Faith & Fire: How The Walking Dead’s Carol is Stuck Between Them
Killing is a dirty business. A business that our group has not been a stranger to over these last few years in particular. There has been a lot of talk about Carol’s kill list (now at 20) and how it has been affecting her as of late. So, it got me thinking. Not that it was hard to think about Carol over the seasons, she is, after all, my favorite character. But that wasn’t the focus of this morning’s musings. Today, I was more focused on Carol and her faith – not only in a higher power, but in the people around her.
Carol Losing Her Faith
Carol said that her faith got her through the death of her daughter. However, after losing Sophia is when she started to take lives of people “for the good of the group”. Melissa herself [while on The Talking Dead] said that her faith got Carol through Sophia but it was also after that moment she began to lose her faith. Losing faith might have been the initial factor that made killing Karen and David a choice she could make.
(SIDE NOTE: The “R” on her list, people are saying is Ryan, Lizzie and Mika’s dad – I don’t consider Carol having to kill him. He was a dead man already having been bit where he was.)
During the group’s short stint at Gabriel’s church early in season 5, Carol was clearly uncomfortable in the church. While the group talked about hope and going to Washington, Carol was fixated on the doors, seeming like a woman in desperate need of fresh air and distance.
Why? She was still dealing with what happened with Lizzie and Mika, the massacre at Terminus, and struggling with the weight of it all. I also think that just being in a church again with the assumption of judgment from the God she strayed from, was adding to the anxiety. Carol may have lost her faith, but to me, she was still fearful of what it could mean for her soul when it was her time to die.
Finding a New Version of Herself
A few episodes later in ‘Consumed’, we had a closer look at Carol and how her state of mind was being heavily affected by Faith. Fire also played a significant role in that episode, as there were at least half a dozen references to it throughout. Whether it was from the candle she lit her first night of exile, the fires set to burn the bodies or to distract the walkers, it was there and it was bright. I can’t help but wonder if Carol saw that and thought of Hell in addition to just another facet of who she had become, being burned away.
Carol has a moment with Daryl near the elevators she talks about Hell:
“I don’t want you to die. I don’t want Beth to die. I don’t want anybody at the church to die. But I can’t stand around and watch it happen either. I can’t. That’s why I left, I just had to BE somewhere else.”
“Well you ain’t somewhere else, you’re right here. Trying.”
“You’re not who you were and neither am I. I don’t know if I believe in God anymore, or in Heaven. But if I am going to Hell, I am making damn sure I am holding it off as long as I can.”
Then, later on in that same episode, she talks more about who she was, who she is, and who she thought she should be. When she was with Ed, she was scared and unable to take action…
“I kept praying for something to happen. But I didn’t do anything, not a damn thing. Who I was with him, she got burned away and I was happy about that. I mean, not happy but… at the prison I got to be who I always thought I should be, thought I should have been. Then she got burned away. Now, it just, consumes you.”
Daryl, the only one of the group that she’s been able to talk this candidly to, tried to bolster her by saying, “we ain’t ashes”. He had been trying to help her through whatever she was struggling with by telling her she’s trying, she’s there, not gone yet, and that’s what matters. He accepts her no matter what and that is why she is able to be so open with her fears.
When the Strong Falter
We all know the things she has done since in service to her family and the protection of their home. We call her badass and Queen Carol, because she will do whatever necessary to get things done. She does so with a calm exterior and cool, steady hand that we all love to watch. Or does she?
After the walkers invaded Alexandria, and her altercation with Morgan, something in Carol seemed to change. Though she didn’t light it, there was still a fire burning that night. As the walkers descended into the blazing pit in the center of town, it was as if another part of her burned away; the part that was able to keep her conscience at bay. She was still being the tough, hardened warrior we know she can be, but the internal struggle she had quelled was finally bubbling to the surface.
Could it have been Morgan’s actions and pleas for life that worked its way in and made her start to falter? She knew that she couldn’t trust him because his thinking was going to get someone hurt or killed. I think she resented him for the notion that he was able to carry on in that way, not killing, whereas she “had to do what needed to be done”. If that meant killing, then she did it.
But in some way, I think Morgan’s words did affect her. In this past week’s episode, Carol was more vulnerable than ever, and those cracks grew wider and wider, until even we couldn’t tell if her fear and anxiety were real or just another sheep in wolves clothing. Carol is a chameleon, and you can never underestimate the lengths she will go in order to save those she loves.
I do, however, believe her anxiety attack was real. I believe her tears were real, as was her fear of dying. That notion is probably what scares her the most, after anyone else in her family dying – especially Maggie and the baby. It brings up the idea of Faith again. It was no accident that rosary got caught on her shoe. Maggie is firm in her Faith again… Carol is not. That rosary was more than just a handy weapon, it was a reminder to Carol that her soul still hangs in the balance.
Yet, even with all that hanging over her, when Paula says she’s so weak, she can’t even stick to her own principles, Carol responds very matter-of-factly, “you don’t want me to stick to my principles.” Proof that there is a duality to her that I don’t think even she realizes the depths of.
Trying to Change
The similarities between Paula and Carol in this episode were beautifully plotted and placed by the writers. Paula was almost like the ghost of Christmas Future for Carol; showing her what her life will be if she continues down the cold hard path of killing with no remorse or emotion. After Carol rescues Maggie, Carol wants to just go, but Maggie insists on finishing off the rest of the Saviors, knowing full well what can happen when you leave loose ends… itchy asses. The ladies set off and rig a trap to bring down the rest of them. When they are confronted with killing Paula and Chelle is when Carol’s duality comes in full force.
Carol is when faced with killing Paula, she begs her to run. When Maggie and her baby’s life are at stake, Carol has no problem killing Chelle in an instant; straight-faced and no emotion. But, that look of despair comes back around when Carol has to light that last fire, tossing the cigarette onto the Kill Floor to burn the rest of the Saviors alive.
At one point Maggie asks Carol, “are you ok?” Her reply, “gotta be”. Sounds familiar, right? But of course we know she’s not ok. Then at the end when Maggie and Carol are reunited with the group and Daryl asks her basically the same question, she finally relents and says, “no”. That last fire she had to set burned down yet another layer of her emotional armor and allowed her admit that she’s not ok.
In Days to Come…
I don’t believe Carol will ever be able to fully turn into the cold-hearted killer she saw in Paula. I don’t know if she will find a way to have her faith restored, but I do know that the people she has around her: Daryl, Maggie, Rick, and all the others (NOT TOBIN) will be there to support her in their own ways and help show her that you can be both a good person, and still take a life when yours or your families lives are at stake. You can still make those hard choices, and not burn in the pits of Hell.
What do you think about Carol’s arc over these past few episodes? Do you think that we will see yet another version of her rise from the ashes? Or is Carol just becoming the perfect mix of warrior and mother than the group truly needs her to be? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to follow me on twitter to keep the discussion going!
The next episode of The Walking Dead airs Sunday, March 20 at 9/8C on AMC.