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The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is a drama about a zombie apocalypse. It is based on the 2003 Image Comics series. AMC 2010-???

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Episode 9 - After

13 February 2014

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Rick and Carl bicker and stagger to a house for the night. Next day Rick is coma like as he recovers from the stress. Carl goes wandering on his own looking for more food. Meanwhile Michonne is hanuted by memories as she decides whether to walk with the dead or the living.

The Good: I thought this was really good. It was deliberately slow and barren after the adrenaline rush of the mid-season finale but it was character focussed and simple. What really pleased me was the ending. The Walking Dead has been poor at exploiting simple emotions to tell episodic stories. This finished absolutely perfectly with a joyful reunion that we only glimpsed in the eyes of Rick and Michonne.

Leading up to that I liked the two parallel stories a lot. Carl is a strange mix of the worldly and the innocent. The mature and the immature. I thought this was captured nicely in the moment when he sees some kids flat screen TV with games console around it and smiles wistfully for what was. But then immediately sees what's currently valuable about it and rips the cables off to tie the downstairs door shut.

That clash between childhood and adulthood played out in Carl in an interesting way. Apparently he and Rick like to see who can scavenge more from a location, the competition presumably breaking up the monotony of their existence. But this sense that the world is just one big game now gives Carl false confidence. He lures two walkers away from the house so he can kill them where they won't draw more attention and nearly dies for his cockiness. He claims it as another victory. Then again later on as he fritters precious bullets away he writes about his victory in chalk on a boy's door. The imagery of boy's bedrooms and pudding cans were not subtle but they were evocative. The new playground for young teens is far more gruesome and gritty.

Understandably Carl blames Rick for trying to be a farmer and allowing the Governor to destroy their home. But by episodes end he weeps at the thought of losing him and being left alone. He has grown up fast but he has a long way to go. It was simple and effective.

Meanwhile Michonne grew up a long time ago. She had a partner and a child. She lost them both and her brother to this apocalypse. But it seems like it was their decision making rather than loose walkers that cost them their lives. I was delighted to see the surreal dream sequence as a way to get around the show's stubborn anti-flashback stance. Suddenly Michonne's bitter silence becomes far easier to understand. In fact the references to the camp she was living at and how it, presumably, fell to pieces may explain why she was so instantly distrustful of Woodbury. Perhaps she was very aware of how quickly groups of survivors could become corrupted.

Her story was so simple and all the more effective for it. She walks with the dead for safety. She creates two new bodyguards and follows a herd toward their next meal. But as she walks she spots a corpse that looks just like her and she fears she will become the walking dead if she isolates herself like this. So she returns to following the living and is tearfully relieved to find them.

It was Michonne's best episode by a mile. Not only did we get to see real emotion from her but the decapitations were the best we've seen. I wish they had introduced the character in a context where we could have seen her amazing skills. Here watching her calmly negotiate the prison fallout and then execute a dozen walkers in a minute you can really see how cool the character is.

The Bad: The "Is Rick dead?" sequence was too cute. Obviously the show's main character was never going to pass away in his sleep and I'm not sure we needed it to further establish Carl's state of mind.

The Unknown: I can't say Carl really nailed his yelling speech at the sleeping Rick. I always feel bad critiquing young actors who have no life experience to draw on but this wasn't terribly convincing. I felt the sentiment came across just fine though and fitted the narrative so it doesn't bother me.

What did Mike do at the camp? What decisions did Michonne's brother and lover make that cost them their lives?

I wouldn't blame anyone who would like to have seen some of the other characters show up. A chaotic episode cutting back and forth between different groups of survivors could have been very exciting. Perhaps we will get that next week?

Best Moment: The ending, simple and emotional.

Conclusion:
A strong return for The Walking Dead. I thought this felt a bit different from previous seasons. Perhaps it fit better with the Carol\Hershel episodes from earlier this season. It seems like Scott Gimple is steering things in a more character-centric way which I definitely favour. However it's too soon to draw that conclusion. The credited writer of the episode was Robert Kirkman, so we don't know who to give the character-credit too or how long it will last.

