Thoughts on ‘Consumed’: the Carol edition
I’ve read a ton of wonderful meta on Daryl and the way he acts toward Carol in ‘Consumed’ – how he’s more open, more considerate, more talkative, more touchy-feely, and just generally more emotionally available and plugged in than we’re used to seeing him. All of that is true, and of course it’s one of the reasons I love the episode so much.
But now that it’s the middle of hiatus time and we still haven’t heard Carol say a word about the girls to anyone – now that we’ve ended the season with Carol still clutching her emotions in a death grip for fear that if she lets the mask slip for even a second she’ll endanger someone else – I want to talk about this .gif and how it relates to my Carol feelings in ‘Consumed.’
[.gif by memoriesinatrunk]
Because see, a thing is that I feel what Carol feels. (Which is why when she said this, I burst into tears for what was probably already the fourth time in this episode.) Doesn’t matter what the feeling is. I plug into her emotions without even trying. And so much of what we’ve witnessed since 4x02 is Carol’s constant struggle – sometimes successful and sometimes notsmuch – to keep her emotions tightly reined in. In a way, she’s trying to feel nothing, trying to force herself to make decisions based on logic and pragmatism alone. (Naturally this isn’t working for her at all, given that by nature she feels everything as deeply if not moreso than anyone else in Team Family.)
I’m aware that different people have different theories about why she’s taking this particular approach, and that’s fine. My personal opinion is that deep down, she’s scared shitless. Every time she’s let her guard down in recent history, something horrible and tragic has happened. So the relentless squelching of her feelings serves at least two purposes. First, it ‘frees’ her to make decisions that aren’t based on emotions. Second, it protects her from the pain of allowing herself to feel those feelings in the full horror of 3D and surround sound. She’s done this before. She knows what it’s like to work through grief. And right now I just don’t think she feels as if she’s allowed that luxury. Other people deserve it (like Daryl). By her own admission, apparently she doesn’t.
Which leads me to what we see her doing in ‘Consumed.’
Since the moment she made the choice to kill Karen and David and Rick banished her for it, she’s closed in on herself. She doesn’t offer information freely. In fact, she doesn’t do much unnecessary talking at all. She doesn’t let people get too close. She doesn’t trust.
But ‘Consumed’ serves as kind of a breather for someone who lives Carol’s emotions, because it serves as kind of a breather for Carol.
Throughout this episode, she’s more relaxed, more open, more honest, and more willing to poke and prod at the sore places than we as viewers have seen her in a year. (The scene at the end of ‘The Grove’ is an exception to this, and I’m long on record as finding that scene cathartic as hell, despite the fact that it breaks my heart into twelve million pieces every time I watch it.)
The examples of this are numerous:
- Her straight up (if brief) answers to Daryl’s questions about the womens’ shelter.
- Her confession that she still doesn’t know what she would have done if he hadn’t showed up by the car.
- The fact that she brings up the girls. It’s Daryl, ultimately, who shuts that subject down, even though I believe that he had good intentions in doing so.
- Her epic “I don’t want you to die” speech, which culminates in a completely voluntary admission that she’s not even sure she believes in God or heaven anymore. (Sometimes I think this is really overlooked in meta – the crushing significance of this statement coming from a woman who, in S2, took an immense degree of comfort in believing that Sophia was in heaven. The loss of that certainty, coupled with what happened with Lizzie and Mika, has to be devastating for Carol. It’s just one more thing she has to handle all on her own, now.)
- Her willingness to show fear in the fan. She reaches out for Daryl’s hand of her own accord, and her face is absolutely terrified. She’s not trying to cover a single thing.
- The candor of her response to Daryl’s “What about you?” as they’re standing by the window looking over the city. She could’ve said “I’m fine,’ but she told him a whole story, beginning with what happened when she and Sophia went to the shelter and ending with the frank admission that she truly has no idea who to be now that all the former incarnations of her have been burned away.
- The levity of her “You don’t know me” jab after Daryl has the temerity to mock her taste in art.
- Finally, her statement in the above .gif, which is a response to Daryl’s question, “Why don’t you tell me what’s really on your mind?”
And that is the part that kills me, because she does. She tells him. She doesn’t evade, deflect, sugarcoat, or bullshit. She lays it all out there for him to deal with, the fact that she – the woman who was once the unquestionable emotional center of the group – is pretty much lost as hell right now.
So my point (and yes, I do have one;) is that while the fandom can and will go round and round until the end of time regarding the nature of Carol and Daryl’s relationship, it’s unquestionably canon that there is no other human being on earth with whom she feels more emotionally safe – with whom she feels more free to be the most authentic version of herself. There’s no one else in the world who makes it okay for her to be this vulnerable. (This idea is emphasized in ‘Them,’ when she freely admits to him that she can’t allow herself to “feel it.”)
Her defensive walls crumble when confronted with his understated, empathetic concern. Consequently – and seriously, all things shipping aside – this is one of the main reasons I hope they have screen time together in S6.
Because I need Carol to take a breather and stop worrying about everyone else for five minutes. I need her to worry about herself.
[Huge giant enormous thanks to Donna for making the above .gif just for me. You’re the best!]