenging houses in the meantime. Apparently, they pass Rick’s oral “test” (“How many people have you killed?”) and will join the prison group at their own risk.
Daryl finds some yummy cigarettes. BBG shares some info about his troubled past. He’s always the last guy alive. So he drinks. He admits that that’s what he was thinking about doing when he perused the offerings in the liquor section of the military supply store that caused the walkers to fall from the roof like so much rotting fruit. Daryl says, fuggetaboutit. Doesn’t everyone now have a troubled past? There’s always a sad story, just a little different from the others. Practical Daryl doesn’t want to hear it; his immediate concern is whether the car he hotwired will work. Success! Back on track for the life-saving meds.
            Carol and Rick debate taking on the hipster couple. Carol confronts Rick on his lack of lip service regarding her murderous exploits. She reminds him that he killed Shane. She says Karen and David were going to kill everyone with their nasty germs. Farmer Rick is not enough, she says, you have to also be willing to embrace Reality Rick as well. Basically she tells Rick to get over it! SHANE ALERT! SHANE ALERT! Carol basically has a “you’re not the boss of me” attitude with regards to Rick’s leadership. She talks about his leadership in the past tense.
            Carol reminisces about good old Dead Ed and his drunk abusive ways as she and Rick pick tomatoes. Carol has distanced herself from Sophia’s death and even her daughter’s existence. She has disdain for the old Carol and the emotion attached to this former persona. Is Carol losing her humanity? Yes. In fact, it’s probably too late for her. What happened to Carol? Did she ever have it to begin with? My thought is that this started after Sophia’s death. Carol steeled herself against further loss by channeling her energies into self-defense (knife training for kids, anyone?). She’s a certified bad ass, but not in the way that Rick, Hershel, Daryl, and Glenn are. Rick, on the other hand, has fond memories about Lori’s horrible pancakes. What did Lori do right?
A grisly discovery: the hipster girl was caught and eaten by two walkers whilst gathering fruit. Rick seems shocked; Carol, not so much. You might even say that she has become indifferent to human life and indifferent to death. She’s in basic survival mode all the time. She expresses some worry about Lizzie and Mika because she promised their dying father she’d look after them, but essentially Carol is looking out for Carol. She distances herself from memories of her dead daughter Sophia as someone else’s “slideshow,” a mechanized, impersonal way of classifying one’s personal history.
            The veterinary college is—surprise!—dark and spooky. Dark alone I could take, but add spooky and my adrenaline really kicks in. There will be walkers…but they get the meds nonetheless. Michonne deals with the situation with her usual panache. She’s smiled a few times this episode, even joking with Daryl. BBG just had Johnny Walker in his bag and no meds. Uh oh. I already predicted that he was an alcoholic. Daryl warns him not to mess up again, or else.
            Where is the male hipster? Rick and Carol wait. And wait. Hipsters aren’t exactly known for their promptness, and this one may’ve ended up as snack food for walkers. Carol wants to go. She’s getting antsy.
            Rick finally calls out Carol on killing Karen and David.  Rick doesn’t want her around, especially around his family. She says she had to do something, she “stepped up.” But this is not true. Rick affirms that she will survive out here. Is he kicking her out? It’s probably the best thing, as Rick learned his lesson the hard way with Shane. The only one making life and death decisions should be him, not Shane and certainly not Carol. It’s worse with Carol because she was once such an integral part of the group. She takes a car that presumably belonged to the dead hipsters and drives off. Rick was sizing up Carol this entire episode. His way of dealing with conflict is to brush it away, not via violent confrontation. Tyreese would of course have called for Carol’s execution. Rick’s solution is exile. It remains to be seen how he will explain Carol’s absence to the group. If he tells the truth, it puts him into a precarious position as a leader. He keeps looking in his rearview mirror, as if he’s worried about seeing Carol’s station wagon following him. Next week: how will the outbreak of a major, potentially deadly illness affect the group’s collective and individual psyches in the long term?

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