Grove_WalkerFire and smoke played an important role in last night’s controversial episode of The Walking Dead, “The Grove.”

As Carol and her group move through the grove, black smoke rises near their temporary encampment.

This may be a sign that Carol is closer to her scattered group than she thinks. In episode 12, Daryl and Beth set a cabin on fire. Could the smoke Carol sees be from that fire?

This implies Carol and Daryl’s paths will likely collide in the very near future now that she and Tyreese are back on the road.

Once inside their temporary shelter, Carol boils water. As the kettle whistles, it signals Lizzie’s boiling point. Carol sees Lizzie playing with a walker and immediately springs into action, scolding Lizzie. Lizzie’s shrieks back at Carol, “What if I killed you!”

Fire is part of Carol’s recent past. She killed and burned Karen, Tyreese’s girlfriend, to prevent the spread of infection. Tyreese unwittingly shares his grief with the person who caused it. As he shares his pain, he tells Carol  that all survivors are haunted.

Soon after his comments, charred walkers attack their camp. Guilt sears her conscience. The charred walkers are a visible reminder of her actions. That part of her that is capable of doing the unthinkable will not die.

This is confirmed later in the episode when Carol walks with Lizzie in the grove. Carol quotes Mika to correct Lizzie when she says the fire is still burning. The scene echoes Mika’s sentiment that everything works out the way it should. Carol is still capable of doing ugly things for the greater good, and so she kills her only remaining “daughter,” Lizzie, who is a threat to herself and anyone alive.

Carol blames herself for Mika’s murder. She says she should have seen Lizzie’s heinous act coming. This plays to the old cliche, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

The signals of Lizzie’s instability were clear, yet Carol did not see the danger. Perhaps it was too painful to allow herself to see the truth.

Somehow, Carol emerges from the episode’s painful loss and sacrifice a stronger woman and leader. She rises from the ashes of the destruction and starts a new path with Tyreese. Time will tell where the path takes them.

What do you think is in store for these two? Will Carol and Tyreese meet up with Daryl?