I never wanted to watch The Walking Dead – a “zombie show” hardly sounded on the surface like my thing. The Walking Dead has been talked and written about to such an extent that there is no reason on earth that I need to write more. I never imagined I would be someone who became addicted to the show, but I succumbed.
I got hooked like everyone else, but I suppose the real draw, apart from the idea of how people move forward after something catastrophic (whatever it is), is how individuals change and break out of the roles they play in life, continuing to evolve and toughen. Extraordinary circumstances bring out the extraordinary in people. This is the clearest “lesson” of The Walking Dead… all of the characters change to adapt to the new hardships, but some people become all new people in what is essentially an all new world. This is truest of Carol. It is probably also true of Michonne, the woman with the sword. We meet her when she is a fierce warrior, silent, all walls up and defensive. She becomes a caretaker for Andrea but our view into her past and the more sensitive woman she had been only comes into view later. In the latest season, we see her soften and move further in that direction. Everyone in The Walking Dead goes on a journey that changes them. It is inevitable.
But Carol… she has evolved completely throughout the course of the show. In the beginning, her meek and weak demeanor, and beaten-down, helpless woman persona drove me nuts. Every week I wished the zombies would get their hands on her. In a field full of other characters it seemed like Carol was just dead weight… an abused woman who embodies the worst traits of the abused woman. Not that you blame an abused person for “following the script” – and in that, Melissa McBride was outstanding. You pity her but hate her at the same time because, in light of the changed world, she seemed weaker, more helpless and more pathetic than ever. How can you whine and seem THAT petty when nothing around you is about you or your individual life any longer? Carol was still under her husband’s thumb when things started, and even once he was gone, she was still bound by the fear instilled in her through all the years of abuse. She also loses her daughter, and this is probably the last straw that turns Carol into the force she comes to be reckoned with. She ends up being one of the toughest, most ruthless, most calculating, most logical parts of the group – her earlier weakness filtered into a resilience that surpasses everyone else’s in the entire group. You end up respecting Carol more deeply than almost anyone else – in large part because of the journey she has taken, the growth she’s displayed (while letting go of some of the humanity that made her as sensitive as she once was).
Carol really came into her own in the most recent season of The Walking Dead, hiding in plain sight by “impersonating” her former self. Carol, as independent and tough as she has become, is fiercely protective and even maternal in her drive to take care of her own. Seeing her personal journey, along with the journeys of other cast favorites (such as Daryl), has been one of the most rewarding parts of sticking with the show.