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The Walking Dead - Diverged - Review

  The Walking Dead “Diverged” was written by Heather Bellson and was directed by David Boyd. This is Bellson’s first episode since season six’s “Always Accountable” – the origin story of Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Sherry (Christine Evangelista). This episode begins with Carol’s (Melissa McBride) voiceover – and I’m still not loving the voiceover thing which reminds me of a bad CW show. This particular “filler” episode gives us a long metaphorical insight into Carol and Daryl (Norman Reedus) continuing to regroup now that the fight with the Whisperers is over. Daryl spends most of the episode trying to fix his bike and Carol spends most of it trying to get a rat out of her house. They start the episode by literally taking different roads and end up back at the same house…

Carol’s voiceover gives us insight into what she’s thinking. She hadn’t planned on surviving, so now she needs to think about the future. It was family that pulled her back, so it’s natural that she wants to get back to Alexandria. However, once she’d gotten her revenge, she was faced with the destruction she’d caused – including the destruction of all the food. She insists that every decision she’s made has been to protect “us” – the family. She says she’ll do whatever it takes – including burning people at the prison or letting Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) out. She’s determined to make things right, but it’s very unclear how she can do that this time.

The opening scene has Carol, Daryl, and Dog walking back. Carol is trying to open her water canteen and it’s stuck. Daryl offers to help, but she doesn’t want his help. She does take his swiss army knife to loosen the lid, however. She takes a drink, and Daryl offers a drink to Dog. Carol doesn’t give the knife back. There’s a brilliant shot from the back of them that shows each on opposite sides of the road with quite a bit of space between them. Dog is exactly in the middle, and they are approaching a fork in the road. 

The two agree that they don’t have much to show for their hunting trip. Daryl is going to keep going, but Carol is going to go back. She’s got to find a way to make things right – not that she tells Daryl that. Daryl offers her a ride on his bike, but she says she’ll walk. Daryl starts to speak and Carol jumps to the conclusion he’s going to apologize for their fight. She tells him he doesn’t have to. He tells her that he was just going to say ‘good luck.’ She says ‘good luck to you too.’ Dog is waiting at the fork. Neither slow down or hesitate as they take different forks. Dog hesitates for a moment and then goes with Carol. Daryl isn’t impressed – but maybe Dog sensed she needed him more at that moment? 

Regardless, the entire scene reminded me of the Robert Frost poem: “The Road Not Taken.” “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,/And sorry I could not travel both…” In their own way, both Daryl and Carol have taken the road less travelled. The poem makes it explicit that once you’ve chosen the path at that critical moment, there is no way to go back and choose the other. It’s important to be content with what you have chosen.

This theme is played out in the pretty – but very bloody – scarf that Carol picks up off the ground as she enters Alexandria. It was a cherished piece of normalcy once, now ruined and bloody from the conflict. Carol tells Jerry (Cooper Andrews) that she’s going clean it up and fix it. Somebody loved it, and she just wants to fix something. She eventually uses it to stop a rat hole and even puts it on at one point, but in the end, she throws it away. She is never going to be that pretty piece of “normal” life – or a decoration. That’s not the road she’s chosen. 

Carol takes Dog to Daryl’s apartment – in her basement? She gives him water and sits down. She tells Dog that for the record, she didn’t need an apology. She knows Daryl meant what he said. He only ever says what he means after all. An apology, she tells Dog, is just a truce. And this is why Dog had to go with Carol. Daryl was never going to talk to Dog (the stand in for the audience), and his story plays out just as well in pantomime anyway. 

Carol stops by to see Jerry, who is working on clean up. She tells him she’s going to work on the north gate and then go to work getting the dead fish out of the fisheries. Jerry says ‘hey dude’ – Carol didn’t bother with hello. He tells her that Rosita already has that covered. She offers to help him, but he tells her there’s got to be a better use of her time. Carol finally asks Jerry how she can help. He mentions food, and she tells him that she can ‘whip something up’ from what she found. He then tells her that Maggie’s people are in Michonne’s kitchen, and there’s no electricity because the solar panels are messed up from the whisperers. They also had to throw out a bunch of grain because of rats.

