by Linda Sharps
(Spoilers ahead!) Praise be, our long dark zombie hiatus finally came to an end tonight with The Walking Dead's much-anticipated midseason premiere, which was appropriately titled "After." Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne, recently described the second half of season 4 as having "a whole different tone" from what's happened thus far on the show, and tonight's episode certainly felt different in a lot of ways. For instance: never before has a Walking Dead character consumed 112 ounces of chocolate pudding in one sitting.
Stop reading now if you haven't caught up with tonight's episode -- otherwise, let's get to the recap!
We start out pretty much right where we left off, in the wake of the devastating prison attack. A lingering glimpse at the Governor confirms he's dead as a door nail, and sadly, as Michonne picks her way through the carnage, we get up close and personal with Hershel's severed, zombiefied head. He has weird glowing eyes for some reason, probably to make us feel even worse about his fate. Go gently into that good night, Hershel! Here's a katana to send you on your way.
Michonne makes a couple of new leashed walkers by hacking off their arms and ripping out their jaws, and throughout several more scenes of her trekking around with these guys, I have plenty of time to wonder why, exactly, their presence makes her invisible to other zombies. (I can't remember, was this ever explained in the comics?) Or why being mutilated -- much like every other half-rotted, grievously-wounded zombie out there -- somehow makes them so conveniently docile. Every time she stops, they do too, just dopily standing there like they're particularly stupid Golden Retrievers in remedial obedience class.
We get some backstory with Michonne, but it's frankly pretty vague. In a sort of half-flashback, half-hallucination, we learn she used to have a boyfriend and a son and they lived in a sweet-ass yuppie pad where she served rich person snacks to their visiting buddy while they exchanged good-natured snooty banter. Also the four of them were maybe living in a camp together at one time and her boyfriend lost his will to live and the son died and she was forced to turn the boyfriend and friend into armless zombie pets? Not sure on that last part exactly, but we do know that Michonne is willing to do whatever it takes to stay alive in this world (as evidenced by her singlehandedly dispatching like 20 walkers like she's the goddamned Fruit Ninja) because despite being a loner for so long, she knows what the point of survival is: being with other survivors.
Okay, while Michonne's out having a little epiphany, what's going on with Rick and Carl? Well, one thing's for sure: Carl's being a straight-up bitch. While Rick staggers around half-dead from a punctured lung or whatever he's got going on, Carl cannot even, you guys. HE JUST CANNOT. They stop at a store where there's a kerfuffle when Rick manages to get his axe stuck in a walker's skull, and he's like OH SHIT I HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED THIS BEFORE I MUST BE WEAKENED FROM MY BUSTED RIBS AND WHATNOT, which is kind of maddening because, hello, seriously, how does this not happen every single time someone chops into a zombie head?
Trivia: Google now autocompletes "human skull thickness" for me because I've searched it so many times after watching The Walking Dead.
Anyway, the two of them find temporary shelter in a nice big home, and Carl wanders into the teenager's bedroom to get briefly excited about a trove of electronics before remembering that he lives in the zombie apocalypse. Derp. Rick succumbs to his injuries and slips into what's basically a coma, but Carl is fresh out of fucks to give. He berates his unconscious dad for being some kind of pussy vegetable farmer instead of protecting everyone, and wraps it up with the dramatic declaration that "I'd be fine if you died!" (Can I just pause to share the probably-unpopular opinion that I think Chandler Riggs is a really mediocre young actor who shouldn't be tasked with monologues?) Then Carl embarks on a series of near-miss zombie adventures, where despite the fact that he almost gets killed at least three times, his cockiness never gets knocked down a peg because winning!, and he ends up sitting on a roof eating a massive Costco-sized barrel of chocolate pudding.
at the house, Carl wakes in the middle of the night to see Rick
twitching back to life and making a lot of walker-like noises. Convinced
his dad has turned, he pulls out his gun -- but only briefly, before
collapsing in tears. "I can't. I'm scared," he sobs. Rick wheezes,
stretches out a hand, and tumbles from the couch.
"You're a man, Carl," Rick gasps. "You're a man." Carl gazes at him moistly, then opens his mouth to sing:
Cause we belong together now, yeah
Forever united here somehow, yeah
You got a piece of me
My life (my life) would suck (would suck) without you
Not really, but pretty much the only thing that could make this moment more hokey is Kelly Clarkson.
Back to Michonne: she spots some muddy footprints on the road and follows the tracks (which somehow she knows were made by living people?) to Rick and Carl's hideout, where she weeps with relief and knocks on the door. Rick has a comically startled "Were you expecting anyone?" expression, but soon breaks into a huge smile as he says to his ungrateful-ass son, "It's for you."
Carl was pleased. If he wasn't rushing off to crap explosively all over
the floor somewhere, because seriously. SO MUCH PUDDING.
All in all, not even remotely my favorite Walking Dead episode, thanks to the mawkish dialogue and occasionally clunky exposition. It's frustrating how this show gets so many things right, but consistently has trouble breathing real life into its living characters, you know? Still, even when an episode falls flat for me, I always enjoy seeing where the story's going. I suspect I'll enjoy it even more next week when it appears we'll focus on some of the other survivors.
So, what did you think of this episode? Was it as good as you were hoping?
*Be sure to join us here on The Cafe every Sunday night as we watch and discuss the show together!