Last night, "Walking Dead" could have been renamed after the Chris Hardwick gab-fest that follows it for all of this particular hour's noticeably heady exchanges. More than merely talking dead, the characters often seemed to be explaining themselves and their individual methods of coping with the horrors of their daily lives. This season's emphasis on character development is most welcome. But, admittedly, some of last night's dialogue sounded overwrought and stiffer than an unturned corpse. (Even the episode's title feels unnecessarily expository: "Indifference.")
It all started with Carol and Lizzie's conversation through glass during the episode's opening. Never mind the little girl's persistently creepy perspective on the undead. We were once again reminded of how hardened Carol has become. Their chilling back and forth on "change" serves as an overture for the entire episode. But Carol's insistence on inuring oneself to killing was also redundant considering all that we have already seen of the older woman's emotional callousness -- and especially since we were now watching her murder Karen and David through Rick's mind's eye. Minutes later, now exploring outside the prison with Rick, Carol was still explaining herself. The lady doth protest and all that.
Meanwhile, Daryl's expeditionary away team, sidetracked last week by a highway full of walkers, still struggled under the burden of what might be the two greatest living liabilities this program has ever seen. Tyreese continues to put himself and the others in danger, alternating between unfocused rage and debilitating sadness and regret. I have already written that I appreciate what the big man represents -- humanity, fallibility, fear -- but dammit if his weakness isn't infuriating. "Anger makes you stupid," Michonne warns him. "Stupid gets you killed."
Much to Daryl's dismay, Bob Stookey's alcoholism emerges as a problem later in the episode. But I take greater issue with some of his dialogue. After tackling two zombies risen from a failed suicide pact, Stookey defends the couple's attempted way out: "Everybody makes it -- 'til they don't. People nowadays dominos. What they did, maybe it's about not having to watch them fall." It's not that the sentiment isn't deep enough, but it may have benefited from another verb or two. Am I nitpicking? Possibly. But Stookey is meant to have been a medically trained professional in his prior life and yet his grammar and vocabulary -- not to mention his heart -- seem to fluctuate wildly from moment to moment. As far as understanding this new, potentially important character, it's a stumbling block.
Rick, on the other hand, spends most of the episode in relative silence listening to Carol defend her deadly actions. Their encounter with Opie and doomed Rory Gilmore only served to help him make up his mind toward his final, shocking decision: to leave Carol behind to fend for herself. The loss of a major character would seem to be the crux of the episode, but I suggest it's bigger than that. I think, more so than strapping on his six-shooter once again, the choice to ditch an original member of his makeshift family to protect the others represents Rick's full return to a leadership position.
How this executive decision will sit with Daryl is one of many questions cracked open by last night's talky episode. Will Daryl seethe over the expulsion of Carol, for whom he held a quiet torch, or does this simply make room for romance to bloom between him and Michonne, the show's biggest badasses? Considering Michonne's awkward attempts at flirtation over a tiny, green rock and the fact that she has expressed her intention to spend more time at the prison rather than out fruitlessly hunting down the Governor, I'm guessing the latter.
Of course, it's possible that the Governor could return at any time and complicate that relationship -- and all the other characters' lives -- unimaginably. For that matter, so could Carol. We've seen loose ends return to damaging effect. Just think: As of last night, Opie -- okay, Sam -- may be wandering toward the prison with a gun and Rick's wristwatch as some sort of guide. If he blames either Rick or Carol for his girlfriend's death, there is no telling what he might do. And if he learned anything from Carol in their short time together, he could certainly find the will to kill.