The Walking Dead: 506 “Consumed” Review
Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz.
Four episodes ago, everyone’s favourite archer and everyone’s favourite Terminus invader, Daryl and Carol, sped off into the night after a car with a white cross – and while we’ve seen the endpoint of the two’s day-long adventure (Daryl back at the church with an unknown friend, and Carol in the hospital on a stretcher), we’ve barely had a peep from the two since they drove off. This week’s episode sought to rectify that, portraying Daryl and Carol’s Atlanta adventures (now there’s a spinoff idea) and filling in most of the gaps left by those cliffhangers.
Consumed begins with a montage showing a snapshot of Carol’s life after her banishment last season – and her eventual return to the prison, only to find it a little bit on fire. It wasn’t hugely relevant to the rest of the plot, but it was a nice opening scene nonetheless; satisfyingly dipping into one of The Walking Dead’s numerous unexplored off-screen adventures and even providing a relatively good reason for Carol’s slightly lucky reappearance at the second half of the last season. The recurring motif of fire and smoke showed up several times after the opening scene – and while there’s potential for it to be foreshadowing for some the midseason finale (remember that every sanctuary Rick’s group visits ends up on fire), but in the context of this episode the attempt at a theme came across curiously unexplained, and a little meaningless.
After last week’s ensemble episode, Consumed pared back the list of characters to just two for most of the runtime – Carol and Daryl, arguably The Walking Dead’s two genuine powerhouse characters (along with Rick, of course). Carol and Daryl have always been an engaging pair to watch, and Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride carry the episode with aplomb; as two characters who have been in the show from season one, the relationship between the two feels far more developed and interesting to watch than most Walking Dead characters when they’re thrown together (sorry, Eugene and Tara). On the subject of season one, Consumed felt in many ways like a nostalgic throwback to the relatively simple days of the show’s city-based first season – it was genuinely refreshing and exciting to return to Atlanta after three seasons in the countryside, and the city setting helped give the episode a unique feel to the rest of the season.
The nostalgic feel ran slightly deeper than the setting however, as some of Carol’s slightly forgotten character past resurfaced. Carol has evolved from a tolerable minor character to potentially the most interesting character on the show – tough enough to destroy Terminus with a firework launcher, a rifle and some walker blood, but with far more nuance and interesting backstory than most of the show’s characters. There was an excellent, subtle callback to Carol’s ill-fated daughter Sophia (ah, season two), along with nods to her past as an abused housewife and her perhaps slightly over-mentioned murder of Karen and David from season four – all of which served as a (slightly ominous?) reminder that despite her action hero assault on Terminus in the premiere, Carol is very much not invincible… which perhaps doesn’t bode well for the upcoming confrontation with the hospital. Melissa McBride has been one of The Walking Dead’s best actresses for a while now (even picking up a Saturn Award for her work last year) – and she did a reliably excellent job here with both the meaty emotional work and the more ass-kicking side of Carol. The later scenes with Noah, however, were a little weak – Carol and Daryl switched viewpoints about the possibility of killing Noah entirely within the space of a couple of hours, leaving the conflict feeling a slightly contrived way to stir up some short lived conflict between characters.
Consumed also served up some great walker moments too – both amusing (the image of walkers squirming in sleeping bags was a bizarre highlight, along with the sight of walkers flopping onto the crashed van’s windscreen) and tense. The van scene, where Carol and Daryl found themselves dangling off a bridge in a walker-surrounded van in particular was a genuinely thrilling scene (and one that couldn’t really have been done out in the countryside setting of previous seasons) – even if the conclusion of that moment perhaps stretched credibility a little. After five seasons, it’s impressive to see The Walking Dead still come up with inventive ways to use the walkers – and the city setting proved to be a nice catalyst for some of the most interesting walker related action we’ve seen in a while.
Finally, Consumed served up explanations for the questions we’ve been waiting weeks to be answered – specifically the identity of Daryl’s bush buddy, and how Carol ended up on the hospital. Carol’s car crash was a neat shocker of a moment, eliminating the popular theory that Carol was a Trojan horse to recapture Beth and putting a character that seemed invulnerable at the start of the season in serious jeopardy. It wasn’t a huge shocker to see Noah resurface after his escape in Slabtown, but his reappearance did finally provide an name to the mystery man in the bushes, neatly bringing us almost back to those concluding moments at the end of Four Walls and a Roof. With Carol in the hospital and Daryl and Noah driving back for reinforcements, we’re almost set for a match-up between Team Grimes and the Grady Hospital crew – and with Rick Grimes now involved, it’s probably going to be explosive.
Consumed is in many ways a filler episode – a few required key scenes stretched to forty-five minutes – but it’s a solid episode nonetheless, providing some strong character development for Carol and a nostalgic trip back to where it all began four years ago. It also finally syncs up all the disparate timelines we’ve had this season – and if the promo for next week is anything to go by, episode seven will see the return of pretty much every regular as we head into the mid-season finale. Just two episodes left…
Scene of the Episode: A Bridge Too Far – Carol and Daryl find themselves in a sticky situation that can only be solved with the power of a magic van flip.