Carol remains undaunted. She’ll make soup! She’s got some fish, mushrooms… she’ll make it work. And Jerry tells her that she always does. She then tells him the story of stone soup. A guy comes to town and says he has a magic stone and will make soup for everyone. He borrows a little bit of this and that from everyone, basically getting all the ingredients from the community. They were nothing alone, but when they all came together, it was a soup to feed everyone. It’s a wonderful metaphor for community. Jerry doesn’t get it and doesn’t think stone soup sounds very tasty. He’s hoping that Ezekiel will show up with help, and Carol won’t have to make the soup. Ezekiel is the one known for making community, while Carol’s strength has always been as a fighter. Or at least for a long time.

Daryl, meanwhile, is riding through the woods when a hose on his bike springs a leak, and the bike comes to a halt. There’s a nice parallel of Daryl going off on foot to look for a spare part, while Carol goes through the pantry and starts the soup. She hears a noise and finds Dog destroying the house – he’s after a rat. She finds a book on the table – The Golden Age of Piracy – clearly a little light reading for Daryl! Dog then runs into the pantry and knocks over the soup. Carol then builds a rat trap. Rat is supposed to taste like chicken… AND rat used to be eaten at sea when provisions ran low!

Carol goes outside the wall for more ingredients. As she’s leaving Jerry asks how the soup is coming along, and she tells him fine. Once she’s outside, she’s beset by a group of walkers. Carol breaks off and there’s a moment when she looks a bit worried, and then she’s clearly in her element, taking out all of them. She wipes the blood off her hands as she gathers up her little red bucket of “greenery.”

The scene shifts to Daryl’s foraging through some rusty, abandoned cars for a hose that will do. There’s a car with a surprisingly agile walker in it – locked in. It’s another brilliant way to maintain social distancing on set! Daryl crawls under the car, and the walker starts moving around, almost tipping the car which is teetering on an incline, onto Daryl. He bangs on the car with his foot, getting the walker to move back, gets the hose he needs and rolls out with it.

Carol appears back in Alexandria, covered in blood. Again, the only person she sees is Jerry, and he asks what the hell happened! She says nothing and keeps walking. She tells him she got tasty and nutritious weeds, she’s ok and getting back to it. This is domestic, cooking Carol, and we all know that’s just a fa├žade, right? The rat trap still hasn’t been sprung when she returns.

It’s when Daryl goes to fix the bike that he remembers he never got his knife back from Carol – she’s been using it to cut up potatoes. He can’t use his walker-knives to fix the bike – they are too big – so he starts pushing the bike.

Meanwhile, Carol is still using his knife, this time to fix a solar panel. Jerry wheels by with a wheelbarrow and asks if she needs anything – and just to let him know. His wheelbarrow is orange, but it put me in mind of yet another famous poem – this time William Carlos Williams – “The Red Wheelbarrow”: “so much depends/upon/a red wheel/barrow” – it’s another poem about community. And while the wheelbarrow isn’t red, Daryl’s knife and Carol’s bucket are… 

Carol is able to get the lights to work. Daryl pushes the bike up onto some train tracks and sees a group of walkers. He uses his binoculars to take a closer look. He sees a soldier – and clearly thinks the soldier may have tools on him. Daryl is so intent on the soldier that he loses his forest craft and steps on branch making a large crack and attracting the herd there. As he’s walking away from them, he seems to start limping, and I wonder if he actually hurt his ankle when he fell down that incline. The walker soldier had fallen down it and got trapped but when Daryl falls down it gets loose and attacks him. Daryl manages to kill him and is really limping when he gets up. Daryl finds all kinds of useful things in the soldier’s pockets and pack, including the tool he was hoping for. The other walkers then fall down the incline and Daryl is able to make it back to the bike.

