After talking about the plight of children throughout The Walking Dead’s season, I couldn’t leave out Episode 14 of Season 4, entitled “The Grove.” This episode and “Clear” from Season 3 are likely my favorite episodes of The Walking Dead of all time.
Carol, Tyreese, Lizzie, Mika, and Judith happen upon a house in the middle of the woods. There is fresh water, abundant pecans, and even deer that have taken up residency in the area. It seems perfect, and the group decides to rest here and even toy with the idea of not going on to Terminus and staying in their new home instead. (I’ll note here that I made the mistake of knowing too much about Roman mythology and spoiled myself about what would happen at Terminus despite not reading the comic book series. At least I felt vindicated when what I thought was going to happen did happen.)
The scene that is set for us in this “grove” is one of tranquility. It is very much how Eden might have looked for Adam and Eve. This imagery becomes important later on.
This brings me to looking at the relationship between Lizzie and Mika. At first glance, particularly after the prison first falls, it is Lizzie who appears to be the stronger of the two, both physically and will-wise. Mika is too sweet, and the connection to Carol’s daughter is made multiple times throughout this episode. Mika even finds a doll and proceeds to play with it. Though she is not nearly as infantilized as Sophia was throughout the first two seasons, Mika is clearly unwilling to change to adapt to this new world. She does not want to be “mean” and does not want to kill, even if it’s a deer that they might eat.
However, it is Mika who understands the difference between human beings and the zombies that are now walking this earth with them.
Lizzie sees them as people too—she claims to be able to “hear” them. While Mika plays with a doll, Lizzie plays with a walker that she actually names the same as Mika’s doll, Griselda Gunderson. Lizzie toys with death, quite literally, twice in the episode: once with the walker “playing” with her, and the second when she feeds the walker stuck in the train tracks and admitting the thought wishing to be turned herself so the others can understand the walkers like she does.
Lizzie has given us a clue into her downward spiral earlier this season. She nearly smothers Judith when the baby will not stop wailing. It is implied there that it is Carol who rescues the girls from the walkers and Judith from being smothered. It is also clear, from Carol’s promise to their dying father in Season 3 and from the way the girls treat Carol that the woman has become their surrogate mother.
Lizzie and Mika are sisters who have survived this far, which is a feat in and of itself for children in The Walking Dead. However, they are doomed, and those who are paying close attention while they watch the show will know this. I knew the moment Mika found the doll that she was a dead girl. Then, when Lizzie “played” with her female walker of the same name as Mika’s doll, I sort of figured where the ending was going.
Lizzie and Mika represent Cain and Abel, respectively. Lizzie kills Mika in the hopes of showing the others what she knows about the walkers that others do not know. Cain kills Abel for any number of reasons, depending upon how one interprets The Bible. In any case, this little group has re-started in this pristine world that seems relatively untouched by walkers or other people. Lizzie is the first to commit murder in this place—this place that would have been their home and was their sanctuary. However, instead of allowing Lizzie to continue throughout the world with a “mark” upon her as was Cain’s fate, Carol and Tyreese agree that she “can’t be around other people.”
This marks the scene that is one of the best in the entire series. “Best” being in terms of writing, cinematography, choreography, symbolism, whatever. It’s absolutely perfect. Carol must shoot the girl who has become a surrogate daughter to her. Sororicide and, for all intents and purposes, child murder occurs in this episode, with the threat of infanticide weighing heavily on the minds of Tyreese and Carol. It is the tipping point in my mind, why they cannot allow Lizzie to live. She has already threatened to kill Judith, the one member of their group who is absolutely unable to defend herself. Lizzie has already threatened the survival of their species by killing her sister (which Lizzie does not even regret—just before she dies, she is only upset because she’s afraid Carol’s mad at her [Lizzie] for pointing a gun in her [Carol’s] direction), but has doubly threatened their survival and their humanity by willingly admitting to nearly killing Judith.
But the best line in this episode is spoken by Tyreese just before he and Carol come upon Lizzie holding a bloody knife, Judith lying on her blanket in the sun, and Mika’s dead body.
“The whole world is haunted.”
It is in reference to those who have died (Karen, Tyreese’s girlfriend, more specifically) before them. But in this instance, I believe this world is haunted by the need of doing what you have to do to survive, which is a theme Carol insists upon the girls throughout the episode. The world is haunted by infanticide, child murder—whatever you want to call it—because it is inevitably what must be done in order to survive. This threat constantly hangs over everyone’s heads, and this is why Lizzie cannot survive. She is the infanticidal haunting made literal.
While Lizzie is the physical embodiment of the infanticidal haunting over this world, killing her won’t stop it. As Tyreese says the world is haunted, as in present tense. Initially one might think that the world being haunted has something to do with the Walkers. However, as we’ve discovered, it’s the people who are haunted. Haunted by the disease that’s inside of them that turns everyone when they die. Haunted by their past, by what they’ve had to do to survive. And haunted by the future, which rests on the shoulders of their children, which is what this world has become so adept at killing.
Needless to say, I can’t wait to see what Season 6 brings.