AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 4, Episode 9: “After”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Robert Kirkman
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Too Far Gone” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Inmates” – click here
With the Governor dead, the prison’s walls crumbling and the grounds on fire, our group moves on elsewhere. But they’re fractured, worse than ever. Michonne (Danai Gurira) is by herself, though she can handle it after having been alone for quite some time when the zombies first overran the world. Now we see her going back to old patterns. She creates another double leash with her maimed walkers, then heads further on into the forest. Not before coming across the zombified head of Hershel, whom she puts of his misery with mercy.
Carl (Chandler Riggs) is on the road with Rick (Andrew Lincoln). Although his dad is in bad shape after his hand-to-hand battle with the Governor. His boy’s lost faith in him, the worst we’ve yet seen. He personally blames his dad for so much. And there are things Rick could’ve done differently, yes. However, he did the best he could in every situation, and he’s the leader of their group, yet there are many other grown people whose efforts might have helped at various times. It ain’t all on the former sheriff.
Seeing the father-son team on the road, alone together, is painful. Because Carl, at this point, starts feeling as if he can do better. There’s a hypermasculine struggle between them scavenging that’s sadder than anything between them so far.
One thing I enjoy about seeing the group split up is the effects of isolation on each of them. Even with Carl and Rick, they’re together but a divide still exists, a big one. So to see everybody revert to that sort of primitive, singular mind state is interesting. Specifically in this episode we’re able to see part of what makes up Michonne as a person and character, her motivations, what’s driven her this far and what drove her to the psychological state in which we first were introduced to her.
We see Michonne before the fall of society, as she cooks for her man Mike (Aldis Hodge) and his friend Terry (Brandon Fobbs). Likewise, we see her baby boy. It’s an AMAZING SEQUENCE where we can immediately tell she’s dreaming, or better yet having nightmares of what life was like… before.
It goes from a normal kitchen and talking about seeing an art performance of some kind, to Mike and Terry arguing over where they ought to stay on the road in the apocalyptic zombie wasteland, to Mike and Terry with their arms hacked off. Such a surreal, horrific moment before Michonne wakes up in a car with her latest zombie guides outside. Gives us a brief glimpse into who those original walkers were she led around. A disturbing look at her past.
Meanwhile, Carl is experiencing something close to real life again. He pours cereal in a bowl at a table. After he eats, he reads a book in bed. Such a strange thing to see, as his youth was effectively robbed by the apocalypse. A little later he goes down to see Rick on the couch, passed out. He tries waking his dad but the poor dude is out cold.
He hears walkers at the side of the house, so he goes out to take care of them on his own. Leading them back out to the street and to a nearby trail he ends up surprised by another one. He barely manages to kill them all before they can get him. So close to death. He has a good puke seeing maggots writhing in one of the bullet holes in their skulls. Still cocky, though.
A poignant visual, as Michonne walks lazily through a field with her two walkers on leashes. She looks like one of the dead, shuffling along. She even sees one that looks like her, only to realise a moment later she’s hallucinated the image. Such a striking moment.
“Now, you‘re nothing.”
The kid rages at his dad, still passed out. Carl blames him for those who’ve died, those from whom they’re separated. He’s mad for Rick not killing the Governor, for spending all his time farming. Part of it I understand. Part of it you can’t blame on Rick. Carl thinks he understands what it’s like to be his father, he can’t possibly imagine the headache. Sure, Rick took on that role. But others gladly let HIM do the dirty work, make the dirty moral decisions, and rarely did any of them ever consider the cost, except for maybe Hershel.
Plus, Carl’s only getting a small look at life on his own. Says he’d be fine if his father died, I don’t know; in this short amount of time he’s nearly died twice, escaping by the hair of his neck. Only by luck he didn’t get bitten. So, he needs to rethink the fact his dad’s not only kept HIM alive, he also kept a whole community of people safe, too. Carl can just manage to not die. That’s not enough in this new world. The shots of him on the roof with a can of chocolate pudding are cute. They also represent the fact he is still a boy, something HE needs to come to grips with sooner rather than later.
Michonne’s realising the terrible effects of isolation. She winds up killing off her walker guides on the leash, as well as any walker even close. She kills everything. Afterwards, she finds tracks in the dirt heading towards a neighbourhood of houses.
At the same time, Carl sees Rick stir after such a long time unconscious. Dad wakes up, groaning, and his son pulls out the gun to finish him off, believing him to be coming back as a zombie. He can’t force himself to shoot: “I was wrong.” But his father isn’t dead, he speaks. Rick ain’t dying yet. Moreover, he acknowledges his faults with Carl, that even though he’s a boy still he can do things a grown person would in this post-apocalypse world; because he must. Simultaneously, Carl recognises he isn’t entirely grown yet, either.
And then Michonne comes to their door, she sees them inside, crying, knowing she’s found a bit of salvation again. They hear the knock and believe it’s trouble. Rick only laughs and tells Carl: “It‘s for you.”
Great episode, especially for the one after such traumatic events. This did good work on character development, and it’s where I first started admiring Carl, by the end of the episode. And that last line from Rick is gold, such hope and promise in a few words.
“Inmates” is next. We’ll see where some of our other survivors have made it.