‘The Walking Dead’: Don’t Play With Dead Things

Published 6 months ago by

Chad L. Coleman in The Walking Dead season 4 episode 14 The Walking Dead: Dont Play With Dead Things

[This is a review of The Walking Dead season 4, episode 14. There will be SPOILERS.]

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Over the past few weeks, The Walking Dead has been on something of an upswing, in terms of finding a better balance in its overall tone and in the characterization department. There has been the purposeful nature of the incredibly welcome, but sadly little-seen Abraham Ford to shine a bit of a light on things. Then there was the seemingly inextinguishable optimism and pro-togetherness of Bob, a recovering alcoholic who had given up his days of sipping NyQuil – while pointlessly staring at the dead – so that he could walk with the living, find purpose (there’s that word again) in maintaining a group, and possibly wind up in Terminus – where things will either be better or, in keeping with the show’s relentlessly nihilistic past, a whole lot worse.

As it turns out, all that supposed positivity and sense of intent was apparently in preparation for ‘The Grove’, an episode that, given its content, a lot of people will likely have a very strong reaction towards, one way or another.

The episode is no doubt a very heavy and dramatic one that focuses the entire hour on Carol, Tyreese, and the two young sisters in their care, Lizzie and Mika. (Judith is there, too, but aside from being a tragedy waiting to happen, her participation is fairly minimal.) Much of the story takes place a few days walk from Terminus – or so Tyreese and Carol seem to think. Tyreese is suffering from an infection from a cut on his arm, while Carol’s busy keeping three young kids alive in the wilderness. As folks on The Walking Dead are wont to do, the group stops at a semi-secluded house in the woods, so they can rest for a few days. But after clearing the house with minimal fuss, its relatively plentiful supply of pecans and clean water, and seemingly abundant deer in the area have them all thinking about setting up shop for the time being.

Chad L. Coleman and Brighton Sharbino in The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 14 The Walking Dead: Dont Play With Dead Things

As far as plots go, it’s fairly standard stuff for The Walking Dead, and Tyreese and Carol were certainly two characters deserving of some screen time. The only problem is, ‘The Grove’ so clearly wanted to (or had to, given what little time has actually been spent with Lizzie and Mika) set up its climactic Of Mice and Men-style ending that it became one of the most hackneyed and strained episodes in recent memory.

Perhaps a great deal of that has to do with the limits of the child actors, as that can always be a problem when it comes to delivering material intended to draw out a strong emotional response. And it does deliver a strong emotional response – if there’s anything about this episode that will likely come closest to reaching a consensus, it will almost certainly be that. Unfortunately, when you stop to consider the lack of work that’s been put in beforehand, the episode just doesn’t earn it. Lizzie’s sudden vocal objections to the killing of zombies felt like too far a jump in terms of her character’s established pro-walker stance. Meanwhile, Mika spent most of the episode talking to Carol about her moral objections to killing with a verbal dexterity slightly below that of a mildly inebriated first-year philosophy major. In other words: the show simply hadn’t given the characters enough time to arrive at the place they were emotionally and developmentally for most of the episode.

But it is somewhat difficult material to discuss, so let’s be clear: the issues addressed in this review aren’t necessarily over the content of the episode; The Walking Dead is what it is, and there’ll frequently be uncomfortable deaths to look at (or not) and analyze, as part of the endless stream of horrors these characters have to deal with in this particular world. The issue with the episode stems from the deliberately manipulative way in which ‘The Grove’ arrives at its two most resonant moments.

Melissa McBride in The Walking Dead season 4 episode 14 The Walking Dead: Dont Play With Dead Things

The thing is, creating a scenario that’s guaranteed to elicit such tremendous feelings is one thing, but it needs to be earned; it needs to come from a place where the end result doesn’t feel so telegraphed. Moreover, knowing that the climax of a story is going to cause a strong reaction in no way excuses the sheer amount of overwrought dialogue and overt handholding Scott Gimple put in to first reminding everyone of Carol’s deceased daughter, and then drawing a parallel between that and her inability to protect another girl without “a mean bone in her body,” when Lizzie kills Mika.

Now that doesn’t mean that ‘The Grove’ is without its powerful moments, or its great performances, because Melissa McBride and Chad L. Coleman are both terrific here. Carol’s ultimate decision to kill Lizzie, because the child’s mental state has her unable to “be around other people,” and Tyreese’s offer to forgive Carol for murdering the woman he cared for, wind up being two of the most impressive scenes this season that also happen to stand far above the more obvious content here.

