Warning: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for the “Not Tomorrow Yet” episode of The Walking Dead.
Where’s Carol Peletier been since The Walking Dead midseason premiere? Perfecting her beet acorn cookies, apparently. She’s baking up a big batch of the pink veggie nut treats when we finally catch back up with her in “Not Tomorrow Yet,” delivering them with big smiles to all the townsfolk of Alexandria. She’s also sharing a little romance with neighbor Tobin, suddenly smoking, and keeping track of the people she’s killed in a little black journal. In other words, there’s a lot of different feels floating around in Ms. Peletier’s head these days.
Yahoo TV talked to Carol portrayer Melissa McBride to get her take on that great opening montage that felt like a Carol sitcom, the very non-sitcom-y guilt Carol is feeling about all the things she’s had to do to protect herself and her friends in the apocalypse, her new — romance? — with Tobin, why Carol started smoking, and the very harsh state of affairs that has Carol freaking out about Maggie going after the Saviors.
For the last few weeks, viewers have been saying, “Where’s Carol?”
I know! Where is Carol?
She’s back in a big way in “Not Tomorrow Yet,” starting with that opening montage that sort of felt like we were watching a Carol sitcom.
Yeah, that was a strange, fun opening. It was funny, when I was watching the [episode], I thought, “Wait a minute. Is this The Walking Dead?” I had forgotten how that started out. Then I thought, “Is there a commercial on before? Wait a minute, what am I…? Oh, yeah…” And then I started to recognize it, but it was a strange sensation.
Did it feel like that when you were filming it? Did you have that sense that this was a lighter Carol?
No. No, and I think just because… I think it’s her really reaching for the lightness, because the darkness is so profound. There’s peace in the valley, for now. Waking up, thinking that you can bring a smile to peoples’ faces, and just have some bit of normalcy in doing what you love, and also, for Carol, cooking and baking helps her not to have to think about the pain. To me, she is a woman who has a lot of grief and a lot of guilt for the things that she’s done and the people that she’s lost.
I think, since the beginning… back to Sophia coming out of the barn, she’s just had to very quickly adapt, to do what she has to do to survive and help the people in her band of survivors to live another day. It’s strange, because she puts on those other faces in order to do that, and also, I think, to escape the pain and horror of what she’s having to do.
Do you think Carol is still playing the role she played when she first got to Alexandria, or is it also, at least partly, that this is who she really wants to be?
I think that’s partly who she really is. I think it’s left over from before all of this ever happened, and I think all of these characters, to some extent or another, have become, or developed, a whole other sense of self: one that has to take over and do these horrible things, and then the one who tries to forget about it when you go to sleep at night and feel like a human being who is justified in what they do. It’s best not to think about it, because that is really just the way it is. Rick tells everyone this is how it is now, and this is how we eat. This is how we’re going to get our food. This is what we have to do. Deals are being made, and it’s a very new, weird world.
Carol has always accepted that, that there are simply things you have to do to survive, but it seems to be catching up with her at this point. Has Morgan rattled her a little bit with his philosophy, and made her wonder if that’s the right way to go? Has she been keeping that journal with the list of the people that she’s killed all along, or is this something that she just did because it’s really starting to build up in her?
I think it’s definitely starting to build up in her, and I think Morgan may be a catalyst for some of it, but I think it is something that would have happened regardless of his presence. Just the notion of taking a human life is, it’s unnatural. This life in Alexandria in peacetime… it’s like the greatest day you could ever have is to have a beautiful day with a smile on your face, making cookies, and to try to escape the fact that you have taken lives to survive.
When you’re around the same people who are doing the same things, there’s no one saying, “What are we doing?” That’s why no one brings it up, because we know we have to do it. Why are we pointing the finger at it? It’s horrible enough, so it goes unspoken. Carol’s having these thoughts, and yeah, to a certain extent, Morgan is a catalyst for those thoughts creeping up.
When Carol and Rosita have the conversation about Morgan, Carol says one of the reasons they didn’t tell Rick and the others about what Morgan did with the Wolf is because of Denise, that people would know about Denise. What does she mean there? What will they know?
I believe she was talking about Denise assisting Morgan when she [treated] the Wolf who came in and wreaked havoc on our group, and killed some of our people. She was an accomplice.
Is that the only reason, you think, that Carol doesn’t want everyone else to know about what Morgan did? She knows that his philosophy just isn’t possible, especially in situations like with the Wolves, or with the Saviors. You can’t just turn the other cheek, or lock up all of those people. But, given how everything she’s had to do it haunting her right now, does she also have a certain respect for Morgan’s philosophy?
She does have a certain respect for Morgan, because he wants that so badly. His heart is good. And there are other people who can kill. She’s having these conflicting feelings of her own. She can understand why he wouldn’t want to, because who wants that blood on their hands? It leaves such a scar, and really messes with your [ability to feel] human.
Do you think part of Carol’s attraction to Tobin is that he also is someone who has said he doesn’t think he has the ability to kill?
I hadn’t really given that a thought. I think it’s possible, but I think it was more that she was seeking understanding and, with his words [she wanted] a comfort that helps her justify how she could be doing these horrible things.
Did anything happened between Carol and Tobin after the kiss on the porch? She’s going off to this big, dangerous, scary thing the next day, and she says to him, “It’s not tomorrow yet.”
“It’s not tomorrow yet.” I don’t know. It’s open, so I guess we can think whatever we want.
Do you think there’s real romantic potential there, for Carol and Tobin?
Well, I don’t know. I think, in that moment… that’s where I played it and left it, in that moment. You don’t know if they’re going to be alive tomorrow. He’s kind, and it’s just where we are. Hard to look forward in a world like this.
Do you think this is going to break the hearts of Carol and Daryl fans, though?
I’m not commenting on that. It’s the moment before they embark on this thing. She’s leaving. Who knows? That’s what it is. It just happened in the moment. I’m leaving it at that.
Carol is smoking in this episode, which was jarring, because we know that she finds it to be such a vile habit. She had tried to get Mrs. Neudermeyer to quit before she was killed by the Wolves. Why is Carol smoking now?
I believe that it’s an expression of some guilt, definitely… some conscience. She [told Mrs. Neudermeyer], “You should not smoke in the house,” and Neudermeyer’s outside smoking, and her head gets lopped off, or whatever. I think Carol’s punishing herself, in a way, with that.
Does she still feel responsible for Mrs. Neudermeyer and some of the other people who were killed in Alexandria, because they trusted her so much?
I think with Carol, she feels like she can’t do enough to save everyone. There is grief and guilt in Carol that has backed up. The grief of everyone she’s lost… she’s never really expressed the grief. She has not allowed herself to feel things in order to continue to do what she has to do to survive with her group. I think things are just piling up.
Carol is very concerned, and angry, and freaked out about Maggie being on this trip to deal with the Saviors. What’s behind that? What specifically is making her so upset about that?
I think she is projecting her own needs of survival, in a way. Saying [to Maggie], at this point, you have to stay as safe as you can, stay out of the danger, and be the expectant mother that you are, and not put yourself out here like this. You’re carrying a child. You have to be someone else now. You can’t be the outside warrior right now. She doesn’t want Maggie to… it’s hard enough to have a child in that kind of world, and then to be doing these horrible things that absolutely inform your brain, and your philosophy, and your outlook. I think it’s hard to imagine taking a life when you’re about to bring another one into the world. These are not the kind of thoughts that Carol would want her to be having, or experiencing these things. And it’s dangerous. No place is safe anymore. I don’t think anything is safe anymore.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.