Warning: Spoiler Alert
We’ll wander through some more flashbacks in this week’s installment. We’re greeted with a familiar scene: Rick abandons Carol and heads back to the prison and, like the flashback sequence of Bob’s past last season, we see Carol’s journey as accompanied by some sweet, hipster folk music. She’s got a lot of things on her mind. When a girl has some things on her mind, sometimes she needs to pull over and sob uncontrollably into the steering wheel. Sometimes she needs to scream uselessly at the walker thumping his broken limbs against the passenger door of her car. Eventually, though, a girl will get her shit together and find some food and shelter. She scopes an abandoned law firm and holes up, making it as cozy as possible under the circumstances. Days pass, who knows how many, but one morning as she harvests rainwater with a makeshift collector, she sees thick black smoke from the prison. Determined, she sets out, driving fast past a sign advising that hitchhikers could be inmates. Just before the opening credits roll, we see the burning guard tower reflected in her windshield.
Back in the present time, Daryl and Carol pursue the car bearing the white cross, the same kind that took Beth. He recounts how much stronger Beth got after the prison, how much she changed from the person she had been. They follow behind at highway speeds; somehow, in this world, driving without headlights at night doesn’t seem as dangerous as damn near everything else. Carol wonders about their strategy but Daryl assures her they will watch and see and do what needs to be done. She observes they’re heading toward Atlanta. The car speeds off and a long shot shows the cityscape in the distance.
As they penetrate the suburbs, the other car stops. Daryl kills the engine and they see someone wearing what appears to be a police uniform get out and scout around a bit, disappearing around the corner. No one in the universe thinks there isn’t about to be a startling jump moment and yet somehow when the walker appears, banging on Carol’s door I jump anyway. The cop looks back, waiting, then gets into the car and to drive off. Daryl got concerned about the car running on fumes and his fears are founded—it won’t start and they realize they’ll have to squat somewhere for the night and pick up the trail in the morning. Carol says she knows of a place nearby.
She keeps watch as Daryl jimmies the door. Walker sounds fill the night and soon they appear in great numbers. Timely as ever, Daryl pops the lock and they scout out the inside of the building. He asks if she worked here, as it has an office-look about it. No, she says, it’s a shelter. She leads him to a secure room that used to be temporary housing for women and children. A manual for treating childhood abuse lies on the table. Carol tells Daryl that the bottom of the bunk bed seems more his speed and that she’ll take first watch. He halfheartedly protests, while settling into the bunk at the same time.
Carol looks out the window, her reflection doubling her and highlighting a theme that carries through the episode—are you still the same person you used to be? She asks Daryl if he really thought they could start over and be those same people again? He replies that he’s trying. Say what’s really on your mind, he tells her. Carol says that we don’t get to say things to people anymore, not like we used to. He asks if she really would have left—what would have happened if he hadn’t looked for her outside the church? She crosses the room and lies back beside him across the bed. I still don’t know, she says. We look down at them from above, side-by-side in the bed and Daryl turns to her and a sound outside startles them
both to their feet to investigate. (I’m pretty sure the working title of this episode was “Impossibly Frustrate Caryl Shippers.”)
The opaque glass on another housing suite reveals a walker with long hair, mindlessly writhing at the glass. The two look at each other, assessing the situation, when a heartbreakingly small silhouette appears to writhe beside its mother. Carol, exhausted, readies herself to open the door and put them out of their misery in death that no one could in life. Daryl tells her she doesn’t have to. He says it again and she pulls back, goes to the bed to sleep. Morning passes and she’s barely slept, but Daryl’s not in the room either. Carol goes to the window and sees, you guessed it, a plume of smoke rising from the building’s courtyard. She finds Daryl cremating the woman and her children, first wrapping them in white sheets before lying them on the pyre. Thank you, she says simply. The camera tracks up the building and smoke climbing free of the dead city.
We return to another flashback—Carol digs a grave outside the grove; Tyreese watches as they bury the girls. Snap back to the present and Daryl advising that they find a tall building and see what they can see—his favorite strategy. They see a bridge linking buildings and determine to get to it. They sneak around the corner past a nice, bright, shiny red car—apocalypse or no, product placement never dies—and Daryl lights a tablet on fire, throws it, and they slip by the distracted walkers. The two run into a parking garage and head up the levels to the skybridge—on the bridge is a macabre comical group of wasteland campers, trapped in their sleeping bags and struggling to get out. Carol stabs the walker pupae, which wakes up the walker trapped in the tent. The tent takes on a life of its own, the walker inside flailing and stumbling; Daryl remarks, “Some days I don’t know what the hell to think.” Daryl Dixon. Man of few words, like the best redneck heroes are.
They leave the slapstick camper in his tent and cross the bridge. We see someone watching though, someone familiar who escaped the hospital when Beth was unable. Carol and Daryl break into a posh office, tastefully decorated with modern art and overlooking the burned out but still grand cityscape. “How did we get here?” Carol asks, surveying the desolation before her. “Just did,” he replies. Carol tells him that he still hasn’t asked about the girls and Daryl says he knows—but it’s worse than that, she says, turning toward him. The reason we have to start over is because “we gotta,” he insists. “The way it was.” She shrugs, “Yeah.” He studies the art, saying some rich prick probably paid a ton of money for something that looks like a dog’s ass painted it…Carol protests that she likes it. She says she’s serious and “you don’t know me.” Daryl replies, “Yeah, keep telling yourself that.”
