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

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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. Are you kidding me? This was probably one of the best episodes- in this show. Nothing, but nothing came out of the blue- those who watch the show for its dramatic value can attest to that. Nothing looked kind of forced.

    And, it is a post-apocalyptic society in which survival is not guaranteed at all. So, no, not too much shock- adults watch the show. Carol executing Lizzie- for the good of the group- went along with her character. Tyresse forgave Carol because he saw her doing it- and understood why she had killed his beloved. So when he was asking “was it quick, did she suffer, was she aware’? He was asking both about his beloved and Lizzie- and understood how painful it had been for Carol- gee! It doesn’t get better than this.

  2. wow, the walking dead just gets creepier and creepier! it’s definitely not a surprise that lizzie was nutjob, god rest her poor damaged soul.. i do feel bad for mika, she was getting really cool.. i have to point up that both lizzie and mika were played perfectly, with their relatively small ammount of screen time, they really did a wonderful job, lizzie seriously creeping me out, and trust me, i’m not that easy to creep out… too bad the show has lost two wonderful child actresses and we’re stuck with carl again…

  3. Totally agree with “watcher”.. Actually Watcher should have written the article, as he/she makes much more sense than the original author? Questio: has the original author of this review been watching all along, or is this the 1st episode you have watched? it sure seems like the later based on your conclusions….

  4. For me, what Carol did to Lizzie is understandable and acceptable. Since they said that Lizzie cannot live with other people, means that if they are going to leave Lizzie alone (and alive) she will get closer to the walkers and will be bitten and will be infected. She will most likely be like them and can be killed in a most brutal manner. When Carol shot her on the head and died, Lizzie was given the chance to buried like a human being (which everyone deserves).

  5. I completely disagree that there had not been enough time spent in character or plot development to provide suitable foundation for this episode. It is definitely there. One of the things that I like most about this series is that they are not “in your face” with most dialogue. You have to pay attention to everything to know these characters -
    including tone, facial expressions, and
    actions as well as words. The character
    development is subtle and sophisticated, not
    blatant and unnatural, but it is most definitely
    there if you are watching and paying attention.

  6. Testing…I can’t seem to reply.

  7. The thought of an entire episode centered on Mika and Lizzie wasn’t very exciting for me. Leading up to this episode, I found the characters predictable and the performances lacking. The first half of the episode (especially the part where Mika tells Lizzie to look at the flowers to calm down after a near attack) didn’t do much to change my perception. However, once Lizzie completely unraveled, the episode (and her character arc) got really good. We previously spent enough time with her to know that she is…unstable, but we learned in this episode that she was totally off her rocker. I thought that she was disturbed enough to be the one feeding rats to the walkers and possibly even kill Karen and David, but I didn’t expect her to be demented enough to want to be a walker or kill her sister, not in cold blood – but to turn her into a walker she could befriend. I’m generally against killing kids, but at that point it was pretty clear what needed to happen. In retrospect, now realizing how effed up that character was I actually think the young actress did a pretty good job of playing it. I actually ended up feeling a little bad for her. She has some severe mental and emotional problems and has probably been off medication for quite a while. I know how off-kilter I can get after a few days without Adderall. Mika, on the other hand, stayed meh to me. I had my share of problems with this episode (Judith disappeared too many times, why did Carol and Tyreese continue to leave the girls alone?, Lizzie quickly going from walker sympathizer, to walker killer and back to sympathizer) but they were easy to overlook in favor of the overall story. I was ready to hate this episode (and did for much of the first half) but I ended up really liking it. It was a strong and affecting story from the apocalypse.

    • ” I’m GENERALLY against killing kids …”

      Good to know … yikes.

      • There are always exceptions to be made. :)

        • LOL

    • Agreed. The first half of the episode didn’t do much for me, but it had an incredible pay off. I didn’t think Lizzie’s actions were forced or out of nowhere, learning that she was the one feeding rats to the walkers showed that she’s been unstable for a LONG time, this was something waiting to happen.

    • I did not agree with Carol Killing Lizzie at all, the poor 12 year old girl had major mental problems and could not help it. Of course they needed to always keep a good eye on her for the safety of the baby and others. I hate what happened I may not ever watch it again, I made me sick!!

      • It was best for Lizzie to die, plus she annoyed me anyways, she was a loose cannon. She most likely would’ve found a way to kill Judith, possibly even Carol and Tyreese. She was insane, wanted to kill herself so she could be a walker. Chances are she wouldn’t have gotten help for her mental illness, so death was the best outcome for her. And I loved what happened- it was intense, and it urges me to continue watching. I love this show, and I thought the writers made a good decision on this episode.

