The Walking Dead returns and this Space Chief could not have been more delighted! Apparently having knowledge of the comic book is an immense help in predicting the future in this show because I’m hitting at least 75% so far this season! Jake didn’t do so badly either!
The second half of season four opens with Michonne standing in the wreckage of the prison surrounded by Walkers and clearly angry. She finds the still snapping head of Hershel and puts him out of his misery with a mix of disgust and anguish on her face. She’s been through this kind of thing before and immediately kicks into lone survivor mode like flipping a switch. She captures two more “pets” and sets out on her own.
We now find Carl and Rick walking down a lonely road; Carl’s rage and his anger and lack of respect for Rick shows in his expression and his actions. He has had it with his father’s over protection and his mental retreat from what is happening around them. He walks 30 yards in front of Rick and doesn’t heed Rick’s order to slow down. Rick finally barks at him to stop and he does. Rick catches up and begins his speech about how to stay safe and starts to say they will be alright but can’t finish the sentence when he looks into Carl’s face and sees the boy doesn’t believe a word he says.
When the pair comes upon a roadside bar, Rick insists Carl wait outside but Carl points out that Rick can barely stand. Rick gives in and it becomes obvious that he needs Carl’s help as he doesn’t have the strength to take out a Walker in the bar with the hatchet he finds. Carl is almost competing with Rick for who is the most capable. When they compare what supplies they find, Carl says “I win” as he hands over the food he scavenged.
They come upon a house. Rick continually second guesses Carl until the boy loses it, pounding on the walls and swearing for any Walkers to come out. As much as Carl comes off as a snotty teenager that thinks he knows it all, he does prove his point that Rick micro manages the kid to an insane degree in the name of keeping them safe.
I want to take a moment to address the Carl haters here. Chandler Riggs plays this role as it was meant to be played. He is a brilliant actor portraying a kid growing up and experiencing the same things normal kids go through in their teenage years but at the same time living in the apocalypse. This is most evident when Carl comes upon the room of a teenage boy in the house and drops his guard for a moment; he becomes a kid again, just for a moment. He finds a game console with stacks of games and marvels at it. We see him smile and start to peruse the games until he catches his reflection and the hard gaze of a survivor comes back over him. This was portrayed beautifully by Riggs and I don’t care what anyone else thinks. This kid can act!
As Rick and Carl get ready to camp in the abandoned house Carl ties the door shut. Rick, thinking they need to reinforce the door is reminded by Carl that the knot will hold and that Shane taught him, “remember him?” Carl asks. Rick is stung by this and tells Carl he remembers every day. Rick is in bad shape and we can hear his wheezing as he struggles to breathe. After an argument that Carl should eat, Rick checks out his wounds and we see just how bad the damage is.
Next we are taken to a dream sequence that sheds a bit of light on Michonne’s past. We see a different side of her and are treated to small bits of information about her life. She was a mother, was apparently pretty well off and during the early days of the apocalypse became a katana prodigy. It hasn’t been mentioned in the show yet but if I remember correctly, she was quite capable at the sport of fencing according to the comic story.
We return to Carl, making breakfast for himself and his father. When he attempts to wake Rick, Rick doesn’t respond. He shakes him and repeatedly yells for him to wake up to no avail and draws the attention of two Walkers. As the zombies bang against the door, Carl slips out the side, circles around behind them and calls out to them to lure them away. He is nearly taken out by a third unseen Walker but escapes after killing all three on his own.
After a quick shot of Michonne blending into a herd of Walkers, we go back to unconscious Rick and a hyped up Carl. He tells Rick how he saved his life and that he doesn’t need him anymore. He also tells him he would be ok if Rick died. This is directly from the comic arc and once again acted perfectly by Riggs.
After boosting his confidence with Walker kills and unearned bravado, Carl decides to go on a supply run by himself. He is very nearly eaten for the second time but walks away with a good amount of food and supplies. He can’t resist leaving a note that says “Walker inside, got my shoe, didn’t get me”. He sits on the roof eating a giant can of pudding in triumph.
Meanwhile, Michonne, who decided not to follow Rick and Carl’s trail, instead blending among the dead, has had enough. After seeing her doppelganger amongst the dead she opts for life, singlehandedly taking down 23 Walkers in a cathartic zombie massacre. She has reached her turning point. She kills her “pets” and returns to Rick’s trail.
Carl is at his father’s side in the house when Rick begins to wheeze and stir. Believing Rick to be dead Carl grabs Rick’s gun and can’t bring himself to kill Rick. He gives up and says “I was wrong, I can’t do it”. He lays there and closes his eyes, waiting to be eaten but instead he hears Rick speak before collapsing. Carl cries and cradles Rick’s head in a moving moment and finally admits he’s scared to be alone?
Michonne, on the trail of Rick and Carl has a moment to herself where she confronts her past, puts it behind her and moves on to look for Rick and Carl, her new family.
Rick and Carl have a talk and clear the air. Rick tells Carl that he’s sorry for treating him like a child and he realizes Carl is very capable, probably more than most adults.
Michonne approaches the house and looks through the window and sees Rick and Carl and this time she sheds tears of joy. She knocks on the door, startling Rick and Carl. When Rick looks out, he laughs, looks at Carl and says, “it’s for you.”
What a great ending to a powerhouse episode. Some fans may be bored with the first two episodes of the second half as we have to now catch up to where our main characters are, but I loved this first one. As a fan of the comic, I found there to be just enough of what I loved about this arc in the book and just enough new material as to not make it boring, as well as a much needed break from Indiana Dixon’s over the top shenanigans. I would also like to reiterate how impressed I am with Chandler Riggs. I know most will say this was as much about Michonne as it was Carl but this was a shining Carl moment for me. As much as I love Michonne, I was one of the lunatics constantly bothering the creators to put her in the show!, this was Carl’s time to shine, for me anyway. It is for the brilliant, emotional performances from all of the actors in this episode that I give The Walking Dead season 4 episode 9 “After” a solid…
4.5 out of 5 nerds