After The Governor and his army destroyed The Grimes Gang’s idyllic life in prison, the ‘Walking Dead’ leads found themselves bruised, bloodied, separated, and without a home. The Feb. 9 midseason premiere, ‘After’, was all about finding a reason to go on once everything was taken away — again.
What do you do when you spend years of your life navigating a post-apocalyptic hellscape, manage to find a surrogate family and comfortable life in this hellscape despite its impossible circumstances, then have that comfortable life and family brutally taken away from you, again? That’s the question the The Walking Dead‘s Season 4 midseason premiere found itself asking, and we can confirm that at least three characters have found their answer.
‘The Walking Dead’ Midseason Premiere Recap: Rick, Carl, & Michonne Move On
Oh I’m sorry, were you hoping to learn the fates of beloved characters like Daryl (Norman Reedus), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Tyreese (Chad Coleman), and Glenn (Steven Yeun) during the midseason premiere? Because if so, you’re out of luck. Yet, thankfully, keeping it small after December’s bloodbath and focusing only on (a pretty rough-looking) Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs), and Michonne (Danai Gurira) as they battled the physical and emotional fallout from the Governor’s assault was the right move. Ever since Glen Mazzara took over back in Season 2 the show has refused to shy away from potentially audience-alienating, sparsely cast, narrow-focus episodes, and many of these little experiments (see: “Clear”) have been fantastic. “After” wasn’t quite on that level, but it was still a million steps up from those unfortunate Governor episodes from last fall.
So, yes, we have absolutely no clue where anyone else (including Judith) ran off to after the Governor’s assault, but we do know that Carl is majorly placing the blame for the entire situation on his father. Which, you know, I kind of get — he did ignore the threat of the Governor, a confirmed violent sociopath, for the better part of a year. And when teenagers deal with intense emotions like grief — a feeling that you’d think Carl would be well-versed in by now — they have a tendency to blame their parents. Therefore, while Rick was essentially dying on a tattered old couch in an Atlanta suburb throughout the entire episode, Carl went off and worked through his seven stages in the most teenage angst-y way possible.
And boy, was Chandler Riggs magnificent in conveying all of the obnoxious (but relatable) teenage emotions Carl was feeling as his world once again descended into the post-apocalyptic hellscape he’d spent three-plus seasons figuring out a way to endure. (ASIDE: Any Battlestar Galactica fans feeling direct parallels between the current abysmal Walking Dead state of affairs and the devastating fight to find a home on the former show? I kept thinking back to how Dualla “handled” things after they discovered the scorched earth after three-plus seasons; wondering why nobody on this show has taken that same step. I mean, would you blame them if they did?)
Anywho, some might criticize Carl for being a bit of a careless punk while his father was battling certain death — or the writers for this (albeit temporary) character regression after The Year Of Carl — but my heart shattered for the poor kid when he entered what appeared to be a young boy’s former bedroom and and stared at the big-screen TV like it was a desert oasis. For approximately fifteen seconds Carl forgot who and where he was, and when he snapped back into it and used the TV for physical protection it was pretty tragic. Brava, Riggs.
Amazingly enough, Carl was dealing with his new reality better than Michonne. After she made some new “friends” and completed the horrifying task of finishing off Hershel’s still very much alive severed Walker head (boy, they do some horribly undignified things to the human body on this show), Michonne retreated into a strange state of psychosis that finally gave the audience some insight into her backstory.
Which was… fine? I guess? Michonne can say more with a scowl than Andrea ever could with ten pages of dialogue, but her flashback sequences really didn’t make me feel any closer to her character. It’s very sad that she was a mother and all, and nice that she was a rich lady, but we didn’t get a real feel for who she was as a person — maybe, much like Daryl, it’s simply best if we stick to Michonne 2.o. She’s a lot more interesting.
As ambivalent as I was about Michonne’s flashback scenes, my heart still grew three sizes that day when she reconnected with our two boys after their heartwarming make-up sequence. Basically, after a day of stupidly wasting all of their bullets, selfishly eating ALL OF THE PUDDING, and nearly dying like six times, Carl realized that life would suck about a zillion times more than it already did without Rick, no matter how frustrating and complicated that relationship might be.
And again, hat tip to Riggs and Andrew Lincoln for bringing out all of my tears for that father-son reunion. He might not be the most celebrated dramatic actor on AMC, but boy can Lincoln sell gut-wrenching PTSD scenes like they’re Thin Mints. I was so, so relieved when Michonne finally showed up at that house and was moved to tears upon seeing that her Family 2.0 was still alive and well. On a show that’s consistently lacking in the hope department, small moments like these are crucial — just like Rick, Michonne, and Carl, we viewers have to cling for dear life to any thread of hope for a better future. Because is our characters can’t find that hope, why would we even bother watching?
What did you think of the episode, fellow Dead-heads? Did you like its narrow focus, or did you miss Daryl’s tasty biceps? Were you satisfied by Michonne’s flashback scenes? Would you have shared that pudding? Let me know in the comments!
— Shaunna Murphy