The Walking Dead “After” S04E09 Recap

AMC’s hit TV drama, “The Walking Dead” took a vacation over the holidays and finally returned this past Sunday with its mid-season premiere. Fresh off the death of the Governor, Rick and crew face a new set of problems. The prison they used for shelter is no more, and the group has been separated without any knowledge of survivors.

It wouldn’t be an episode of “The Walking Dead” without some grotesque and brutal zombie murders. Michonne kept the habit of intense zombie killing alive by putting the decapitated head of Hershel out of its misery as it lay on the ground starving for humans. To recap, Hershel’s head was chopped off by the Governor in episode eight It was a gut-wrenching visual for fans of the show who loved the old farmer. At this point in the episode it appeared that Michonne did not want to search for survivors, ignoring footprints in the mud and venturing out on her own.

As if the death of a good friend wasn’t difficult enough, Rick spent the early portions of the episode trying to console his son, Carl, about the presumed death of his baby sister, Judith. However, Carl just did notwant to listen. Rick was physically weak and mentally drained as he and his son Carl scavenged for supplies. They continued to get into arguments over what was the right way to deal with small groups of zombies. Carl as he fires on a zombie when commanded not to shoot Rick warns that “every bullet counts.” Perhaps a bit of foreshadowing, a sign that Carl may come to regret wasting that bullet.

The show took a dramatic twist when viewers got to see a very dark nightmare for Michonne. She dreamt of an old lover named Mike, a child and brother in a pre-zombie outbreak scenario. She wore a beautiful designer dress and had a relaxed conversation with them while holding what the audience assumes is her baby.

This small detail hinted that Michonne wasn’t much of a fighter pre-zombie outbreak, with her main hobby being a housewife rather than a machete wielding killing machine. Suddenly the dream turns bad and the baby vanishes. Not only that, but her brother and husband were turned into limbless zombies in an instant, terrifying her as she reflected on whether the life she’s leading is worth living at all. Only later would viewers discover why she was questioning her life in this manner.

Carl continues to ignore his father’s advice. While he thinks he has everything under control and insists on using gunfire to execute zombies. He gets himself into a sticky situation when a zombie barely misses Carl. He simplifies everything by saying, “I win.” He thinks his brash, immature and reckless behavior will keep him alive but it may ultimately cost him everything.

Carl is also rewarded with 112 ounces of chocolate pudding in a scene much later in the episode where he barely outmaneuvers a zombie in a well-stocked abandoned home. Seriously, how does he find 112 ounces of unexpired pudding.

In what is meant to be a gripping scene, but falls flat due to 14 year-old Chandler Riggs’s poor acting, Carl confesses to an unconscious Rick that he blames him for the destruction of the prison and for the deaths of his sister and mother. The show has been known for being a bit heavy handed with its dialogue at times and this is another case: Carl ends the scene by telling his sleeping father, “I’d be better off if you died”.

Later, Michonne has an emotional break-down and slaughters a dozen or more zombies as a way to vent her anger with being alone. It seems like she’s avoided thinking about all the loved ones she’s lost with in this in apocalypse until now. It is fortunate that she is so skilled with a machete that she can use to take down an entire zombie horde while finding no other help and emotionally falling to pieces emotionally. This forces Michonne to finally admit to herself that she can’t go it alone, so she sets out to find any survivors from the prison.

She’s not the only person who has a revelation by episode’s end. Carl wakes up suddenly when it appears that his father, Rick, has turned into a zombie. Rick is still feeling the after effects of the Governor’s attack, he breathes heavily and has slow, zombie-like movements.

Carl tries to bring himself to shoot his father but can’t, admitting he was wrong to not heed Rick’s advice he demands to be eaten. Of course this is a cheap ploy by the director to make you think Rick has passed away as he finally starts to speak again, showing Carl that he isn’t dead after all.

Everything appears to wrap up nicely by the end as Michonne, Rick and Carl are reunited. Rick tells Carl that he’s a man now and can no longer be treated like a child.

One chilling detail emerges as Michonne has a brief inner monologue where she says that Mike, presumably the lover in her nightmare, was wrong that they couldn’t survive in this new zombie filled world.

This suggests, but doesn’t confirm, that the father of Michonne’s child may have mercy — killed their baby and committed suicide. This appears to be the drive Michonne to not give up on life as she’s trying to prove that she can survive in this setting in spite of her deceased lover. The audience sees so much intense violence but in a masterful stroke of irony the writers of the show make the most horrific event in the entire episode an off-screen mercy killing of a child.

The major themes throughout Episode 9 were Carl’s coming of age, and his father’s struggle to recognize his son’s maturity and Michonne wanting to be a loner so that she can avoid getting hurt when she inevitably dies. Later episodes this season could call back to this episode if Michonne loses someone she loves again and has to grabble with staying in a group of people that she could also lose, or she could choose to travel the road alone. There’s also a good chance Carl will ignore his father’s advice and get someone killed, or maybe Rick’s slow, methodical approach will cost someone their life too.

This mid-season premiere was slow and only featured three of the main characters; however, it delivered in terms of plot development, character backstory and jaw-dropping visuals. Michonne, Carl and Rick have been reunited, but what has become of the rest of the characters? They will face scenarios where they are forced to re-assess their lives just as these three characters did in this episode. Chances are the road to all the characters being reunited will be bloody and filled with the kind of undead drama fans of “The Walking Dead” watch it for.