|Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page|
TWD Women Unite
After nearly six seasons The Walking Dead finally delivered a women-centric episode headlining Maggie and Carol versus their Savior captors: Paula, 'Chelle, Molly, and Donnie. When Rick failed to negotiate a trade for Primo, Maggie and Carol were led to a remote location and held hostage. This brutal and horrific kidnapping led to one of the series' best, and certainly this season's latter half .
Held in a concrete prison, Maggie and Carol met with alter ego versions of themselves. Holding up a mirror to their own past, intentions and beliefs, their crisis is a true emotional and psychological throwdown. Maggie contended against Michelle (or 'Chelle), a Savior who lost her husband, their baby, and her father. Carol contrasted Paula, the leader of the mini-pack who's lost all humanity and is just about finding a place to stand still no matter the cost. A majority of their kidnapping was each woman playing different emotional and psychological cards on each other. It was like one big chess game - not only in their conversations but even Maggie and Carol's endeavor to escape. Melissa's complexity of embodying Carol, in particular, made it definitely impossible to know when she had grasped the upper hand or slipped away.
Writer Angela Kang should be proud of the work she did with this episode. She not only propelled both Carol and Maggie's storylines so much deeper than they have been in a long time, she gifted us with fully fleshed out villains too. Alicia Witt as Paula, Jeananne Goossen as Michelle, Jill Jane Clements as Molly, and Rus Blackwell as Donnie were amazing. There wasn't any shading of how versatile, fierce, and competent they all were, even being boastful about their power, survival, and leadership.
"He’s in pain. Guys can’t handle pain." - Paula after her boyfriend's been shot and knocked outKang gave us such multi-layered minor characters, we began questioning what they would've been like if they found a group like Rick's or if our Maggie and Carol had ended up with Negan. Who is good and who is downright bad? Is someone who makes double-digit kills better or worse than someone who's made the same kills but holds themselves accountable? Is it better to preemptively kill assumed enemies or to just sit and wait to be attacked? The lines we've crossed are so blurred.
There's one resounding anthem throughout the fandom: TWD Women are united. I love this show for all of the characters' complexities, but this was a long time coming. Plenty of scenes have eluded to friendships or support, but rarely do we see a female duo or more interacting with each other, heck having a full episode sparring against and with each other (unless it's an ensemble). Hopefully this is the start of something and not just a brief please-the-audience ploy. (Now let's get Sasha and Michonne together and let's rally the other women too).
It speaks volumes how excited the castmates are to work with each other. Lauren's giddy enthusiasm about working with someone she's intermittently share scenes with for six years is a case in point:
Working with Melissa in this episode, in the depth we were able to, is literally my Walking Dead dream come true. I have wanted to have more storyline for Maggie and Carol since being on the show, and on an artistic level, this is just the most inspiring experience that I have had and on a story level I love that this craziness has happened and you see the world stop for these two characters. - Lauren CohanWomen have just as much on the line as men do; they can fight just as dirty and be just as regretful, remorseful, unforgiving, calculating, sarcastic, hotheaded, strong, and broken. Women are humans too - who knew.
We Can Be All The Things
Fan Question on Talking Dead: Which Carol do you prefer to be: the loving caring mother or the hardcore fighting warrior?
God bless Melissa McBride when she said both because the question truly confounds me:
Does Andrew Lincoln get asked Which do you like playing more: the father or the Ricktator? Sure, we talk at thesis-length about the complexity of his choices; his rage-mode activation; his balance of making a good life for Carl. But we never ask if he can maintain being father while being a leader; he isn't limited to one role or aspect of his personality, motivations, or behavior, so why does Carol/Melissa? Why can't she be all things?
For Maggie, given her condition, she shouldn't be killing Saviors. However, just because she's pregnant doesn't mean she's any less protective or defensive. By having a bun in the oven, she automatically forgets how a gun works or how to stick a knife in the base of a zombie's skull? Glenn struggles with killing people, but we don't question or doubt if it makes him less of a capable husband or father.
