The Walking Dead - Season 4, Episode 9: "After" TV Episode Review
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Robert Kirkman
2014, Rated TV-14
Episode premiered on February 9th, 2014
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes
Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes
Danai Gurira as Michonne
Warning! This discussion contains spoilers!
After an explosive mid-season finale at the beginning of last December, The Walking Dead finally returned on Sunday in a Carl-centric episode. We also learn that every time Michonne cries, a zombie dies.
Steve: I have to admit, I don’t rightly know where to start here. This episode, “After”, just felt so...lackluster after the powerhouse of that mid-season finale. Perhaps it’s just me, but if you are going to take a break for greed in order to milk a product for all that its worth, maybe your first episode after a two month hiatus shouldn’t be filled with a bunch of people walking around and moping. At the very least, come back with your crowd favorite (Daryl). Don’t get me wrong, there are some pretty cool scenes in this episode, ones I’m sure we’ll get into, but on the whole, it’s a pretty weak all around, especially it’s the one coming off a hiatus. Am I being too judgmental here?
Dan: Yeah, I think you’re being a little harsh. You can’t expect it to return at full force like the mid-season finale, but I’ll agree that we could have used some update on the other survivors rather than just Rick and Carl. That said, I think we’ll see a Daryl and Co. heavy episode next week, with the series playing between the two groups’ stories until they converge at some point. This will hopefully bring the momentum to the end of season episode. At least this week we got to see Carl realise he’s not quite the know-all badass he thinks he is.
Steve: Oh, no, don’t get me wrong. I certainly wasn’t expecting full-on action. Hell, I’m one of the few that liked the second season. My issue with it is that it’s just such a dull episode with not much going on except for a lot of crying. Good lord, it seems like someone was in tears before and after every commercial break. I definitely agree that Carl needed a reality check, and it was delivered, but other than maybe three or four scenes, there is just a whole lot of nothing. One thing that really bothers me, and perhaps this is part of the reason I was let down, is Chandler Riggs’ performance here. I’ve mentioned in prior discussions how much I really enjoy where they are taking his character Carl, and in this episode the kid got to truly cut loose on his father on some pent up issues. However, Riggs isn't believable. The dialog he spews at Rick (when he’s unconscious, no less) is well written and a long time coming, but the delivery is weak at best. This “confrontation” was long overdue, and I didn’t buy it. It lacks passion. I’ve defended Riggs’ acting in the past, but here he falls flat when it is most important. I believe he could bring more to the table as he gets more experience, but he doesn’t have the skill just yet to carry an episode, which was expected here (Danai Gurira’s scenes as Michonne notwithstanding, but we’ll get to that). Ironically, one of my favorite parts of “After” is when Carl is sitting on the roof of the house eating pounds of pudding. The juxtaposition of him just being a kid and the zombie reaching out for his own snack is a bit damning because, at the end of the day, Carl is still a boy in a bleak world.
Dan: Maybe they should have switched it around to make it more evenly split between Michonne and Carl scenes to balance out Riggs’ inexperience. Carl is a really well-written character, very true to a kid of that age; he’s been taught a few things by his Dad and now he thinks he knows it all. I think it got proved to him that he still needs Rick’s guardianship as much as ever. You can see Rick trying to let him stand on his own two feet, but at the same time trying to protect him. It’s like a Dad watching his kid climb a tree: if the kid falls and hurts himself he learns a valuable lesson for the next time round. Unfortunately for Carl, his fall could see him end up as walker food, so there’s little room for learning error. I hope his experiences in this episode, his fall from the tree if you will, have taught him there’s still a lot to learn from his Dad, even if he did spend most of it unconscious on the couch.
Dan: I thought they played a strong hand with Michonne, too. We saw some cracks in her armour and a little bit of backstory, even if it was just in a dream sequence. She’s been little more than a kick-ass killing machine for most of the show, but I’d like to see more of the person behind the mask.
Steve: While I did like the backstory, it was only because I liked the actors who played her brother and her beau. Other than that, I feel the opposite of you because I rather liked the mystery of Michonne. I didn’t really want to know why she is who she is. It’s kind of like Rob Zombie’s Halloween telling Michael Myers’ backstory. It’s unnecessary and it ruins some of the mystique of the character. Plus, could she cry and pout more in this episode? I know, I get it, it’s a troubling time, and with everyone scattered it leaves a lot of time to think about your life and how you got there. I can understand the human side of her here, I just didn’t want it. However, I will concede that for every tear she shed in this episode, a walker tasted her blade and that was pretty sweet. That circle of death she left in the woods is pretty spectacular.
Can we take a moment to remember Herschel? Holy shit. For every moment this show irritates me, it gets made up for in spades with something like we saw on Sunday. If you had told me in December we’d be seeing Hershel’s still-animated head in the middle of the battlefield, I would have scoffed.
Dan: Hey, why did Herschel stay at the prison? Because he had nobody to escape with. Get it? NO BODY.
Yeah that was an emotional last goodbye to old peg-leg and a good reminder of what happened pre-break. Also, my prediction last time that The Governor could resurface at some point was way off because one-eyed Philip was clearly visible, dead on the battlefield with a nice size hole in his cranium.
Dan: I’m going to call this now, and I hope I’m proved wrong: The second half of the season is going to go out on a whimper rather than a bang. We need to catch up with the other survivors, and we need a new antagonist to leave us wanting more come finale-proper time. I just don’t see that having the time to gain momentum in what? Six more episodes?
What are your thoughts? Any ideas of who or what the bad-guy is going to be now The Gov has turned his toes up? Will the separate survivor groups even be reunited before the end of Season 4?
Steve: I’m with you on this 100%. There is no time to establish a viable villain and we’re going to spend our Sundays watching ‘the group of the week’. But, now that I’m thinking about it, they could have a potential conflict whose seed has already been planted and will soon bloom: Carol. She could have gone completely over the edge in her time away from camp and is now looking for payback because it really feels like we haven’t seen the last of her.
Dan: Carol’s a good call. Maybe she won’t even appear for the rest of Season 4, but they have her in the bag for the future.
Steve: Now, I know this is a bit nitpicky, but why didn’t they set up a meeting place beforehand? It seems everyone knew The Governor was a threat, so you would have thought, you know, plan the hell ahead. A head. Now we’re back to Herschel.
I will say this, though – and I’m directing it at AMC, the writers, the actors, the producers, basically everyone involved with The Walking Dead – if you bring The Governor back in any way, shape or form outside of some lame flashback, you suck. Period. I address this to the actors as well because it’s up to you guys to hold your ground. The man is unequivocally dead. Let him stay that way. He can’t even be a zombie at this point.
Even though this episode disappointed me, I’m still excited for next week’s. The preview promised Daryl and Tyrese, so no doubt there is some good to be culled from that combination. And did I see a glimpse of Beth in the mix? I hope so. Her character is really growing on me.
Dan: Roll on next week, we could use some crossbow action.
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