This week's episode of "The Walking Dead," "Consumed," made the most of that imagery-evoking title, sprinkling smoke and fire throughout the hour in an effort to illustrate the characters' – namely Carol's – rebirth. But the episode wasn't quite content with the "show, don't tell" school of thought, offering multiple scenes of Daryl and Carol arguing about how much they may or may not have changed, a gimmick that had varying degrees of success.
Much like the first couple episodes of season five, "Consumed" was, well, consumed with exposition, some of it necessary (revealing what Carol was up to after she was banished from the prison settlement by Rick), some of it redundant (circular conversations with Daryl in which she insisted that he didn't really know her, while also laying bare all her baggage about trying to become a different person). I appreciated the acknowledgment of Carol's abusive marriage (she and Daryl end up hiding out at a women's shelter where she once briefly stayed with Sophia) as a reminder of where her character began: mousy, whiny, and kind of forgettable. That Carol barely resembles the woman that single-handedly waged a (successful) war with Terminus in the season premiere, though as she explains to Daryl, she worries that each successive version of herself burns away the other – and that that's not necessarily a good thing.
"Everything now just consumes you," she tells Daryl. "Hey," he replies sternly, "we ain't ashes."
I understood why the writers wanted to focus so much on Daryl and Carol simply spending time with one another; these two sizzle when they're onscreen together, and the 'shippers in the audience were no doubt bursting at the seams at the sight of the twosome lying side-by-side in bed, or Carol telling her counterpart, "Now you're a man." But I would have liked a bit more forward motion surrounding those moments, or at the very least, some other topic of conversation. I can only hear variations on "We have to start over" so many times in one episode before I get antsy and want to scream, "SO DO IT ALREADY!" (Maybe "We have to start over" is the new "We can't go back"?)
At least things picked up toward episode's end, when Noah re-enters the picture. I found it a bit odd that he'd still be hanging out so close to the hospital after escaping; if it were me, I'd hightail it out of ATL ASAP. Then again, perhaps Daryl and Carol came across him only moments after he left Grady Memorial? Either way, that convenient run-in insures that Beth – and now Carol – will be rescued in no time, thanks to Daryl and Noah, with an assist from Sheriff Rick and his posse.
The brutal way in which Carol is captured (the already-wounded woman runs out into the street to escape a vehicle driven by hospital cronies, only to be intentionally hit by said car) suggests that the rest of the cops policing Grady Memorial are, like not-so-dearly-departed Gorman before them, of the "bad" variety. And I'm guessing that, much like they make women perform sexual favors against their will, the "injured" people they bring into the hospital are perhaps pursued purposefully, hurt deliberately, and eventually forced into servitude in an effort to bolster the hospital's staff. Methinks that that scenario isn't going to sit so well with Daryl, and that his revenge against the monsters who've tormented the two most important people in his life will be sweet.
- I've been enjoying all the zombie apocalypse lifehacks we've seen this season. Last week, the survivors used a flaming trashcan and a coat hanger to boil toilet water into a potable beverage; this week, Carol strings up some empty baggies outside her window to catch rain water. Next week: How to hard boil eggs so that the shells peel off perfectly! (Everyone in the apocalypse stays current on BuzzFeed listicles, right?)
- Another recurring theme this season is all the direct references/homages to earlier episodes of the show, particularly the pilot. "Consumed" featured a spin on the iconic shot from the series premiere of a solo Rick riding back into a ravaged Atlanta, only this week he was swapped out for Carol and Daryl pursuing the car from the hospital. Later, after Carol and Daryl crash in the van, they walk past a legless zombie, who snarls at them much like the legless undead lady that snaps at Rick in the pilot. And the moment where Daryl and Noah take a truck and peel out of the city also harkened back to the moment in season one when the group escapes ATL. (The exact circumstances are eluding me, but I seem to recall a jubilant Glenn at the wheel.)
- Like Andy Greenwald over at Grantland, I'm very much over Daryl's horrible hairdo. I know he has A Look that he's trying to maintain (or that the writers want him to maintain to appease the fangirls and -boys), but he needs a trim, stat – or at the very least, a shower and a comb.
- Another Daryl-centric gripe: The man needs to stop starring in his own private mumblecore movie. I understood maybe 40 percent of what he said during this entire episode, and that was only after endless attempts at rewinding and replaying his under-enunciated speeches.
- Am I picking on Daryl too much? Here's something I really liked: His quip about the painting hanging in that fancy office. "I bet this cost some rich prick a lot of money," he tells Carol. "Looks like a dog sat in paint, wiped its ass all over the place." (At least, I think that's what he said. It also sounded a lot like, "ALNodengtZbuawgrefbzlcnBrfaexmsa," but it's hard to be sure without seeing a script.)
- Nagging question: How on earth did the black car that Daryl and Carol followed into Atlanta not notice it was being tailed? Hello, it's a wasteland out there and running cars are pretty rare. Do you seriously not realize there's someone behind you? No wonder your hospital is about to be overrun by Rick's group – your observational skills are nonexistent.
- Have you enjoyed the numerous times I've mentioned "Daryl and Carol" throughout this recap? Rhyming is fun.
- As the ominous AMC announcer man has reminded me, there are now only two new "Walking Dead" episodes left before the mid-season hiatus. I'm assuming that next week will be catch-up between Daryl and Rick, and the formulation of a jailbreak plan, with the mid-season finale focusing on its execution. I can't wait to see that smug smile
wiped punched off of Dawn's face.
Photo credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC