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

Published 9 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. Something similar happens in the comics too. Although it’s two twins and Carl has to do the dirty work.

    • If i recall, in the comic, the twins are “carol’s” kids. this and the death her non-abusive comic husband is what causes her to go bonkers at the prison and embrace the walker that they had tied up for “study” in the courtyard, effectively committing suicide.

      • *SPOILERS FOR COMIC*

        You’re right about how Carol died in the comic, as comic Carol and TV Carol are completely different characters in how they act. Carol in the comics was just kind of nuts, always doing weird things, and yeah I guess she just couldn’t handle it all and committed suicide via walker.

        However, that didn’t have to do with the kids. The two twin kids were Ben and Billy. They were Allen’s kids, who got bitten in the prison and died. Since their father was dead, it was Dale and Andrea who took over as their surrogate parents. Ben killed his brother Billy and didn’t seem to feel anything about it (just like Lizzie here with Mika). There was a lot of issues discussed over what needed to be done about Ben, with Dale arguing that they can’t kill him. Eventually, Carl did what needed to be done though.

        I just recently got to this point in the comics about two weeks ago, so it’s still fresh in my memory. I was kind of expecting them to take a similar route on the show with Lizzie and Mika.

        • I was about to look back through my comics to find the specifics on that incident, because this episode was really harkening back to that. It was a key moment in the development of Carl in the comics, where he stepped up and did what none of the other adults could. Even if it was a childish over-simplification, he realized that Ben was screwed up in the head and the group wasn’t prepared to deal with his psychological issues. I feel as though it It fit better in the comics, the Lizzie/Mika version felt very abrupt…

          It gives me hope that they could still go back to other key moments that have been skipped. I really want to see the Hunters story line, and was hoping to see that this season… I really don’t like the second half’s style of breaking up the characters and having episodes center around a few. It works when a few leave the group to go look for supplies or something, but they way they’ve done it, It just feels like theres no purpose, other than not having to pay all the actors for each episode… I feel like i’ll be waiting until October to see anything really good

  2. Please stop saying these two child actors needed to “earn” their emotional and impactful scenes. They did their job in terms of getting us emotionally invest and emotionally devastated and frankly, freaked out by the fact that the older sister was a complete psychopath.

    • The review didn’t say the actors needed to earn it, but their character’s arcs.
      While there were subtle hints throughout the series, the two girls suddenly acted completely different in this episode.

  3. This was one of the best episodes of the entire series, let alone the season. McBride deserves some serious Emmy consideration.

    • Agree about McBride.

  4. I disagree with this review, I thought it was an amazing, thought provoking episode. The show has been hinting at Lizzie’s mental instability all season long. It’s obvious she was diagnosed with something before the world fell apart. Everything she has been through, everything she’s seen culminated into a complete shutdown and the murder of her own sister. She just wasn’t built to function in the world they live in now. Kind of the same with Mika. They were two sides of the same coin. Carol and Tyreese’s scenes were fantastic and if she had told him the truth out by the tree, he would have definitely killed her. Ah, I can’t believe we only have two episodes left! Anyone else think Terminus might be the home of the Saviors?

    • I agree with Huntress 100%. Yeoman’s last sentence makes absolutely no sense if Kevin has been paying attention to the show.

    • Even though the episode was driven by extreme circumstances, they LIVE in EXTREME circumstances. I agree with you on your assessement. I would like to ad that viewers can’t think about our current world and the choices we would make. In THAT world, there aren’t psychological facilities to try to handle the psychopaths that are left or created. Lizzie was obviously ALREADY disturbed before the big change, and so she was affected at the core level in her psychosis. Given that as a primary factor, combined with the fact she had ALREADY taken her sister’s life, it was only a matter of time before she killed either Judith, Carol or even Tyreese. In the event that Terminus is a valid place to be for rebuilding civilization in the Southeast United States, then it would not be a good idea to keep Lizzie in the gene pool for reproduction. It’s simple. She’s a psychopath. She probably would not survive anyway, and even if she survived much longer, then she would be a greater danger to those around her than can be tolerated for the circumstances. As sad as the decision was to make and implement, it was going to eventually be necessary anyway.

