Team Carol …saving hearts and minds

She has seen the worst of human nature. She has survived heartache, chronic abuse and the spiritual cost of living a life dominated by fear—and that was before the zombipocalypse hit. After all the horror Carol Peletier remains capable not only of love, but of taking emotional risks to express that affection. Carol is a survivor in so many ways that have nothing to do with putting a dent into a zombie’s skull.

Who is Carol Peletier? She is a character from The Walking Dead—a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman turned into one of the world’s hottest cable television shows by AMC and an insanely talented production crew. They have created cast of characters I have expressed a great deal of love for:

If you aren’t watching the show you should be. From the moment the show begins viewers are taken on the undead ride of a lifetime, watching a cast of beleaguered humans fight not only to survive, but to retain that which makes us most human.

Carol—played with stunningly intricate nuances by Melissa McBride—is the main survivor group’s mother figure. She, more than any of the other females, is able to consistently put aside her own hurts and doubts, to reach out and nurture those around her. In this regard Carol represents the best in human nature, a truly pure spirit we should all be so lucky to have in our lives.

[***WARNING: Spoilers ahead***]

From the get-go viewers could look at Carol and say, “This is a woman who has seen hell.” The way that Melissa McBride handles such a delicate character is brilliant—the little subtleties during her interactions around any man that told more about the extent of the abuse the character suffered than the one instance of on-screen abuse at the hands of her husband Ed in season one were chilling.

But it was also apparent right away she was a survivor. Whether for herself or the child she loves, Carol would find a way to persevere. And Carol’s true beauty was that her strength of spirit was there all along. We just couldn’t quite see it clearly behind the thick veil of abuse.
Carol is the epitome if motherhood on the show. She’s always there for the children. Teaches them in makeshift class rooms. Heck, she’ll even do a stranger’s laundry. She shows appreciation by taking care of others. No one forces Carol to do laundry. Unlike Andrea, who very much wants to throw off the restrictions she feels her gender ties her down with.

Carol sees suffering and reaches out, even at the risk of getting slapped for it. No other character on the show could have told Daryl what he so desperately needed to hear out loud—that while he may not have the education, experience or training of men like Rick and Shane, he is every bit as good as they are. While others like Dale may have seen or felt instinctually that Daryl needed this to help further the evolution he is experiencing, it was Carol that had the right combination of courage and empathy to deliver.

And then…there was Sophia.

Sophia was the light in Carol’s darkness. A child that, no matter what, brought joy and love into her life when an abusive husband sought to rob her of her dignity. In the aftermath of Sophia’s disappearance we saw both Carol’s finest and weakest moments.

Anyone who knows the pain of losing a child was physically shaking during Carol’s interaction with Daryl in the horse stable. What kind of strength does it take to tell someone that the search is over? To admit that you have to let go of your only child? Good grief, just writing that gives me goosebumps. Nothing, absolutely nothing, in this world compares to losing a child…the pain is physical, a paralyzing terror. And yet, somehow Carol has the strength of spirit to embrace a mother’s worst nightmare in an attempt to save the life of another.

My one big issue with the Sophia situation was that Carol took a back seat in the search for her child. Intellectually I understand this might have been the result of years of abuse and being pushed to the background until you yourself believe you have no contribution to make, and again McBride’s portrayal was brilliant. But everything in my core bucked against it, and I found myself itching to drive down to Georgia and start searching for a fictional character myself. That could have been difficult to explain later on….

But the real question now is—can Carol continue to survive?

We saw the battle Andrea fought after losing her sister Amy. Andrea and Carol have different kinds of strength, and Andrea appears to have found a way to pull through. Carol has now lost her source of joy, her anchor. Will that be it….the event that finally breaks her beautiful spirit?

With special thanks to R.C. Murphy

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3 Comments to “Team Carol …saving hearts and minds”

  1. Mary says:

    Great job again!

    To admit that you have to let go of your only child? Good grief, just writing that gives me goosebumps. —- Reading that gave me goosebumps!

  2. Sissy Mac Neil says:

    Great job & I am looking forward to seeing how she develops in the upcoming episodes. One comment I do have regarding her back seat in the search for Sophia… She has lived under a mans abuse for so long that to actually go out and do something such as searching herself was not an option.
    I could see her feeling she would get in the way if she went out with someone or going out on her own would just be foolish as she would probably end up walker food or lost and then the search for Sophia would also become a search for her.
    Coming from an abusive marriage she has strategies to survive. That is why she cleans,cooks and does laundry. It is her coping mechanism.
    I can’t wait to see the changes in her now that her child is dead.She is alone now and needs to learn all over again who she is and what her role is in life.It hurts to think of her without her beloved child but I think(hope) she becomes a strong woman and kicks walker butt!

  3. Amy says:

    Carol will always be the mother of the group. Not to diminish Lori’s mothering technique, Carol takes care of everyone because it’s what she’s good at, it’s her strength. Surely part of it stems from Ed’s abuse and a strictly defined role of what a woman is supposed to do… but even with him I’m sure she was the best wife she could be, whether out of fear or a sense of being true to her own nature. She’s good, honest, faithful and strong. It’s the quiet dignity that Melissa brings to the character I like so much, and her interactions with Daryl have been nothing less than heartwarming. Maybe Daryl just needs what we all need once in awhile – a mom. Maybe when everyone is fighting all the time to just live, having someone doing the little things for them every day without being asked makes their lives just a little bit easier. I know we’re going to get to a point where they all realize how vital she is to this bizarre family unit.

    The loss of Sophia is something I don’t even want to comment on in detail just now. To recover from that requires a tremendous strength that I’ve heard a lot of people say they could never have. I think Carol has that strength, or she will find it.

    xoxo