The Walking Dead, S4 Ep 9: After

WILL THERE BE SPOILERS? OF COURSE THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! I’M TALKING ABOUT A TV SHOW. CONSIDER YOURSELF ALERTED.

Welcome back, The Walking DeadOh, how I have missed you.  It’s hard to get through the week without a fix of issues-laden zombie mayhem. Om nom nom. Oh, the (lack of) humanity.

Season 4, Episode 9 of The Walking Dead picks up about five minutes after where the mid-season finale left off. Or maybe more like an hour later.  Or whatever, it was soon enough for the zombies to still be shambling anew into the smoking hull that was the prison refuge, and long enough for all the principal characters to have scattered but good.

This is a focus episode that examines the relationship between Rick and Carl, and explains Michonne‘s back story, which flows into her present timeline.

So. First up: Rick & Carl.

And don’t mind the quality of the pictures. It’s…a long story. Anyway.

Carl? Buddy? Son? Hey pal. Buddy? Hey. Carl? Carl?

Carl? Buddy? Son? Hey pal. Buddy? Hey. Carl? Carl?

OK, Carl. I know you’re a child warrior/surly teen who has come of age in the nightmarish hellscape of a zombie apocalypse. But fo’ real, kid. Your dad has a chest full of broken ribs and was strangled to within seconds of his life…could you at least wait up for him? He’s not quite the walking dead (though he’s got that dreadful wheeze down), but he’s certainly the walking barely-alive. So, blah blah, they find a house and hole up in it, blah blah, Carl is cranky and doesn’t want to do what his dad tells him to do, blah blah he has a laundry list of resentments because shit has once again magnificently fallen apart and Rick is always to blame. (I will grant him new rage for the possible-death of baby Judith, about whose fate we are none the wiser. Sadly, Michonne doesn’t have her, so boo! I was wrong about that.) He seems to keep forgetting that the Governor showed up with a tank, took hostages and unleashed a killing spree unto their makeshift family and really, Carrrr-rul (dialect coach: get on that, will you?), it’s hard to point the finger at anyone else except the tankmaster.

But no, go ahead. Blame your dad. It’s nice to know parent issues don’t go out of style.

I kind of get where he’s coming from. Carl finds a teen boy’s room that’s got a stack of video games still in it, and it’s totally the kind of kid he could have been in a world less mad. That becomes metaphoric to his conduct. He doesn’t scavenge successfully, he “wins”. He doesn’t recklessly dispatch zombies; he “wins”. It sounds a little like he’s had some of Charlie Sheen’s tiger blood and a little like he doesn’t get that if he dies in this game, there’s no reset button BUT, more to the point, is he’s totally being an angry teen in the middle of this crazy-ass world.

#winning

#winning
If you can’t tell, it reads: Walker inside. Got my shoe, didn’t get me.

Which is oddly charming. I just wish he wasn’t acting out against Rick when he’s so clearly incapacitated. It makes Carl seem petulant and a little power-grabby (sure, fight your dad when he can’t fight back). At first. Then Carl thinks Rick is dead and reanimating, and suddenly Carl is a little boy again.  A little boy who’s already iced his mom so she didn’t turn zombie. What’s to stop him from taking out the grasping, zombie-sound-emitting Rick, with whom he’s already angry, against whose defenseless, sleeping (possibly dying) form he’s unleashed a barrage of snarling teener rage?

Am I the only one who's getting a little Michelangelo "The Creation of Adam" here?

Am I the only one who’s getting a little Michelangelo “The Creation of Adam” here?

But he can’t do it alone, doesn’t want to do it alone, isn’t ready to be the Alpha dog.  Finally, Carl faces that he’s afraid of being all by himself. It’s a legitimate fear, I don’t know if I could do it either. Afterwards?  They sit down and eat cereal together, because when Carl and Rick bond, they eat things. Which is also metaphoric, I suppose, but at least the things they eat aren’t people.

Now. Michonne.

Since her introduction, Michonne has been a katana-twirling killing machine. Kind of a loner because really, who wants to hang out in the woods with a woman with two armless, mouthless zombies chained to her?

It will create a smell buffer, they said.

It will create a smell buffer, they said.
Image from sciencefiction.com

Alone again and in the woods, Michonne makes a new set of zombie “pets” (that’s what they call them and I hate it, but still) and starts…what…?

On that road to nowhere.

On that road to nowhere.

Aimlessly wandering. Inside a hissing, gurgling pack of zombies. Her placid sort of resignation to a lifeless fate marked by empty wandering kind of reminded me a little bit of the meat grinder scene from Pink Floyd’s ThWall.  

Forward to about 4:10 of the video if you just want to see what I’m talking about.

Michonne was walking, and not dead, but certainly not engaging in anything meaningful or humanity-building. While she was walking with the zombies I kept wondering when and how she would stop. How do you stop to…pee? or eat?…without giving yourself away? And you know she wasn’t always the whirling-blade-of-doom survivalist we’ve come to know and love. In this episode, we find out that her katana-wielding ways came about only as a result of the zombie apocalypse. We already suspected she’d had a past that wasn’t quite as intensely martial-arty.  What we didn’t know was that she had a past that was…well…straight-on arty-arty.

Hey Grumpy Gus! Cheer up; it’s brie!

In a flashback dream-fugue sequence we see Michonne hanging out at home with her boyfriend, his friend, and her baby for an afternoon of fruit and cheese and discussions about what makes art, art. Which then segues into the boyfriend and friend debating whether or not to leave their camp, not understanding their new roles in their unfamiliar world while she discovered her facility with a sword. Which then segues into them, armless, ready to be made into the first set of zombie pets we had seen her chained to, and the baby? Sigh. Out of the picture.

And so she is walking. And walking. And maybe not thinking. And walking. Because what else has she got to live for? Until she sees her twinsie zombie.

20140210_121451

-Well, I am just beside myself…uh…
-Hello, self.

This triggers in Michonne a “George Bailey goes a-killin’, I want to live again” moment, wherein she becomes a dervish of woe, destroys the zombie pack she was losing herself into (because let’s face it, it would only be a matter of time until she let her guard down and then? Om nom nom and see you on the undead side) and hits the road in search of her companions, who can’t be that far since almost everyone is on foot.

May God have mercy on my enemies, for I shall not.

May God have mercy on my enemies, for I shall not.

Bonus: She finds Rick & Carl eating cereal. YAY! We take our happy endings where we can find them, in the postapocalyptic zombie world.

Double-bonus: Next week we see what’s happening with Daryl. He’s in the woods with Whatsherface, the blonde and uninteresting chick who’s Hershel’s other daughter.  Beth?  Yeah. That’s it.

And this song’s a dedication going out to the lovers out there…Michonne and Rick, so glad to see you back together again.

Peaches and Herb, “Reunited”. Take notes if this is new to you. There will be a quiz.

See you all next week!

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