The Walking Dead Season 4 part two returns with an episode focused on Carl and Michonne after the events of the prison showdown. If you missed it, you can stream the full episode at AMC.com
Continue reading for a spoiler filled recap and reaction to The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 9 entitled “After”.
Life After The Prison
While it’ll likely be a gradual build up before the second half of the season hopefully reaches the level of epicness that matches The Governor’s all out assault, the first post-prison episode is a good sign of things to come. After a season and a half at the prison, having the survivors scattered and isolated is a solid set up for more personal, character-centric stories in a post apocalyptic world.
Without the safety of the prison, the survivors are at their most vulnerable which a return to what I originally envisioned the show to be about. Danger is lurking around every corner and anything can possibly happen at any given moment.
Between the incredibly realistic jaw-snapping, severed head of Hershel to the furious zombie massacre, this episode answered why I’ve been anticipating the return of The Walking Dead. Although the mid-season premiere is a relatively slower paced episode, it’s not uneventful. In terms of story progression, it can be summed up as Michonne reunites with Rick & Carl but’s it’s really how the characters have come to terms with their trauma which defines this episode.
Cuts Like A Katana
There have been major clues as to Michonne’s back story from her teary-eyed meltdown while holding baby Judith to her connection with her original zombie pets. But Michonne’s nightmare gives the deepest insight as to who she was before the apocalypse and how the loss of her child & lover turned her into an emotionally hardened, grief-stricken woman.
After leaving the prison, both Michonne and Carl have reverted to their former way of existence. Carl and Rick are rummaging abandoned homes for supplies while Michonne makes herself two brand new pets. Literally and metaphorically, Michonne is at the crossroads when she sees muddy foot prints that can lead to other human survivors but she ignores it at first, choosing to become once again the lone wolf.
Michonne didn’t have much dialogue however the powerful imagery spoke volumes. The mini-horde of zombies gathering around Michonne is essentially a slow death march. There’s a point where the pet zombies are leading her by the leash rather than the other way around. The eerily similar-looking walker with dreadlocks strikes a nerve with Michonne and in a moment of revelation, she makes a decision to do away with death and choose life instead. What’s great about the massacre is that while its gory and exhilarating, it also expresses a character defining moment.
I’d Be Fine If You Died
Carl’s disrespectful behaviour was starting to get annoying until his heartfelt speech explained his resentment towards his father. Character centric episodes like this one are effective because we’ve gained a better understanding of Carl’s point of view. I can see why he’s angry over the loss of his sister, mother & friends and maybe he’s right to blame Rick for not being the leader they needed him to be. Many of the other survivors and most likely Judith are still alive but Carl doesn’t know that.
Like a lot of adolescents who go through a phase of thinking they no longer need their parents, Carl believes he’s more than capable of taking care of himself. Writer Robert Kirkman does a good job of giving Carl scenarios to prove his independence by luring away the walkers from the front door and later scavenging for food all by himself. Carl’s narrow escape from the zombies that fell on top of him as well as the walker that had a hold of his boot are great, suspenseful scenes. Through these series of events Carl comes to terms that he does need other people in his life.
Chandler Riggs’s performance is fairly good especially when he thinks Rick turned into a walker. On one hand, Carl can’t bring himself to shoot his father but I also believe he wouldn’t want to live without him either. In a way, by choosing death he’s in essence choosing life by admitting he was wrong about not needing his father. I also like the nice touch where Rick acknowledges that his son has matured into a young man and when Carl shows his renewed respect for his dad.
Knock, Knock, Who’s There?
Michonne’s dream brings to mind that she can’t go back to the way things were before. Neither can Carl when he looks at a stack of DVDs and realizes he can’t watch them on the big screen TV. But when Michonne knocks, it’s like a little slice of normalcy to be able to open the front door to an old friend. Maybe he would have saved some of that chocolate pudding if he knew he’d be having a guest over. 🙂
The second half of Season 4 is off to a good start. Under the current show-runner Scott Gimple, there’s a lot of attention to developing characters in a meaningful manner. Threads from earlier in the season are picked up on, in particular some answers to Michonne’s past are brought to light. The father and son dynamic is strongly written too, although for fans who don’t like Carl this could be a tough episode to watch.
Did you enjoy this episode? What do you think of Carl and Michonne?