Andrew Lincoln wasn't kidding when he said that "the most controversial episode" the show has ever done was on the horizon. He had also hinted that it would not involve him, but he could have at least warned us that it would all go down like this!
Following the gruesome beheading of the beloved farmer Hershel Greene (portrayed by the incomparable Scott Wilson), we had no idea that The Walking Dead would cross that delicate line between necessary evil and sheer brutality. After the collapse of the prison in the mid-season finale, the group has been scattered and forced back out on the road, left in the dark about the rest of their companions. The back half of the season has given us some incredibly heart-wrenching character development, even if it has been comparatively light on shocking death. We have so many questions that haven't been answered...and the drama kicks into high gear on Sunday (March 16).
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Seriously. If you don't want to know what happens in Sunday's episode titled "The Grove," PLEASE stop reading. Thanks to the marvelous SPT spoiler fairies that skipped through the forest last night with this complete summary.
As we already know, "The Grove" focuses entirely on Carol (Melissa McBride), Tyreese (Chad Coleman), the psycho Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) and her sister Mika (Kyla Kenedy) and, of course, baby Judith. We've only seen them briefly in "Inmates," as screen time was also split between three other groups.
Previously, Carol had revealed that she had been hanging close to the prison, and, in fact, witnessed the end of the battle. She told Tyreese that she had been on their trail for a while but lost them. Fortunately, she came to the rescue at the very last second, saving the girls from a pack of walkers. If you recall, Lizzie also had way too much satisfaction in silencing Judith, covering the baby's mouth and nose with her hand. That scene still gives us the creeps.
But that doesn't compare with that's about to happen...
"The Grove" opens with a mysteriously dream-like sequence, in which Lizzie is seen playing tag with a walker. As we all know, she likes to befriend these things and thinks they are still human in some way.
It's now night. Tyreese and Mika are asleep while Carol (holding baby Judith) and Lizzie are on lookout. Tyreese begins to have an awful nightmare. Meanwhile, Carol brings up her daughter Sophia, her death and how she did not have a bad bone in her body -- remember that iconic barn scene from Season 2? She tells Lizzie what the girls must now to do stay alive and protect those they love in this world.
The next morning, the makeshift family takes to the tracks again, seemingly heading to Terminus. Carol and Tyreese are discussing the girls, with Carol sharing how she thinks Lizzie doesn't understand walkers. However, she is far more worried for Mika, resembling Sophia with her good nature. The group then catches wind of a fire but it's too far away, they surmise.
Next, Carol and Mika go for supplies. Tyreese, now holding Judith, and Lizzie wait on the tracks. A walker approaches them. Tyreese closes in on it. The walker trips on the tracks and loses its legs. Tyreese wants to put it down, but Lizzie (in her bizarre little way) begs him not to, telling him that sometimes they don't need to be killed.
Meanwhile, Carol and Mika are walking and talking about Sophia (we're sensing a theme here, don't ya think?), with Carol telling the bright-eyed child that walkers aren't the only threats out there. People can be dangerous, too. Carol tells her that someday, she'll have to kill someone. But Mika argues that she could never do that, instead she'll just run away. Carol brings up Sophia again and how she did the same, but that wasn't enough to save her.
Later, after meeting back up with Tyreese, Lizzie and Judith, the group continues on their journey and comes upon a house in a grove, surrounding by lovely green trees and a fence. It's eerily tranquil. The trees bare nuts and fruit. They decide to set up shop in the little house. Tyreese and Carol clear, while Lizzie and Mika watch over Judith outside. A walker advances on the girls, and Mika shoots it without thinking. Tyreese and Carol run out to find Lizzie off her rocker. She's hysterical. Back inside, Tyreese proposes that the group could make the cabin their new home and not travel to Terminus.
Cut to: the group is outside. Mika sees black smoke billowing up to the sky -- could this fire by the one Daryl and Beth started in "Still"? Carol instructs Mika to shoot a deer that has wandered into the clearing, but she can't.
Later on, Lizzie is seen playing with the walker (as we saw in the opening sequence). Carol is boiling water inside the house, looking outside at Lizzie and her antics. She runs out to kill the walker, which sends Lizzie into another fit of hysterics. She's obviously rather taken with her new play pal and declares that killing a walker is exactly the same as killing a living, breathing human being. Needless to say, Carol and Tyreese are floored by this development. There's just something not right here.
Awhile later, Lizzie is found back at the train tracks playing with the legless walker. Mika approaches her. Lizzie is feeding a rat to the walker and tells her sister that she wants the walker to bite her. She wants to be just like them. Charred walkers advance on the scene, and they run.
In the meantime, Carol and Tyreese are discussing this brave new world. He says that he's been having the most awful nightmares about Karen. "The world is haunted now," he tells her. She admits that the dead are all with them now and make them who they are. When Tyreese and Carol return back to the house, they uncover a bloody display.
Lizzie, holding a knife, is standing beside Mika's dead body. Judith is alive and crawling on a blanket nearby. Lizzie tells Tyreese and Carol that she was only making her sister into a walker and that Judith is next. They attempt to grab the knife from the cold-blooded killer but she draws a gun on them. She implores them to let Mika turn. Carol concedes, eventually binding Mika. She then sends Lizzie into the house with Tyreese and Judith. Carol has a meltdown, left sobbing over Mika's body.
After night falls, Tyreese and Carol must make a decision, as they talk about what their options in dealing with Lizzie. Here, Tyreeese reveals that he found Lizzie's box of dead rats. He knows she had been feeding them to the walkers at the prison. He believes Lizzie is also the one that killed and torched Karen and David. No, Carol disagrees, Lizzie wouldn't have killed them. She would have let them turn.
So, they decide what needs to be done and that Lizzie can not be around people anymore. The following morning, Tyreese (with baby Judith) watches from the kitchen window as Carol and Lizzie stroll through the garden. Lizzie is is disheartened, believing Carol is angry with her for drawing a gun on her the day before. But that's not it, Carol replies. Recalling Mika's words to Lizzie moments before their father died in the prison, Carol instructs Lizzie to look at the beautiful flowers. While she looks away, Carol takes out her gun and shoots her. Carol cries.
Tyreese and Carol bury the two girls in the grove.
Later that evening, Carol has a heart-to-heart with Tyreese, confessing to him that she's the one who killed Karen and David. She only wanted to protect her group. She slides the gun over to him, signaling him to do what he has to do. After asking her if it was a quick death, Carol says yes, and he forgives her. But he won't forget what happened.
The next day, Tyreese and Carol decide its time to move on. They continue on the tracks, with baby Judith in tow, of course, on their way to Terminus. A Carol voiceover is heard of her giving one of her knife lessons to the class back at the prison.
Cut to black.