    • I’m willing to bet the group Darryl’s with is The Saviors; well, maybe not Negan and the other mains, but definitely part of that mini-army.

    • I agree that the review was wrong and it was a thought provoking episode. I also agree he would have killed Carol had she told him earlier. I am curious about the huge fire and smoke and the burned walkers. Are they burning walkers in Terminus? I also wonder if the group Daryl ended up with last week are from Terminus? I cant wait for the next episode but dread only 2 being left. Then having to wait until October for more!!!

    • I don’t understand why everyone is talking about Mika being “not right” because she doesn’t intend to kill living people. She’s a CHILD and children do not see the dangers in front of their face. It’s why children ski down a slope without a care in the world about whether they will break their legs or not. She was a typical child. Her “normalcy” highlighted Lizzie’s craziness. Yes, Mika was naive (but not stupid…she could see Lizzie wasn’t right in the head). She’s a CHILD but it didn’t mean she was “off” or lacked something. She didn’t want to kill living people. She had a moral compass. Most children do. They haven’t been jaded by the wolrd She was able to kill walkers. With a pretty good shot (in the burnt walker scene), I might add. RIP Mika.

  5. I laughed, I cried, I got angry. Rip my guts out, TWD! A fantastic episode from beginning to end.

  6. And here I was saying that the whole episode felt like it was taken from of Mice and Men. People found a place for a new beginning. The mentally unstable one makes a grave mistake and unfortunately takes a bullet from a revolver for what they did.

    And yet I still had people arguing with me saying it was nothing like it. Thank you SR for backing me up once again!

    • I kept thinking the same thing throughout the episode. When Carol took Lizzie out to get flowers for Mika, my friend and I both looked at each other and said in unison, “Tell me ’bout the rabbits, George.” I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but there was definitely some serious Of Mice and Men parallels here.

      All in all, I thought it was a grade A (maybe A-) episode.

  7. I thought this was the best episode of the series! I could help but notice the blatant rip off of the fallout 3 opening sequence though.

  8. I disagree with this review. What do you expect when you get five minuts of show and five minuts of commercials, they did their best. The episode was the best in a long while and hit it out of the park emotionally. People will be talking about this at work. This review proves there’s just no pleasing some people.

    • I thought it was just me, I DVR’ed the show and after fast forwarding through the commercials the episode seemed like it flew by.

  9. A little Easter Egg on TWD last night, the jigsaw puzzle on the table was a picture of Sophia….

    • A little preview for next weeks episodes feels like Daryl walked into the “hunters group”. We’ll see how it all turns out with these 2 remaining episodes

  10. Yeah, gotta say, disagree with this review. I understand its points, although I don’t agree that it was just a complete turnaround for the characters. They’ve been showing that Lizzie is unstable all season. I don’t see how it was in any way out of character for her to do what she’s done. I felt the show earned it in that respect. And I also just really liked the way it all played out. Awesome episode.

    However, with two episodes left, please tell me we’re done with these entirely character-focused episodes. They were great, but let’s please advance the plot a little now.

  11. I disagree with this review and like others found it to best episode in the series.
    Even though their story arc didn’t quite take Lizzie and Mikka where they needed to be up to till now. The actors completely made up for it. Those 4 actors, in 1 single episode had me completely scared of Lizzie (more than any horror film as had me scared in years), had me fully invested in the emotions of Carol and Tyreese and opened my eyes to sheer amount of problems that still lie ahead for everyone, even though those problems can be right in front of them.

    Bravo

  12. SPOILERS FOR THE COMICS
    SPOILERS FOR THE COMICS
    SPOILERS FOR THE COMICS
    …hrmmm… that beeing said, here’s my opinion…

