THE WALKING DEAD Episode Recap: “After”

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The mid-season premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead made good on the season four poster’s warning: Don’t Look Back. After the devastating events at the end of the mid-season finale, Rick’s group of survivors has been scattered to the wind. After a brief glimpse of the aftermath at the prison, this episode – aptly titled “After” – focused on the paths of two sets of survivors, providing plenty of catharsis along the way.  Hit the jump for my review and to find out why “I’d be fine if you died.”

the-walking-dead-season-4-episode-9-danai-guriraThe cold opens on The Walking Dead are some of my absolute favorite parts of the show.  Sure, the characters’ decisions can be a little suspect at times and certain plotlines get dragged along longer than necessary, but each episode’s opener is equal parts upsetting reminder of the post-apocalyptic world, and solid storytelling.  Tonight’s sequence was no different.

We pick up the story right after the final moments at the prison.  Walkers have swarmed the grounds, feasting on the innards of a dead horse but passing right by a dead-once-and-for-all Governor (but will zombie David Morrissey rise once more?).  As Michonne surveyed the carnage, taking a few Walkers with her for good measure, she stumbled across something we all hoped we wouldn’t have to see: the severed but reanimated head of Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson).  Thankfully, Michonne puts an end to his suffering, but what a way to go for the good doctor!  Michonne makes short work of two nearby Walkers and lops their arms and jaws off, making them into new pack-Walkers for her trek away from the prison.

Even though the episode alternates between the survivors’ tales, let’s see Michonne’s arc through.  With her declawed Walkers in tow, Michonne walks confidently in and out of Walker hordes.  She comes across footprints in a muddy path, but chooses to go in the opposite direction.  In a rare moment of character reveal for Michonne, we see a strange sort of half-flashback, half-dream sequence in which she’s preparing lunch for her “lover” Mike and his friend, while the three of them discuss modern art in a rather lavishly decorated house.  If the jump into this world wasn’t jarring enough, reality starts to melt away as Michonne’s kitchen knife turns into a katana, and the men’s clothes change before her eyes, just before they’re shown with severed, bleeding arms.  Of course this is a nightmarish sequence for Michonne, but it’s a clever way of showing us her backstory while avoiding tedious exposition.  It also breaks your heart to see her with her son and wonder what could have been.  I do hope we get to see a little more from Michonne’s past over the course of the season, but there are a lot of other characters to get to, so we’ll see how screentime is doled out.  Obviously, she’s under some mental strain (seeing your undead doppelganger walking around has a tendency to unsettle the mind), which she attempts to relieve by slaughtering a good 20 Walkers.  It isn’t until the final moments of the episode that she shows some true relief when she tracks the whereabouts of…

the-walking-dead-season-4-episode-9-chandler-riggs-andrew-lincolnRick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) are out walking a path away from the prison.  Rick is badly beaten up but Carl doesn’t have one iota of care left.  There’s obvious tension between the father and son, compounded by Rick’s injuries and the fact that they have to survive out in the open on their own yet again.  Rick’s waning strength makes him more of a liability than an asset, as he’s unable to take a weak Walker down with an ax blow.  This causes Carl to shoot the Walker, wasting a bullet, an act that will (almost literally) come back to bite him later.

While much of this episode is dedicated to Carl going off and doing his own thing, his actions are much more telling when seen through the lens of a young man rebelling against the control of his father.  This strained relationship is explored in a rather powerful moment in which Carl finally has the chance to say all the things he’s ever wanted to say to his father, when Rick lies unconscious and near death on the couch.  It’s not surprising to see Carl venture out and get into trouble because of childish decisions, but it was a bit of a shock to hear him say to his father that he’d be fine if Rick died.  It’s something you say in a moment of anger, or something you hold back for a time when you really want to hurt the one you love (or, in Carl’s case, when you’re sure there will be no reprisals).  The real catharsis over this father-son tension came when it looked like Rick might have succumbed to his injuries and turned into a Walker. When the cold, calculating survival instincts were (apparently) needed, Carl found himself unwilling or unable to shoot his own father, regardless of the words he shouted at him earlier.  That’s lucky for Rick, because he’s not dead (yet), just a bit battered and wheezy.  Count the moment that Rick declared Carl a man as a turning point for the show going forward, one in which the tension between father and son has been replaced with the mutual trust of a man-to-man relationship.  Now let’s see Carl take on the burden of being responsible for others!  But first, let him have a nice surprise when he opens the door to find Michonne, of course.

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Bottom line: We’re getting back to the roots of what it’s like to survive in this awful, awful world, and that’s a great storytelling decision. I only hope that the season takes its time with the rest of the survivors individually, giving equal time to their stories, rather than rushing to get them all back together again.  We’ve seen multiple examples of how living together in a group can go drastically wrong, so I’m very curious to see where the show goes from here.

