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by Thom Yee

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The Walking Dead images courtesy of AMC

6×13: “The Same Boat”

Along with drowning to death, I’ve always thought that some of the worst ways to die would be being burned to death and being eaten alive. And boy did we get a lot of both this episode.

In the aftermath of the raid on the Saviors’ satellite compound, a small group of Saviors that escaped manage to capture Carol and Maggie and take them to one of their safe houses to bargain for the return of one of their own and to buy time to gather more Saviour troops to counterattack Rick and co. And in so doing they signed their own death warrants. I don’t think anyone seriously believed that Carol and Maggie were ever in any real trouble this episode, either when we met their captors, after we travelled to their captors’ safe house, and especially not when we realized that we’d be spending an entire episode following just this one story. At first it was a little disheartening to realize that this was going to be a bottle episode of The Walking Dead, but once things settled in and we got a sense of where the episode was going, it was kind of nice to have an episode just for the girls.

We’ve all grown to love take-no-prisoners characters like Rick and hate wimpy, loser characters like Sam, and the crux of “The Same Boat” dealt largely with the two sides of the same coin that Carol and Paula (guest star Alicia Witt), the lead Saviors captor, represent as survivors in this episode. As we’ve seen over and over again on this show regardless of what’s going on in the present, everyone we’ve met is a real person, and in the case of our villains, most are just people who weren’t lucky enough (if we can still call it lucky) to end up with Rick’s group, but by now we’re so far beyond merely reflecting on the cruelty of these twists of fate that we as viewers and Carol and Maggie as characters know their captors (and everyone they know, love, and associate with) will have to die.  Like Rick said last episode, “This is how we eat”, or in other words stay alive, and it’s a reality that Carol spends the bulk of the episode resisting even as Maggie continues to embrace her role as a true survivor and potential leader in this world, last time as Alexandria’s representative at the Hilltop negotiating with Gregory and this time simply as someone who chooses life.

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Carol: “This is me breathing.”

The most interesting aspect of “The Same Boat” was seeing and then understanding what Carol was going through, less as a captive of the Saviors and more a prisoner of what she’s become. As has become customary when in a group of new people, Carol takes on an initially weak, submissive role, even to the point of appearing to hyperventilate under the pressure of their situation in this episode, and even though it’s almost natural for us to assume it’s an act, in many ways it was an all too true reflection of what she was feeling, just not why she was feeling it. Of course Carol was going to be fine, of course they were going to make it out of there, neither of those things were ever in question, she was just afraid that there was only one way things could go: They kill them all. And Carol doesn’t like killing, not anymore, maybe not after seeing Morgan’s example, maybe not after losing Sam, maybe not after growing accustomed to the normalcy of life in Alexandria over the last two peaceful months, or maybe none of those things. We, as viewers, have seen several reasons why someone wouldn’t want to kill even in this world, and it’s enough for us to know simply that Carol still has a shred of humanity after everything she’s experienced without having to know exactly why.

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Paula: “I’m the bad guy. The very pretty bad guy.”

It’s so easy to conflate killing with crime, with what’s wrong, and really, that speaks to how fortunate most of us are to only have to confront the issue on a fictional level, but in the world of The Walking Dead, it’s nowhere near as simple as that. Is Rick a killer? Definitely. Is Glenn a killer? Technically. Is Carol a killer? Obviously. But none of that means that they’re bad people doing bad things, even when one of the bad guys in the episode straight up tells us our heroes aren’t the good guys. As much as Carol and Paula are representative of the same people under different circumstances, Paula, as we learn from her backstory, gave up on humanity after not too long in this world, whereas most of our heroes and especially Carol now have tried to hold on to the people they were and the people they hope to become, and, for me, that alone is enough to tell me who the good guys are. That the show’s writers are trusting us to sort and re-sort our own feelings on these subjects rather than spelling it all out is a testament to how much better this show has become this season, at least at its best moments.

This episode felt pretty different, partially because it explored its themes with more elegance than usual, but also in large part because it just looked different. It was slow and deliberate; it had a unique rhythm and it gave us the space to feel what we were supposed to. It continued to pose the same questions that have been here all along, the same questions that are the very underpinnings of The Walking Dead, but this might be one of the first times those questions have felt complex and real rather than obvious and contrived. Meanwhile, the mystery of Negan continues to build, with shades of I’m Spartacus, Negan becoming more than just a man, and illustrating a depth of commitment from his followers that could truly be scary. For an episode with such a high chance of being a filler, it’s almost astonishing how important this episode was.

Plus  Carol and Maggie set a whole bunch of people on fire on the Killing Floor. That was great.

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Those guys were grade A morons.

The Walking Dead — “The Same Boat” final score

4.5


Items of Note

  • “Primo”. Like the soup?
  • So that one guy who got shot in the arm… he was just a d*ck, right? That’s probably a male symbolism thing.
  • Somebody should’ve taught Alicia Witt better on walker killing. Some of her stabs weren’t anywhere near the brain pan.
  • “Growlers”.  That’s probably the lamest zombie name yet.
  • Four girls? Even in a world where the zombie walker apocalypse is impossible, no person should ever have four kids.

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