When Greg Nicotero directs an episode of “The Walking Dead,” you know you’re in for a treat. “After,” the first episode of Season 4b, is no exception, as its opening minutes included more walkers than many entire episodes.
As the title implies, this episode is about the aftermath of the Governor’s attack on the Prison. Many wide shots show the Prison overrun with walkers and the land around it deserted. Michonne retreads onto the familiar territory here, likely to see if anyone from there group who is alive has returned. This is where we see the Governor (and a zombie decapitated Hershel) one last time.
With Michonne now back on her own, she brings along some familiar friends: Two armless walkers, to keep others off her scent. She likely enjoys the fact that they can’t talk, but the same can’t be said for Rick and Carl. Judith’s seeming death has caused a rift between them, and Carl resents his father for not treating him like an adult.
But really Rick is on a downward spiral. His injuries from his fight with the Governor seem to be pretty severe, and at one point Carl can’t even get him to wake up. If Rick has internal bleeding or a concussion or anything else like that, then he’s out of luck. And according to Carl, he wouldn’t care if his father lived or died.
Chandler Riggs really shines in this episode as Carl gets a taste of freedom. With Rick incapacitated and no one else around to keep him in line, he tries to act like the adult he wants to be. But a couple close calls with walkers and a bout of loneliness make him realize being a leader isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and he is willing to let himself be killed when he thinks his father has died and turned.
Fortunately Rick is still alive, well and recovering, and his brush with death grounds him a bit and makes him acknowledge Carl’s maturity. Helping bring the family back together is Michonne, who ditches her zombie companions after deciding against striking out on her own and finds Rick and Carl in the housing development they stumbled upon.
But what about her earlier flashbacks? Ever since Michonne’s reaction to holding Judith was tears, fans have speculated that she had a child before the apocalypse hit. That was confirmed in “After,” where she has a dream of being in her old home with her lover Mike, their young son and their friend.
The sequence flashes from before the walker apocalypse to during to after, when it’s revealed (as many comics fans suspected) that the two men were her former walker companions. But what happened to her child? The show implies Mike might have killed the child and himself because he can’t handle life in a camp after the zombie apocalypse hits. No wonder Michonne doesn’t want to talk about it.
Some fans might complain about the slow nature of this episode, but I like it. Here’s hoping the next couple focus on small groups of the survivors and bringing them together — and that one of the pairings ends up being Tyreese, the girls and Carol.
What did you think of “The Walking Dead’s” return?