A surprising amount of tweets felt Carol's weakened nature to escape as boring, poor writing, and one-note until she started killing. Why do we condemn our group for murdering people before they're genuinely threatened but we condemn characters if they aren't bad-ass all the time? If we're gonna celebrate Carol as an one woman army, we have to celebrate her just like we do the men: as a mother, a warrior, a worrier, a counselor, a protector.
This isn't just a gender issue: it's an issue that permeates throughout the series: If an episode is all about killing walkers and people critics and fan say the show's gone too far and it's not about the characters anymore. If an episode is more dialogue driven and shows the character's struggle, it's boring. Where's all the blood and guts? I thought this was a zombie show. Like many shows, TWD's quality is dependent on the writers. Sometimes they fail. Sometimes they succeed or exceed expectations. I oppose that the show has to constantly adjust to our changing list of demands. We can have a good blood and guts episode just as much as a good character-driven episode, or both can be really bad. But we can't only have one or the other. We can be all the things.
No, Greg, No.
I didn't want to mention he who shall not be named (Morgan) but this interesting little nugget came up while I was writing this post. And, I'M SO FRUSTRATED.
Greg says is that Morgan stopping Carol from killing the Wolf would've caused Denise's death, for Carl to die and Rick to turn into a tortured man. He is perpetuating the man saves woman agenda, AND he is so wrong, here.
If Carol had killed the Wolf, Morgan would NOT have had any reason to lure Denise away from the infirmary into his house to take care of the Wolf. Therefore, Carol and Morgan would NOT have been knocked out cold by the Wolf. Denise would NOT have taken Denise hostage into the sea of walkers. The Wolf would NOT have been able to reach out for Denise from the walkers BECAUSE HE'D BE DEAD. SHE WOULDN'T BE AT MORGAN'S HOUSE IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Carol not killing the Wolf set a chain reaction, yes. But to insinuate that Carol would've set off the opposite chain of events if she killed him is wrong. Because if you change one thing, you change everything.
If you go back into the onset of events before Start to Finish, Denise is safe in her infirmary trying to memorize her emergency protocols. She's not affecting the fate or location of anyone else. Rosita, Eugene and Tara would've still ended up in Morgan's garage. Carol would've been with Judith and/or Jessie when Deanna was attacked. Denise would've been joined by Heath, Aaron and Spencer. If Carol was with Sam, Jessie, and Ron, that entire scenario could've played out differently. Denise would've been in the infirmary when Carl was shot, and saved him or tried to save him.
This is one of my biggest issues with the Morgan/Carol storyline - people making Morgan out to be Carol’s savior when all he’s done is stalk her about not needing to kill people. Yes, his words are having an affect on her. But she already had a conscience about her kill as far back as confessing about Karen and David to Tyrese and Rick. Then it built up with Lizze and Mika, the Termites. She was reading from a Bible that said Shall Not Kill. Morgan triggered something but he didn't give her a conscience about it. She's always struggled with it, she's only now trying to come to terms with killing to survive. Everything's increased her feelings. To downplay the female character's choices/actions by up-playing the male's is continuously wrong.
Mama Bear Mode
Lauren brought so many layers to her performance. Maggie keeps her cool for the most part while they're being held hostage. Deanna wanted her to be her second-in-command and eventually take over. And, it's because of her composure and self-assurance under pressure. Immediately she begins rubbing her duck-tapped hands against the wall corner to get herself free. She's getting herself and Carol (who had appeared shell-shocked upon kidnapping) the hell out of this place, and she's taking down the Saviors too.
When Carol reveals Maggie's pregnant their captors question her "stupid" decision. But her hope and determination to stand for something comes out swinging. Though she's struggled with her family's deaths, and broken down when she thought Glenn was gone too, something within Maggie keeps her persevering. Not being afraid to be alive is what's kept her alive. And she doesn't put up with people telling her otherwise.
And when Maggie recognizes that Carol isn't acting herself, or when she starts hyperventilating, there's no judgement. Only concern. She still knows Carol is capable, but something is off. She's as on her toes about what Carol is going through as we are.
