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The Walking Dead, Consumed, Season 5, Episode 6

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Walking Dead Consumed

Walking Dead hits an emotional apex with an episode that explores Daryl and Carol seeking Beth, themselves, and each other. It’s possibly the best Walking Dead episode ever.

I’m going to dispense with the plot of this episode rather quickly, not because it wasn’t good. It was a great plot, part mystery, part Daryl and Carol like an RPG adventuring party exploring abandoned urban “dungeons,” part crazy stunts and overall badassitude. But there’s other stuff worth talking about.

So: they head into The City to find Beth (I’m sure I could figure out which city we’re talking about, probably Atlanta, but it isn’t important. It’s a city. The City). They trail the white cross car in the dark, headlights off. Daryl smartly uses the parking brake to stop the car. No brake lights. But when the car drives off, D/C are out of gas. It’s clear Beth’s kidnappers are in The City. But it’s a big city.

They explore. They investigate. They find a van with the white crosses, but a zombie mob forces them to ride it off the edge of a bridge, injuring Carol’s shoulder or collarbone pretty seriously. Not long after, they encounter Noah shortly after his escape from the hospital. He steals their weapons, but Daryl prevents Carol from shooting him. Then they run into Noah again and Daryl gets the drop on him. A scuffle, a heavy bookshelf, a satisfying smoke of a Morley cigarette (this brand has appeared all over the place, but you might recognize as the Cigarette Smoking Man’s brand of choice in the X-Files), and they find out Noah knows Beth. The hospital people are coming, but before they can plan a reaction, they run down Carol with a car and take her.

Daryl and Noah had back to the church to gather the crew and plan a rescue of Carol and Beth. We know by the way they ran Carol over that the hospital’s story about helping injured people is total crap. They hurt people, then force them into slavery. They clearly did this to Beth. So they’re straight up bad guys, and a mid-season ending battle is shaping up. We also know from the utterly anguished look on Daryl’s face that he’s got strong feelings for Carol.

There was a lot of amazing stuff there. The van scene was exciting, plus the insane splattering zombies falling down after them. Lots of great zombies, jump scares from zombies attacking cars, half zombies, really freaky zombies trapped in tents and sleeping bags. But there was so much going on beneath the surface.

Let’s start with the symbology of smoke. Carol sees smoke through a window on three separate occasions. First, at the prison after she’s been exiled. Then at Terminus while she and Tyrese are burying the girls. Finally, she sees the funeral pyre Daryl has made for the family trapped in the housing center (more on that later). And Daryl smoking a cigarette was no accident either. He grabs a carton of cigs out of nowhere and lights one up. What does it mean?

Smoke marks a transition, literally from one phase of matter (solid) to another (gas). Cremation and funeral pyres mark a transition of the dead person from the material, living world to the invisible, spiritual world. Smoke is often used in ceremonies and rituals to mark important occasions or transitions from one phase of life to another. Think about how the Catholic church marks the announcement of a new Pope. Each time Carol sees smoke, it marks a transition in her life, a visual metaphor for the “burning away” of her self, as she explains to Daryl.

So what about Daryl’s Morley? That’s open to interpretation, but I think it’s interesting that all the other smoke we saw was in the distance, whereas Daryl is taking smoke into his mouth. He has just had a discussion with Carol about how she’s forced herself to become hard, that she’ll do anything to “put off going to Hell.” He tries to talk her out of it, but suddenly Daryl is the hard guy, willing to let Noah die, smoking a vindictive cigarette. Taking smoke into his mouth, he’s taking on Carol’s burden, the unbearable weight of making brutal decisions, of having no mercy when necessary. He forces her to show compassion and plead for Noah’s life, to rediscover that part of herself that she thought had burned away.

There was a heavy issue involving domestic violence this episode as well, and I think there’s not much else to say about it that the show didn’t handle. That silhouetted mother and children in the shelter apartment was devastatingly tragic to see, and Daryl’s way of dealing with it truly touching. Carol acquires a book about dealing with child abuse victims. Daryl sees it, realizing she knows he himself was a victim of child abuse, right about when Carol said that they can’t save people any more.

But there’s one less obvious issue I want to mention: class. This is most explicit when Daryl comments on the abstract painting that “some rich prick wasted a ton of money on.” Notice that we see several nice establishments in this episode, like the law firm Carol hides out in and whatever kind of office the painting is in. In contrast to literally every single place we’ve ever seen in Walking Dead, which is looted, burned, splattered with blood and just total crap, these places are pristine. There’s water in the water cooler. Leather chairs perfectly positioned. A glorious view of the skyline. Rich versus poor.

And yet…it did them no good. There are no rich people there to sit in those leather chairs. They burned and rotted and turned into undead cannibals like the rest of us. Their wealth didn’t save them. And if it did, what world would they live in? The systems in place to let them stay above collapsed. Only overpriced paintings remain.

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Posted by on Sunday, November 16th, 2014. Filed under Dark TV, Headline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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