After a long wait, The Walking Dead has returned, and in an unusual form. The writers definitely seem to be taking advantage of the splintered former-prison group during the return of season 4, something which many viewers were hoping for. However, viewers will absolutely be divided when it comes to this week’s episode “After”, not only for its slower pacing, but for how Carl-centric the episode is; as Carl is a character whom a good portion of the fans of the show do not care much for (at least in comparison to characters like Rick and Daryl).
Very much like season 3’s episode “Clear”, the mid-season return featured only Rick, Carl, and Michonne out of the group of regulars on the show. In that episode, the drama was near perfect and the dynamic between the views of on-screen characters told a fantastic and well-thought-out story. This week’s episode, however, did not offer as much development, drama, or excitement. This is not to say that the episode was entirely dull or that it was not necessary, but a viewer could have easily missed the majority of the episode and not have had any issue understanding what happened. It is always great when a show that can be as intense and heart-pounding as The Walking Dead takes a break from the horror to show the more human side of things, but the brake pedal may have been pressed a little too hard for “After”.
For hopefully the final time this season, the theme of survival versus humanity was touched on again through dialogue between Rick and Carl, though it is largely portrayed through Carl’s monologue directed at his comatose father. A battered and barely functioning Rick fights through the beginning of the episode to stay on his feet and protect his son. While Rick struggles to keep up with his son, Carl fights back and refuses to role-play as a farmer’s son again. Carl forces himself into a more important role; trying to prove what he can handle, more-so to himself than to Rick. Carl’s rant to an unconscious Rick seemed like the expression of most characters’ frustrations with Rick. They all understood what he was doing and were willing to let him off the hook since he had done so much for them already, but he took pacifism way too far and it cost him. Though it is unlikely Carl was implying that the destruction of their home and the deaths of those they cared for truly was Rick’s fault, Carl felt that Rick could have done so many things differently and in a way that had a more favorable outcome. Most of all, Carl likely felt that his dad had held him back from so much for no reason—all his caution in terms of what Carl was allowed to do and where he was allowed to go was ultimately for nothing as they are back on the move and required to do whatever is necessary to survive.
As for Michonne, the writers did a very good job at (1) exploring her past and showing the only subtly hinted loss-of-child and (2) developing her character without her even needing to speak. Michonne’s pet walkers from her first appearance were finally explained, as was her line referring to them as sub-human entities. Michonne was raising a child with one of her walker pets, while the other was his friend. They survived the initial outbreak, it seemed, but felt (as many others likely did) that the world was no longer a place fit to live in, especially for a child. While Michonne was likely away, Mike (her “lover”) and his friend apparently committed suicide and took Michonne’s child with them. Through her recurring dream sequences of these events, she discovers the answer to Mike’s question “why?” Michonne learns that if she continues on as she was before we met her—a hermit with pet walkers and no friends—then she is as good as dead. The living have more in common with the walkers than they will admit, and the ability to have and appreciate relationships is one of the only motivations for life in the world. She could not go on hearing the moans of walkers for the rest of her life and abandon everyone she had come to love. She cut the walkers down in anger and disgust and made it her mission to find her friends, to find meaning for her own life again. This was the most powerful scene of the episode, and it was executed brilliantly, not even requiring dialogue.
Though this episode of The Walking Dead was duller than most, it certainly had memorable and powerful moments that viewers should not miss. The writers certainly took a gamble in focusing so intently on Carl and his struggle with finding his role in the apocalypse—just how much innocence can one retain in survival situations before it becomes detrimental? Next week it seems a closer look will be given to the rest of the currently missing cast and how they have been coping with the loss of life and home. CrypticRock gives this week’s episode a rating of 3 out of 5 stars.
Revew written by Ryan Mcevoy