Does her faith still exist? Herschel taught her and Glenn some major staples of wisdom with everyone having a job to do; if you can die any day, you have to choose what you're dying for. What's interesting to me is that Kang didn't write for Maggie to use the crucifix and rescue her and Carol. While the processing plant (a nice nod to Terminus) is perpetually Carol's purgatory, Maggie's reached a point where Carol once was: she doesn't know if heaven or hell exists, but she's going to put it off as long as she can. Her faith isn't explicitly used story-wise as much as it used to. It's inherent and rooted within. I don't think it'll happen this season, but if this episode is any indication, if Maggie dies she'll be like Deanna having remained someone she wanted to be from start to finish.
With Michelle as Maggie's interrogator, she's confronts an alternative version of herself. In another interrogation room, 'Chelle reveals that when Daryl blew up her boyfriend on the road she stole gas to go look at the crime scene. In return, Negan chopped off her pinky. It's a sly hint at how cruel this group is - if they cut off her pinky just for taking gas, what's gonna happen when they discover Rick's group is responsible for nearly thirty guys' deaths?
Maggie and Michelle's exchange also sounded a bit like the Termite from No Sanctuary that Carol and Tyrese came across. He said "I don't want to be doing this today." We think how easily everyone stands guard at Alexandria, at Terminus and Negan's compounds. Both Michelle and Maggie make a stand: I don't plan on dying today. Some people may want to do the killing, but nobody wants to be dying. The best days are when no one has to die.
The scene also revealed similarities - Michelle went looking for her boyfriend, just like Maggie was searching for Glenn - twice. Michelle also lost her baby, something she was gonna name after her father. One guess that Maggie and Glenn are gonna name the baby Herschel if it's a boy, or Beth if it's a girl (if Gimple remembers Maggie has a sister). The similarities between her and the enemy are strong, and it results in Maggie vowing never to part from Glenn again. But what kind of affect will her will to survive and fight take on her?
Paula's monologue about boiling a carrot, egg, and coffee into water is an interesting way to think about each woman. Can they only be one thing? Negan's members obviously are the coffee; all blending in as one essence - "We all are Negan". But what does that make Maggie and Carol? Maggie to me is the egg having started out thinking walkers are just sick people and hardening as time goes on. Carol's journey is much more of a mix of the three - first, people assumed she was the carrot, then the egg, and perhaps the coffee is next.
But if Maggie wasn't pregnant, would she stay the same? Michelle switched off somewhere down the line, in order to join Negan's group. In their big hallway battle, she tries to knife Maggie specifically in the stomach like a C-Section. Luckily, she only ripped her t-shirt. But as Carol and Maggie make their escape, Maggie tells Carol to just forget. Easily it's one of many examples from the episode of how easily someone can flip a switch and go into carnage-mode.
Maggie didn't cower in a corner, and even if her ruthless maneuvers to escape was understandable. But like Jessie taking down the Wolf in her kitchen for JSS, Maggie went complete Mama Bear Mode. She even killed with more savage ferocity than Carol did. She was not giving up, and I wondered how much of this kidnapping reminded her of when Merle kidnapped her and the Governor.
Speaking of which, I was not happy about this unnecessary foreshadowing. Glenn already glanced at the one Savior's trophy wall of Lucille's victims. Making her escape Maggie bashes in Molly's head with the end of the revolver. Thank you for this. Just what we needed to know what's coming. Not cool.
No matter how excited we get for the Oscars or Emmys, we know this one simple truth: they're subjective. Hollywood recognizes various tiers of excellence: the long overdue underdog, the nepotists, the method actors, the money grabbers. The Walking Dead draws in 20 million people a week (on average) It's critically acclaimed. Yet since the show of the post-apocalyptic zombie genre it's outside the scope of what the television arts and sciences consider worthy. The show may not be perfect but it can't be denied there is a branch of acting that's extraordinarily rare: it's the complex, rooted performance Melissa McBride gives.
