Even for "The Walking Dead," this week's episode was horrifyingly bleak.Innocence is lost, a temporary taste of paradise is poisoned, and an insinuation runs like quicksilver through the episode that only the hardened will survive in the nightmarish post-apocalyptic world.
The first scene sets the tableau as we see what are either two children or a walker and a person playing through a dirty kitchen window as a tea kettle boils on the stove. What is happening will only be revealed later in the show.
“The Grove” continues the theme of standalone episodes as the scattered survivors head toward Terminus and what they assume is safety. Here we follow Carol, Tyreese and the three youngest survivors of the prison escape: sweet Mika, troubled Lizzie and baby Judith. As they travel toward Terminus, they discover an idyllic house in the woods complete with running water, a pecan grove and fences to keep walkers away.They decide to take a break, but as anyone who watches the show knows it will be a short-lived respite.
While they are at the house, Carol tries to toughen up Mika, the younger sister, who won’t shoot a deer that they stumble across and who doesn’t have a “mean bone in her body.”
Lizzie, the older sister, meanwhile grows increasingly strange. It wasn't a stretch to think she was the one feeding rats to the zombies outside the prison, but this episode confirms it. Lizzie doesn’t see the walkers for the threat that they are, which poses a grave danger to the others.
This becomes apparent in two scenes: In the first, Mika follows Lizzie and sees her feeding a rat to a trapped walker on the railroad tracks, and a second one where Carol looks out the kitchen window while making tea and sees Lizzie playing with a walker who is trying to grab her. Carol kills the walker and Lizzie has an epic fit: “She was my friend and you killed her,” she screams.
Their illusion of safety and the dream of staying in the grove are shattered in the following scene. Lizzie, in her desperation to prove walkers are really just a different type of people, kills her sister. Tyreese and Carol walk in on the aftermath and see Lizzie with her hands covered in bloody and Mika on the ground. Baby Judith is crying on a blanket nearby, and it is apparent that if they had been much longer Lizzie would have killed her as well.
Once again Carol is left to make the hard decisions. There is no bringing Lizzie back, no redeeming her. She will always pose a threat to Judith, as well as other people. Carol leads her into a field and tells her to look at the flowers. In a scene reminiscent “Of Mice and Men,” Carol shots Lizzie in the back of the head.
The only thing left to be done after that is for Carol to confess to Tyreese that she was the one who killed Karen, his girlfriend back at the prison. She did it for the greater good to ensure that the flu wouldn’t spread to the others. Carol pushes her gun across the table to Tyreese and tells him to do what he has to. Emotionally worn out, Tyreese forgives Carol. He knows that what she did will haunt her for the rest of her life, and after what happened with Lizzie he understands Carol better.
With the grove ruined, the two get back on the road to Terminus with Judith. It’s hard to imagine a darker episode than this one, but then again it’s “The Walking Dead,” where bleakness and survival are the order of the day.