Even though it should be obvious that TV.com episode reviews contain spoilers, I'll throw up a spoiler warning anyway because I'm going to get right to what happened in "The Grove." So here it is, there are spoilers ahead!
Ever since the first syllables of idiocy dribbled out of Lizzie's mouth in The Walking Dead's Season 4 premiere, I wanted her die, and said so at pretty much every opportunity since. From my review of "30 Days Without an Accident": "I can't wait for those kids who were naming zombies to die. It's going to be so great!." Well be careful what you wish for, Tim, because "The Grove" went to some really dark places to earn the title of most affecting—if not flat-out best—episode of the season. Oh who am I kidding, this WAS the best episode of the season, first and second halves of Season 4 included. Why? Because it made me feel queasy and hollowed out the joy from my soul like good television should.
I'm about as morally bankrupt as they come, and even I was like, "WHOA, The Walking Dead, you may have gone too far" when Carol told Lizzie to look at the flowers and then sprayed said flowers with her brains. Maybe it's because I've gone soft because I'm a new father myself, but I'm not okay with killing children! I'm with Whitney; I believe the children are our future and if we kill them all, our future will be pretty bleak. And there's a huge difference between a TV show killing a child by letting her get eaten by a zombie and a TV show killing a child by having another character shoot her in the head while she's in perfect physical health. That is pitch-black dark stuff, and something that should never be taken lightly.
That being said, if there ever was a good time to kill a kid, that was it! Lizzie's mental illness or general stupidity—I think it's still up for debate what was really wrong with her—had reached a critical point of no return. That girl was so far gone that she knifed her sister Mika in the tummy just to prove her misconceived point that walkers are just like us or whatever hooey she was harboring in that peanut-sized brain of hers. Not only was Lizzie not fit for this world, but she was a threat to Judith's safety (especially since Tyreese and Carol left the kids alone with each other all the time) and everyone else she crossed paths with. Would YOU want to sleep under the same roof as Lizzie? If she had no problem killing her own sister, you'd better believe she would shank you as nonchalantly as she would brush her teeth.
But she was still a child, and so we have to wonder whether Carol's decision to kill her was premature. I actually was initially offended that The Walking Dead would do this. Me! Offended! By a television show! That's pretty much unheard of. Could a stern talking-to have reprogrammed Lizzie to understand that zombies are bad? Would she have outgrown her fascination with undead playmates after she entered her boy-crazy phase? Was there any alternative action that Carol and Tyresse could've taken? Even though I'd wanted Lizzie to die a horrible death, in that instant I found myself trying to come up with ways to keep her alive, and in total shock when I heard the sound of her body hitting the ground. This is The Walking Dead at its strongest, when it's prompting its audience to ask difficult questions and providing even more difficult answers that viewers might not want. This show just got real again.
"The Grove" also aired out some dirty laundry when Carol admitted to Tyreese that she'd killed Karen and David. That's not the kind of heavy dialogue anyone wants to hear when working on a jigsaw puzzle, but good on Carol for getting the truth out in the open. And it was the right time for her to do so. Earlier that day she'd killed a kid, so it would've been pretty rude of Tyreese to make Carol's day even worse. And from Carol's point of view, there are a couple ways of looking at her confession: Either she felt confident enough that her actions with Lizzie had proved to Tyreese that she's able to make tough decisions and follow through with them for the better of the group, therefore giving more credence to her decision to kill Karen and prevent an outbreak, or killing a kid really put Carol in the pits and she just didn't give a shit anymore. By sliding the gun over to Tyreese, she put her fate in his hands; it was her way of apologizing and putting the onus on Tyreese while believing that he knows the difference between killing someone who's a threat and someone who's trying to do the right thing. Carol continues to be The Walking Dead's best character by carrying the weight of doing the dirty jobs no one else wants to do. Gray areas all around!
What I particularly appreciated about "The Grove" was the way it set everything up. I went into the episode knowing something bad was going to happen, and there were clues all over the place intimating that Mika was going to die or Lizzie was going to die. As it became clear that Mika didn't have the tools to become the type of survivor she needs to be in this world, I wondered if Carol was going to put her out of her misery. Her line about Mika reminding her of Sophia could've been interpreted a few different ways. Was Carol fond of Mika because se saw bits of Sophia in Mika, or did Carol already see Mika as already a goner and it was just a matter of time before she was creeping out of a barn as a zombie? And even as all signs pointed toward Lizzie needing to go, I never really believed it would happen until Carol pulled the trigger.
"The Grove" was another good example of how The Walking Dead is benefitting from slower stories and its new habit of focusing entire episodes on just a few characters. Beth and Daryl's character-centric episode told a heartwarming story about hope, and "The Grove" flipped the coin with a plot-heavy hour of doom and gloom (which had the neat side effect of also being very rich in character development). The Walking Dead needs both types of stories to be great, and they're only well-executed when an episode fully commits to them. Splitting up the group seemed like a terrible idea early on, but this middle-to-late portion of Season 4B is revealing that it's probably the best thing that could have happened to the show. Also, I will just throw it out there that the best episodes as of late haven't contained a single glimpse of Rick, Carl, and Michonne. (I do not miss them one bit.)
"The Grove" was a brutal episode of television that was as difficult to watch as anything in recent memory. And any episode that makes me squirm uncontrollably is doing something right. Yet the murder of a very uninfected Lizzie didn't feel like something the writers' included for shock value, it felt like a necessary story to remind us exactly what kind of world these people are living in. I loved "The Grove," and it easily makes the list of my top five episodes of The Walking Dead. What did YOU think?
– Is there anything cuter than a .GIF of an adorable little girl shooting the top of a zombie's head off?
– And of course clumsy zombie goes into my zombie hall of fame. Silly zombie!
– Pretty sweet cold open with Lizzie playing tag with a walker. If that wasn't an indication of how F'd up this episode would be, I don't know what was.
– A second viewing of this episode revealed some more disturbing logic from Lizzie: When she saved Tyreese back at the prison, she was sad that she shot whatsherface in the head because she wanted her to come back as a walker. Yikes.
– I know I've said this before, but between Lizzie and Mika, why did Mika always get to carry the gun? It should've been stone-cold Lizzie, the dead-eye shot, handling all the firearms. Mika even admitted she couldn't shoot people. And when Lizzie wasn't holding a gun she was holding Judith, and we all know how smothery that can get.
– Why did Carol and Tyreese leave the kids alone at every opportunity? Don't they know that kids smell extra tasty to zombies?
– Here's a deleted scene that I'm glad The Walking Dead didn't use:
– Melissa McBride (Carol) continues to do amazing work now that she's getting great material.
– Finally the great debate over who was feeding rats to zombies and who dissected a rat in the prison are settled, but admittedly, they're a little bit anticlimactic. And they also destroy this awesome theory that Bob was dissecting the rat because he was working on a cure.
– It's cool how all the split up survivor groups are seeing evidence of each other's existence. In "The Grove," it was Beth and Daryl's act of arson that Carol and others saw in the distance. However, it also makes you wonder how they haven't run into each other more, especially with so many gunshots.
– Burnt zombies are the best zombies!
AIRED ON 4/2/2017
Season 7 : Episode 16