One of the strongest – and most violent – episodes in this season so far, “JSS”, drew most of it’s strength from Carol. “The Grove”, one of the show’s best episodes to date, drew most of it’s strength from “Carol”. Now, “The Same Boat” re-focuses back on in Melissa McBride’s complex character for another solid bottle episode focused around Carol, who shares some much deserved screen time with a pregnant Maggie. The Walking Dead’s writers have always been great at exploring one of two characters at a time, when they give themselves the space to, and “The Same Boat” may be one of the strongest examples of that in the show’s history.
Carol has had the most interesting seasonal arc over these past weeks with Morgan’s philosophy first opposing hers and then slowly melting into her own consciousness, bringing out shades of guilt and regret over being maybe a bit too trigger-happy and ruthless at times. In the past few years, since T-Dog sacrificed himself for Carol, the “mother of the group” has become known as some sort of badass one-woman-army who has something Rick doesn’t necessarily have up her sleeves – a singular cunning that has saved the group more than a few times. That cunning is shown here once again and McBride does a stunning job at shifting Carol’s character completely to fill her with crocodile tears, shaping her as a nervous wreck, an act used to throw her captors – some of Negan’s people – off guard.
Watching her cleverly fake a panic attack, keep some rosary beads close, and change her tone from cut-the-shit Carol to naive “little bird” was incredible to witness, and kept the strength and tension of the episode high while Maggie, equally impressive as a reasoning, smart survivor, tried to talk and empathise with these people until the end, where she was the one to convince Carol that they all need to die. That’s right, Carol wanted to escape and actually spare her captors a deathly fate, taking the Morgan-Carol dynamic from being a vague, barely-there transformation to an explicit, I-don’t-want-to-kill-anymore attitude. Though, in the end, Carol will do what she has to, and her back-and-forth and eventual showdown with Paula (Alicia Witt, who gave one of the best performances a guest star has given in a long time – aside from, of course, the brilliant John Carroll Lynch) was the strongest thread that was strung throughout “The Same Boat”, made all the more involving because of how much Paula mirrored Carol and what she had become.
We also get a look into the hive-minded “we are all Negan” saviours and how they work – somewhat – as a group. Negan continues to be a man shrouded in mystery and there’s no doubt that there is for a very big reason for this, which will make these remaining episodes so frightening to watch unfold.
One of the most interesting things to come out of this was an actual address to something the show has been playing with for these past few episodes – past few seasons actually – which is Rick and co. as people just as bad as those that oppose them. Rick is a rather ruthless character when it comes to protecting his own group, and them murdering the saviours in their sleep only furthers that idea. Maggie’s talk with Chelle touched on that topic, and even if it wasn’t explored to much of an extent, it was still thrown out there so that what happens over the course of these next three episodes will be given much more depth than if it was a typical good guys vs bad guys scenario.
Review Score: FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
- Carol’s act and efficiency
- Maggie’s talk with Chelle about babies and love
- The ease of doing away with the backup with that single cigarette
- Alicia Witt mirroring Carol
- Questions of who really is the bad guy in all this
- Was Morgan brought back just to develop Carol even more (who will likely die soon – her arc is too focused not to foreshadow something horrible)? If so then that’s a bad move. Lennie James is an exceptional actor and needs more material to work with rather than ‘this is the guy who doesn’t like killing and he was play into that gimmick every single time he is given dialogue.”
- Carol and Maggie’s captors referred to Rick’s hostage by name, so I guess him saying “I’m Negan” before Rick shot him is a bit useless, but goes to show how protective of their leader The Saviours are.
The Walking Dead screens on FX in Australia, at 1:30pm and 7:30pm every Monday.