  8. I though it was a great episode. I felt awful that Mika died, but let’s face it; it was only a matter of time before Lizzie killed someone & other than Judith, Mika was the most likely candidate. I think they won’t kill Judith as it would be just too awful for us viewers. And Carol & Tyreese would be hard for Lizzie to physically overpower. Anyway….that being said; I felt terrible for Lizzie too. She is obviously mentally ill. Maybe she would’ve been that way no matter what, or perhaps it’s just that this horrid world they all live in is too much for her & that’s what caused it. Either way, there is no help for her. No medication, no therapists, no hospitals or treatment. They HAD to kill her….I mean, either that, or leave her behind on her own; and which of those is the kinder option? I think I would’ve killed her too. But I do feel bad for Carol that she had to be the one to do it. That’s gotta be tough. And I think she finally told Tyreese that she killed & burned “what’s her name” (I forget)halfway hoping that Tyreese would then kill her & she would finally escape the utter HELL that is life in the Zombie Apocolypse. I think that if I had lost my kids & all others I cared about & I were in the world of “The Walking Dead”, I would’ve offed myself long ago. And finally…..Tyreese; so sad that he had to learn that Carol did that. He probably feels as if he can’t trust anybody every again. But he doesn’t want to be alone, I mean, who would right? And I believe he cares about Judith & her well being. So he’s kind of stuck with Carol, at least for now. But Good on him for forgiving her….That’s gotta be hard man. This episode was heartbreakingly awful to witness….and that’s what made it so extremely AWESOME. I love this show.

    • I feel bad for Carol too, I think in a way they were kind of setting Lizzie up as Carol’s replacement for Sophia… So it must have been hard for her to kill her that way.

  9. Ignore this. I had a swear word in my reply. That’s why it wouldn’t post. Keep it clean folks! :)

  10. Forgetting whether or not the episode was good, it happened. No going back for a do-over.

    Can we discuss whether or not Lizzie being put down Ol Yeller style was the correct decision for Carol & Tyrese?
    Was she too far gone to save?

    Personally, protecting Judith is the only reason I’d kill Lizzie; it’s just too great of a risk. But if the baby wasn’t there, I’m not sure I wouldn’t at least attempt to help lizzie.

    • If Judith was out of the equation then maybe you keep Lizzie alive, but like Carol said: “She can’t be around people.” I wouldn’t want to live with her in that cabin and I definitely wouldn’t want to take her to Terminus. Unless I happened upon a mound of psychoactive drugs, she would have to be put down. My gut reaction when I saw what she did to Mika would have been to shoot her right then and there.

      • When she said she was about to kill Judith too, I probably would’ve shot her on the spot.

        • Agreed. If not for Judith it would have made Carol’s decision tougher IMO.
          But it was only a matter of time before Lizzy offered herself up to a walker anyways, probably leading a bunch into the house in the middle of the night to surprise everyone.

          • Don’t forget, Lizzie already nearly killed Judith in the woods…. I thought the review was a bit harsh, you could see Lizzie was a wrong’un right from the time carol was teaching her to kill in the prison book lessons. And there is also a ‘told you so’ moment for rick but I think keeping Judith alive will help carols cause….. Carol would not have dropped Lizzie when she killed Mika as she already lost a daughter and Carol has shown to be sensible by burning Tyrees’s girlfriend.

            • Lizzie wasn’t trying to kill Judith in the woods; it was just that, in her mind, death was no longer a consequence…just a change.

              Which, at least to me, is far more terrifying

              • Lizzie nearly asphyxiated Judith in the woods, to keep her quiet but you are right, Lizzie was prepared to kill a baby it seemed without remorse or without thinking and that is pretty much a MO of a serial killer…. Shame that the Lizzie situation could not have lasted a little longer IMO, they could have done a bit more with that, perhaps Mika was killed a little early

  11. I thought this episode was as good as any horror scenario put on the screen.

  12. Worst episode yet. To see the grown ups abandon the kids (and the baby for christs sake) in a world full of zombies just to hug eachother is so extremely frustrating that it puts me completely off.

    Terrible choise by the writers here.

    • I literally said to my husband, “Why do they keep leaving the girls alone?” right before it all went down. When Carol was talking about Sophia and then referenced that Mika was just like her, I knew something terrible was going down. I myself have 2 little girls, so it really hit me hard. I was kinda hoping Tyrese would have done it for Carol though. But either way, super emotional episode, and Carol will always blame herself for it happening in the first place.

    • I hear ya. The characters have been through too much already to be so careless, but it was necessary to advance the storyline. Little things like that are aggravating to me, but are also easy to overlook in favor of the overall story.