Ultimately though, all anyone’s going to really take away or remember from the episode is that two young girls died, and one of them was by the hand of a woman who was her ostensibly her surrogate mother. It’s resonant to be sure, but it was all delivered in such an unsubtle, deliberately manipulative way, you could all but see Gimple handing out the tissues, just in case someone needed to dab their eyes. Maybe if the season had spent more time with Lizzie and Mika, ‘The Grove’ would feel different, but in the end, it’s just the show dictating what the audience should be feeling, rather than giving them an honest reason to feel anything at all.

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The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with ‘Us’ @9pm on AMC. Check out a sneak peek below:

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  1. I find it ironic how at the end of this article, the writer’s “opinion” states that “…it’s just the show dictating what the audience should be feeling, rather than giving them an honest reason to feel anything at all.” Yet, this whole article is dictating the readers to think and feel the opposite way of how “The Grove” was set up. It has a very poetic feel to the episode, and it doesn’t really have to deal with the kids alone. If the audience follow the story line, then it is obvious that the episode isn’t focused on the ties between the audience and the two girls nor Tyrese. It’s the tie between Carol and the two girls. The one thing the writer fail to mention was the struggles Carol had to go through with her own daughter, Sophia, in previous season 2. It took a lot for her to be a surrogate mother to these two girls, and if you look at it poetically, Mika resemble’s Sophia, while Lizzie was the other version Sophia after she had turned into a walker (a montster). Carol couldn’t take the life of her own, but this episode was like saying, now she can make that decision she couldn’t have 2 seasons ago. Now she can decide when or when not to let go of something and for what necessary reasons. So don’t “dictate” the readers into believing something they don’t feel.

  2. This IS a show about a Zombie Apocalypse, not a romantic comedy. The minute they introduced kids into the show’s characters, you should have known they could also be some of the show’s victims. I have to admit, I hadn’t thought of the psychological toll and possible/probable damage to children in that atmosphere. It was brilliant writing, excellent acting on all parts, and nothing to criticise. If you demand happy endings for everyone, or for at least the children, you’re watching the wrong program. Carols’ daughter wasn’t as character developed as these two girls were, thus the extra shock value. And I’m not a gore lover. One of the big reasons I like this show is the “study” of the varied human reactions and possibilities during a societal breakdown. One hundred people will react one hundred different ways. Now, consider six billion people thrown into chaos.
    I liked the fact that I didn’t see that coming! This is getting better rather than getting stale. Kudos to all writers, and staff on this episode. It’s got people talking! (After they picked their jaws up from the floor.)
    And, hint: Your kids shouldn’t be watching this anyway.

  3. I thought the episode was great, but not to be too cruel, I wish Lizzie would have gotten attacked by a walker and slowly realized she was wrong as it bit her slowly to death. The writer’s and producers are doing a fantastic job but if they kill off Daryl, I hope they know they’ll wish they wouldn’t have.

  4. Don’t know what the author here is talking about. All one had to do was listen to the remarks Lizzie has made since her introduction to realize that Sunday’s episode was not a “leap” for her in regards to how she felt about the dead. Loved the Of Mice and Men tie-in.

  5. I thought to show was one of the best of the season. This is what this show is about… the gritty reality of survival and despair. These people have been pushed beyond normal and their actions are evidence of that fact. I have kids and I felt the pain of their decisions… The point is that we would have no idea how we would transform in those circumstances and their actions, however unsavory, are feasible. As is their grief and despair.

  6. I’m not sure which is more ridiculous, the overly critical review or the fact that nobody bothered to proofread this article before it was put online.

  7. The last few episodes I was talking to everyone telling them that The Walking Dead was over for me!! This episode made me love it all over again now the group needs to get together soon

  8. I rewatched the episode; now able to study it with fierce scrutiny.

    It’s a hallmark movie…with zombies.
    Horrible writing. Terrible acting.

    Felt like I was watching a series on ABC Family.

    If you enjoyed this episode, could you answer me something:

    What’s PRETTY LITTLE LIARS? My kids watch it & I’m sure fans of this episode are at their level.

    • Why re-watch something you didn’t like the first time around? You must have something better to do with your time.

      • Wife hadn’t seen the episode yet.

