Last night we had the premiere for second half of season four of The Walking Dead, and the episode picked up right where things left off at the end of the first half, and the episode was pretty heavy on the emotional side of things.
The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 9: After
The focus of the episode was split two ways, but the main theme was consistent with everything we’d seen this season, balancing living and surviving. With the prison now indefensible and swarming with walkers, in some ways it may seem like we’ve hit the reset button, and only time will tell for sure, but in a lot of ways we moved further forward in this episode than we did for the entire first half of the season. I’ll only make two comments about the prison situation. The first is that more individuals should have spent more time fortifying that place, and supporting the fences as soon as the walkers started pressing in. Though I suppose that could be explained away because the people there were beginning to relax, and believe that they were more secure than they were. What I feel like can’t be explained away though is why the Council (since Rick wasn’t running things) didn’t establish a set of contingency plans, in case they needed to leave the prison. But either way, the prison is gone and it’s time to move on.
Beginning with Rick and Carl. It was actually difficult, though in a strange way very understandable to watch him behave the way he did throughout the episode, wanting to leave his father behind. After all he was never fully sold on the farming, and even when he was starting to warm up to the idea, his father, the man telling him that it’s fine to relax, because the world is getting safer, watched as everything came tumbling down. The man he depended on to take care of the group, and most importantly him, is now depending on Carl. It’s not that Carl doesn’t want to step up and be a man. It’s something that he fights for all episode, but he doesn’t want to *have* to grow up. That may seem very contradictory, but it’s something that most adolescents go through. Carl is desiring independence, but what does he really want independence from, and what does he want it for? I don’t think Carl had the answers to these questions at the beginning of the episode. At the beginning he’s simply hurt for having been let down. For me one of the saddest scenes of the episode wasn’t even Carl shouting at Rick, it was when Carl looked in amazement at the television and games in what would have been a normal kids room, only to sigh and have to take the cord from the TV to make the “clove knot” that Shane apparently taught him. And when he brought that up with Rick, it was only a reminder that Carl’s had feelings about a lot of things for a long time, and he needs to work through them.
Now in a normal world, kids working through things does normally involve yelling at parents, being irresponsible and then having to deal with the consequences of said irresponsibility. In a zombie apocalypse however, the consequences of irresponsibility can mean the difference between life and death. With Carl, I have to give major kudos to the show for two reasons. First is simply Chandler Riggs’ acting, that kid is great, and second is because if someone had asked me before the show if I thought the writers might kill off Carl I’d say that was a stupid assumption, and yet twice this episode they were able to make me believe that we might see the last of this little gunslinger, but thankfully the writers were merciful!
And while it may not be perfect a perfect relationship, and while Rick himself may have a long way to go physically, watching him also come to terms with the fact that there are certain aspects of Carl’s childhood that cannot be reclaimed, was sad, but in the end beautiful, and a big part of strengthening their relationship.
Regarding Michonne, for her, moving on was, at least at the beginning of the episode, about going back, to how she had survived before letting herself become close with others again. And it’s not surprising, given that it was a way of surviving that had gotten her much further than individuals who had worked hard to survive in groups, or places like the prison, or Woodbury. Furthermore, considering everything that had taken place with Andrea, and then Herschel, even a person who had survived in a group all along, might be feeling the need to cut ties, rather than suffer loss again. Contrasted to Carl’s journey which was in a lot of ways about preparing for the future, Michonne’s journey was about dealing with the past.
In looking at the past, one of the biggest questions is always “What might have been?”, for Michonne, if things had gone differently she might still be a mother. However, if things had not turned out the way that they did then she might have really become a walker, instead of just living like one.
And if there hadn’t been a walker in that herd to trigger those thoughts for her, then she may have never chosen life over survival. But that was part of the point of the episode, we have to keep living, regardless of what might have been, and watching Michonne choose life, was awesome!
While I do think that the episode was well balanced between the development of both Michonne and Carl. This had to be my favorite moment of the episode. After everything Carl went through, it may not be as average as playing video games or reading a book, but here, eating the pudding, even with a zombie hopelessly reaching for him, he’s just a kid.
In fact, even if by the end of this episode, if Michonne was still tracking Rick and Carl, without having found them yet, I would have found it satisfying, having seen all the progress that the characters made. The fact that Michonne did find them, is simply like getting a surprise of pudding for dessert after an awesome meal!
One final note (and yeah I’m being punny here). There’s something very sentimental for me somehow about seeing the messages in some of these episodes. Just like the barn the Governor stopped past earlier this season, or the note left by Joe Jr. The chalk note on the door that Carl left is a simple statement of hope. Hope that there are other people out there,
and hope that they will know he was there. In some tiny way that he will be remembered, that he will have had some kind of purpose. And if people have purpose, then there’s life instead of just survival.
Thanks for reading, happy watching and leave a *note* in the comments if you have thoughts about the episode!