The Walking Dead is a series that features many strong female characters fighting to survive the apocalypse. As the apocalypse continues the characters have to adapt by becoming more physically and emotionally stronger just to survive. Although the triumphs and failures of women trying to live in the post apocalyptic world has been explored over the last 6 seasons, this past episode “The Same Boat” focused primarily on female characters for the first time.
In the previous episode Rick Grime’s group infiltrates the camp of a group called the “Saviors” who they murder leaving only one man alive. Unknown to them there is another small group of Saviors outside the wall. Two of the strongest women featured in the series, Carol and Maggie, are taken as collateral by a group of three women and one man. Carol and Maggie are held captive in a former slaughter house. At this point it is clear only one group will make it out alive while the other will be slaughtered.
Carol and Maggie are both women that have held their own in the apocalypse. Carol is a woman that before the apocalypse lived with her abusive husband and could not find the courage to leave. After the death of her only daughter, Carol has become a leader of the group and often tries to teach children to understand the dangers of the apocalypse and how to defend themselves. Carol often disguises herself as a weaker person to fool new people in to underestimating her. Maggie was born and raised as a small town farm girl. She is a character that is not afraid to fight for what she believes in and is often on the front line of danger. After losing her entire family to walkers, Maggie is trying to rebuild her life with her husband Glenn and is pregnant with their first child. Despite the fact that she is expecting Maggie still wanted to participate in the dangerous fight against the Saviors.
Two of the Savior women, Michelle and Paula, display strong character as well. Paula is a counterpart to Carol. She describes her mediocre life as a secretary before the outbreak. She describes her form life as pathetic, a term she also uses for Carol. She is now a relentless killer who says she stopped counting how many people she has killed after reaching double digits. Paula represents what Carol could become if she completely loses touch with her humanity. She started as a submissive like Carol and became a cold hearted killer.
Maggie is separated for integration with Michelle. She tells the story of how she lost her finger which was cut off after she stole gas and went searching for her boyfriend’s body. She too had once been pregnant. Maggie has previously put herself into danger several times attempting to find Glenn after they were separated. Michelle shows how hardened someone can come when they do not have anything they want to hold on to. She has become cold and resentful. She has given up, which is something Maggie refuses to do.
Carol and Maggie manage to get themselves out of an impossible situation. Carol adopts her disguise as the weak woman. She fakes a panic attack so they remove her gag to stop her from hyperventilating. Carol finds a rosary on the floor and uses it to pretend she is praying. This makes the women laugh at her weakness and doubt her ability to escape. After they leave she uses the rosary to pierce the duct tape bonds and free herself. This is ironic because the Savior women laugh at her for trying to use religion to escape the situation and ultimately the rosary frees her.
Carol and Maggie ultimately face a brutal face to face battle with the Savior women. To survive they are forced to kill them. They kill their reinforcements ironically in the “kill room” of the slaughter house where they burn them alive. In the end they feel and look remorseful and terrified. The difference from themselves and the saviors is what humanity they have managed to hold on to. The title of the episode “The Same Boat” literally means that they are in the same boat as the other women. They are trapped within the brutal post apocalyptic world as they are. They are so afraid of become as cold as those women, yet they just brutally murdered them. It is hard for them to murder the women but necessary to survive. Carol confesses to Maggie that she has now killed 20 people and Maggie tells her not to think about it. Carol responds by saying “I can’t”. The difference between Carol and Paula is that Carol continues to count.
Carol struggles to kill Paula.
This episode is unique because it is the most female dominated the series has ever produced. What is interesting that the same themes of humanity and survival are repeated just as they are in the male dominated episodes. In this world it seems that these women have adapted in the same way as the male characters. We see more stereotypical feminine qualities in more sheltered women who appear in the series, however Maggie and Carol are considered true survivors and do not possess these qualities. We know that Carol especially has had a drastic change from her pre-apocalypse personality. Gender seems to not act as a drastic difference in the group this far into the apocalypse. Fear, death, and the fight for survival has hardened and changed them. It is exciting that this series doesn’t victimize women or focus solely on men like some literature and film (like Doctor Strangelove).
Did this female centric episode teach us anything different than the other episodes?