Rating: A-

Casualties: One boot. 112 ounces of pudding.

Zombie Kills: 29 (One is poor Hershel’s head.)

Best Kill: This one will have to go to Michonne’s kills (plural) during her moment of rage.

Best Effect: I love a good Walker arm shattering in a slamming door.

Quotes:

Carl: “Hey asshole! Hey shitface!” Rick: “Watch your mouth!” Carl: “Are you kidding me?”

How bad did you feel for Carl when he found a treasure trove of movies, games and electronics, only to realize there’s no power?  Nice touch!

Carl: “It’s a strong knot. Clove hitch. Shane taught me. Remember him?” Rick: “Yeah I remember him. Every day. Is there something else you want to say to me?”

Carl: “I win.”

Carl to Rick: “You were their leader, but now you’re nothing. I’d be fine if you died.”

“Walker inside. Got ax, shoe. Didn’t get me.”

Michonne: “Mike, I missed you. I missed you even when I was with you. Back at the camp, it wasn’t you who did it. You were wrong, because I’m still here, and you could be, too. And he could be … I know the answer. I know why.”

Rick to Carl: “It’s for you.”

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  • The Fisting Midget

    So who was feeding rats to the walkers at the prison?

    • Leo Spaceman

      Carol will probably be back soon. The Rat feeding plot point will probably be resolved with the Reappearance of Carol when the Karen killing plot point also comes to fruition.

    • herpderp

      I figured that was done by the creepy kid that named the zombies outside the fence and showed affection towards them.

    • Hex

      I thought it was the older little girl.

      • Me

        It was

    • Scott Baiowulfgang Amadeus

      I thought it was the little girl (Lizzie?) in the beginning, but after seeing the precisely dissected frog in the tombs of the prison and the fact he was clearly trying to hide something in the shoebox during the mid-season finale, I’m now leaning towards Bob. He’s got the medical skills to dissect the frog and would’ve probably been out at night on watch to feed the Walkers.

      • Leo Spaceman

        If the Rats are tied to the murder of Karen and David, Carol would not have lied to protect Bob. She is most likely protecting the kids which is why she took the fall for them.

      • Scott Baiowulfgang Amadeus

        I agree that she took the fall for the kids, which will be interesting when Tyrese eventually finds that out, since he’s only alive because they saved his him. I don’t think the rats or dissected frog have anything to do with the killing of Karen and David. The frog is too precisely dissected to be someone who doesn’t have some form of medical training, which Bob has.

      • Leo Spaceman

        Tyrese is too much of a pussy to kill Walkers that are threatening to tear down their fences. He isn’t going to beat two little kids to death with his hammer.

      • Norrtron

        I have to majorly disagree with these theories that Carol took blame for the kid killing Karen. We already had a scene that showed Carol struggling with the quilt of her actions and it even flashed back to show her do it. You think that little girl dragged two grownups outside and burned them?

      • Scott Baiowulfgang Amadeus

        The flashback that “showed her do it” was Rick looking at the scene trying to put it together, not necessarily what actually happened. I don’t think the girl dragged them out. I think she killed them with the knife that Carol gave her for killing her favorite walker, then Carol dragged them out and burned them to cover up the evidence of the murder and took the blame. You don’t write a line like “She’s messed up, she isn’t weak.” for a character as a throw away. It’ll come back later this year.

    • Me

      Um Duh, that little girl who says “walkers are still people” & “their still my freinds” & stuff like that

    • Me

      Um Duh, that little girl who says “walkers are still people” & “their still my freinds” & stuff like that

  • Leo Spaceman

    No, Zombie Morrissey will not rise once more. There is a bullet in his brain.

    Slaughtering the Walkers was not a relief for Michonne. It was kill them or get bit. Also, it was horse that was dead at the start of the show. She would ride it around to search for the Governor. They showed it dead to explain to show that Michonne had to walk around.

    Michonnes new Pets should not have been so quickly placid. In season 3 it was explained that when the Walkers lost their jaws/ability to eat, they EVENTUALLY stopped trying to eat and just became mindless pets that walked around. These new guys may have had their jaws cut out, but that doesn’t explain why they just stopped wanting to eat her. Also she didn’t cut off the entirety of their arms. They still should have tried to scratch her. But since that seems to work in this new world, why is she the only one who takes pets. Every surviving group could use the camouflage.

    I am they put Hershel’s head down. It is bad enough for the sisters to have to always know their dad’s corpse is just lying out there rotting, but imagine how they would feel to think about their dads head out there still breathing. It would have been some added sense of horror to the show if that is the direction they went with.