Daryl uses the rifle scope to survey the top of a nearby building and he spots what we recognize as the hospital’s rooftop garden. He scopes around some more and sees a van marked with familiar crosses crashed through a guard rail and hanging precariously off a bridge. He says it’s definitely a lead. They squeeze through the doors and head back out onto the bridge, but this time someone else is visiting the campers. Noah has a gun on them and takes their weapons—he apologizes but says he needs them—Noah cuts away the tent and our hungry outdoorsman bursts through and attacks Daryl. The two of them make quick work of the walker, but Noah is escaping and Carol raises her gun to shoot; Daryl knocks her hand down as she fires, deflecting the shot. She looks at him confused and they take off in pursuit. Noah gets away. Carol worries about losing the weapons, but the optimistic Dixon says they’ll
make things work, that neither of them is the same as they were. She tells him she’s not sure if she believes in god anymore, and even if she believes she’s going to hell she’ll hold off as long as possible. As they start to make their way, she stumbles and spills the contents of her sack, dropping the treatment manual.
Another flashback details Carol inside the prison, burning the infected members. We cut back to the bridge, the pair having made their way down. In the distance, walkers amble about, seeming to have taken notice. Daryl opens the back doors and, ignoring Carol’s warning about being careful, hoists himself in. The vehicle rocks a bit, but sticks. Inside, they find materials possibly from Grady hospital; unfortunately, their time has run out and a moderate-sized horde of walkers closes in on the van. They slam the doors shut and Carol says they’ll have to fight their way out, but Daryl’s idea’s different. It’s a little more Dukes of Hazard than what Carol had in mind.
Buckle up, he says, as they pile into the front seats and rock the van off the edge. It crashes less than gracefully on the pavement below and, as the pair shakes off the shock of the crash and airbag deployments something thuds onto the windshield. Hallelujah—it’s rainin’ walkers! And if they don’t move, they’ll be absolutely soaking dead…
Carol is hurt, but she insists she’s fine and they hobble-flee the scene, making it to the area just outside the hospital. “I’m fine,” she again insists, waving off the canteen Daryl offers. “Prove it,” he admonishes. She says it’s about three blocks to the hospital and asks about the plan—you know, scope it out, he says, see what we see. A good plan. They head inside and retrieve a machete from its former owner, using it to help make him a former walker. Carol looks through the window and sees “them.” Daryl asks how she thinks he was before and she tells him that he was like a boy—now, he’s more like a man. He thinks for a moment about what she’s said and asks what about her. She doesn’t even pause before saying that she just waited for something to happen, just following the same routine of running away from Ed and coming back and getting hit again anyway. She felt that when she was at the prison, she was able to be the person she wanted to be, that she’s meant to be. As if we didn’t know before, a fuller understanding of why Carol made the decisions she made is crystal clear in this episode. She says Sophia just got ripped away, just like everything else, because everything now just consumes you. Daryl, following the episode-length motif of fire, tells her “We ain’t ashes.” Naturally, in this moment between them, a sound alerts them to something nearby.
They come out into the hall to find a walker pinned to the wall by a crossbow bolt. In perhaps the most needless question in the history of The Walking Dead, Carol asks if it’s his. It is. In the next room, Noah is fighting hard to move a bookcase to block an oncoming walker. Daryl takes him by surprise and knocks the bookcase down onto him—Noah pleads for his life but Daryl, lighting a cigarette he’s liberated from the other man, tells him he saved him once and that’s that. Ain’t happening again. The walker squeezes through the door and begins to wriggle towards Noah. Carol moves to retrieve her blade, but a bolt pierces the walkers skull before she can move in. If Carol wants the kid to live, Daryl will see that the kid lives. Or at least, he won’t refuse to save someone when she wants to.
The final flashback shows Carol, covered smeared with walker effluvia in the woods with the rifle. She wipes herself clean as the smoke plumes in the background, gunfire sounding nearby. Back in the present, Noah drops the bombshell we’ve been waiting for. He’s being pursued by vehicles from Grady. He’s escaped from “them”, but they’re coming back for him. So if Noah was at Grady and they think Beth is at Grady… Daryl, frantic with hope before he can manage to choke it back, asks if they have a blond girl and Noah, shocked, asks “Beth? You know her?” No time to get details because just below on the street, a car pulls up to the building. He tells them the building next door will be safe, but unfortunately Carol never taught Sophia to look both ways before crossing the street—she runs out of the building ahead of Daryl and Noah and gets absolutely pasted by two of the cops in a station wagon. They put her on a board and take her away. Noah holds Daryl back, convincing him that they have no chance—they’re up against a lot of people, with guns. Daryl throws Noah the look of a man who just found out his maybe-girlfriend is still alive who has also seen his apocalypse-soulmate be brutally kidnapped. “We got people,” Daryl assures him.
The two men grab the box truck and bust out, heading back toward the church. Daryl, barely containing his tears, floors it.