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The Walking Dead – Episode 4.09 – After – Review & Discussion

Following the action-packed mid-season cliffhanger that left the prison destroyed and our group of survivors scattered, The Walking Dead returned from its winter hiatus with a character episode heavy on self-reflection.

We only saw three members of our group this week: Rick, Carl, and Michonne. Rick and Carl were together, continuing where they had left off – not looking back and walking – as they headed down the road in search of food and shelter. Michonne was alone, separated from Rick and Carl at the prison, and picking up the old solitary habits from when we first met her.

We gain greater insight into the thoughts and fears especially of Michonne and Carl, and we learn that Rick has a sense of humor. Who knew?

Michonne’s Answers

The most intriguing part of the episode was finally getting a glimpse into Michonne’s past – seeing the woman she was before the zombie apocalypse, and getting hints of a promising backstory that was only partly revealed in this episode.

We first catch up with Michonne still at the prison and surveying the damage. She comes across Hershel’s reanimated head and puts it down with her sword (thank you, Michonne!). Although capable as always, she seems very much alone. She captures two walkers to put take their arms and jaws and put them on leashes, as we first saw her.

She’s at an emotional crossroads, seeing foot tracks of other possible survivors, and weighs whether to follow them or to head off on her own. She initially heads off on her own, and through a sequence of a flashbacks – capturing different significant points in her past merged together to create a dreamlike effect – we get a glimpse of the most important people in her life at the end and clues that something that went very wrong when they were at a camp following the zombie apocalypse.

We learn she had had a son, and we also meet the two men – one of whom was her husband – who later became the walkers she traveled with when she met Andrea. She had told Andrea that they were never human to begin with, so that leaves the question what type of betrayal occurred to make Michonne go from being a talkative, well-adjusted woman, to leading such a solitary existence.

There’s a theme of self-reflection throughout the episode, with each character taking a moment to see their image through another object. With Michonne it is a walker that strongly resembles her. With Carl it is his image in a TV, and with Rick it is his image in a mirror. Michonne encounters this walker as she is traveling with a walker pack. This vision of herself as a walker that pushes her to change her mind and opt to follow the footprints to try to find others in the group.

Michonne in a moment of reflection cryptically talks about questions and answers. In season 3 we had heard Rick talk of finding answers as he was going insane and following Lori’s vision through the marshes.  The revisitation of this theme has made me even more curious what these questions and answers are.

Carl & the Life that Never Was His

Carl is coming of age. In this episode he struggles with disappointment in his father for what he sees as Rick’s failures, and breaks off on his own to scavenge for food and supplies. While his father is sick and unconscious, Carl rants against Rick, telling him he doesn’t need him and that Rick couldn’t keep the group safe.

It is when he is off on his own that he encounters the bedroom of a teenage boy and for a few moments experiences the life that he should have had but never will. The spell is broken when he catches a glimpse of himself in a TV monitor.

After Carl returns back to Rick, he has a moment of thinking that Rick has died and become a walker. It is in this moment that he realizes he was wrong, and that he does still need Rick. He can’t bring himself to shoot Rick, which turns out to be a good thing because Rick isn’t really dead.

Other Thoughts:

- If I had a pick a favorite moment in this episode, it would be a tie between two scenes. One is the final moment of Michonne finding Rick and Carl, and Rick joking that the knock at the door was for Carl. The other would be Michonne’s flashbacks/dreams in which her companions are gradually progressed through time to when they were missing arms.  The knock on door was so special because it's so rare that we get moments on this show that just make you smile.  It was long-coming and welcome.  The flashbacks/dream sequence was just wonderfully done.
- I loved the scene of Carl sitting on the roof eating the tub of pudding for a couple of reasons. One is that eating a tub of pudding is such a normal thing, and seeing Carl doing this in the middle of suburbia offered a nice break in the dismal setting of the prison. The other part of that scene that I liked was seeing the walker’s arm flailing in the background as Carl ate his putting unperturbed. It reminded me of the scene of Andrea in season 2, riding in the back of the pickup truck as it carted off a load of walker bodies, and casually jumping off to retrieve an arm that had dropped off.
- I found myself strangely comforted by the sight of the fallen leaves in the town where Rick and Carl were staying. It was nice to think there are still pretty autumns after a zombie apocalypse.
- As I said earlier, I was glad to see that Michonne had taken care of Hershel’s head, but saddened to see that another horse became a walker-food casualty.  I hate seeing the animals get killed.
- It appears that at least the first half of the second half will be spent with the survivors slowly reuniting.  I think this a great move. One of the strongest moments for me in the season 2 finale was the short period of time when the group didn't know whether others had made it. I'm looking forward to seeing how they react and adapt as they deal with believing they've lost their group.

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