Could it be that merciless killing machine Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) is turning soft?
That would explain why her maternal instincts surface — along with a panic attack — when she’s kidnapped on Episode 613 (“The Same Boat”) of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
After baking cookies at the Alexandria Safe-Zone and sharing a tender kiss with construction foreman Tobin (Jason Douglas), Carol remains on the periphery during a raid on the fortified compound of the Saviors.
If these ruthless predators are wiped out by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his crew, the hungry Alexandrians will receive half the food produced at the Hilltop Colony, which is short on fighters but amply stocked with provisions.
“Let ‘em go,” Rick negotiates with Paula over a walkie-talkie, “and you can have your guy back,” referring to Primo (Jimmy Gonzales), a biker pummeled by Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus).
“Two for one, that’s not much of a trade,” replies Paula as she stalls for time until reinforcements arrive. So instead of commencing the prisoner swap, Paula moves her bound-and-hooded captives to a safe house.
That’s when usually stoic Carol grabs her rosary beads and starts to hyperventilate.
“Are you actually afraid to die?” Paula scornfully asks.
“It doesn’t matter what happens to me,” Carol gasps. “Just don’t hurt Maggie. Don’t hurt the baby!”
“Those things will kill you,” Carol warns.
“They already have,” Molly says, coughing into a blood-stained handkerchief. “I’m a dead woman walking, which puts us in exactly the same boat.”
A former domestic abuse victim, Carol reaches out to Paula after she’s smacked in the face by her sort-of-boyfriend, Donnie (Rus Blackwell). He’s angry and in severe pain from a gunshot wound that soon proves fatal.
“You wanna think we’re just the same?” Paula asks “pathetic” Carol. “Go ahead. You’re wrong!”
To show how supposedly tough she is, Paula tells about being separated from her husband and daughters when the zombie apocalypse struck. As a secretary trapped in Washington, D.C., she was determined to survive.
“My boss was weak and stupid, and he was gonna die and he was gonna take me down too. He was the first person I killed,” Paula brags. “I lost everything. It made me stronger!”
“You sure about that?” asks Carol, who fears Paula will die if she doesn’t carry out the prisoner exchange.
“Are you gonna kill me?” Paula asks with a sneer.
“I hope not,” replies Carol, who later frees herself and Maggie.
When reinforcements arrive, Carol lures those Saviors into a gasoline-soaked room and tosses a lighted cigarette inside.
“You good?” Daryl worriedly asks Carol when he enters the safe house.
“No,” shell-shocked Carol admits as she quivers in distress and clutches the rosary so hard that her hand begins to bleed.
Now the only Savior standing is Primo, who’s interrogated by Rick.
“Your friends are dead,” Rick points out. “No one’s coming for you. So you might as well talk.”
But defiant Primo refuses to cooperate. And for that, he gets a bullet in his brain.