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Surviving in the “After” – The Walking Dead Review

Posted on February 10, 2014 at 8:37 am by Amanda Andonian

It’s been two long months, and The Walking Dead has returned with a vengeance! Although “After” is not particularly full of spoilers, I’ll still post a spoiler-free review up top in case you just want to know whether the show is still worth watching. In a word? YES!

If you need a brief refresher on what’s been happening, check out our The Walking Dead preview from last week.

Spoiler-Free Recap, “After” – A
Although “After” isn’t full of the traditional action we generally clamor for in The Walking Dead, it’s an incredible stand-alone episode that provides some much needed character development for Rick, Carl, and Michonne. Tensions run high, and Rick is forced to come to terms with the fact that his son is not a boy anymore. At the same time, Michonne is dealing with her own inner demons, struggling to bring herself back from the brink after losing everything she’d gained in the past few months.

Final Spoiler Warning!

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If you (like myself) were worried that this episode would mostly consist of Rick beating himself up and taking a trip to Crazy Town, then “After” was a refreshing surprise. Rather than focus on Rick’s guilt and turmoil, Carl took center stage to give us our first truly deep look into the life of this poor kid. For the past three seasons, Carl has just been that irritating 10-year-old who insists that he’s a grown up now, while the knowing adults around him try to shelter him as much as possible. In the very first moments with Rick and Carl together, we see that he’s not having it anymore, disdainfully staring at his father when Rick attempts to say, “We’re going to be fine.”

Of course, Carl really isn’t the adult that he believes himself to be, which he proves time and time again throughout the episode. It comes out in the little things, such as eating that giant can of pudding on the rooftop, or triumphantly telling the pile of dead walkers he killed, “I win,” conveniently forgetting that he vomited literally 5 seconds earlier from the fear and shock of narrowly escaping a bite. His almost constant near misses while foraging alone don’t phase Carl in the least, and he swaggers around the empty neighborhood like the only sheriff in town. Like most young people, Carl feels and acts as though he’s invincible, and no amount of evidence to the contrary will convince him otherwise.

During Rick’s brief moments of lucidity, he recognizes that he no longer has any control over his son, and he struggles to maintain the position of authority despite his obvious injuries and inability to even hold a gun up straight. Despite everything, his parental instinct is still to protect his son as much as possible from the horrors they face, even though he’s incapable of protecting even himself. Carl sees this all too clearly, though, railing against his father in an impassioned (and ultimately unheard since Rick was unconscious) monologue, blaming Rick for everything terrible that had happened in the last two days. While Carl ultimately doesn’t hang on to his resentment, his father is the only person he has left to blame, and he goes into full on angry teenager mode. It’s nice to see that the apocalypse doesn’t change some things!

The most poignant parts of this episode, though, were the scenes with Michonne. Her goodbye to Herschel was strangely touching, despite the bloodiness of it. I’m not ashamed to say that it actually made me tear up a bit. Completely separated from the rest of the group, Michonne then goes into ultimate survivor mode, creating two new “pets” and losing herself in a herd of walkers. For the next day, she shambles along in a daze, dreaming about a life that never was as she grieves for everything she’s lost.

In my mind, her dream was probably the most powerful and heartbreaking moment since Lori’s death as we got a glimpse into Michonne’s life (not completely real, but a symbolic one) before she found the group. In those few minutes, we get a sense of the struggle between her, her husband (played by the incredible Aldis Hodge who’s also in the upcoming Chris Carter show, The After), and their friend as they argue about survival and the point of even trying to go on in this broken world. Of course Michonne is driven by a need to protect her son, but that’s apparently not enough for her husband, who merely asks, “Why?” For him, a life of terror and constant danger is no life for their child. Unfortunately for Michonne, she couldn’t give him a good enough answer before he died, presumably taking their son with him.

What truly makes this episode stand out, though, is the fact that it actually ends on a hopeful note. Four and a half seasons of nearly relentless danger and despair tends to wear on an audience, and thankfully The Walking Dead brought us a small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. While things are by no means going to be all sunshine and roses from here on out, at least we had this brief respite from the horror as Rick, Carl, and Michonne find each other at the end and take comfort in the tiny blessing that they’re not alone.

“After” – A

The Walking Dead: Season 4 Episode 9, “After” aired February 9th, 2014 on AMC.

You can follow Amanda on Twitter at @reiko516 for more geek news.

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