"Your people are killers, Carol. That makes you a killer."A Brief Recap
A shift in pace greeted fans of The Walking Dead this week. Reverting to another character development heavy episode, The Same Boat contained a great deal of development for both Carol and Maggie with a few brutal action sequences thrown in for good measure.
This episode was certainly intense, yet it was also filled with development for both Negan's crew and Carol and Maggie. It's episodes like this that I look at, wishing this was how season two and three had played out. As opposed to a whole season centred on character development, this episode took two characters who have felt a little bland in recent weeks and went to town on developing them. Maggie was given a lot of screen time this episode, which was incredibly nice to see. Lauren Cohan is a great actress and it's a shame that Maggie has been playing a more minor role as of late. This episode did a great deal of work to change that, her interactions with Jeananne Goossen's Chelle giving her a lot more depth than she's had recently. All manner of topics were discussed in the pair's interview, most notably however Maggie's pregnancy.
Carol, too, was given a lot of development this week. And that was needed. Because recently Carol's been nothing more than the female Rick - a hardened survivor with no qualms about killing others to save herself and the group. And this episode did a lot to show just how many qualms Carol has about her actions. Granted, we've seen teasers here and there about how she's still a human inside but this episode really hammered those ideas home.
Melissa McBride is amazing and she shone in this episode. Carol's character had to do a lot of "acting" in this episode, playing possum and throwing off the Saviours as to her true state. The character Carol played here felt a lot less ham-fisted than the one we've seen in Alexandria, baking cookies and doing everything possible to seem sweet and innocent. McBride acted in such a way here that it was unclear as to just how much of Carol's act was acting. It was great stuff, and a huge thumbs up to her for this episode - she's always one of the strongest performers on the show.
Carol's character development came first and foremost from the character of Paula (Alicia Witt). The writers did an excellent job with this character, an antagonist who was smart yet deceivable, with a great back-story and grim end. Paula is a woman who kills to keep herself alive and, after hitting double digits, has being accustomed to this lifestyle. You can see the doubt in Carol's face as she realises this what she'll become if she doesn't step away from her "kill to survive" approach. It's unclear as to whether Morgan's getting through to her, whether Tobin's softened her up or whether Carol is just realising what she's become. Maybe it's all three, who knows, but it's certainly a nice change in pace for the character.
The ending of this episode was brutal, the show not holding back with the gore and violence. And, once again, the lines are blurred. Donnie (Rus Blackwell) is left to turn and then used as a weapon to take out Molly (Jill Jane Clements). Maggie, in a rare display of brutality for the character, stabs her repeatedly in the head. As Maggie excessively assaults Molly, Carol takes the backseat, but this doesn't last long. As Chelle slashes Maggie's abdomen, Carol blows her brains out with no hesitation. And Paula suffers the most gruesome fate of all - impaled and then eaten alive by a walker.
The brutality doesn't end there. After Carol pulls of an awesome impression of the recently deceased Paula, the remaining Saviours are burned alive. And the lines are most definitely blurred. These brutal acts are not what you expect from the heroes of the story and, once again, it's a highly gripping place to take these characters.
What To Take Away From This Episode
There was a lot of good about this episode, that much I can say for certain. In terms of acting this episode was phenomenal, Alicia Witt excelling as Paula. Melissa McBride also delivered one of her strongest performances in recent memory this week, and that's saying a lot because she's always excellent. The writing was also pretty great; the parallels between Paula and Carol were clever and the slow build in tension was well executed.
Development is something that's tricky to get right as it can sometimes be unclear as to where to draw the line and move onto something more exciting. This episode was a perfect example of how development should be done. Granted, there were a few repeated lines and motifs, but that's always been the case with Walking Dead. The central theme of this week was Carol's redemption arc and it was done superbly. You can see her doubts, the loathing she feels for herself as she kills yet more survivors, and it really tugs at the heart strings. It's made even more impactful when you consider just how long Carol's been on the show, her arrival being all the way back in season one.
There was a lot tension this week, helped by the setting but also the music which I feel isn't talked about enough in this show. There was a level of fear throughout Carol's scuffle with Paula due to television tropes we've seen plenty of times. Character starts off weak; character grows into something stronger; character goes off the deep-end; character realises they've gone off the deep-end; character starts to redeem themselves; character dies. That being said, Carol made it out of the episode alive and it looks like there's more development to come for her.
Negan's arrival is getting closer and closer and the tension is palpable. Everything about the Saviours so far seems to show them as a group with a lot of firepower and a lot of bodies. Rick's group has taken out three separate groups of Saviours over this season, and Negan's retaliation against our heroes is going to be brutal.
This episode was everything I like about development episodes with none of the crap that dragged down seasons two and three's attempts at them. Not only did this episode work in developing the characters it aimed to develop but it also fed back into the overarching story of the season: Alexandria's confrontation with Saviours.
It was a pretty damn good week for Walking Dead and it gets a thumbs up from me.
Jacob is a long-time Walking Dead enthusiast with a bizarre idea of what constitutes a 'good character'. He tends to spend most of his time crying into his pillow over Beth Greene's death that happened two years ago.