The Walking Dead Season 4 – Episode 9 – “After”

walkingdeads4e9Welcome back to our weekly The Walking Dead coverage! Having missed the final episode of the midseason, I’ll be doing a brief look at that episode at the end of this review, but for now lets take a look at the midseason premiere “After”

Following the events of “Too Far Gone” its nice to take a step back and focus on a much smaller cast. The Walking Dead often shows its strengths when dealing with only a few characters (see last seasons’ “Clear” or Season 2’s “18 Miles Out”). Allowing the viewer to get into these character’s heads following the tragedy at the prison was a smart, if not a risky choice. Training up viewers on high tension action for the first half of a season does provide a thrilling show, but it does mean that the slower moments, for better or for worse, stand out.

“After” split its focus between Michonne, and Rick and Carl, in the fallout of the prison attack. Michonne finds herself back where we found her, complete with two zombies in tow. Her storyline is the more satisfying of the two, complete with a heavy handed (albeit cool) metaphor of a similar looking zombie. The Walking Dead excels when it lets the viewer draw the comparisons, rather than the many circling conversations that the show often finds itself in, and while the fear of Michonne’s humanity failing in the face of great loss is shown in an incredibly obvious metaphor, it is not an unwelcome one.

Where her storyline really shines is in her small dream sequence, which was an eerie and surreal trip down memory lane. Shot fantastically with strange jumps in time and logic, the dream sequence is (as far as I can remember) the first time the series has gone full blown surreal, and I would not be opposed to more. We also now know that Michonne had a son, lover and an extra friend, but that’s all that writer Robert Kirkman is willing to give us. Again, stories are made all the more better when they leave some details to the audience, so for now the details about her past are left murky – and may very well stay that way.

The real meat of the episode is Carl’s brief rebellion against his father. While Rick may have been unconscious throughout much of these events, it didn’t stop Carl from letting loose his teenage angst. This act of defiance is reminiscent of a standard teenage breakout – Carl thinks he’s old enough to look after himself, especially after his father’s lack of action as a farmer last season, and the act of trying to be his own man and failing is entirely the traits of the rebellious teenager. Chandler Riggs has come a long way from the first season, and while his acting may not be perfect, he’s certainly competent enough to carry much of the episode.

These two storylines all seem to be tying back into the theme of the season – what is worth living for? Michonne obviously found it in the company of the prison group, with her life as a penitent loner far behind her. Carl’s trajectory is less apparent – he wants to be self sufficient, but until he grows both physically and emotionally, this isn’t likely to happen. His need to be a better man than his father appears to be his reason for being right now – he is his father’s son more than he cares to admit – and time will tell if somewhere down the line Carl takes Rick’s place at the head of the group.

Decent direction, coupled with some decent character moments made for a solid premiere – if not one to truly remember. It appears that The Walking Dead may be playing the slow burn for the latter half of the season, and it will remain to be seen whether or not it plays in the show’s favour.

Some observations

  • Zombie of the week: The zombie who took Carl’s shoe made for an intense encounter, and I thought the zombie looked particularly menacing. Tense and claustrophobic, showing that even one zombie can be dangerous.
  • In the same vein, the encounter also gave way to some great visual storytelling. Who was Sam, and why did he have not only his name written on his door, but a ton of books? It’s the little touches, like this scenario and the diner with Joe that flesh out the world.
  • Danai Guirira really was given a lot more to do this episode, and she really was up for the challenge. She was almost unrecognizable in her dream sequence.
  • I looked up how much 112 oz was in litres for our metric-using readers. That’s over 3 litres. That’s bound to give you diabetes.
  • And finally a few thoughts about the last episode: I’m glad the Governor is gone. In fact, he should have been offed an entire season earlier. Hershel’s death was both poignant and heroic, and Rick’s decision to side with Hershel was a noble one, even if it meant losing the prison and most of his friends. It was a well shot and tense finale, and with the (potential) death of Judith, really rough. I really hope that the group doesn’t settle too long in one place in the future.