    I liked the father son aspect of this episode. It played well this week and I couldn’t stop thinking about the movie The Road. I could see Carl doing well on his own in this world when he gets bigger. Right now, he is still a boy and fighting the Walkers with Melee weapons won’t work for him because the Walkers are still able to over power him with their size. He is dependent on guns to fight them because he really can’t reach their heads. The concern is that today, it is reasonable to assume that Carl went through half of their remaining Ammo. They don’t have spare clips on them from what I can see and Rick’s Revolver only holds 5 rounds, if Carl ran out of bullets I don’t know how many he has left. He should have snuck up behind the Walkers at the door and tried to stab them because he wasted a lot of bullets on them. It was stupid for him to walk backwards encouraging the Walkers to follow. By now he should have know better. There is always going to be another Walker.

    I am glad to be back to the on the road with out a home theme. Though I hope they regroup fast. I don’t want to wait another month before the gang is all together. It looks like Next Week tells the tale of everyone else which is good. I am worried that they are going to have too many episodes like last season’s Woodberry Episodes. The Governor well played character, but the plots for him were not interesting and the Woodberry only episdoes dragged on forever. Keep it about Rick and the group and move on to the Sanctuary. I assume that Carol will be showing up sooner rather than later so they still will have drama and plot points to play off of.

    It does look like the are going back to the Walker standards of season 1 and 2 though. In season 3, they could kill a Walker by bopping them on the head with the butt of a pistol. Now even an Axe to the head won’t do it. But in the pilot episode, Walkers knew how to use doorknobs. Morgans wife was trying to get in during Rick’s first night since waking up from his Coma (F**k a lot has changed since he was in that Coma, I practically forgot about what it was like back then). So that Walker should have been able to get to Carl when he got locked in the bedroom with the boot. But it also should have been able to break through that Window and get to Carl and trap him on the roof. And what kind of Walker couldn’t get past that knot that Carl tied with an HDMI cord. Those kinds of cables don’t exactly tie really tight, though I did like the shout out to Shane.

    When Carl was yelling at Rick he should have said My Mom is dead not Our Mom is dead. For one it was just a mistake, two it would have been much more powerful to blame your father for the loss of your mother.

    Remember in season 2 when Lori tried to abort the baby with pills. Rick should have encouraged it. Lori is only dead because she had to have the baby cut out of her and the baby did end up living a short cruel life. But it looks like Michonne is becoming Carl’s surrogate mother so all is good with that I guess. It is damn lucky convenient that she found them though. Carl just happened to be smart enough to carry that empty can of pudding down from the roof from the house down the street and drop it right in front of the house he was staying at. If he hadn’t Michonne would have probably kept on walking. You would think that the survivors would start leaving signs that said survivors of the Prison meet up somewhere so that there is a trail to find others.

    I am really excited about this second half of the season though. It looks like the show is going to get back to survivors on the road and less sitting in place fighting a Big Bad. At least for the time being.

    No more product placement for that Ugly ass Hyundai at least. RIP to Merle’s hog though.

    • Tritium3H

      Leo, I am still not convinced as to the “in-universe” self-consistency of the docile walkers. On the one hand, it is implied that removing a walker’s teeth will cause the walker to become passive. However, this completely contradicts the behavior of the “gladiator” walkers that the Governor used for his games. They have had their teeth removed, but they still were aggressively trying to attack/eat the humans who were using them as sport, during the staged arena fight(s).

      I guess the fall-back logic might be that it only works if the entire jaw is removed from a walker…but here we still have a time/continuity problem, with Michonne’s two new pals. It is pretty clear that only a very short time elapsed between Michonne’s decision to rope the two walkers, removing their jaws and arms (off camera), and her visit to poor Hershel’s severed head. She even stops and gets down on her knees at this point…and her new walkers politely stop and stand a respectful two steps behind her.

      This show is riddled with holes in logic, and the writers appear to break established in-universe “rules” whenever it is convenient.

      Yes, I realize this is a fantastical show about zombies. However, apart from the existence of zombies, the show tries to be serious and grounded in reality. Unfortunately, it continuously fails on that score. One recent example comes to mind, after re-watching the repeat of the season break finale. During the Governor’s assault on the prison, there is a scene where Daryl uses a zombie as a (in)human shield.

      Daryl is being fired upon by enemies armed with assault rifles, shooting high velocity rounds. In reality, these rounds would have gone straight through the walker, hitting Daryl. Even if they didn’t hit any of Daryl’s vitals, killing him instantly, the bullets had passed through toxic zombie flesh, and were contaminated. In which case, Daryl should have been f#@ked either way. But, of course, this realistic outcome is inconvenient to the writers and their story. Hence, Daryl comes through completely unscathed. Bottom line — some lazy writer thought it would make for a cool, bad ass scene… physics be damned.

