Season 4 Episode 9 “After”
We get a taste of something new with the back half of Season 4. Rather than a large group story, we have a series of mini-stories with the groups of characters that became separated after the fall of the prison. It’s a great concept and refreshing to see that the show didn’t want to become stale with the same old patterns. It really allows us to get deep with the characters after such a traumatic event. One thing that this show consistently does well is put us in the shoes of our friends. By not knowing what everyone is doing from week to week, we can connect more with how it would actually feel for these people. We get to feel the same anxiety, despair and fears that they are having.
It begins with Michonne, Rick and Carl. A story that has been building so slowly for an entire season and a half now. Michonne is in a depression. She has lost everyone again. She wanders the woods in a funk. Some of the more telling signs of her unhappiness are the creation of her new walker pets. She also ignores footprints in the mud and chooses to go in a completely different direction. Michonne is not ready to reunite yet. She has quite literally returned to her old ways. Hiding herself among the walkers which assures no one can get close. We also get a surreal glimpse into her previous life during a nightmare Michonne has. She had a beautiful apartment, went to art shows, was in love and had a young boy. This beautiful life slowly melds into the present with her boyfriend and brother turning into walkers and the young boy disappearing. After wandering alone for several days, basically the same amount of time that Rick and Carl are off together, she comes out of her funk when she cannot stand looking at another walker that looks like a version of her. She decides she doesn’t want to be that and kills all the walkers around her. She then goes back to the footprints and follows them.
I am happy that Michonne chooses to try to reunite with people. As a character that has been so deeply wounded over and over again, it is pleasing to see that she can still have hope. She’s not ready to give up on herself and sees brighter days ahead.
Rick and Carl are together but not happily. Rick is near death and Carl has a chip on his shoulder directed largely towards his father. The two work uncooperatively to find food and a place to recover. At one point, Carl even throws out Shane’s name, ouch. When they do, Rick passes out for a large chunk of the episode and we are left to see what kind of trouble Carl can get into. Carl really gets a moment here. At first, he is super annoying to watch. He taunts a couple of walkers away from the house and doing probably one of the top five things to never do around zombies, walking backwards. You just don’t do that!!! Of course, he falls and almost gets bit. Then he decides that yelling at his passed-out father is a good way to express himself. He says some really hurtful stuff about failing everyone and that he doesn’t need him anymore. Carl does not hold back and it seems really cruel. I really dislike Carl at this point and I almost hope he gets bit. He continues to get into more trouble the next day when another walker almost gets him. Side note-If you watch this episode, you’ll notice the door has a sticker on it that says “Sam”. Obviously, the boy whose room it is, but it’s also a future character’s name. Something to keep in mind. And then there’s that classic scene of Carl eating the giant tub of pudding. As much as Carl doesn’t think of himself as a kid still, this is a total kid moment. A bit of comic relief for us during a really tough episode.
Carl’s tough façade comes crashing down when he thinks his father is becoming a walker and he is faced with shooting his dad. He can’t do it and is ready to let his dad get him. And I really don’t blame him at all. Carl has already had to kill his mother and lost his sister, having to also now kill his father would be too much for anyone. But thankfully Rick is not dad and starts feeling better the next day. The two sit together as father and son on the same side again. Rick tells him he’s a man now.
This story has a happy end of sorts by the three finding each other. Michonne appears relieved to find them and Rick also smiles when he sees her. He tells Carl it’s for him.
Best of the Episode
Carl poppa. Our young friend does a lot of growing up this episode through a series of stupid incidents, acting out and intense emotions. Carl becomes an amusing YouTube video because of this episode. He’s a young man with a lot of feelings. He just lost everything….again. He does a lot of stupid stuff and it’s really aggravating. But then the pudding scene also makes up for a lot of it for reasons I’m not really sure of. And then he further makes up for it when he breaks down and holds his father’s head in his hands and says he’s scared.