Wow. After five episodes here in the back half of season 4 in which nothing too jaw-dropping happened, The Walking Dead sure pulled out all the stops tonight, didn't it? I want to give you plenty of warning to click away if you haven't caught up, so here you go: major, major spoilers ahead for "The Grove."
Let's get to the recap.
We start off with the scene we saw in the sneak peek: a cozy kitchen, a kettle warming on the stove, and outside, the innocent laughter of a child playing tag. Playing tag with a zombie, that is. Yes, that would be Lizzie, who takes great offense to Carol putting a bullet in the walker's head. "She was my friend! You killed her! What if I killed you?? IT'S THE SAME THING," Lizzie screams, and just like that, it's horribly obvious that she's not just a little messed up: this girl is downright scary-sick in the head.
This puts a major damper in the bucolic situation Tyreese and Carol had going. The charming abandoned house, the pecans, the jigsaw puzzles ... it was looking like somewhere everyone could settle down and delay that whole Terminus thing for a while. But even before Lizzie snaps about her BFF zombie, things start taking a foreboding turn. Carol mentions how her daughter died because Sophia didn't have a mean bone in her body; she assigns the same too-sweet-for-the-apocalypse trait to Mika. Doooom. Also Mika gives a semi-sassy response to Tyreese marveling over how weird it felt to be in an actual house: "So relax." Yeah, Tyreese, RELAX. What could possibly go wrong? HA HA HA HA PASS THE PECANS.
Lizzie's not even remotely okay, as evidenced by her ineffective flower-based anti-anxiety strategies and her fervent belief that zombies are just different and instead of killing them everyone should be feeding them and trying to communicate with them. (Finally: confirmation that it was Lizzie killing those rats at the prison.) There's a heart-stopping moment when it seems as though Lizzie's going to offer herself to a zombie trapped in the train tracks, as she reaches out a hand to the thing's snapping jaws while murmuring, "They just want me to change. Maybe I should change. I could make you all understand." GAHHHHHHHH.
But then things get even spookier when the creepiest-looking Walking Dead walkers to date come staggering out of the trees, blackened and smoking, presumably from the fire Daryl and Beth started. Lizzie and Mika manage to get away just in time, and they stand with Tyreese and Carol to shoot the burnt horde down. Whew.
(Side note: where is the baby during all these scenes? Also wouldn't you maybe have an "always have an adult with you" rule going by now?)
(Another side note: I am deeply distracted by what appears to be a triple layer of mascara on Mika. She's such a cute kid, but the completely bizarre and way-too-noticeable eyelash treatment makes her look like she just escaped from an episode of Toddlers & Tiaras.)
Back at the house, Carol talks with Lizzie about how she hopes she finally understands walkers for what they are. “I know. I know what I have to do now," Lizzie says darkly, and everyone's like THANK GOD SHE FINALLY GETS IT and they go back to their cheery nut-prep. Um, guys? Did you not notice how utterly disturbing and ominous that little statement was? What're the main ingredients in those roasted pecans, willful misunderstanding with a dash of blind hope?
The next day, Carol and Tyreese have a wildly awkward discussion about Karen, which makes me cringe on Carol's behalf, but it turns out the show was just prepping me in terms of discomfort for the scene that follows: the two of them return to find Lizzie, covered in blood, holding a knife. On the ground is Mika, stabbed to death by her sister's hand. Everyone stares in horror. Judith gurgles from a nearby blanket. "We have to wait," Lizzie says earnestly. "I need to show you, you’ll see. You’ll finally get it! We have to wait. Judith can change, too."
Holy shit. I mean, holy shit.
Carol is the most exhausted, despairing-looking woman in the entire world as she talks with Tyreese later about what can be done about Lizzie. (So many props to Melissa McBride for this entire episode, really.) They bounce around some ideas, but ultimately Carol correctly concludes that Lizzie can't be around people, especially Judith. She repeats this to herself, letting the awfulness of it sink in: "She can't be around people."
Carol takes Lizzie for a walk, and Lizzie begins crying over her suspicion that Carol is mad at her. She gets more and more worked up, and Carol tells her to look at the flowers. "Just look at the flowers," Carol repeats over and over, weeping, as she aims her revolver and puts a bullet in Lizzie's head. God. Is this more evocative of Of Mice and Men or Old Yeller? I can't believe I'm crying over Lizzie. They did a pretty fantastic job of making her both terrifyingly dangerous and deeply pitiful tonight.
In the house, Carol pushes her gun across the table to Tyreese. When he looks up, confused, she confesses that she was the one who killed Karen and David, to spare the group from contagion. "Do what you have to do," she says and waits with tears rolling down her face. Tyreese struggles with this nightmarish revelation, but eventually says he can forgive her. Not forget -- but he can forgive.
In the end, Tyreese and Carol (with Judith tied papoose-style to Tyreese's back) walk away from the home, away from Lizzie's and Mika's bodies, buried alongside the children of the people who used to live in the Grove. Tyreese, earlier in the episode: "The whole world is haunted now. We are who we are, and we do what we do. And there's no gettin' out of that. Not until we're dead."
Well, Walking Dead fans. How are you doing after this episode? Did you see these deaths coming?
Image via AMC