As Daryl is working on the bike, a second soldier-walker starts crawling toward him – it has no legs. Daryl goes through it’s backs and finds more useful things, including MREs. Daryl then proceeds to fix his bike. I thought the two soldiers, clearly together until the end, were fitting metaphors for Daryl and Carol. The fact that both are also struggling to find their purpose in the community is also laying the groundwork for the spinoff when the two will hit the road together…

Back in the pantry/kitchen, Carol has caught the rat, but it gets away when she tries to get it out of the trap and after a fruitless chase, it runs into the wall – and she stuffs the hole with the scarf. And then the power goes out because the sun is going down. It occurred to me that Carol might have made better use of her time if she’d been trying to fix the other solar panels…

Carol goes up to bed – and of course, Dog goes with her and hogs the bed. She says to Dog that he misses Daryl – but of course, she does. She tells him that he’ll be back, he always comes back. And she clearly means that Daryl will come back to their friendship. Carol is thinking about leaving again. Getting out of everybody’s hair. She tells Dog that she misses him too. 

Daryl spends the night finishing fixing the bike. Carol’s sleep is interrupted by Dog, who hears the rat downstairs. Carol heads down armed with a flashlight and Daryl’s knife. She cuts into the drywall, and then spends the rest of the night destroying the wall trying to get to the rat. It’s really her modus operendi… I loved that you can hear helicopter blades and the music crescendos as she finally gives up and sinks to the floor. Dog comes and lays in her lap. 

In the morning, the soup is bubbling happily away and Carol is cleaning up the mess of the wall. Jerry comes by and Carol opens the garage door. He notices the wall, and she immediately says it’s fine, she’s “fixing” it. Jerry isn’t fooled. He tells her that his cover story was that he was coming by for soup, but he’s really there to check up on her. She asks if she needs checking up on. He tells her that if Ezekiel were there, he’d be with him, and then Jerry admits that he should be checking up on Ezekiel too. He knows that in different ways Carol and Ezekiel will sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Carol assures Jerry that Ezekiel is probably on his way back with the others. She asks if he can’t just let people like her suffer in peace – but of course he can’t. Let’s not forget her coming to the kingdom and Jerry and Ezekiel bringing her food. This is a lovely parallel to that too. Jerry tells her, “Caring. It’s a real problem.” Carol admits that yesterday was a bad day. 

Jerry tells her that Ezekiel would have a saying for her situation. She tells him that she doesn’t need a saying, she just needs to fix what she broke. Jerry gives her one anyway: “a friend is someone who thinks you’re perfect, even if you are broken.” Carol points out that she didn’t even tell him why she’d had a bad day, and Jerry tells her that he noticed Daryl didn’t come back with her. Two plus two equals eureka. She asks what if your best friend finds out you are broken and just realized it a whole lot later than everyone else? Ezekiel would probably have a saying too, but Jerry doesn’t know what it would be. She asks Jerry what he would say, and he just steps in and hugs her – and the rat runs out of the garage – she’s exorcised her demons. She invites him in for soup.

Carol is fixing the wall when Daryl arrives home. This is where she tries on the scarf, realizes that it isn’t her, and throws it out. She can’t fix everything. Daryl and Carol both notice the other is a mess. The tell each other they’re fine. He asks how Dog was, she says fine. He says he found some stuff. She invites him in for soup. He says thank you, but he’s fine. She offers to give him his knife back, but he tells her to keep it. He goes to hit the sack and Dog goes with him. Carol goes into the garage and closes the door… They seem to have reached that truce at least.

I wasn’t really impressed with this episode on first watch, but it’s one of the episodes that is brilliant and layered once you really pay attention. McBride is particularly good in this episode as we see Carol really trying to find a new equilibrium and not fall apart thinking she may have lost her best friend. Reedus is always best when he’s left to just show us how Daryl is doing. Getting under that car was reckless. Going after that soldier was necessary, but was it all about that pack? Could these soldiers be some of Leah’s old troop? What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!