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Literary Overtones for The Walking Dead Episode “The Grove”

While it is an joke amongst gun owners that one can judge whether you have enough armament by ruminating on if they could survive the zombie apocalypse, that doesn’t mean I’m not a fan of the zombie genre.  In particular, AMC’s series “The Walking Dead.”

What’s so good about it is that in the serialized format you can see what happens to people, over time, living in this world.  What propels this show in particular is that the writing, for the majority of its run, has been fantastic.

That is especially true with Season 4 Episode 14 “The Grove.”

This episode showed surprisingly few zombies yet the tension was palpable throughout.

The Grove focused solely on Tyreese’s group which included the recently returned Carol, the preteen sisters Lizzie and Mika as well as baby Judith.

The majority of this episode dealt with the dealings of being a child in the zombie apocalypse.  Not a newborn who grew up through it or an adult who had a normal childhood but those who had only experienced a taste of childhood and then were thrown into a hell on Earth.

In this episode we see two extremes on the young psyche’s of Mika and Lizzie and it revealed itself with great literary overtones.

One of the worst kept secrets this entire season was finally revealed, in that Lizzie was feeding the zombies at the prison.  Lizzie has no grasp of the danger she produces or the consequences of her actions.  She doesn’t view the zombies as dead things intent on killing everyone but rather as misunderstood friends.

In truth I thought she was going to take a pot shot at Carol after Carol killed the zombie she was “playing” with, and by playing I mean chasing Lizzie in an attempt to eat her.  I mean Lizzie had a complete meltdown with no grasp of reality.

On the other hand, you have Mika who avows never to kill a living person even if that person was going to kill her.  A sentiment so nauseatingly noble that it sickens you in its naivety.  Mika goes so far as to not kill a deer because they have peaches and pecans to eat.  But unlike her sister, Mika has no qualms in putting a round into the head of some undead walker.

The Grove spent most of its time exploring these two sisters outlooks.  And ends with the result thereof.

What results?  Lizzie slits Mika’s throat while Tyreese and Carol are away.  When they return to see what Lizzie did, Lizzie pleads with them to wait until Mika “comes back” to see that zombies are all rainbows and unicorns.

Tyreese takes Lizzie away so that Carol can put down Mika once and for all.

Later, Tyreese and Carol talk and realize that Lizzie cannot be allowed to live because she is a danger to every living person they encounter ESPECIALLY the baby Judith who she was planning on killing after Mika, had not the grown ups returned when they did.

It is then that Carol walks Lizzie to the grove and I thought, “This is the Old Yeller moment” but that idea left as soon as it came because while it happened off screen, the “Old Yeller” moment all ready happened.  Mika, good and noble Mika, who would never harm a human but would lay waste to a horde of zombies to protect the ones she loved was Old Yeller and instead of rabies she got zombified.

But for Lizzie, her literary correlation is “Of Mice and Men” and her counterpart is Lenny.  As Lenny did not know the damage he did with his strength and the harm that would continue because he couldn’t so too was Lizzie doomed to be put down.  The more I think of it the more the comparison overlaps.  Lenny like rabbits, Lizzie likes dissecting them and nailing them to boards.  Lenny broke the neck of the Curley’s wife while Lizzie slit the throat of her sister.  And ultimately while Lenny was shot in the back of the head as his friend George told him about the rabbits, so too was Lizzie shot in the back of the head as Carol told her to focus on the flowers.

It is at moments like this that The Walking Dead excels.  Not that they take from classical literature but rather that they can evoke the same feeling that those masterpieces do, even in a world of zombies.

A final thought.  When Carol was talking to Mika and told her she had to be mean and kill people and so forth, Mika repeated what her mother told her long ago, “everything will work out as it is supposed to.”

That proved to be rather foretelling.  You see, nice and completely not mean Mika was killed by a person she would never harm.  That is the world now.  But also, Lizzie was shot in the head, like you do with all zombies.  Because if you think about it, wasn’t Lizzie ALL READY a zombie?  I mean, in The Walking Dead, what do zombies do?  They kill people and make more zombies.  Just because Lizzie had a heartbeat doesn’t mean she wasn’t in effect a zombie like all the others.  And no less dangerous…in fact…more so.

So the prophetic words of Mika’s mother rang true…everything worked out as it was supposed to.  Nice people died and zombies got shot in the head.

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  • White Bear

    It’s almost embarrassing to admit that my wife and I are addicted to this show, but we are. This was a powerful episode. I thought Carol would shoot Lizzie as soon as she took the gun out of her hand, while they were still standing over Mika’s body.

  • To some degree it shows the….necessity of the death penalty. Especially when there is not a working prison system to hold a person that may be willing to cut people’s throats while they sleep.

    • Bullets First

      That’s an interesting point Jenny. I hadn’t thought along those lines but you are correct. The simple truth is, to quote Sling Blade: “Some folks just need killin.”

      It’s not ideal or all sunshine and rainbows but sometimes evil needs to be stamped out because there is no containment for it.

    • White Bear

      Excellent comment Jenny. I’ve always had to just shake my head when I hear death penalty opponents say: “just lock them up for life where they can’t hurt anybody else”. Really? What about assaults on prison guards and rapes and murders of other prisoners? The death penalty is the only way to ensure that they never hurt anyone else.

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