Original air date: March 16, 2014

The Review (with SPOILERS): For a show that is generally bumbling when it tries to have BIG moments, The Walking Dead has had a few that stick with me.  The biggest was probably that moment when little Sophia came shambling out of that barn back in Season 2.  It was unexpected until that instant before she appeared, we got to see her and appreciate what happened… And then Rick shot her.  Thank goodness Rick didn’t talk, because that would have ruined that very cinematic scene.  I still remember it vividly all this time later.

So, in an episode that had a lot of other iffy stuff, the creators again pulled out a really special moment when Carol had to shoot crazy Lizzie in the back of the head.  It wasn’t quite Fredo going out in the boat, but it was effective, especially after all the build up over the season and this episode.  We’ve seen Carol trying to take care of these girls, trying to teach them how to live in the apocalypse, striving to protect them…  And then to see one of them murder the other and have to kill the crazy one.  Yeesh…  It was rough and Melissa McBride really powerhoused it through the episode as Carol.  Again, a lot of these moments work so much better when the actor has less to say.  Any decent person knows what she’s feeling. She found these girls, wanted to protect them because all life is precious in the apocalypse… Especially children; and then to realize that something is wrong with one of those girls and only you think you can fix her… Bbut you ignored the signs and not only did she not get better, she killed the other kid, the normal one.  Ugh!  That’s a pretty tough pill to swallow.  Given that Carol is the one who “does what needs to be done” (as show when she killed Karen and what’s-his-hame). It is a bitter irony that the time she didn’t act decisively, it came back on her in a big way.

I was also really glad that they just went ahead and dealt with the whole “Who killed Karen thing?” thing.  I’m not sure what the point of that whole exercise was with the exiling and the Tyreese rage and all that… So, let’s just put that behind us and move on.

Another element I really liked was little Lizzie.  I previously didn’t think the young actress was all that wonderful.  I’m sure she’ll be fine when she gets older, but kids that age have so little gravitas that I think it’s a mistake to put much story in their hands.  But, having her play a disturbed child was just fine.  Any adult who has ever picked their child up from a group event knows the feeling– that other kid just isn’t RIGHT and I don’t want him/her near my child.  Lizzie is that kid.  Maybe that is the trick?  Don’t make kids uber serious, just let them be disturbed.  The contrast between screwed up Lizzie and serious Mikka was pretty stark.  Mikka runs around talking about naming dolls Grizella Gunderson and saying, “My mom says things always work out” and it just comes off like something from an after-school special.  It isn’t that I think the young actress playing Lizzie is better than the one playing Mikka, it’s just that Mikka is asked to play serious and Lizzie is asked to play weird.

Other parts of the episode weren’t so good.  The whole idea of “This could be a HOME!” really fell flat.  You just can’t dangle that as a real opportunity when we KNOW that everyone is headed to Terminus.  Everyone is going to see the Wizard and that’s just the way it will happen.  I just can’t imagine a storytelling possibility where one of these groups doesn’t end up at Terminus.

The whole thing with Tyreese forgiving Carol but not forgetting was pretty dumb too.  It’s a case where less would have been more.  Just have her tell him, and let him push the gun away and walk out.  Let it be somewhat ambiguous what his feelings are.  Sometimes it annoys me how this show patronizes us.  There just no drama in a scene like that because we already know the outcome.  There’s just no way that Tyreese is going to shoot her or bludgeon her with his hammer.  Everyone is going to Terminus.  Even all the reminders of Tyreese’s great LOVE for Karen are pretty lame.  As I recall, they were just starting to make googly eyes at each other when Karen died.  Did they even kiss?  Regardless, it wasn’t like Karen was the love of his life, it makes sense that he’d be upset that she died, but it is weird that he would be so upset to have constant nightmares about it.

The thing with the deer was stupid too.  And who’s mowing the grass at this homestead?  And why are there so many houses in the woods?  So there is a lot “wrong” with this episode and that’s why it is ultimately not going to score a ultra-high grade despite a few electric scenes and performances.

A final hiccup is that this story is taking a long time to pull together.  I was intrigued by Terminus when we first saw those signs, but I’m getting bored now, especially with the realization that there are only two episodes left and I have to wait until next season to really learn anything about it.  I also fear the possibility that the entire next season will be stuck in a singular location to contain production costs.  Other fixed sets: Herschel’s Farm, The Prison, Woodbury…  TWD is better when it is out and exploring the world, so I’m worried that we’ll get bottled up in a crapfest again next season.

Conclusion: A complex episode with a singular storyline in the middle.  Too bad it was weighed down by a lot of extraneous weight that doesn’t serve the story.

Grade: B

-Dean Stell