      • Well i always thought they were able to leave them alone because… The house was more than secure enough for the girls and they knew enough to run inside and Carol and Tyresse were probably never more than a quick 10-15 minutes away… They were safe.. the house was stable and strong.. The one of the tenants unfortunately wasn’t stable and threatened it all. Sort of The Governor with Woodbury.

    • You should stop watching then.
      Or stop commenting, at least….

      • The ones who think a review and a board like this about the review and reviewed episode is just for the babble of praise and glory are really the most ridiculous ones … especially when giving advices like these.

        ” … Or stop commenting, at least….”

        Mirror?

  13. I thought it was only a matter of time before Lizzie got herself or someone else bitten because she was playing with a walker or could not kill a walker but I was not expecting what did happen. I thought we might find out that Lizzie’s mom or someone close to her had to kill Lizzie’s best friend because they had became a walker shortly after things started going south and that was why Lizzie saw walkers as people. Carol knew there was a problem with Lizzie and when she said she knew what she had to do (I expected her to go back to the railroad tracks and get bitten on purpose) they should have kept a closer eye on her. Oh well move forward you can not change the past(unless they decide to make the episode a dream sequence). Despite what Carol had to say about her I think Mika would have survived and become a valuable member of the group if not for Lizzie. She was smart and knew that walkers were dangerous and not human. She had no problem killing them.

    • I actually wondered about the best friend turned walker thing as well. I wish the writers had developed a back-story into why Lizzie insisted “she was my friend and you killed her!” when Carol killed the walker Lizzie was playing with. I assumed, of course, that it must have been linked to Lizzie’s history. I automatically assumed Lizzie’s best friend must have died and she must have tried to continue to be friends with her zombified friend so her parents ultimately “killed” her best friend. And now, Carol was awakening that memory all over again?

      But who knows… Maybe Lizzie was just insane. It could also be that in the apocalypse, she doesn’t get to have friends, and is delusional about being able to make friends with walkers.

      I really hope that like, if Terminus really IS as good as it seems, they can find someone linked to Lizzie who can explain all that s*** – some background, some mental diagnosis, idk. That’s just an ideal though, probably won’t happen.

      In that world though, Lizzie had to be killed. A psychotic little girl who believes the walkers are her friends in the zombie apocalypse is only going to get her group killed – or obviously kill them herself.

  14. The only thing wrong with The Grove (and the 3 episodes prior) is that it took too long to get where it was going. We all saw Lizzie’s demise coming long ago, so why waste an entire hour and a half of another episode to get to it?? The same goes for the Darryl and Beth storyline.

    Used to be, they could blend 4 or 5 story lines in one episode, getting us where we needed to go. Not so this last painful half of season 4.

    I still love the show…. Just don’t string me along. Lemme have it!

  15. It was definitely a shocker. I also had the feeling that the episode was leading up to something like this. I’m glad it wasn’t Baby Judith. I did not expect how it happen, but not surprised. Going back to past episodes, it has been strongly hinted that Lizzie had mental problems. If anything, I thought Lizzy would expire at the hands of a walker, you know like trying to play with it or bring it into the house, etc. I thought…”Oh no, not Mika!” I just wish it was just Lizzie, which is terrible, I know. I agree, she probably was on meds. prior to the ZA. I got the distinct message that Mika and Lizzie’s mother was always patiently explaining to Lizzie about things, based on Mika’s demeanor and not being hurt when Lizzie got the attention. Noticed she did not seem rejected when Carol hugged Lizzie and praised her after they killed the crispy walkers? I’ve seen how other siblings accept the situation when a sibling is in need. I recognized it, but did not expect Lizzie to turn on Mika. I was holding my breath that she did not harm Judith, too and let my breath out when they showed a close up of that angelic baby face. I have to keep in mind that this is fiction and after all it is the ZA. Still, I was saddened and shocked.

  16. Maybe im coldhearted. But in a world like that its all about survival. All the “feelings” bs is what gets you killed. Case in point the crazy little girl. Im glad Carol took care of it. Carols behavior is the only sensible thing ive seen in the show lately.

    • But if you get to the point where you no longer feel anything, where you’re just a robot…what’s the point of surviving?

  17. Great episode. Really excited to see how this show moves forward!

  18. They just replaced the two boys in the graphic novel with two girls

    • And took a very important moment of characters development away from Carl … not the best decision in my opinion. However, there are already so many bad decisions at AMC … one more doesn’t really count.

  19. I think one of the interesting things this episode did was tie up some loose ends. Carroll finally came clean to Tyreese. We finally found out who was putting rats at the fence, which I must admit, Lizzie been my pick as the culprit since it happened. I 100% disagree with “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” If you had picked on her being the one feeding rats to the walkers on the fence in the first part of this season, it’s no jump at all… it’s more like this is really the first point she’s been given the screen time to fill the viewer in on her opinion. I’d strongly recommend going back and rewatching the first part of this season, all the clues are there. If anything, it was a forgone conclusion Lizzie would kill someone.