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  • I thought this was an average episode, not the worst but not the best either.
    The Good. Finally a little bit of back story on Michonne. Although I wish it wasn’t told in this type of dream sequence. I felt it would have been more impactful for me if it was told straight on.
    The Bad. The Rick/Carl story was the weak link for me. The writers have done such a good job of making Carl so annoying to me (yes I know he’s a child) that his being in jeopardy had no effect on me. I didn’t believe that at this point in the show that they would actually kill him. Carl’s big speech to Rick, while written well, was out of the acting range for the young actor. He just didn’t seem to be able to give it the emotional heft it needed. And Rick (sigh), his character has been so diminished I can barely listen to his speeches without rolling my eyes at times.
    The Unknown. I’ve never really understood how Michonne’s pets protect her from other walkers. I haven’t read the comics so just by what’s shown on the episodes smell and sound give you away. Even if you have the pets but are not covered in walker guts how do the other walkers not smell you? Oh well.

    Viewer score: 74 / 100

    Posted by Beverly, 12/02/2014 12:48am (4 years ago)

  • For me, the highlight of this episode was Michonne. I enjoyed all of her scenes. Mainly, her walker slaying scene which I felt was meant to show her literally becoming, ‘The Walking Dead’, walking amongst the zombies and seeing one walker similar to her. What she could potentially become, but deciding life instead. A rebirth of sorts, this is a consistent theme in the comics which hasn’t been broached in the show to this degree. To see her literally stand there and decide that she desires life and not death by striking back at death by killing approximately three billion zombies was quite powerful. This was the best scene in the episode in my opinion.
    BUT, once again zombies are mere fodder for our heroes. I recall first watching Days Gone Bye and being literally sat on the edge of my seat as zombies clawed at Rick from under the tank, only to be rescued by an open hatch. Gimmicky, yes, but by God I was totally enraptured in it and even now the thought of being in that predicament terrifies me. Jump forwards to eason 4 and unless dealing with weaker characters like Lizzie, Carl, Meghan etc, there is nothing to fear. Michonne, Daryl, Tyreese etc are just zombie slaying machines at this point, with no tension to be had in scenes with walkers whatsoever.
    Her other pivotal scene, the semi-flashback/dream sequence, was good, though less engaging. I wonder, was it supposed to represent her psyche and unconscious mind? Her ID being Mike, her Superego Terry and her Ego Michonne herself?
    One reason I liked this, is that it shows that The Walking Dead is willing to try new things which fills me with hope. Anyway, this scene was more intriguing than anything, I don’t think that the scene in itself was an emotional payoff, I sense that we will learn more about Mike & Terry, and what exactly happened at the camp. One thing worthy of note, was that Mike was never named as the boy’s father, only as Michonne’s lover. I’m going to hazard a guess that Mike and Terry somehow ended up killing the child and doing you know what to Michonne.
    This episode makes me think Danai Gurira has been wasted, her strength lies in her acting ability, but instead she has been made to be a figure of silence, because she really doesn’t have the level of onscreen charisma to pull it off in the way that the likes of Mike [Breaking Bad] and Eko [Lost] can.
    The scenes with Carl and the walkers were enjoyable, although I never really considered he would he would die if I’m honest. Carl’s story arc this episode was extremely well written, but I feel like an episode like this really should have come earlier. Essentially we see Carl undergoing a somewhat exaggerated version of maturity, wherein the child realises the parent’s fallibility and decide that they no longer need them, thinking themselves an adult, only to soon realise, that they are not quite as wise and capable as they seemed.
    Shown when he does foolish things, the best example was when he sat on the roof eating pudding whilst a walker desperately grasps at him from behind, he seems to treat the whole thing as a game and survival as him ‘winning’ the game. Though this is quite poignant it quite clearly outlines him, in my eyes, as a child, that’s not something I picture an adult doing. Coupled with the Shane statement, I can’t see how he could be seen as anything but.
    The other problem with this is that this entire theme is utterly nullified when Rick names him a man towards the end. This feels completely unjustified to me as we’ve seen Carl behave irrationally all episode e.g. sitting on a roof eating pudding whilst a zombie desperately claws at him – Not something an adult would do. And yet Rick essentially calls him his equal? I wouldn’t say it was a deal breaker for suspension of belief, it was just irksome.
    Now onto things I disliked. I’ll preface this by saying I feel abhorrent about insulting a child – But it must be done. Chandler Riggs was awful in this episode, any scenes in which he had to project real sorrow and emotional desperation were incredibly awkward to watch. This has been happening for a long time on the show, Carl has consistently been wooden when dealing with emotions, I recall back in home, he had a similar focus of attention for a brief time and it was incredibly uncomfortable to watch, completely drawing me from the experience. In the past, this has been less of a problem, he has never had this level of stardom, having to carry not just scenes, but an entire episode almost singlehandedly. Kirkman should not have given him this task as he isn’t up to it, it was an incredibly difficult scene to play for such a young actor.
    Again, I feel awful, but I had to say it.
    Another problem was with the overall feel of this episode following on from Hershel’s death, even Rick, shouldn’t he have been reeling from this? Let’s not forget, that as far as they know, everybody they knew is dead. They all just seemed a little too together for it to seem legitimate. I recognise that they have hardened, but they took it on the chin as though it were nothing. For all intents and purposes, their entire world has been destroyed. I hate it when shows don’t properly acknowledge what has come before, being too excited with what’s happening next. I saw the clip for next week and even Beth seems generally fine after witnessing her father being beheaded and then losing nearly everybody she holds dear. It’s just odd and unrealistic.
    Overall, I found Riggs’ performance too distracting to actually become engulfed by the story.
    Overall, it was good, but I just couldn't engage with the Carl aspect of the story enough. Undoubtedly Michonne's best episode yet.

