‘The Walking Dead’: Carol’s Got a New Man—and Is Not Invincible After All

The 14th episode of the show’s sixth season introduced a new romance for the smoking-hot badass. But who is he and how’d he earn all that beets-and-acorn love? [Warning: Spoilers]

03.07.16 3:00 AM ET

One of the most brutal moments in The Walking Dead’s “Not Tomorrow Yet”—an episode in which our heroes shoot or stab people to death in their sleep and casually punch a severed head in the nose—is bloodless. It’s a breakup scene between Abraham and Rosita, in which Rosita walks in to find Abraham packing his bags and demands to know why. Abraham—a straight-talking ex-military sergeant who we know to be a good guy—answers plainly but cruelly: “When I first met you, I thought you were the last woman on Earth. You’re not.” He flees. She crumples into tears.

Abraham and Rosita were never as compelling a couple as, say, Maggie and Glenn or even Rick and Lori. (How little we’ve gotten to know Rosita, even two seasons after her pig-tailed, gun-slinging entrance, likely has something to do with that.) But even still, Abraham’s breakup line from hell came seemingly out of left field: last week, the sergeant went all googly-eyed at the notion of baby-making and settling down, epiphanies prompted by Maggie’s first ultrasound. This week, he may or may not want a brood of little red-headed Army men running around barking words like “dingleberry,” but Rosita is out of the picture. Why? Great question! The episode doesn’t bother answering.

The breakup does check off one more box in the series of events leading up to the showdown with Negan, however. In the comics (requisite spoiler alert here for those who have not read or don’t want to know what may or may not happen in the episodes ahead), Abraham is killed by a Savior in the middle of a conversation with Eugene about Rosita. Abraham expresses regret at the way he did her wrong, right before Dwight—a character we’ve already met on the show, who stole Daryl’s motorcycle and crossbow back in “Always Accountable”—fires an arrow straight through his head. The motorcycle was seen again at the end of “Not Tomorrow Yet,” as one Savior tried and failed to stage a getaway. The crossbow, unluckily for Abraham, will probably make a comeback soon, too. 

Elsewhere in the episode, characters like Carol, Morgan and Tara grappled with guilt once again though, as usual, Carol is carrying a heavier burden than most. We learn that she’s keeping count of the lives she’s taken, including Wolves and Termites, stretching all the way back to Lizzie, her unhinged adopted “daughter,” and that first pair of murders that got her kicked out of the prison-farm. Judging by the beets-and-acorn cookie she leaves at Sam’s grave, she also understands the weight of her responsibility in telling a scared, traumatized little boy to essentially shut up and get over the death of his abusive father. Hooray for hindsight.

While she’s still not opening up to anyone about any of this, Carol has settled on a male companion worth sharing moonlit porchside kisses with and…it’s not Daryl. Sorry, guys. (Let the gay Daryl theories rage on!) Instead, it’s Tobin, a mild-mannered Alexandrian who used to work as the community’s head of construction until he ceded the post to Abraham. In their porchside conversation, Tobin pinpoints what makes Carol often seem so invincible: her maternal instincts. He isn’t much of a fighter—he resigned from his post out of guilt over abandoning Francine, one of his crewmembers, in the middle of an attack—but I like to imagine he was once an action movie buff and sees the same strength in Carol that he did in Alien’s Ellen Ripley and Terminator’s Sarah Connor. “You can do things that just terrify me,” he says. “[Because] you’re a mom.”

But who knows what brought Carol and Tobin together? The first time they spoke was back in Season 5’s “Forget,” when he offered to teach her to shoot a gun—a proposition so laughable, even as Carol hunted for cookie ingredients in a cardigan, that it made him seem sort of silly. Watching him abandon Francine (who survived to punch him in the face, thanks to Abraham), and whine to Deanna about exiling Rick during the community-wide meeting in “Conquer” also didn’t do him any favors. But he did stand up to Carter, another member of the construction crew who tried to hatch a plan to kill Rick in “First Time Again.” Carter may have even shot and killed Eugene, who was caught eavesdropping, if not for Tobin and Rick. So we know the man has a conscience. And he clearly recognizes a smoking-hot badass when he sees one. He’s got that going for him.

Elsewhere in Alexandria, Morgan, who by now has fully transformed into this show’s Skyler White, continues to say perfectly sane things like, “Hey, maybe we should talk to these Savior people instead of rushing in half-cocked with a risky-as-hell plan to kill them all?” and be universally reviled for it. Father Gabriel, meanwhile, is looking cooler than he has any right to these days with a rifle slung over a freshly pressed suit and viewers’ seething hatred temporarily diverted by Morgan. Lo and behold, he actually kills a baddie when he needs to—and literally makes the man say his prayers, another undeniably badass move.

Significantly, Glenn also murders a fellow human being for the first time ever in this episode—and not only once, but twice to spare Heath the same trauma. Stephen Yeun conveys Glenn’s pain with a sympathetic blend of horror and disgust, both at himself and the bloody, mangled messes in front of him. (Ominously, he also finds polaroids of people whose heads have been beaten to bloody pulps stuck to a wall inside a Savior’s room—likely the work of Lucille, Negan’s beloved barbed bat.) The episode's climactic raid scene was chaotic and claustrophobic, but through Glenn’s eyes, it was also morally reprehensible.

The group’s victims may have been Saviors—murderous, sadistic, evil brutes. But they were also helpless at the time of their deaths, sleeping peacefully when Rick’s group quietly shoved knives into their brains. Necessary as the murders seemed at the time, they lent the scene an air of moral ambiguity (amplified by director Greg Nicotero’s decision to keep the camera on the murderers’ faces, rather than the gore) that made Maggie and Carol’s ultimate capture sting even worse. Rick’s plan was terrible, and it was all for naught. And Carol is not invincible after all. As thrilling as it can be to watch these characters pull off miraculous victories (as they did against the zombie horde in Alexandria in “No Way Out”), the events ahead are infinitely more interesting knowing that, yes, they are still fallible after all.

There are now four hours left in The Walking Dead’s sixth season, which makes at least three hours (likely, given the show’s love of drawing things out) until Negan finally makes his violent onscreen debut. The battle to take over the Saviors’ satellite compound may have been an exercise in futility—bless Michonne fror asking “Which one of them was Negan?”—but with Carol and Maggie now captured, we’re getting closer to venturing into the Sanctuary, the fortified factory the Saviors call home. Let’s just hope the characters we love make it out alive.