Evolution of Carol: Timid Abuse Victim to Badass Protector (Walking Dead)
(A/N: Spoilers for those not caught up on The Walking Dead)
Carol did not start off as my favorite character but she is now. I love her because she is one of the best written characters I have seen on a television show in a long time. Her evolution from a timid abuse victim to a badass protector was gradual and done in just the right way. She didn’t jump from being someone without a voice to someone who killed people to protect others. She had to go through quiet a bit to get to the point where she is now.
It is interesting to me that I call Carol one of my favorite characters now because when I started watching the show she was a background character I barely paid any attention to. When we first met Carol she was controlled and abused my her husband, Ed. He told her what to do, where to be and what to wear. Carol had no identity of her own. I felt bad for her and hated how she was treated but I couldn’t relate to her very well and I didn’t spare much thought to her at first. There were so many other stronger, more dynamic characters to watch at the time that she slid into the background and stayed there for a little while.
Carol’s transformation began with the death of her husband, Ed. I was very glad to see him eaten, not so much for Carol’s sake but more because he made my skin crawl. He was a despicable man who deserved to die and deserved to die early in the show. At the time I didn’t think too much about what it did for Carol, I more was thinking about how I felt to see him gone for myself as a viewer.
This was the very start of Carol gaining her voice and identify. She was no longer controlled by this horrible man. The writers did it very well though. It wasn’t like she woke up from a trance and all of sudden was giving directions and being assertive. She didn’t just appear as an independent woman the next episode. Her change was slow and gradual just as it should have been. We saw little changes at first, like when they were on the highway and going through a car’s contents. She found a shirt that she liked and said that she would never have been able to wear it around Ed. She takes it. It is small moves like this that build her into the woman we have on the show now.
Carol lost her husband but still had her daughter, Sophia. Carol’s life always revolved around Sophia, even before this whole thing began. Everything she did was to protect and care for her daughter. She didn’t think about herself, she couldn’t. In this world her child’s survival had to come before her own. (Note: This is a look at Carol’s character from the tv show not from the comics. The Carol in the comics is a much different woman than the one on the show). When Sophia goes missing Carol’s world shuts down. All she can do is worry and wonder about her daughter. But she still hasn’t gained enough confidence and independence to go out and find her, herself. She stays behind while everyone else goes looking. If this situation happened with the Carol we have now, she would be out there without a second thought hunting for the child, no questions asked. But Carol hadn’t progressed far enough to go out on her own yet.
Then Carol has to watch as her daughter walk out of the barn as a walker. Her world implodes around her. Her reason for living and fighting is now gone. She has failed as a mother to protect her flesh and blood. I think in this moment something snapped in her head and also a realizations began to bloom as well. She realized that she could no longer stand ideally by, she had to take control of her surroundings now.
Carol didn’t stay on the farm when it was attacked and lay down and die like she could easily have done. Instead she ran because she wanted to live. At the time I am not sure she understood why she wanted to live but she knew she couldn’t give up. She had formed a deep connection with the group and she wasn’t going to leave them that easily.
In Season Three we saw our Carol gradually starting to come out. She was very quiet, not doing too much but her connection to the group deepened with each episode. We got a slow build to her actions in Season Four. Carol lost her daughter and transferred that motherly instinct to the group. She loves them and she will protect them at all costs. No one hurts those she cares about, no one. She watched the struggle with the governor and she learned that you can’t stand on the sidelines if you want to protect those you love. You have to stand up, grab a gun and take care of the threat yourself. If you stand behind the line, people get hurt and die and Carol watched this and learned from it.
Season Four was the season when we got to see our new Carol, our badass protector Carol. She killed Karen and David because she thought she had no choice. They were sick, they were going to die and turn and put everyone else in danger. That wasn’t an option for her. Carol learned from seeing her daughter walk out of that barn as walker, learned from the attack on the prison by the governor; she learned that if she has a power to stop a threat she has to use that power.
Carol took a big step in that moment. No longer was she the timid woman hiding in the corner letting others make the life altering choices for her. She will take matters into her own hands from now on. Was murder too far in this matter? That is a very complicated question. If we stand inside her shoes, it doesn’t seem like it was too far. They would have killed or hurt someone she cared about and that was all she could see in front of her. They were another threat that was going to take out someone she cared about. As I stated in my last post about this show this world does not run on our idea of morals anymore. There are certain choices that have to be made that are hard and seem immoral and cruel. Theses are scenarios that we can’t completely comprehend. Carol made her choice to save the group, for good or bad she decided that the survival of the many were more important than survival of the few.
We saw in of the last episodes of this half to the season that her choices hurt her. This is another reason I like her character so much. She isn’t a ruthless killer, her decision weighs on her. She knows what she did and she knows why but it still hurts her to have done it. She still feels for people, she hasn’t turned off her emotions completely. If she had we would not have see the struggle she had with Lizzie.
She so badly wanted to save both Lizzie and Micah. She knew that Micah being a timid passive person was not going to keep her alive in this world. She was too vulnerable. And this scared Carol because that was who she was at one point in time. She saw the pain that came from being that way and she knew that this child would never make it if she followed the same path Carol had followed.
Whereas with Lizzie, Carol tried so hard to make her see the reality of the world she now lived in. Lizzie saw the walkers as people who were just misunderstood. She wanted everyone else to see what she saw in the walkers. Lizzie couldn’t see the danger that was all around her. Carol tried so hard to save both girls but ultimately failed.
Carol made her final turn when she made the decision to kill Lizzie. Everything inside of her wanted to save this young girl, to find a way to allow her to stay in this world and to survive. Ultimately she saw the reality of the situation at hand. Lizzie was a danger not only to herself but to everyone she came into contact with. Something was not quiet right with her and Carol had no resources or ways to help her. Carol could not protect her and keep others safe at the same time. Yet again she had to make a very big decision. She chose to kill Lizzie because she could see what the young girl’s fate would be. She was rather it be by her hand, a hand that loved and cared for her, rather then by an angry resentful hand full of hatred. This choice was one that will never leave Carol. Yet again she stood and made a decision that would save a greater number of lives. But it was a decision that will weigh on her heart and soul forever.
This season started with Carol showing us her full badass ways and saving everyone at Terminus. She stormed the gates covered in walker guts to save all those she loved. She didn’t care about the danger, in the end it was and will always be about them.
We got a Carol and Daryl centric episode before the finale of this half of the season. We see that Carol is really struggling. She is trying desperately to make sense of this world, her actions and her choices. We saw her lost and confused. She doesn’t quiet know what to do with her life now. She will always fight for the group and their protection but the choices she has had to make to do that are really starting to haunt her. She is having time to reflect on her decisions. I think she is seeing and analyzing her own transformation and trying to figure out who she is now. She can barely recognize the woman she was as well as the woman she has become.
Carol’s story is far from over. Carol started out as woman who couldn’t even choose her own clothes and now she makes choices that are literally life and death. On the outside she is the badass that will take up guns and storm barricades to rescue the group but on the inside she is a lost woman trying to figure out if her choices were right and worth it. How long will she be able to live with her choices and decisions? Will they begin to haunt and tear her down? Will she lean on Daryl to help her remain standing? Will she be able to realize that this world is not the same as the one she grew up in? Will she see that some terrible horrible decisions have to be made to save those you love and protect the good that still lives in the world? Will she be able to maintain this badass facade or will she break down? I am eager to see the direction Carol goes in the rest of this season.