Sunday, March 13, 2016

Blurred Lines

One of the criticisms I've heard of characters is that they aren't consistent.

"She's tough, she shouldn't be crying."
"He's a prick so he shouldn't be nice to that waitress."

The thing is, these complaints aren't usually directed at major scenes or events. There sometimes seems to be a viewpoint that if a character is bad they're always bad and can never have any moment of redemption.

The reality is that most people are more than good or bad. Most people are complex. Even the toughest person can have a moment of weakness. Many will know what I mean when I say that you there are times you can go through hardship after hardship and keep a cool head, and then something minor will happen and you're reduced to tears. You're done. One little thing becomes the straw that drops you to your knees.

Although it's rarely credited with awards that recognize this fact, The Walking Dead has allowed for some of the most significant character development with their long-standing characters. As the characters have faced hardships and horrors they have either adapted to their situation or died.

In case you haven't seen yesterday's Walking Dead episode you may want to tune out now because I want to touch on Carol's evolution.

Carol has been on the show for six seasons. She missed the first episode but has been part of the core group ever since. Her husband beat her. She lived for her daughter. After becoming a widow she faced the loss of Sophia, but instead of crumbling under the weight of her daughter's death she toughened up and became one of the most formidable characters -male or female- on the show. If you were on the wrong side of a confrontation with Carol you weren't long for this world.

When the group reached Alexandria Carol began playing a role. Suzie homemaker. A nurturing type who bakes cookies and doesn't know how to hold a gun. She flies under the radar, deliberately, so that people drop their guard around her and she can infiltrate the group and learn about the people there.

Always smart, always thinking, always ten steps ahead of everyone.

And then there was her relationship with Sam, who she scared the crap out of. Leave it to Carol to tell the kid scary horror stories that would ultimately contribute to his death.

Ask anyone yesterday morning and they would have described Carol as strong, tenacious, even vicious at times.

Then last night's episode airs and we're left to wonder if Carol was acting to drop her captors' guard or if she really is facing a crisis of conscience.

The reality is that Carol has come out on the other side of a lot of horror and seems to be taking stock. She's realized how many people she's had to kill and it clearly reluctant to take another life if she doesn't have to. She leaves a cookie on Sam's grave. Carol is nicer to him dead than she ever was when he was alive.

Yes, she's still Carol. There's no inconsistency. This is just a different facet of Carol bubbling to the surface. It doesn't bode well for her, as those who seem to embrace peace or a reluctance to kill (like Tyreese) don't last long, but Carol seems to have reached the end of her rope for now. We've finally had the Daryl-Carol moment we've been waiting for, and any doubt about whether she was acting or not about her fears her real are put to rest once and for all.

Carol isn't okay. She doesn't want to kill anymore.

Perhaps Morgan has impacted Carol more than anyone realized. Or perhaps she'll come back tougher than ever, ready to take down Negan herself.


Al Tucher said...

I love this post. "This character would never ..." can be one of the most exasperating comments a writer can receive, and it's a favorite of writers' groups. I realize now that I haven't been in a rush to find a new group precisely because of this.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I completely sympathize! And one of the other annoying critiques I got about what became What Burns Within was that my 3 protagonists all ran and jumped the same way. I had to laugh. They were all RCMP officers. They're all trained a certain way.

Sometimes I feel people just look for excuses to criticize. I just saw a clip from next week's Walking Dead and it looks like Carol is still struggling. Can't wait to see how this plays out with her.