For walker's sake - she had me the shell-shocked gaze on her face when her and Maggie were first kidnapped; she had me when Carol was hyperventilating; she had me at every turn where you didn't know if she was maneuvering control for an escape or suppressing the killer mode within.
Carol brings me to tears. Maybe it's because I'm a survivor of familial abuse. Maybe it's out of joy and a love of acting over McBride's performance, or or out of misery watching Carol drowning in despair, or awe in witnessing what a complex human being she is. I just love this woman.
Last week for Not Tomorrow Yet, we talked about her masks. While the whole episode was a chess game between the Saviors and Team Alexandria (does our group have an official name?), with Carol it was even moreso - especially coming face-to-face with her alter-ego Paula.
Let's start with Paula. She's a Savior. We consider her the enemy. But what's interesting to note is that Paula is orchestrating - what we assume - is a trade. In her criticism and estimation of Carol being a nervous little birdy, Paula's pre-apocalypse self was revealed: she was a secretary when the apocalypse first started. The Army kept her at the office along with her boss, who she despised. Her husband and four children (clever Gimple, same as Carol with Sophia, Lizzie, Mika, and Sam) were killed. That cut her off from the rest of the world. She stopped caring about killing people when she reached double digits.
What triggers Paula's despise towards Carol is that the latter still cares. She's still affected by who and how many people she has to kill. She's conscientous of how she is protecting people, despite desperately struggling not to take those extreme measures. But a thing that struck me while Paula held Carol and Maggie hostage: why was she allowing them to live?
We estimate that the Saviors are pretty sick people. That's the word through the comic book grapevines anyways. Paula knifes her own sleeping buddy, but she tells Molly not to smoke in front of pregnant Maggie; she leads Maggie with Michelle out of the room for an "interrogation". Paula taunted Carol yet isn't the first to strike in their hallway stand-off. Paula barely misses shooting Carol - just like Carol barely missed shooting Donnie. They both have trouble annihilating each other; it's just that Carol happens to be left standing. Everyone is in the same boat. It's just a matter of time when people cast each other overboard to drown.
I won't go into all of the ways McBride astounded me this week. (Also, Alicia Witt - Two Weeks Notice will never be the same.) I decided to list and point out my favorite moments. There were plenty of gifs not made of this episode, so there's plenty missing. But you guys watched this episode - you know how amazing she was, right?
Father, forgive me. I don't deserve your mercy. I prayed for safe passage from Atlanta and you provided....She's so fearful. She's so young in her way. She hasn't had a chance....Please, don't let this be my punishment. Let her be safe, alive and safe. Please, lord. Punish me however you want, but show mercy on her. - What Lies AheadAlso interesting how Donnie represented Ed in many regards - calling Carol weak and pathetic, a bitch, and kicking her down on the ground. I can't even imagine if some of this brought back memories for her.
You’ll scream and scream because you’ll be so afraid. No one will come to help because no one will hear you. But something will hear you. The monsters will come. The ones out there. And you won’t be able to run away when they come for you. And they will tear you apart and eat you up all while you’re still alive. All while you can still feel it. And then afterward, no one will even know what happened to you.
Does this woman have to relive this every day? I think once was enough.
Carol freaking imitated Paula's voice after she was eaten alive.
Rick talking to Morgan. Carol admonishes him for letting the Wolves go: "They burned people alive." And then there's also the memory of the Wolves burning Alexandrians alive and what happened with Karen and David... Sweet Moses.
Carol being a prime example until Herschel. She lost faith after Sophia's disappearance and death, and yet this cross helps her escape physically. Will it be something that continues to help her escape emotionally as she moves forward or a continuing struggle?
+ Pretty sure my soul floated to heaven when Daryl and Carol hugged.
+ Then if there is a place higher than heaven, my soul went there upon the announcement that The Walking Dead is getting a permanent attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. *crossing fingers one comes to Orlando*
+ Some people are saying that this episode forshadowed Carol's comic book death SPOILERS that she kills herself or that she'll get killed by the Saviors. I think beyond Glenn getting killed by Lucille, if it's Carol instead the show is dead.