“Consumed” spends a good amount of time dutifully filling in some gaps in the story of Carol (Melissa McBride), and the writers take the opportunity to add another thoughtful nuance of persona onto what has become one of The Walking Dead’s most fascinating characters. The episode opens on the moments directly following her exile by Rick (Andrew Lincoln), and its notable that the flashback ends with her discovering the burning guard towers at the prison following the attacks by the Governor. Fire and smoke is a recurring motif throughout, and they come to reveal a wild undercurrent in Carol, who spends most of the episode hunting for Beth (Emily Kinney) and the Grady Memorial Hospital group with Daryl (Norman Reedus).
Their chasing after the people with the white crosses on their cars is spurred by Daryl wanting to find Beth after losing her, but as this series so often does, the attention of the episode switches, in this case to Carol and her psychological state in the wake of being labeled an outcast and a murderer. When they enter Atlanta, following one of the aforementioned cars, they find themselves stranded and it’s Carol who leads them to sleep in a shelter for abused children and families, one where she stayed very briefly before returning to her monstrous husband. Later on, she tries to act brave with Daryl, firmly stating that she’s looking after herself primarily now, unable to accept the idea of getting close to people and then having to see them die, a philosophy that the series cleverly undermines throughout the episode.
At one point, Noah (Tyler James Williams) gets the drop on Daryl and Carol, taking Daryl’s favored crossbow and leaving them for dead; later, he pushes a frenzied zombie onto Carol in a desperate panic. And it’s ultimately Carol who insists that they don’t leave Noah to become a walker’s lunch when Daryl takes back his crossbow. The series remains adept at showing mercy as the healthier option, but by no means the only option, and this forgiveness, a rebuke to Carol’s me-against-the-world rant, ultimately leads to them finding out where Beth is and at least part of what they have to do to get her back.
Of course, there wasn’t much planning done before Carol was hit by a white-cross car and taken away to Grady, leaving Daryl and Noah to head back to reconcile with Rick. Carol, unsurprisingly, is the first one out the door to confront the Grady officers, and though the fire lends itself to her analogy of being “burnt away” by her experiences, these images are also the pathology of someone who is attracted to danger, to the fire. Whether she’d really like to believe it or not, Carol is drawn to chaos, to madness and violence, which makes her alternatively heroic in her willingness to fight and more than a little reckless and self-delusional in her emotional state. And by the end of “Consumed,” it becomes clear that despite what she says, Carol takes the saying “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” as a sort of invitation, the kind that she’s never really been able to turn down.
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