THE SAME BOAT – 8.5/10.
The Walking Dead took a brief pit stop this week on the road to Negan, but in doing so it delivered a tense and insightful episode in the form of a real-time, hostage drama that focused entirely on Carol and Maggie. Both characters are going through some serious changes at the moment; Maggie is becoming a mother and leader, and Carol is starting to feel the burden of the lives she has taken. The pair found themselves locked into a battle of wits with their captors, a group of Saviours led by a cold woman named Paula. The episode was also unique in that it featured an almost entirely female cast, allowing for some exploration of the notion of womanhood within the context of the zombie apocalypse.
While the rest of the group runs the raid on the Saviour outpost Maggie and Carol guard the perimeter, but they are ambushed while arguing. Carol manages to get a shot off on one of their attackers, scoring a non-lethal hit on his arm, but they are soon surrounded by Paula and two other women. Rick has a hostage of his own, a Saviour with medical training named Primo. With a wounded man to care for Paula is forced to negotiate. She takes Maggie and Carol back to a nearby safe house (an old slaughter house filled with zombie traps) to call for reinforcements. Both Carol and Maggie and Paula and her Saviours find themselves forced into a waiting game to see whose group will get there first.
Upon their arrival at the safe house Carol manages to get some rosary beads from a nearby corpse and fakes a panic attack to get Paula to remove her gag. But there is something very real in Carol’s behaviour. Paula misinterprets it as fear for her life, an assumption that Carol happily plays along with, but there is more to it. Carol isn’t scared for her life, but she is definitely scared of something and has been since the Wolves attacked Alexandria. She asks Paula to spare Maggie, revealing that she is pregnant. Paula is predictably unsympathetic, claiming that babies are little more than “bite-sized snacks for the dead.” But when the wounded Saviour attacks Maggie and Carol, Paula is quick to knock him unconscious with her gun.
While Maggie is taken off to another room for interrogation, Carol speaks with Paula and her older companion, Molly. Carol maintains her act but there is some truth in what she says, particularly when she tries to talk about Sophia and Ed. While it’s possible that she is using her history to try to manipulate Paula it also becomes clear that she associates with the woman her captor has been forced to become. Paula is pragmatic, cold and willing to do anything to ensure the safety of her group, just like Carol. Paula eventually opens up to Carol, she too had a family, a husband and daughters, but whoever she was before the outbreak died when she claimed her first life. Survival is all that matters to her now, no matter what the cost.
Meanwhile, Maggie refuses to answer the questions of the youngest member of Paula’s group, Chelle. She notices that the girl is missing a finger which Chelle claims was taken as punishment after she stole some gas to go in search of her missing boyfriend. It appears that he was a member of the group that Daryl, Sasha and Abraham encountered. Chelle reveals that she was pregnant but she lost the baby after his death. There is a lot of blood on the hands of Rick’s groups and Carol is unable to argue when Paula points out that they aren’t exactly the good guys. Carol plays dumb when she is questioned about the attacks on the Saviours, but her warnings finally resonate with Paula who agrees to the hostage exchange with Rick.
Plans change when Paula receives word over her radio that reinforcements are on the way. They leave Carol unattended, giving her the chance to cut herself loose with the crucifix and locate Maggie. Carol suggests escape, but Maggie points out the danger of letting the Saviours live now that they know so much about them. They create a trap using the wounded Saviour who has now bled out and turned into a walker; Molly takes the bait and is beaten violently to death by Maggie. As the women make their escape they encounter a vengeful Paula in a hallway lined with the Saviour’s walker traps. Carol finally reveals to Paula what she was afraid of, not her own death, but the fact that she would eventually have to kill her.
Carol asks Paula to run but instead she attacks, forcing Carol to shoot her in the arm. Chelle then pounces at Maggie, slicing her stomach with a knife. This time Carol doesn’t hesitate, shooting Chelle in the head. Paula mounts one last offence against Carol but ends up impaled on one of the spikes where she is eaten alive by a walker. Paula’s reinforcements finally arrive and are lured into a petrol-soaked Kill Room that lives up to its name when Carol throws in a lit cigarette, trapping the men in a blazing inferno. Rick and the others eventually arrive at the safe house, realising that he has outlived his usefulness Primo tries to convince Rick that he is Negan but ends up with a bullet in his brain.
Many of the characters in TWD have pondered if it is possible to come back from the things they have done. There are no good guys, simply survivors and victims. All five of the women featured in this episode were doing their best to survive, in the case of Maggie and the young Saviour they were striving to move beyond simple survival to bring new life into this world. But that kind of hope that has been taken away from Carol and Paula, losing their children forced them into a dark place. While Carol was part of a loving group that has helped her from falling in too deep, clearly life under Negan was far less comforting for Paula. So as the shadow of Negan looms ever larger it’s hard not to ponder Molly’s words to Carol; “Sweetie, we’re all Negan.”