    Also, I don't think Terry was her brother, just her friend.

    Viewer score: 60 / 100

    Posted by Daniel J W, 11/02/2014 9:56pm (4 years ago)

  • hey Robin...

    I guess “After” explored the aftermath of Rick’s situation; he was broken in every possible way, Carl was trying to take charge after his father failure and Michonne was tracking them to find humanity. But you can agree that it was Carl-centric episode. We were looking at the end of the world from the perspective of a teenage boy. Yes, I know in apocalypse it doesn’t matter how old you are. You must learn how to shoot and how to handle yourself in hard conditions. But we can’t close our eyes on a teenage boy dreams, though. So, Carl was a great tool for writers to show us the horror of such world. One of the most impactful scenes was when Carl’s looking at the TV and games in child’s room with joy. But he realized very soon that it’s not a world used to be. Now we must use power’s cord to keep ourselves safe. He knew that the real game is out there. He also realized that game of surviving doesn’t work, if he is a solo player. He needs his father to keep on, to have hope.

    Michonne’s story was another strong point of this episode. She is out of her shelf finally. I think that flash-back really helped to make us understand her silence and behavior. I hope to see more of this flash backs for other characters.

    One of the best things of this episode was its visual storytelling; the long shot of abandoned, empty and dirty streets, “Sam’s Room” sign on the door leading us to think who Sam was, the opening shot of the tank under Walkers’ attack was a reminder of Rick’s journey to Atlanta in the first place and of course Michonne dream. Things that I really loved them.

    All in all, I very, very liked “After”. A character-focused and on-the-road episode which I die for. it's the emotion at the heart of the darkness that set TWD apart from other zombie stories. so I want more of this deep emotional interactions.

    Thank you so much for the review.

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by Reza, 11/02/2014 5:39pm (4 years ago)

  • Sorry, one final clarification on the bad stuff. There were two scenes that if done better would have put my score a bit higher:

    The scene when Carl was giving his speech to a sleeping Rick.

    I thought he was angry but not enough and a bit flat in his delivery of the last line. I would have believed the speech more if he was *more contemptuously enraged* at Rick due to the death of everyone (including his sister.) It would be clearer that Carl was looking down with angry disapproval better explaining the origin of Carl’s hubris about his own survival abilities.

    The scene where Carl gives into what he believes is a zombified Rick.

    I thought this suffered from a bunch of issues: poor actor placement, blocking choices, shot placement, possibly even effects choices, and the need for more intense emotion from Chandler. If Rick was in closer proximity to Carl where he was literally grabbing him (while Carl was screaming) that would have been more effective. The medium shot of Carl should have switched to a close shot on his face and neck jumping back to Rick on the ground. This may be too cliché, however they could have also had Carl daydream that Rick had become a walker (where we get an actual face shot of Rick’s zombified face) which would have been more terrifying. I think Carl also should have been more contrite and regretful about thinking he can handle the Zombie Apocalypse on his own. This would have made Rick’s words ‘You’re a man now’ more reaffirming and hold more weight.

    Apart from these two scenes I thought the episode was very well done.

    Posted by Fluids, 11/02/2014 2:48pm (4 years ago)

  • A very good, solid episode. I also enjoyed the Michonne Dream sequence. It was very eerie and well filmed.

    I liked the 'is Rick dead scene' partly because I expected it to go a different way. eg Rick saying something like, 'I'm still your father" with a partriachal tone and his eyes still closed. The way I expect a typical southern father and police officer might do.

