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The Walking Dead - Consumed - Review and Discussion

It’s still much too early to be ranking favorite episodes of the season, but I’m predicting this one will be up there among the finalists on my personal list. There were others with more plot development, shock value, action, or gore, but this one had a nostalgia and intimacy about it as it focused on two old friends on a journey to rescue another.

The title and theme was “Consumed,” which took its name from Carol’s line that “everything now just consumes you.” Through conversation and flashbacks, we’re reminded that we’ve watched as Carol slowly evolved from the passive abused wife, to a frightened mother dealing of a missing child, to a stronger self-confident leader, to someone who losing herself under the weight of guilt.

In what is a gripping, emotionally raw scene set against the backdrop of a destroyed Atlanta, we finally hear about Carol from Carol. She recounts how she felt that two former identities – the abused wife and then the stronger survivor at the prison – were “burned” away. She continues to say that everything gets burned away now.

We’ve seen Carol reluctant to talk about herself for a while now, as her trauma seemed to grow progressively deeper. It takes persistent nudging from a trusted friend to finally get her to open up about where she is emotionally.

There is an air of sadness throughout the episode – augmented by mournful background music – that matches Carol’s and Daryl’s moods. Flashbacks from the gaps in Carol's timeline (symbolically focused on burning) serves to remind us of what she’s remembering. These flashbacks include leaving Rick after being exiled from the camp, discovering that the prison had been attacked, digging the graves for Lizzie and Mika, burning the bodies of Karen and David, and washing the walker blood off her face after she walked away from Terminus, having caused the deaths of probably dozens in her efforts to rescue her friends.

The opening montage that follows Carol after she drives away from Rick during her exile helps us to see the extent Carol’s remorse and isolation. When Carol was exiled, much of focus on the fandom was on Rick – questioning whether Rick was right or wrong to do what he did. The fact that Carol wanted and needed some type of penitence was largely lost. This episode succeeded in pulling together Carol’s emotional perspective with a larger character struggle that many in the group of dealing with, including Daryl, and that’s with finding the strength to start over.  Throughout the episode, Carol and Daryl keep reminding each other that they're "trying."

While the emotional focus of this episode was more on Carol, we were reminded of the strong friendship and similarities between Carol and Daryl. As the two talked, I was struck by the notion that these are two of only five characters from season one who are still with us (the others being Rick, Carl, and Glenn). There’s history between them, and intimacy, which was wonderfully captured with the scene of the two lying side by side on the bottom bunk bed – just talking.

Talking is something both of them have struggled with. Daryl has a tendency to shut down at times. And Carol, as we’ve seen over the past couple seasons, has withdrawn into herself. These two have a history of being able bring each other back – most notably in season two when Daryl reached out to Carol after Sophia died, and then later Carol returned the favor by being a friend to Daryl when he was shutting out the group. They both have a history of abuse, a past that received a nod in this episode by Carol and finding a book on adult survivors of child abuse.  We later saw that book fall out of a bag, which I believe belonged to Daryl. They were also, fittingly, staying in a shelter that had once housed victims of domestic abuse.

As Consumed progresses, we see the two once again take turns in pulling each other back. At first it’s Daryl trying to get through to Carol – telling her they can start over. When Carol tries to shoot Noah, Daryl stops her. But later in the episode, Carol is the one to prevent Daryl from walking away and leaving Noah to die. The scene nicely plays out, with Daryl stating he plans to leave Noah to die trapped under the bookcase and he coolly steals Noah’s cigarettes and lights one over Noah’s body. Carol’s eyes, meanwhile never leave Daryl, and watching Daryl like this appears to snap her out of the emotional state she's been in at least since she killed Karen and David.

Fire is a recurring symbol throughout the episode. As Carol talks about her old personas being “burned away,” we see several flashbacks and real-time events relating to fire: the burning of Carol and David, Daryl burning the bodies of the walkers, smoke from Terminus, reflections of the flames after the prison was attacked, Daryl using fire as a decoy for the walkers, and finally, the city buildings of Atlanta show signs of burns from the bombings. We’ve also seen fire, and burning away the past, in other storylines: the Governor burning a picture of his family and then burning Woodbury, the burning of Hershel’s barn, and the news that Rick and Lori’s old house had burned down.

Other Thoughts:

- The shots of the bombed and deserted Atlanta were absolutely beautiful and chilling at the same time. The decision to introduce us to these images at a low light made the scenes even more haunting.

- It was good to see Noah again, and I appreciated that there was some logic to them meeting up as they did – they were all in the same area because they were all surveying the hospital. The confrontational nature of encounter also made sense. Very few people start out with trust these days. Finally, I LOVED the humor in the mugging scene. How many muggers use the word “please?” That makes me love Noah already.

- There’s often one walker scene in each episode that borders on the absurd. In this episode it was the one with walkers trapped in sleeping bags and tents. We took a moment to break with the seriousness of episode to watch them wriggling around like worms as Carol and Daryl stepped around them. I was initially left wondering how they got into this situation. Why did they just die there? Did they starve to death, and if so, why did they all die at the same time? I later thought that maybe it was implied that they died during the napalm bombings, but the hallway they were in didn’t appear burnt, and we know that others in Atlanta survived.

- The scene where Daryl and Carol are looking around the van for something they can use, and decide they need to use what they’ve got, took me back to the line in the recent Beth episode where it’s stated that they all use what they can.

- Anyone else think of Thelma and Louise as Daryl and Carol were buckling in preparation of falling off the garage roof? That was a wonderfully, suspenseful scene, and I was shocked they weren’t more hurt.

- Daryl and Noah sped away in a truck similar to the one Rick used to rescue the group in the Atlanta store in season one. There was also a red car, somewhat similar to the sports car Glenn took off in, by the side of the road in the city earlier in the episode.

- I love watching Daryl check out the belongings of rich people. The scene of him taking note of the painting reminded me of the scene of him and Beth poking around the country club.

- Carol had the best quotes of the episode: “You’re not who you were, and neither am I. I’m not sure if I believe in God anymore, or Heaven, but if I’m going to Hell, I’m making damn sure I’m holding it off for as long as I can.”

- There was also this one: “Who I was with him, she got burned away. And I was happy about that. Not happy, but … And at the prison, I got to be who I always thought I should be, thought I should have been. And then she got burned away. Everything now just consumes you.”

- One critical note, which isn't so much about the episode as it is about the airing of it on AMC, was that there was unfortunately timed commercial break between the scenes where Carol is watching Daryl burn the body of a walker, draped in a white sheet, and a flashback that follows where Carol is digging the girls' graves and Tyreese comes out with a body draped in a sheet.  I wonder how many people caught the connection with the commercial in between?

So what did you think of the episode?  Did you love it as much as I did?

About the Author - Chris684
Chris is a New Englander with a background in print and digital media, who currently earns a living by making web and technology products easier to use. She has a weakness for TV characters who are 'dark and twisty' (to quote Meredith Grey) and reviews The Walking Dead, Legends, Halt and Catch Fire, and Dig for SpoilerTV.
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