    In the comics, yes, one of the twins kills his brother, saying, more or less what Lizzy said : “Don’t worry, (s)he’ll come back…I’ve left the brain.” Or something like that.
    I have the exact same idea than some on the blog on AMC about two or three weeks ago.
    It would have been far better, IMO, if indeed Lizzy did kill David and Tyreese’s girlfriend to prevent the infection from spreading — remember, she nearly killed baby Judith when she was crying to protect her and Mika from beeing spotted by the zombies some episodes ago. Carol would have surprised her after her double kill and, since she promised her father she would look after the girls, took the blame (in front of Rick).
    Remember, Rick, as an officer, discovered the bloody prints on the door weren’t very high, hence suspected Carol.
    After all, Lizzy did get sick early on and got quaranteed. Maybe from a brief contact with David and Tyreese’s girlfriend.
    It would have been interesting to see Carl, somewhat as he did in the comics, killing Lizzy for the good of the group, but imagine if it would have been to protect baby Judith from suffering the same wrath as Mika, as baby Judith would have been crying again but in the middle of the night with zombies approaching.
    The last episode of this season is called “A”. Carol taught a class to the kids back in the prison. I was sure that that was a reference to her class, as in “A”-student.
    Anyways, those are my two cents.

    • I don’t know that having Lizzie be Karen’s killer would have been better, though it is an interesting thought. To be honest, even though it never was Lizzie, the thought had crossed my mind that maybe Lizzie HAD done it, and Carol had just come afterwards to help clean up the mess. But, Lizzie’s hinted-at mental state changed my mind. And, as Carol said in the episode, Lizzie would have let them turn. Lizzie didn’t really fear the sickness, as far as I could tell, especially not enough to kill to save anyone. But, as for her own exposure to the flu, I DO think it was from being exposed to their blood; I believe she was in their cells afterwards and might have ‘played’ in it. We’ve seen her do it already once: when Glenn was sick and coughing up blood, she plays with the puddle of blood with her shoe, obviously showing a fascination with it.

  13. I disagree as well. I think it was established pretty early in the season that Lizzie wasn’t playing a full deck – talking to the Walker “Nick” at the fence, a natural with knives as well as a gun, killing the rabbits in the log, nearly smothering Judith, feeding the walkers, playing “chase” with the female walker… I thought it was all leading up to some kind of breakdown like this. I thought Brighton Sharpino did a great job all season in making me believe she was batsh*t crazy and needed to be stopped.

    Melissa McBride and Chad Coleman were amazing last night. I’ve really enjoyed these character episodes. They’ve gotten me invested in characters I might not have otherwise been. But yeah, two episodes left so I am anxious to see where these tracks are leading!

  14. I also disagree with this review. Lizzie’s character has been building to this all season, and saying it was a jump seems a little wrong. Otherwise, you’re asking the directors and writers to do the same thing you’re complaining about right now, just earlier – spoon feeding the viewers what they should think and feel by spelling it out for them. This episode just delivered on subtle hints and plot points that have been building for these two tragic characters. I thought that the ending was going to be a little different, though, with Carol actually tying Mika up and allowing Lizzie to get bit/eaten, and then die with a realization on her face of what had actually occurred. However, I think that would have been a better pay off if it were a parent/ undead child relationship, rather than a child/ undead sibling relationship, so I was happy how the storyline played out. The Tyrese/Carol conflict resolution happened too early in my opinion, but I liked it regardless. Man, that was a heavy, but great, episode!

    • Where is the baby????

      • Tyrese was carrying Judith on his back in a baby holder/backpack thing. She is alive! :)

  15. “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”

    This and exactly this. The emotion of this episode owes 98% of its origin to Mice and Men as well as the comic book presentation. The show could have developed these girls far more intricately and delicately but instead it spends 90% of their airtime in this episode and then throws them into a plot that was first conceived in 1937!? Is it effective – sure – are they really really trying with any of this – absolutely not. It’s an embarrassment. Its easy to see what the showrunner and writers are trying to do but the lack of effort and/or skill in doing it is awful. If you want to hold a candle to shows like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones they need to invest in the art of the process and stop endlessly feeding us tired themes and zombie munch.

    • +1

  16. It`s been like 6 episodes since Tyrese should have known about Carol`s actions (which by the “crime scene” it left earlier this season,seemed pretty gruesome and not righteous at all)but the writers thought it would build more tension if they didn`t told him until the end. Wrong, it was long overdue and the way Tyrese forgave her immediately after hearing it was the result of lazy writing.
    Also, Lizzie came off as schizophrenic, not psychopathic, so killing her felt cruel and rushed only so that TWD could shock it`s gullible audience and have an episode be called “ämazing” to no real merit.