    I had more trouble with Michonne's walk with the dead. Really, the Zombies in general. It just went on too long.

    As they come to focus on characters (which I applaud) I find the lingering shots of the dead obvious attempts to wow us with their make up effects and appearance. It begins to take me out of the moment.

    I wish to make a separate comment about the poster released before the return of the show. It showed Carl and Rick in side profile with the words "don't look back". It was so evocative and well-done, I got excited for the show again.

    I am still completely fascinated by the world created. I just would prefer more psychological horror than the 'gory', and borderline silly 'face-off' time. (Face-off is a reality competition show about Make up, etc here in the states)

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 10/02/2014 9:21pm (4 years ago)

  • Sorry one more unknown: The word FREDAG appears very large next to the humongous container of chocolate pudding. I don't know if there's any foreshadow or significance to this. I looked it up and it's Scandinivian in origin and means Friday. Can anyone think of any significance or relevance?

    Posted by Fluids, 10/02/2014 8:48pm (4 years ago)

  • Good to be back and quite a fun start to the second half of the season which, to me, felt more like a season opener. A big chunk of the slate has been wiped clean: the big bad villain is dead, the shelter is gone, and the group has broken up (for now). I think we all seem to agree that TWD works best when it focuses on smaller groups and it was good to see an episode focus on Carl and Rick with some intermittent scenes with Michonne.

    Essentially, this was a coming of age episode for Carl. It’s always tough to critique young actors, like you said, and while I really enjoyed Carl’s story, I’m not sure Chandler Riggs’ acting chops were up to the task of leading man. He’s done very well as the young but strong silent type with occasional lines. But I could “see” the actor reading his lines during some of the longer monologues and it did take me out of the moment. The storyline, by the way, was strong enough on its own that it didn’t matter much that there was no real tension as far as worrying about whether Rick or Carl were going to die.

    Every boy goes through a time in their adolescence where they stop viewing their father as an immortal God, which leads to a resentment when the boy can see the cracks and flaws in their father. Apparently, a world such as this does not make boys immune to that reality. Nor does it make the boy realize that – in the end – he’s still your father and you still want him around for as long as possible – flaws and all.

    Aside from the very end, which admittedly put a smile on my face, my favorite scene was no doubt the one where Carl is looking at the TV and the video games and then smartly grabs the cables for a practical purpose.

    This episode did an excellent job of quiet storyline mixed with its usual great action sequences (putting aside, again, that none of us were really worried for Rick’s, Carl’s or Michonne’s mortality).

    The question that I felt arose from both storylines is one that I’m not sure can ever be answered – and that is – what is the motivation to keep on living? To keep on living means continuing to fight and continuing to struggle. At time in both storylines, it felt like there were moments when Carl and Michonne weren’t sure if the struggle was worth it – yet both deciding in the end that it was. But why? Is life itself worth living simply for its own sake? Will there be a deeper sense of purpose as time continues to move on?

    Viewer score: 66 / 100

    Posted by Jeff K., 10/02/2014 7:29pm (4 years ago)

  • Walking Dead Podcast, Season Four, Episode 9

    This was Carl and Michonne’s episode; two characters that complement each other really well.
    There is a kind of mentoring/pal relationship between the two. Maybe she sees Carl as a hope for humanity and a reason to be more emotionally engaging. Carl has a lot of respect for Michonne.

    We finally learn that Michonne had a son; lover and a brother that we are physically introduced to. This was hinted at early in the season when Beth handed her Judith and Michonne looked at the baby and started crying and I believe an earlier conversation with Merle.


    The Good:

    Given the Diaspora of characters, there was good use of parallel story lines and few characters allowed for inner reflection, which was sorely needed in Michonne’s case. My only concern for the show is there are 7 more episodes left this season to get to everyone else and move the story along.

    I thought Chandler Riggs’ portrayal overall of Carl was great; touching on how things have affected his adolescence and running through a range of emotions mostly projected at his father:

    * His opening anger and resentment at Rick for the deaths of his mother, Judith, Shane and fellow dwellers of the prison (all assumed dead for now) were clear. It appears Carl feels that when Rick put his gun down to pick up a plow and gave up his leadership, it got them into this situation. This is nicely braided with his teenage defiance and the hubris of making survival into a game (‘I win’ over you). This all culminating in the rhetorical statement he made to Rick while he was asleep ‘I still know how to survive…I don’t need you anymore…You couldn’t protect anyone…You just wanted to plant vegetables. You wanted to hide. You were their leader! But now you’re nothing…I’d be fine if you died,’ he says coldly.

