Monday, February 10, 2014

Walking Dead - Season 4, Episode 9: "After"

After a long, mid-season break, the Walking Dead returned and reminded us of how great the show could be. The mid season finale concluded with us grieving the loss of Herschel, witnessing the Battle of the Prison, and cheering that the Governor was finally dead. However, the group was separated. As to how separated they were, we had no idea. Oh and, what happened to baby Judith?


Below the break, we revisit the Robert Kirkman-penned mid season premiere Again if you have not viewed yet: BEWARE OF SPOILERS.

Episode 9 of the 4th season didn't give us resolution to the whereabouts of Lil' Ass-Kicker, but we do know that a battle damaged Rick, and his uber-emotional son, Carl, were on the road, and then there was Michonne...all alone.

The opening of the episode highlights something that the show does exceptional well, tells a story with wonderful emotion exercised through wonderful acting, a strong backdrop, and no dialogue. Michonne, alone, reverts to her default, "survival mode" and fashions herself two, new "cloaking walkers." She finds


Herschel's decapitated, walker-fied head, and finishes him. It's at this moment that we see her realize that, among the burning bones of the prison, she is (again) alone, and she sets off on her own.

Meanwhile, Rick hobbles, trailing the brooding Carl. Carl walks ahead, moving forward, having decided (in his mind) that he no lingers needs Rick (which we will get to soon), who lingers behind, a broken, bloodied, and battered shell of himself. Rick calls to him, his voice grave-fed, and very Bale/Batman-esque. Carl simply will not listen. Carl's disappointment in his lame father is reinforced as they gather food and Rick, still trying to protect his son, cannot do in a walker with a hatchet. Carl puts the biter down with a bullet and Rick warns him that the bullet "could count later." Foreshadowing!

The two finally find shelter and when he finds a teen decorated room, we see his aspirations of adulthood recede to show a Tweens delight in a flat screen and video game console. Only to be snapped back to reality by having to fashion the TV's power cord to fasten the front door safely. Rick questioned the knots stability to have Carl sharply snap back, "Shane taught me! Remember him?!" Could Carl still morn Shane as the father figure who taught him to be strong? The man who taught him how to survive?

In a Walking Dead first (at least to my memory) we get some Michonne back story via dream sequence. We meet Michael and Terry in their "living" state. You may remember them as her original pet walkers. The visuals were well presented: the kitchen knife became the kitana, we see the two men (Mike and Terry) go from finely dressed to de-limbed, but Michonne remains the same. Also, a baby?! We suddenly realize how much Michonne has lost, and we are made aware of a question (posed by Mike: "What life is worth living, if it's the post apocalypse/zombie world?") that she may have been pondering to herself all this time. Michonne leads her to cloaking/pet walkers off the beaten path, she purposely avoids a set of footprints she sees on a muddy trail, and walks among the dead, undetected. I'm not sure I buy that having two walkers in tow works that well as a deterrent.

Brood-y
The black and blue Rick seems to be lost in a pain-killer induced coma and Carl takes this opportunity to unload his pent up, daddy issues. I've seen SO many viewers complaining that Carl is "so whiny", you do realize that he's a teenager, right? He's a teenager who is living in a world where everything he knew is gone, eaten up by the reanimated corpses of the dead, he sees many of those he cared for die, and he had to shoot his mother (who just had his baby sister cut from her womb seconds earlier) in the head to prevent her from reanimating and trying to eat him. I think Carl has a lot to whine about, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. Not to mention that Chandler Riggs is growing into an exceptional actor. His ability to make you cringe at his teen-angst is proof. Carl spouts off some pretty bold and hurtful words, but post-apocalypse setting aside, aren't those statements normal for any teenager? "I hate you!", "I wish I was never born!" , and "I don't need you to take care of me! I can take care of myself!" are the greatest hits of teenage emotional purging. Feeling that he has puffed out his chest as far as it can go, Carl then manages to demonstrate that he is, in fact, a child and totally unable to back up the claims shouted at a sleeping Rick.

Always important to watch your step
Carl proceeded to play Pied Piper and draw two walkers away from the house and his napping father. While this is a noble thing to do, Carl ends up tripping over his cocksure attitude and nearly dies. He ends up on his back, piled three high with walkers. However, Carl survives to brood another day! He scopes a home for food, and after finding the largest can of chocolate pudding ever, nearly dies AGAIN by the gnashing, decaying teeth of the undead, only losing a shoe. He manages to close it within a bedroom and, using a piece of chalk writes, "Walker inside. Got my shoe, didn't get me." With a smirk and a laugh, he climbs up onto the roof to eat that giant can of pudding. How does that zombie not figure out how to climb, or stumble, out of that window and onto that roof?

During both of his brushes with death, Rick's sheriff hat (which is now Carl's) falls off twice. Both times, Carl quickly retrieves it and places it back on his head. I think, to Carl, that his father died a long time ago. The father that Carl remembers was a hero, a brave sheriff who died in the hospital of gun fire wounds he sustained in the line of duty. The man who is passed out, bruised, broken and wheezing, is not his dad. That man simply resembles someone he used to know, and that sheriff's hat is all that he has to remember him by.

Just as Carl sat on a rooftop, shoveling a tub full of pudding down his face, Michonne was still moving among the dead. She noticed a zombie who reminded her of someone, herself. In the blink of an eye, Michonne chose to live. She killed an entire hoard of walkers, by herself (including her new pets) and chose to no longer meander among the corpses. Danai Gurira was superb! As Michonne breaks into tears and stares towards the heavens, you know that this was a huge step for her. She returns to the muddy path to follow the tracks, because she wants to find her group, she wants to belong again.

 It just so happens that Rick, waking from his  healing hibernation, happens to sound and move A LOT like a walker. Carl, devastated by the thought that he has now lost his father, cries out "I can't! I was wrong! I was stupid!" and seems to expose himself and welcome death by his father's bite. It is in this moment that Carl finally admits that he IS scared and all of that chest thumping was a bit premature. It will be very interesting to see how he behaves henceforth, realizing that he has been acting a bit too man-grown, and now that Rick has made his apologies for letting Carl down, what will this mean for their relationship?

The show's greatest strength is personified in the
physical and emotional presence of Michonne

We learn that Michonne finally has the answer to Mike's question and she is able to follow those tracks right to Rick and Carl's doorstep. She weeps at the vision of them sharing a meal and knocks on the door. Rick, upon seeing her through the door's peephole, responds to Carl by saying "It's for you." The bonding between Michonne and Carl was well done last season, and I look forward to the growth that these three characters will experience together. Is it possible that Michonne and Rick end up an item? I don't know that we will see that happen, but who knows?

I was very pleased that they were able to find each other, while Carl and Michonne found a bit of themselves along the way. The fourth season of The Walking Dead is flexing some serious writing muscle. The characters are growing and changing, and I really hope that (besides the brief return of the Governor) we see that, in a world were everyone is out to kill you, there's no need for a "big bad". In this time and this place, the drama that fuels this show is simply in following people trying to survive and choose life over death.

Next week we will find out what's going on with the rest of the gang, and Baby Lilith, dead or undead?

Share you thoughts in the comments below!



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