The Walking Dead, Season 4, Episode 9 ‘After’ Review.

And we’re back. And I for one have to say that I actually really enjoyed this. Like really.

Maybe it’s due to the paucity of any kind of character development in the three and a half years The Walking Dead that any kind of episode driven by personality stands out, but following my mid term report this is exactly the kind of way I was looking for TWD to develop.

It was minimalist, sparse, tense and strangely endearing. It was also the first time I would praise an episode of the show that didn’t feature a big a action set piece. In fact a lot of Carl’s action sequences were pretty clumsy and clichéd taken at face value. But for maybe the first time since season 1, I actually cared about what happened to the characters.

The premise of ‘After’ was pretty straightforward. In the aftermath of the destruction of the prison, Rick and Carl and Michonne attempt to pick up the pieces.

For Rick and Carl, this was a great refresh. This should be the central relationship at the heart of the show, but due to erratic plotting and writing it rarely gets beyond Rick being narky with his son, himself a minor irritant. Here, the battle for the prison has taken its toll and Rick is not well. Finally, we get to the crux of the conflict between the two; Rick wants to hang on to the last remnants of the old world by keeping his son safe and detached from this new horror. Carl conversely is a child of this apocalypse, and wants to prove his utility. There’s a great moment where Carl sees an Xbox and a flat screen TV and his eyes glow with delight, before he takes the cables to tie up a door.

The farm and subsequently the prison provided structured environments in which Rick could contain Carl. But with the calamitous ending of the prison chapter, Carl rallies against Rick all the harder, especially in light of his inability once again to keep everybody safe. With Rick of of commission, Carl reeks of teenage indolence rallying against his father’s failings.

He troops around getting in to scrapes from which he barely emerges from. Each time styling it out with the air of indifferent arrogance so becoming of that stage of youth, covering his fear and near failure. But when it comes to the crunch and he believes his father to have turned, for all his rhetoric and anger, Rick is all he has left. And for a moment he feels the crushing pressure of expectation that is impossible to deliver in this broken world.

He also lamely attempts to break a door down and eats 112 pounds of chocolate.

Finally we also get some time for Michonne to do something other than glower. A fan favourite from the comics, she has consistently gotten short shrift in the show, a state of affairs not lost on the frustrated actress who plays her. I felt the show brought an interesting juxtaposition to bring to life her character at last; that for all her physical prowess, the scars of whatever happened before the end of the world run very deep for her.

I loved the wonderfully surreal dream sequence which throughout made you question if it was real or not, a tremendous example of dream logic brought to screen. And although much of her time on screen was silent, there was real emotion behind it, watching as she struggled to keep a grip on her sanity before choosing to seek out her friends and embrace people.

The finale of the episode, particularly “It’s for you” had me as absolutely beaming – a sensation I’m not sure TWD has managed before. More please.

8.6

– Robert Donnellan

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