The Walking Dead - TV
The Walking Dead Recap: Season 4, Episode 9 "After"

Dan O'Halloran | 10 Feb 2014 16:00
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Now Carl feels like a man. He enters another house and overconfidently checks the rooms without much fear. Unfortunately, behind door number three is a live and very hungry zombie. Carl almost gets bit a number of times, but gets away by slipping out of the shoe that the zombie is holding on to. He traps the zombie in the room and then sits on roof to eat an enormous can of chocolate pudding he found in the kitchen. You know, like you do after a near-death experience.

Michonne's walkabout with the mob of zombies puts her next to a walker who looks a lot like her. It disturbs her. Greatly. Is this what is to happen her? Is this her happy ending? She loses it and beheads the doppelganger. The other walkers notice her and she takes them down, too. All of them. Like 20-plus zombies. Snikety-snak! She then goes back to tracks and follows them.

Carl wakes in the middle of the night next to Rick, but his father seems more walker than man. Rick wheezes and moans and reaches weakly towards Carl. Freaked, Carl points his gun at Rick, but in the end, can't shoot his father, even if he is a zombie. He would rather die. But Rick isn't dead yet and proves it by saying Carl's name and a warning not to go outside. Then passes out in his best alcoholic dad impression.

Michonne finds the roadside cafe with the dead walker Carl shot at the beginning of the episode. She has a moment of talking to herself (much like Carl this entire episode) and tells her dead husband, she knows why she continues living even in this dismal place. One would presume she meant that she still has hope in the form of finding Carl and Rick again. And of course, there are still so many zombies to brain with her katana as she does when she leaves the café.

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It's morning and Rick looks a lot less dead than he used to. Carl has admitted to going outside to find more food but omits his encounters with the walkers. He's just happy to have Rick back and Rick tells him he's becoming a man. After Carl's last day of living without Rick's protection, it seems he realized just how much his dad sacrificed to keep him safe. And Rick realized that his son did well on his own, though he doesn't know the full extent of the boy's misadventures. It also seems clear that Carl isn't yet ready to make all the hard choices of adulthood when he couldn't kill Rick who he thought was a walker. But wait, the show isn't done ending on an uplifting note just yet.

Out on the street, Michonne sees the empty can of chocolate pudding in front of a house and looks through the window of the place to see Rick and Carl talking. On the porch she has a moment of sheer joy and relief, fighting back tears, mouth trembling. Though she spent most of the episode reverting back to her loner ways, she realized she really wanted to be part of a family again and now she has found them.

This newfound happiness must have addled her brains because she knocks on the front door of the house without announcing herself scaring the crap out of Rick and Carl. But when Rick sees who it is through the peephole, he collapses in relief, looks at Carl and tells him, "It's for you."

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So what we have here is Carl's coming-of-age story and Michonne at a crossroads between reverting to a life of a despairing loner or once again embracing a family that she may lose all over. And unlike most other episodes in this series so far, both stories end in a note of hope. Not the grim hope of survivors faced with overwhelming odds, but the kind of hope that comes from knowing that you belong to a group of people that accept you. I'm sure it's all downhill from here in terms of happy moments for them, but having this one quiet episode focus on these three provides a welcome relief from the on-going misery of the larger story.

Speaking of which, next week's episode preview shows us what happened to the rest of the prison battle survivors. And it doesn't look like chocolate pudding and happy endings for them.

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