    * Great use of action gradually allowing Carl the self realization that he was just a kid and that he couldn’t survive alone in that world and didn’t want to without his dad. I saw this in his failure at breaking down the neighboring house’s front door; nearly being killed at the bottom of a pile of walkers; or fighting the zombie in the bedroom that nearly bit his foot. Lowering the gun and exposed his neck to Rick when he thought Rick was a walker and said ‘I can’t do it’.

    Action again wonderfully assisted the display of Michonne’s built up inner conflict and bursting rage against her doppelganger, new escorts and following herd with choosing between the dead and the living. It helped purify her soul from her emptiness and uncork the emotional suppression and jolted her back to wanting to be with the living.


    Great use of daydreams and nightmares (visuals say so much more than words and faster):

    I thought Michonne’s inner conflict was represented very well with the visuals of the dream/flashback that gradually mutated into the present situation and the daydreams of seeing herself as nothing more than a zombie in the herd she was walking with were well done. It helped explain her behavior in season three. I think it’s clearer that when we first saw her she was void of any emotion or social interaction because if you don’t give of yourself to others, than there is no emotional ties and nothing to lose. It’s also clear now that she hadn’t dealt well or made peace with the loss of her family (baby boy; her love) and friends. It was too much for her to bear so she has chosen not to deal with how painful it made her feel.

    I would love to see more use of those *visual haikus* (they could save screen time and be more effective using more of these). Great examples included:

    *Carl eating an enormous can of chocolate pudding on the roof of the neighboring house while a zombie reaches out a window, was a great statement about being a kid in the Zombie Apocalypse.

    *Michonne stroking Hershel’s head after putting him to rest.
    *Michonne and Rick’s facial reactions upon discovering each other.
    *Michonne seeing herself as a zombie grappling with living with the dead or emotionally opening herself up to the living again.


    FINALLY: More use of dry humor!

    Carl’s pudding remark to Rick.
    Rick uttering ‘It’s for you.’ to Carl was very well done. The show needs more of these perfectly placed one liners to balance the darkness that inhibits the show. (This by the way is why I love Zombieland and what makes that film balanced a good watch.)


    The Bad:

    When Carl was giving his speech to a sleeping Rick I thought he was a bit too cold sounding. I would have believed the speech more if he was more enraged due to the death of everyone (including his sister.)

    The groups are now much smaller and there are a lot of groups. They could have done more action; jumping between different groups of survivors. Then again it’s hard to do character development for so many characters at a time.

    The Unknown:

    Does Carl see Michonne as a sort of surrogate mother and playmate?

    Now that Michonne is coming to terms with being amongst the living, will she be willing to live in a large group again or stay in smaller groups?

    What affect is the Diaspora having on everyone else who was at the prison? Are they still alive? How are they dealing with being separated?

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Fluids, 10/02/2014 5:55pm (4 years ago)

  • I really enjoyed this. I expected a slower episode after the mid-season finale and so I wasn't disappointed. The Walking Dead works best when it focuses on fewer characters in my opinion. I liked the dynamics between Rick and Carl and it seems realistic compared to a real relationship between a teenage son and his father. I also found it interesting that all three characters looked in the "mirror". Michonne with the zombie lookalike, Carl wth the TV and Rick with the actual mirror. And to add to that further, Michonne was looking at someone dead, Rick looked close to death whereas Carl was very much alive and feeling confident. The only part I didn't like was the "is Rick dead?" Moment as you've mentioned. It was too obvious straightaway that it was either Carl dreaming or he was alive. Aside from that I believe the show is improving again and the remaining seven should feel fresh and different as we leave behind the prison and govenor storyline.

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Tiarnan, 10/02/2014 3:21pm (4 years ago)

  • Out of the three midseason premiere episodes, this one had the biggest sense of unknown heading into it. The idea of scattering the survivors, and spending a couple episodes on a select few at a time is a good idea. I didn't think this type of episode worked as well in past attempts as this one did.

    The Michonne "flashback" was very cool, the setting of the "shoe walker" attack was a good usage of environmental factors.

    But similar to "Clear" from last season, this episode is only proves the writers can turn out "standalone" episodes, rather than multi-episode story building episodes. There's no denying that most fans are sticking around because they love the universe of TWD, but I don't feel the writers have put together 8 solid episodes in a row yet.

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Ben F., 10/02/2014 2:59pm (4 years ago)

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