  9. There sure is a lot of complaining about this season being dedicated to character development and letting the audience know who the people were, are and who they’re becoming. You sound like my 13 year old who only likes the episodes with action. If you want a shoot’em up zombie flick there’s hundreds to choose from. Save yourself some time and go buy one. If you like story lines that have a bit of depth then enjoy it. If you think about it, were this a real situation everyday would be different. It wouldn’t always be bashing skulls and shootouts with villains.
    I personally don’t want the show to end so I’m glad to see them drag their feet a bit. And for those complaining about children being killed. Do you think that it wouldn’t happen in that type of world. Use your imagination people, it’s fake but it’s trying to show you a realistic scenario. If you don’t like the show or you’ve grown tired of it, why do you continue to watch.

    • Read my past comments, buddy, my complaint is that they haven’t been dragging their feet to focus on enough character development.

    • But seriously, Brian, what’s Pretty Little Liars? My daughter & her friends won’t shut up about it…
      Does it have a lot of this “character development” you’re pretending you know of?

    • My stupid phone made it look like your comment was a reply to mine. Please disregard my stupid, accidental, trolling.
      Sorry.

    • Always the same … as mentioned many many times before: IT’S NOT ABOUT MORE ZOMBIE ACTION!!!!

      But about annoyingly slow pacing, character development within the group and connected with the main (group) plot and not isolated, pseudo-meaning and wannabe-poetic writers ambitions, lack of overall plot direction (because of too many stand-alone episodes), …

      And also always the same dumb advice to stop watching and complaining as if criticism isn’t essential for a review site like this (and also the right place!).

    • Brian, character development and filler, are not the same thing, and this season is full of filler.

  10. I don’t share the “not enough zombie action” sentiment that many people have been voicing for the following reasons:

    1) More zombie action, without Darabont, is going to just get obviously monotonous… Heck it already is kind of repetitive. Nicotero and Gimple are certainly talented, but are they visionaries? No. Darabont is a virtuoso, and since he was let go, we’ve been getting second-seat quality from behind the lens at best. Because of this premise, the amount of character focus the show has been giving is totally fine with me.

    2) We get a decent amount of zombies in the first place. The deep fried ones in this ep were pretty awesome! Returning to my first point, though – the crispies were a “special effect” kind of awesome, which is okay… but Darabont would give us a “situational” kind of awesome — far more effective in the long run.

    Not saying I vastly disapprove of the show or anything — I love the show; can’t wait for it every Sunday. I’m just a fan of the less-is-more approach. I find that method scarier and more artistic. The fingers reaching through the chained hospital doors in the pilot episode, for example… wonderful.

    As for people’s issues with the dialogue… I mean… okay, could be better. I can watch the pilot ep over and over again, in part, because the dialogue has to do with understanding and fixing the problem… I mean come on, there are reanimated corpses walking around trying to eat the living. Furthermore, every living being is going to turn into one of them…

    I don’t care how much time you spend in that world, you’re gonna want to talk about that issue again at some point, right!? Find a group of scientists who might know what is going on… Right!?!

    Again… I love the show and devoutly tune in for both showing each week. But… Going from one safe house to the next and not caring to find answers is a drawn out version of “Survivor: Apocalypse – How to clean your laundry.”

    • PS – that being said, I hope the spin-off takes the problem-solution approach…

    • It is difficult to worry about the problem/solution when surviving is a challenge. Few people would be able to spend energy mental or physical on the cause and cure of a zombie pandemic when they have to concentrate on finding enough food, shelter, a place safe enough to sleep, protection from zombies and people. The characters on this show are struggling with just basic needs required for survival. No one with such challenges is going to be thinking about saving the world until they have a safe place to rest and reliable sources of food and water. Even when at the prison they still had to continually work to keep out the dead and other people as well as scavenge for food and supplies. Between the governorr’s two attacks and the flu, they never moved beyond trying to survive. They are in a much worse situation now. Just my opinion…

  11. I dunno…maybe I’m not as sophisticated as other viewers because I’ve always enjoyed TWD…not as good as Sons of Anarchy or Hell on Wheels but it is still set on my DVR and I don’t miss an episode. The only other bit of zombie related media that I consider better is the Zach Snyder version of Dawn of the Dead.

  12. I disagree with the author about the review. I find the progress of the story very natural and organic, nothing manipulative or artificial about it.

    Some people always had to look for imaginary pennies under the chair so that they can complain about it so that they think they can look smarter than they really are.

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