  17. What show have you been watching? “Lizzie’s sudden vocal objections to killing zombies”? Lizzie has always thought of the zombies as people still, thinking they did not need to be killed…..

  18. I was so shocked and awed at last night show! Horror doesn’t get any better then this, folks! Deliciously horrified!!!!

  19. alls i want to know is y did they kill judith?

    • @ eden

      Judith isn’t dead,she was in backpack at the end of the episode. Lizzie did think about killing her though but Carol talked her out of it of-course.

    • Umm…wut?

      Didn’t notice the baby on tyreses back?

      • The baby was on his back at the end. Just like she was in the other scenes of walking along the tracks.

  20. Clearly Lizzie was damaged, she never accepted the walkers for what try are. She still seen them as people only different. Taking out Mika was the proof that walkers are still people. There was no coming back after killing her sister.

  21. Lizzie’s feelings toward walkers is nothing new. If you were paying attention to her as early as when Carol had to kill their father… remember they told Lizzie to look at the flowers way back then too. Lizzie is the one who named the walkers at the fence and objected to killing them even then. She is also the one who was feeding them rats at the fence.

  22. The show needs more diversity . maybe some lesbians, or a gay couple . show more emotional strings to pull at the hearts of viewers. The more the viewers can actually relate to the show, the more they’ll watch it.

    Id greatly appreciate atleast if nothing a response , but let me add. your show is bad assss

  23. I didn’t find the episode that disturbing, it’s the natural order of things in that world. I’ve been in combat several times and you’ve gotta do the hard stuff sometimes to survive.

  24. Did anyone else wonder if the fire that lingered throughout the episode was the one that Daryl and Beth started? If it was, then Tyrese and Carol have an interesting trip ahead of them. Also, they fired lots of shots in the show. Should be some fall out from all the noise.

  25. I disagree with this review too. It doesn’t take in to account that the whole series was focusing on the advancement of particular characters who are all in different groups and this group was last to go up. The fact that those two girls died is the reason Carol and Tyrese can still be with each other. Had the revelation from Carol happened another time, she would’ve died. Also not mentioned in this is the fact that Carol committed suicide in the end by giving Tyrese the gun and admitting to killing.

  26. Was a great,powerful episode to watch episode to watch last night. I must say if I was in Carol’s shoes, im not sure if I could bring myself to pull the trigger on Lizzie because id be stuck between leaving her on her own,,pulling the trigger. I know if we found another group, she can’t be around people. Guess id hate to be the one to do it as Carol did.

  27. Lizzie needed to be killed, we have known where they were going with this for a long time. They did sort of stint on Mika’s character, but over all it was what it was supposed to be. Horrifying and thought provoking.

  28. I disagree with you here…we are dealing with a great, intense show here that has only 12-14 episodes. There is a lot of things to cover in a short amount of time. I think most people would prefer concentrating on the “main” stories rather than spending too much time on side characters. Lizzie had been adequately shown to be an unstable sociopath by little scenes and comments, maybe they were too suttle for some to pick up on but they were there. And maybe I am wrong, but true fans of the show and the genre, feel bad for Mika..not Lizzie. Carol did what needed to be done. Simple. As far as Carol and Tyrese..their scenes were beautiful and perfect. This world moves quickly, so does the show, which again, considering the painfully short seasons, is a necessity.IT was a great episode. One of the best.

  29. I think what Carol did was necessary! That little girl was mental! I mean come on, she was playing tag with a zombie! And then screamed at Carol for killing her, that the zombie was her friend! Yes I believe in a world like that you try ti grasp the little things and try to make since in the best way possible. But Lizzie’s thought process was wrong, it was a bitter sweet moment. She knew they were zombies, but she couldn’t let go of what the world once was! I think Carol should have waited to show Lizzie that her point of view was wrong, but taking Lizzie’s life was honestly the best thing for that little girl because she was not going to learn the harsh reality of the “zombie world!” Carol has more guts then most of the characters on the show, she’s the back bone for a lot of people, and she makes tough decisions like the rest of the group, but the one thing that will always set her aside from the rest is the fact that she WILL always carry out those actions! I love this tv series and even with all the heart wrenching scenes, I will not stop watching!

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