From a storytelling perspective, this has been an unusual season of The Walking Dead. Where earlier seasons have largely been built around the core Rick & Co. group working together, Season 7 has been structured mostly as short stories about individual characters out on their own. What’s becoming clear is how significant these individual character strands will be when the group comes back together.
Even when these characters are the B-story, as with Carol in this week’s “Bury Me Here,” there’s an unmistakable sense that we’re seeing them prepare to contribute in significant ways to the impending war against Negan and the Saviors.
Carol (Melissa McBride), who has been disengaged from the world and living on her own, begins the episode unable to sleep and traveling to the Kingdom.
“You found what you wanted, right?” Morgan (Lennie James) asks her when she gets there. “You got away from everyone. Is it what you wanted?” It’s a rhetorical—or rhetoooricaaaaal as Gregory said a few episodes back—question. Carol is there, which is already a great distance from her “I don’t want anything to do with your lives” speech in the midseason finale.
A few scenes later, Carol is back at her house when King Ezekiel brings young Benjamin (Logan Miller) there after he’s shot during a supply drop-off. Benjamin has asked Carol to help him become a better fighter numerous times, including this episode, and she has always shrugged him off. Crucially, there’s no reaction shot to Carol, but she almost certainly gets that sitting in her sad little house reading Danielle Steel novels isn’t good for her or the lives she could defend.
The A-story—Richard (Karl Makinen) single-handedly shorting the produce by one cantaloupe to instigate the Saviors during the drop-off that resulted in Benjamin getting shot—served the episode’s action quota and moved the Allies (Rick & Co., the Kingdom and some of the Hilltoppers) another click closer to war. I’ve been a little impatient with King Ezekiel’s slow realization that taking on Negan and the Saviors is the only long-term solution for the Kingdom—live free or die, as they say—but his arc parallels Rick, Morgan, Carol and others who have progressed from disengagement to a willingness to die fighting for their own freedom.
Making the decision to fight back against inequality, the theme of the season, has been an uncomfortable story to watch in the current political environment. The Walking Dead has become a fantasy version of our own reality. We don’t live in constant fear of zombies or have murderous villains running the government, but we have genuine anxiety about a, shall we say, unconventional president. The show’s emphasis on individual decisions to push back runs in parallel to the growing real-world movement to resist the Trump administration. “I knew they had problems, but I didn’t think they were mine to solve,” Richard recalls of his experience in a disaster camp immediately after the zombie outbreak. “So I did nothing.” He regrets sitting idly by then, and he won’t do so now.
Richard’s methods are reckless. He comes from a pure, selfless place of inciting the Saviors to kill him, but his ruse with the cantaloupes gets Benjamin killed instead. When Morgan strangles Richard to death for that recklessness in front of the Saviors at the next drop-off, he sells the Saviors with an earnest speech about how they’ve learned their lesson and will comply. He cribbed it from Richard, who had the idea but lacked the patience to carry it out.
Richard, Benjamin, Morgan, Rick, Carol and others have taken different paths to resistance. They’ve had different thresholds and different priorities, and all of them—except Richard and Benjamin, obviously; they’re zombie food now—are ready to fight. Those individual stories this season have been cumulative but not repetitive. The personal is political, and the power of a movement comes from a mass of individuals with their own lives and their own needs arriving at the same conclusion.
The reaction shot that Carol didn’t get earlier in the episode comes at the end, when Morgan tells her about the carnage at Alexandria—Glenn, Abraham, Spencer, Olivia—at the hands of Negan, and she shows genuine shock and sadness. When she returns to the Kingdom at the end of the episode, Carol has made a decision.
“We have to get ready,” she tells Ezekiel. “We have to fight.”