In Defense of The Walking Dead's Carol

In Defense of The Walking Dead's Carol: Don't Be Hard on Her for Going Soft

If you’ve read any of the comments that accompanied TVLine’s recaps of The Walking Dead this past season, you’re well aware that reactions to Carol’s metamorphosis from take-no-prisoners ass-kicker to ponderous pacifist have been, at best, mixed. And you can’t blame a fan for wanting back the single-minded superheroine who killed Karen and David, survived banishment, blew up Terminus and told Lizzie to look at the flowers. But you also can’t — or at least shouldn’t — say that her change of heart means she’s lost her head.

Even as far back as “The Grove,” in which Carol confessed to Tyreese that she’d done away with his girlfriend, her pain was as plain as the stricken look on her face. “Do what you have to do,” she told him, in a way, asking to pay for what she herself saw as her sins. When, rather than shoot her, he forgave her, yes, she compartmentalized her guilt and carried on. However, she never shrugged off the weight of what she’d done — and she never would.

So, after taking out one Wolf after another in October’s “JSS,” the burden became too great for Carol to bear. Though she’d only done what she’d had to — and fought to bring Morgan around to her pragmatic point of view — that didn’t mean that she had to like it. And it certainly didn’t mean that her conscience wasn’t slowly eating her alive like a walker savoring its supper.

As Tobin noted in “Not Tomorrow Yet,” Carol is a mother (figure) to her fellow Alexandrians. As such, she’s able do the hard stuff, the messy stuff — “things that just terrify me,” he admitted. Trouble was, all the while that we were marveling at her strength, it was being sapped by the unrelenting horribleness of what she was being called upon (over and over again) to do.

By the time we reached “The Same Boat,” in which Carol was forced into a standoff with Paula, a Savior who reminded her entirely too much of herself, her evolution — at least for the moment — was complete. She could kill. She, we and everyone in between knew it. She just was no longer willing to. So the goodbye note that she left in “Twice as Far” — in which she wrote, “I love you all, I do… but I’d have to kill for you, and I can’t, I won’t” — didn’t come out of left field so much as necessity.

What do you think? Are you down with — or on — Carol 2.0? Maybe now that Morgan has taken a life, he’ll be able to lead her to some kind of balance? Hit the comments.