[This is a review of The Walking Dead season 4, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
Last week, Rick figured out that Carol had made a decision that impacted two lives rather negatively, in the hope of saving many, many more lives. Of course, that's in reference to the two people she killed in a fruitless effort to prevent a particularly virulent flu from spreading.
All of that leads up to the bigger issue in 'Indifference,' discussing the changes that've taken place in nearly everyone on The Walking Dead – or at least in the characters who've been around long enough for there to be a noticeable change. Early on in the episode, Carol and Lizzie have a fairly unambiguous chat about the concept of change and what it means in the world that they're in now. Lizzie's young and inexperienced enough to see some kind of hope in every little change, from her someday turning into an adult and hopefully growing stronger, to people turning into walkers, as that is – to Lizzie, anyway – an extension of the life that's too frequently cut short nowadays.
It's possibly one of the most overt conversations The Walking Dead has ever had, but at least it was an overt conversation about something that led to a more significant moment, and not just some dialogue intended to point out something that's literally happening onscreen the moment someone says it (which has been a problem for the show in the past). Still, overt or not, the conversation manages to throw in a few telling references to Carol's past that shed a little light on her current way of thinking about tough choices, and walking a very thin line between being strong and simply being ruthless. And, as Rick's actions at the end of the episode suggest, he's firmly in the Carol's actions were ruthless camp.
Rick justifies his decision of exiling her in much the same way Carol made her decision to kill David and Karen: by weighing the potential good of doing something bad against doing nothing at all. In this case, Rick essentially saves Carol's life in the immediate future by ensuring she's nowhere near Tyreese, as he also makes it pretty clear keeping her secret isn't going to be an option for him. It's another demonstration of how people can change, as not too long ago, Rick might've thought there was a way everyone could work past Carol being a killer.
But it's also in keeping with the other overt theme of the episode, in that characters are no longer in a world that affords them the luxury of holding onto things, no matter how much they may mean. Whether those things are emotional or physical, or both, depends on the individual. Newcomer Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) is certainly packing a lot of both, as the guilt over getting Zach killed in the season premiere seems to be haunting him as much as the quiet he's so desperate to drown out with drink.
In the end, 'Indifference' may have been the most accurate title of an episode yet, since despite the apparent dismissal of a major character, it feels as though the show was more concerned with making a series of thematic jabs than it was with landing a significant emotional blow. Perhaps that will be saved for when Rick comes back to the prison without a character the series has known for so long.
The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with 'Internment' @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview below: