AMC’s The Walking Dead After TV Show Review. The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 9: ‘After,’ as inferred by its title, picked up immediately where ‘Too Far Gone’ left off. As scattered and battered as the survivors were, this first post-prison arc will likely take some time to follow individual elements, of both solo and groups of characters, in their efforts to get back up, get clear, or get back together. ‘After’ first informed on the fate of Rick & Carl (Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs), as a struggling pair, and Michonne (Danai Gurira), falling back on her solo act know-how.
Michonne, as the last living person at the prison, outfitted herself with a new pair of neutered Walkers, and saw to some final business. That final business was to be gazing upon the body of The Governor, gone once and for all, but wound up including a final dispatch of, and farewell to, Hershel – his severed head having re-animated. From there, she set out to parts unknown.
Carl and Rick, meanwhile, were not doing well. Carl was clearly contemptuous of his father, but resorted to the silent treatment (save for occasional outbursts), while Rick could barely walk or talk, let alone keep on top of their survivalist needs. By the time they found a safe house to crash in, Carl had had enough of Rick’s guidance, Rick’s decisions, Rick’s authority.
Carl, as the original representative of Generation Z, may have grown into the role of protector & provider, but it may have been a case of too fast, too soon. Of course, for Generation Z it has to be. Unfortunately, with Rick’s sidelining, the inherent adolescent need for right of passage was now front and center. In Carl’s case, it may have been as simple as growing into his Sheriff’s hat. He was the sole authority of a one street town, and he had every intention of strutting his stuff. The problem, as has always been the case, was that no town – of any size – is ever big enough for two bosses. With this first turn as lead, Carl made it known that the old king was dead.
With Rick having gone completely comatose, Carl’s simmering resentment went into a high boil. His breakdown of Rick’s failings may have seemed cowardly and vicious, to some. It should be considered, however, that if anyone would subscribe to the notion that “big boys don’t cry,” it would be someone in Carl’s position. He didn’t wait for Rick to go under, then kick him while he was down; he simply lost his composure once he realized Rick had hit a new low, both in terms of his faculties, and his management of the group. At the same time, Carl’s low opinion of his father was well considered, compared to the overly self-indulgent rants of any given teenager, under more privileged circumstance. Carl was being a rebel with a cause.
Of course, true kings are not born, they are made. Even royal offspring had to earn succession rights, before civilization made the rights of royalty divine. Well this isn’t civilization. Experience is the real test of metal; and Carl’s solo experiences, from diverting walkers away from his unconscious dad, to foraging house to house, demonstrated some clear limits to his capabilities – in wit and physicality. Frankly, he made some missteps (including a reaffirmation of Rick’s warning about conserving ammo) that should have cost him his life, and he understood that fully. By the time Rick came around, Carl had given up the ghost. Lucky for Rick, as it turned out; warmed over death gets you a fatal blow to the head, in the Zombie apocalypse. Carl’s breakdown, before a not-undead Rick, aside, this was a necessary exercise in getting them both past the loss of what seemed like everything, and everyone. Neither should be considering the other dead weight, going forward.
There was one other redeeming moment, for Carl. Shortly after they arrived at the house, Carl went into a room that likely belonged to a boy his age. He took a moment to marvel at the creature comforts and diversions available to the former occupant; but then, starting with ripping the electrical cord from an impressive plasma screen, began to salvage survival implements. The electrical cord would be used as both a bind for the front door, and a dig at his dad (he utilized a knot Shane taught him – a demonstration that Rick had been derelict); but at that moment, Carl shook off the notions of materialism and escapism. Having realized that he still has much to learn, and that he can at least work with Rick – if not under him – that mindset does suggest that Carl will be receptive to the harsh lessons and experiences to come.
For Michonne, domestication had been long considered a temporary affair. Her actions, immediately following the evacuation of the prison, constituted a fallback procedure. A seeming reset to the figure we were first introduced to. Some insight was provided, regarding her personal connection to her original Walker team, but in dream-turned-nightmare form. Regardless of how much or little we can infer from it, where Michonne’s back story is concerned, the experience did serve to shake her out of her default state.
By that time, Michonne had become the nucleus of a Walker herd; content to merely stay in the baffles until something – anything – presented itself. In a previous life, there was a question of survival fitness, in the transition from civilization to post-apocalypse, and the assumption of such roles. In the face of an undead look-alike, Michonne may have realized that going with the herd wasn’t enough anymore. That it was, in fact, a surrender, on her part; and for the sake of those she lost, from that previous life, she re-ignited her own ongoing war for survival.
She wiped out the herd – including her new decoys – and set out, now completely on her own.
Doubling back, she noticed recent tracks on a road she had previously crossed. The trail allowed her to follow the exploits of Rick & Carl, and ultimately led to their door. The reunion, that we were not actually allowed to see, may very well have been as cathartic to the audience as it was to Rick and Michonne. Carl was left hanging, but he had been through enough of an emotional roller coaster, I guess. Maybe we all have.
One episode in. This arc might take some steeling up to get through.