This city belongs to the dead.
Perhaps the most harrowing aspect of “Consumed”, the sixth episode of this 5th season for The Walking Dead is the vision of night time Atlanta. The snapshot from the 1st season, when Rick rode in on his horse and the seemingly endless sea of cars trying to escape the city stood in stark contrast is replayed here. In the dark of evening, the thoroughly dilapidated landscape is even more ominous than it was the first time.
The opening segment with Carol after she had been cast out by Rick was marvelous to watch. Hardly a word was spoken in the entire scene but it was an example of fine acting on the part of Melissa McBride. The normally stoic Carol breaking down was heart-wrenching to see because this is a character who has kept everything tight to the vest for much of the last 2 seasons. For her defenses to break, the blow would have to be almost thermonuclear in power. It seems a relatively short exile because the fires from the Governor’s assault on the prison draw her back to the group she once called family.
I’ve commented before that the relationship between Daryl and Carol is one of my favorites precisely because it is intimate without sex. I’m sure there are those in the fandom that have been shipping for these two characters since the 2nd season. Frankly, I would find it insulting if the writers took that route. Their relationship is that of equals, of people who endured horrible abuses at the hands of loved ones and know all too well how important family should be. Introducing a sexual dynamic into the relationship would not do their dynamic justice.
The scene where Carol found Daryl burning the bodies was touching in more than one way. I think in this moment Carol is adrift, not knowing where she fits anymore. Killing the dead seems to be a respite from this gnawing feeling of uncertainty. Daryl’s quiet reserve and strength, a simple act of letting her sleep while he handled a task that would remind Carol too much of her lost Sophia, is something I can see Daryl doing naturally. Daryl possesses the keenest sight for those around him, their strengths and their weaknesses, and their moments of fragility.
The continuing motif of plumes of smoke makes me think of a simple Bible passage. “A pillar of smoke by day” was supposedly how Yahweh would lead the Jews through the desert to the Promised Land. This reoccurring image of a pillar of smoke during the day is leading Carol to a discovery about herself and where she fits in this world after all the things she’s had to do.
Noah’s appearance marks the turning point in the episode. The car stunt was executed well, with slow building tension to the point of the inevitable fall. But it was scene directly after, where Daryl and Carol reminisce about who they were before and who they are now that captivated me. The title of episode refers most blatantly to Carol being consumed by doubt. It is a doubt fueled by the removal of all her safety nets. Her pleading save Noah from his fate is a moment of her remembering part of who she is at her core: a protector. I think Daryl shooting that zombie has more to do with appeasing Carol than it does with any altruistic feelings toward Noah.
The episode comes to a close with Carol a captive of the hospital crew. She will be what she always is: the fulcrum of change. The final two episodes seem to be shaping up to a confrontation with the hospital crew and the group to D.C. finding a new path. Where that will leave us off is anyone’s guess at this point. The phrase “we ain’t ashes yet” comes to mind as the episode ended. Through life there is hope. Through hope, the possibility of starting anew.