    • LEM

      Are you doing a podcast or do you just give free content to this sites comment section?

      • Leo Spaceman

        I’m not even sure what a podcast is. I never thought I was giving free content away, I just like commenting on these shows and I guess its kind of a mini review of the show that just focuses on general remarks and thoughts on the episode. I don’t ever mean to type as much as I do, but I do try to cover everything. I hope it doesn’t bother people.

      • LEM

        I think it’s great.

    • FoonZeeS

      Very good break down on some of the shows faults and your own musings.

      • Leo Spaceman

        Thanks. That’s what I try to go for. I’m not quit sure what LEM was asking about.

    • MNLoonaTick

      Carl probably meant “Our mom” to include Judith, who I am not entirely convinced is dead.

      • Leo Spaceman

        Never even thought of that possibility, though I am fairly confident / hoping that Lil AssKicker is dead. As bleak as that sounds, this isn’t the show for a baby and I don’t want them to be bogged down by one.

        In the comics, Judith died during the Governor’s attack on the prison, so it makes sense for the producers to writer her out at this point if that is what they wanted to do. And the producers have also said that there are some things that they just can’t show on TV and basically said that the odds of a baby surviving in this world are slim and they said they can’t show things like a baby getting eaten by walkers so they have to allude to that. The bloody car seat was the best they could do and I think that Rick and Carl crying in mid season finale was the goodbye to her that they chose to do.

      • MNLoonaTick

        If LAK is alive, it would have been the two walker-feeding girls that had the chance to save her, when they ran back inside the prison. But yeah, they killed her in the graphic novels, so the out look is not good for her.

      • Officer friendly

        Pretty sure the other little kids made off with her.

  • Leo Spaceman

    Every time I see that commercial for Comic Book Men, I just want to punch Kevin Smith.

    • Matt1

      And every fat guy wearing a hockey jersey… Just cause they remind me of Kevin Smith!!

    • Kevin

      That show is great.

  • Scurvy

    The door Carl wrote on said, “Walker inside. Got MY shoe. Didn’t get me.” not “Walker inside. Got ax, shoe. Didn’t get me.”

  • Leo Spaceman

    He wrote on the door, “Got my shoe, didn’t get me” not got axe

  • BrutalDEEJAY

    I hate Carl even more now :)

    • Leo Spaceman

      Every kid his age is a little S**thead. He is being written in a reasonable manner and his acting is good, at least good enough compared to what once was back in seasons 1 and 2. I think his story arc is the most interesting. He is a boy with out his mother growing up in a world of the dead. He is cold and harsh but still a kid. I like his character and I’m incredibly glad he isn’t some whiny Bitch that Rick has to deal with.

      • BrutalDEEJAY

        I’ll give you that.

  • Daniel O’Reilly

    Nice to see Season 4 finally starting. (The previous half would best be described as 3.5).

    Not a bad episode, even if it did feel like a retread of “Clear.” I really do hope Rick is finally convinced “Corrrl” is a man by now. This is the second time in the series that particular arc has apparently resolved.

    Didn’t really feel bad for Corrrl when he found the xbox. I just thought “product placement.”

    • deskjockey91

      I don’t really think it was product placement. I think it was him remembering for a brief moment what it was like to be a kid and have games and a normal life, and then you see his face as he remembers that that life is gone.

      • Daniel O’Reilly

        I agree that was the intent of it. But with all the Xbox One commercials playing during the show, it couldn’t have been a coincidence that the console he found was an Xbox.

      • Norrtron

        Did that actually show an Xbox or just green game cases?

      • Daniel O’Reilly

        It’s not glaringly obvious, but it’s there, as confirmed by Greg Nicotero on Talking Dead.

  • LL

    If Rick died and we were stuck with Carl giving monologues? Thank you for letting him live, and never do that again!

  • LEM

    Carl be trippin’

  • Rotk99

    This episode was no where near an A-. Really should have been a B- or C+.

  • sense11

    Fantastic episode, I especially loved the ending.

    addicted to this show

  • Nick

    I believe it was “got MY shoe, didn’t get me”

  • Rjd12345

    I disagree. This episode could’ve been really good but I just can’t get behind the actor who plays Carl. His work seems so forced and unnatural. I don’t believe any of his emotions. A show like Breaking Bad could’ve pulled it off, but not the weakest actor in the show.

    • deskjockey91

      to be fair I don’t think he was that bad. For a character that for a while was background noise at best, I think it’s nice that they finally gave him lines with conviction. Maybe cut him a break? I think he will continue to improve.

    • sense11

      then dont watch the show, simple

      • Norrtron

        Don’t watch the show because he thinks ONE of the actors isn’t the greatest? It’s ok to enjoy a show while still being able to articulate things that didn’t work for you.

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