Despair amidst desolation. As characters deal with their personal demons in “Indifference” the hopelessness of The Walking Dead has never been so intense. This isn’t to say that the characters can’t be redeemed but instead it doesn’t matter if they are redeemed or not because the ambling stupor of mere survival eventually turns everyone.
The cold open of “Indifference” is amongst the most gripping minutes the show has offered. Both Carol and Lizzie articulated themselves in a manner that was not only emotional but also felt like a “real” moment in this world that has been created. It had been a long time coming but finally the show allowed one of its characters to be truly represented as a living zombie. Carol, albeit mostly unseen by the viewer, has become unfeeling husk of their former self, doing only what it takes to survive making the strong parallel to a walker. Someone that once used to be the soul of the group had quickly become a callous survivor. Most of her transformation seemed to have happened between seasons three and four, which is truly a shame as it could have really strengthened both her character and the audience’s feelings toward her had they been allowed to watch her go through this change.
And so Rick excommunicated Carol in a truly surprising move for the show. Not often do members of the core group get to leave under their own volition, even Andrea had found a new life before discovering Rick and company had survived. Thrusting Rick back into leadership position was needed and it seems that his decision to make Carol leave is his first step into assuming the role he once held. And while Rick did come up with the plan to slaughter the pigs in last week’s “Infection” to lure the walkers away from the prison, telling Carol that she was no longer welcome was actually the first true choice he has made this season.
All of the back and forth between Rick and Carol happened in front of an even more depressing backdrop as they came across a young, and fairly innocent couple. This season of The Walking Dead has emphasized how surviving in a community is a double-edged sword, forcing each others’ will to continue on while also showing how it is the community that ends up killing its members. And this particular couple may have been the most depressing yet. Here is a couple still hopeful for a life and still inexperienced to survive. It became a strong contrast for Rick and Carol to show just how far their characters have come. But after seeing the crippled dismembered leg of the girl and waiting far too long for the guy to return the gloom of the world never felt more oppressive. And despite Rick maintaining some hope for a quality of life, which was his reason for kicking survival-crazed Carol out of the prison, there was little hope remaining by the end of the episode. Love had been found in a hopeless place but had been eviscerated by zombies.
Likewise demons were being revealed for Daryl, Tyreese, Michonne, and Bob. Again the community survival was highlighted as they came across a garage that held a family that had killed themselves and turned into walkers. The panning shot of Bob looking at the posted photos of the happy family on the wall before killing the last of them with their own screwdriver with one of their names written on the back was especially memorable for a show that usually prefers talking over showing. And while it seemed that Michonne and Tyreese came to some sort of acceptance over their demons, respectively the search for the governor and the revenge and anger, Bob’s demon could not be conquered.
After admitting he was an alcoholic, and receiving Daryl’s sympathy, Bob left the veterinary school with nothing but a liquor bottle. This was revealed after Bob refused to let his bag go as zombies were trying to pull it away from him. And as the Daryl giveth he can also taketh away. Furious that Bob hadn’t packed any medical supplies for the sick back in the prison Daryl is forcing Bob to not take a drink until they return, retracting any sympathy he had shown Bob previously.
More importantly, however, was Bob revealing some of his backstory as the lone survivor of two now defunct groups. Bob’s loner mentality is yet another testament that the only way to survive is to be alone and not a true member of any group. The show is teasing the question whether it is better to survive for a longer time alone, or to try to find a life amongst others but survive for a shorter amount of time. Bob’s backstory could also be an omen for things to come for the prison if Bob is the only survivor from the other two groups.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of “Indifference” is how natural the episode felt. The Walking Dead has always been a show that likes to ham-fistedly hammer its main points home, showing it is more interested in explaining how deep it is and taking the audience out of the visceral experience the show can offer. “Indifference,” and generally season four thus far, has bucked that trait. While it still makes sure the audience knows the themes it is undertaking, The Walking Dead has done so in a manner that is definitely more show than tell. Season four’s episodes have all had a natural flow and progression. The characters have made decisions that feel true to themselves and don’t feel as though they need to monologue ad nauseum to explain their actions. It has created a much tighter and more meaningful experience and allows the audience to impress some of their own emotions onto the actions of the characters. Whether it was Tyreese refusing to let go of a zombie that emerged from the garage or Rick constantly looking in his rear view mirror half hoping to find Carol trailing behind him it all feels more natural for the characters and the show. This all creates a nice balance between melodrama and poignancy that the show has lacked since season one.