    I do think the most important message this episode addressed was mental health in a child. Lizzie could have been helped with proper medical care, but in this word of the Walking Dead, good luck finding a shrink. Carroll had no choice but to put Lizzie down, she was more dangerous than any walker and there was no way to make her understand and no other way to help her.

    • +1

  20. You can always tell what type of person someone is when reading these episode reviews. I think this show is great because it’s focus on the characters really reveals things about yourself. Last night, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do in a similar situation. And based on this review, the person who wrote it is negative and not compassionate. This was one of the best episodes of the season, if not the entire series. Yet if their brain is trained to point out the bad things, negative people will still find something to not like about it.

  21. This was a well written, well directed and well acted episode.

    What was really great and why I think there’s no shock value for me is that, I try to view the show, not in a mindset of my life now but how the characters’ lives are on the show. So, you have to do what you have to do to survive.

    I read a poster’s comments on another board and thought they were quite intriguing. He/she wrote that perhaps Mica and Lizzie were both sides of Carol. Kind of a good and evil fight and in her actions, perhaps Carol will begin to feel more emotion. I don’t know. I think it was an interesting point of view.

    • Let me clarify, I DID think Mica’s death was a bit of a surprise in how it happened and who was responsible. Her death was not a surprise and neither was Lizzie’s. I actually considered that someone would have to kill her. She became too dangerous.

  22. Tyreese is awesome in this last nights episode. The look on his face is remarkably priceless. He not only acted as anyone would in their still rightful mind would after looking upon a very disturbed child. But he also showed he is an awesome person for meditating and then forgiving Carol for what she did back at the prison. Thumbs Up Tyreese!!!! **********

  23. I didn’t find it manipulative. We all knew Lizzie was damaged in some way. And the fact she never shied from the biters sheds some light on the tragedy. I think they showed enough in the episode to make sense of what transpired. It touched me emotionally because of the writing and fabulous acting. Well done!

  24. Really people? It is the Zombie Apocalypse, NOT All My Children. Bad things are going to happen and that is what this show is about. You are either a horror buff or not. That little girl was a psycho and needed to be dealt with. If not, she would have killed them at her first opportunity. It’s a shame she killed her sister, but it is what it is. The show needs to get back to its great roots and its nice to see it finally developing. It just took too long into the season. Now can we have Carl killed already?

  25. Spoilers.

    I think the 2 girls being killed has been one if the better parts of this dire season as it has slight connections to the comics. The 2 girls were basically the twins from the comics. One of the twins kills the other and Carl kills the other. Changed for the series but still… Very dull second half of the season. Not that the first half or season 2 or 3 were much better.

  26. I liked the episode, actually. I think they were building up to this (or something similar) since they were at the prison. Lizzie was feeding them there, also. That’s part of the reason they kept coming up to the fence. And then, she almost killed Judith a couple of episodes back. I thought Carol caught that but apparently not. And the younger girl, Micca?, has always been kind of against killing things.

    The only thing that disappointed me is that I thought they could have explained better WHY these kids were so messed up before they killed them off. I kind of think it was more than just surviving the “zombie apocalypse”; like maybe they saw their Mom killed by their Dad; or they were abused in some manner or something. Now we’ll always be left to wander & never know:( That’s what I didn’t like about the episode.

  27. This was an amazing episode of the walking dead. Carol faced a tough decision when she had to kill Lizzie but it was the right decision. The world has changed for the worse and in order to survive you have to fight for your life. Carol has been fighting for so long going back to when her abusive husband was alive then losing her daughter everything she had has been taking away from her making her fight and fight hard. She found a little glimpse of hope and life once Judith was born and Lizzie& Meka came along it brought her back to Sophia and she was determined not to lose her again. Only this time these kids were so far gone after being victimized by the Governor. Meka would have been a fighter had Lizzie given her the chance Lizzie was the weak one lonely after the death of her Dad. She had no sense of reality when it came to the Walkers. Carol did what had to be done something nobody else would have done but Carl.

  28. The episode last night was good. I new it was gonna come down to Lizze killing someone but I did not think it would be her sister. The part I do not get was Carol and Tyriese had dug three graves. Did Judith die to because the last I seen she was alive and Tyriese had her

  29. I completely agree, its hard to get invested into characters, when you know they are just going to die. So when they do die, my heart doesn’t break. I wish the show would give them more hope or a goal to work on, I’m tired of just waiting to see who will die next, that’s not the best way to tell a story, just sayin.

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