The Walking Dead continues its run of episodes focused around one set of characters, and it continues to pay off. “Consumed” has us following Carol and Daryl for an hour, which should satisfy most fans, as these two characters are arguably the favorites for a majority of viewers. Unpacking an episode like this can be interesting, as it is essentially filling in the gaps for the main story arc, due to the fractured timeline this show has deliberately gone for, while also serving as a mood piece that allows two characters to interact in ways that are both subtly played and heavy-handed at times. There are some minor issues, but for a series where focus on characters talking used to be the weakest aspect, the fact that this show has reached a place where that element can be exciting makes for a strong episode of a show that can also have half a decayed body crawling out in front of the camera.
To keep one thing in mind, this is an episode about Carol. While it is nice to see Daryl and Carol together, as we watch the two of them hang out for a whole episode, the structure puts almost everything in her perspective. That is part of why this episode is not perfect, but I will address that later. Why I mention this being Carol’s episode, though, is because The Walking Dead has done a fine job of understanding what is important when it comes to finding a way to present these episodes with a singular focus. Last week we had an episode featuring multiple characters, who each had something to offer, but it was an episode seen from Abraham’s perspective. This week, The Walking Dead presents us with what life has been for Carol in instances, following the discussion that she and Rick had in season four, before being sent off on her own. Following these brief flashbacks, we jump back to the present timeline featured in “Consumed.”
Because of this, the show finds a way of giving us just a little more involving everyone’s favorite lady badass. Yes, we get the small drops about how she dealt with time away from the group, but we also received a depiction of a person who has dealt with a lot, since the world went to hell. Having a scene where Carol can react to the shadows of a zombified mother and daughter, followed by a reaction to seeing their bodies burned by Daryl, serving as a kind gesture, denotes plenty of well-handled understanding of how to display what makes Carol’s character tick. It only helps that this show manages a few scenes like this, without having to utilize too much dialogue; and especially not highly redundant dialogue to have us all feel spoon-fed with information regarding what occurred, plot-wise, in the past.
Additionally, as if the show needs to make a point of how far it has come, in terms of knowing how to balance the zombie action and the character drama, “Consumed” has plenty of walkers featured and a little action (including one awesome action set-piece that I will also get to later), but really does work as a nice character study, featuring two characters that have an interesting relationship. Really, this episode serves as a great example of how adept Melissa McBride and Norman Reedus have become at portraying these roles and showing off the chemistry that the two have together, which is so far away from romantic tension that it makes me laugh to see that still be a part of some conversations.
I have lots of praise for “Consumed,” as it does manage to do plenty within the confines of an episode built around two characters keeping a semblance of the main drive of the plot in mind, but allowing themselves to focus on other aspects of where they are at. With that in mind, I could not help but find fault in some areas of the episode. Some of it does come down to the writing. Now, as much as I have criticized the show in the past for its dialogue and treatment of certain characters for the sake of the plot over what seems to make more sense, “Consumed” has a bit of an issue with presenting a lot of the same conversations over and over again. The Walking Dead does have a knack for putting its characters into a zone where they can treat their situation like a college philosophy course and ponder what everything means. Daryl and Carol get into these discussions, and while the actors are strong enough to keep it from being not entertaining, there was a point where I realized that some of this does feel like the characters going in circles.
The other issue leads back to what I brought up before: this is Carol’s episode. Why does that matter? It is because “Consumed” decides to back away from actually concluding her episode. Rather than giving us real closure on where Carol ended, in her own mind, after seeing where she began in this episode, the episode treats her as a puzzle piece that has been moved to another part of the board (a part of the board we were already aware of). And it is not just that, the pushing of the plot onto us is done from Daryl’s perspective, which feels like a jarring shift form who we were following in this episode. To make up for the main plot getting in the way, we get a shot of fire (used as a walker distraction), which has been a visual motif throughout the episode (fire and smoke to be exact). I get where the episode is trying to come from, but at the same time, I did feel like I was left hanging for the sake of some intrigue based on plot over importance of character.
Still, this is also the episode where Carol and Daryl managed to escape a walker onslaught by falling off a bridge, inside of an ambulance. As if the writers and the rest of the crew understood how weird it would be to try and one-up the zombie hose scenario from last week, this week goes in a completely different direction, which is accomplished wonderfully, as the tension, build-up, and execution made for a very exciting couple of minutes. Again, this show has done a fine job of learning how to balance the differing types of dynamics and tensions that applies to a series like this, and it also provides me a way of saying that not all gripes are that drastic when so much good also exists in an episode.
“Consumed” continues to find The Walking Dead in a strong and confident place as a series. Taking a break from the ensemble to give us focused episodes is leading to interesting developments, as well as solid time spent with characters that could either use more developing or benefit by having more attention thrown their way. With that comes clever technical/special effect moments in the way of tense action, which I am also very happy to observe and give credit to. Next week looks like we get back to Rick and the gang, but I also know I am quite excited to see how this plays out. I will let them take it from here.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: It’s raining walkers.
- “Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates.” – A sign like this, showing that The Walking Dead is never above a good sign gag, Simpsons-style.
- As Daryl and Carol lay in a bed, next to each other, fanboys and fangirls everywhere squeed with excitement.
- Fun shots of downtown Atlanta, including one of the tank from the first season.
- Noah’s ‘fool me once, fool me twice’ routine worked well enough and made what was most likely much clearer, as far as who Daryl was within the woods from a few episodes back.
- Seriously, that ambulance scene was awesome!
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what I and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on the The Walking Dead TV Podcast.