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'The Walking Dead' - 'After': They Take And Take But Never Get Their Fill, I Try And Try But Fail Against My Will

By TK | TV Reviews | February 10, 2014 | Comments ()


walking-dead-season-4-pics-after-3.jpg

Welcome back to Season Four of “The Walking Dead.” After a strangely disjointed first half, wherein we saw what felt like a delayed resolution to the big crisis of Season Three, we’re left with our group decimated and adrift, their home destroyed and overrun, the denizens scattered and terrified. The Governor is gone, and no longer will that threat loom over them, but now, as they try to find each other as well as a new sanctuary, we will see what new dangers await them.

We began with the smoking crater that was the prison, walkers crawling through the smoke and ruin, and the only one remaining is Michonne. I confess, I was pleased with the overall handling of Michonne in this episode, as it continued the show’s newfound mission to make her a fully realized person instead of simply a glowering caricature. And so, in those opening moments, we find her with fear and purpose in her eyes, back to her old tricks, gruesomely finding two new macabre teammates (though one wonders why — even when limbless and mouthless — they don’t try to attack her). It’s a chilling and grim throwback to those opening moments when we first met her, as we find her once again alone and without allies.

Oh, and in case that wasn’t enough to remind us just how horrible things have become, we close the scene with a shot of Hershel’s reanimated head.

But most importantly, we finally a glimpse into who she was before the fall. Wife, lover, mother, we now know just how awful her losses were, how dark the road was that she traveled before finding Andrea on that fateful day. And while the finale of that dream sequence may have been a bit overwrought, it brought new light and life to her character. What’s more chilling is how she mindlessly walked without destination or focus, slowly losing her grip on reality. Michonne’s journey in “After” was not a particularly innovatively scripted one — losing herself to her own dark memories, only to finally fight through them and getting back on the path to her own sanity and salvation, both literally and metaphorically. However, Danai Gurira once again demonstrated a level of subtlety and intelligent characterization that made even that most unsubtle story work in her favor.

What was decidedly less nuanced was the painfully trite, wasteful storyline of Rick and Carl. Rick, his body broken after his fight with the Governor, desperately tries to find the balance between his need to lead and his dependence on Carl. I could have lived with that, but once I realized that we were in for another go-round with Bad Carl, who doesn’t listen and only scowls, I practically checked out of the episode completely. It took all of five minutes of this newfound conflict for it to grow so terribly tiresome (although I’ll admit that Carl’s shut-down stare when Rick tries to offer pithy consolations was rather enjoyable).

This entire one-episode arc of father and son was terribly plotted and developed. While this new dynamic surely should have presented new challenges for Carl, for inexplicable reasons the writers opted to return us to the Carl that everyone has historically and vociferously despised, instead of using this as an opportunity for growth and maturation. It was a return to pouting and sullenness, a childish and boorish ignorance replete with callbacks to Shane, of all people (one that didn’t make sense at the moment and then was never brought back for resolution), and it lessened all of the development and improvements that Chandler Riggs showed in the first half of the season.

The final straw was when, in the wake of a fairly compelling scene with Carl fighting off walkers, we find him engaged in a clumsy and trite monologue where he voices all of his frustrations to his unconscious father. It’s an unnecessary and unpleasant experience, devoid of purpose or nuance, and it weakened an already lazy and threadbare storyline. His insouciant arrogance is surely one born of delusion and uncertainty, yet that made it no less irritating. And while the endgame of the episode — for Carl to realize his own fears and vulnerabilities — was somewhat redeeming, the entire endeavor ultimately seemed devoid of real feeling or purpose.

“After” was an episode that felt like wasted space, as if the writers weren’t sure how to approach the aftermath of “Too Far Gone.” While Michonne’s story was an engaging one, Rick and Carl’s never rung true, lacking depth and logic. It felt particularly pointless when one considers that the result is a return to the exact same dynamic that they shared before, only now with Rick granting Carl more credit for maturity (a terrible irony if there ever was one). The future of our group is surely uncertain, and we can but hope that the stories remaining to be told will offer more compelling experiences.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • St

    I actually enjoyed this episode. It was interesting to watch. Carl behavior is not surprising. This is who he is and always was. It’s that stage teens go through. Then some will grow up and at 20 will behave normal and be good or they end up with the gang on the street and end up being losers and addicts. You never know.

    Carl will probably get half-crazy idiot who thinks he is smart (and parents just don’t get me) for some time and then will outgrow this phase.

  • Uriah_Creep

    opted to return us to the Carl that everyone has historically and
    vociferously despised, instead of using this as an opportunity for
    growth and maturation

    For a second I read that last word as "masturbation". That would have been a ... bold choice by the showrunners.

  • Bhammer100

    So... some good points but mostly negative. Just like Walking Dead as a whole.

  • What really bothered me was when Carl poked and prodded Rick, got no response, and then just left. Carl would never do that. Then when he comes back and sees Rick still lying in the exact same position, he doesn't try to revive his father again, or think "Fuck, what if Dad is dead?" Instead, he sits and falls asleep right there--come on, even Carl is smarter than that. And finally, the whole set up of Rick waking and grunting was downright ridiculous. Completely beneath this show.

  • St

    Well that’s because Carl was very very angry at Rick. Like for reals. You know stupid teenagers are often at that stage when they are angry at parents and wish them to die. They don’t really wish that and by morning come to their senses. But at that exact point they hate them to death.

  • Lauren_Lauren

    It also seemed ridiculous that the area they took refuge in had the least number of walkers we've ever seen. How convenient for Carl's Big Adventure.

  • I yelled at the screen so hard it earned me a dirty look from my cat. "Seriously?! We're not gonna tie the maybe-dead-guy to something, for just-in-casies?"

  • SeattleIsInfected

    I know! I thought that maybe Carl had checked his pulse and had confirmed he was still alive and thats why he didn't restrain him at all, but then he obviously thought he was a zombie when he woke up sooo..... Get it together Carl!

  • Wigamer

    You said what my brain has been circling around. I get that they want us to key in to this family dynamic thing. But what kid, anywhere, would behave this way? "I'm mad at my dad and wanting to assert my maturity, so why don't I pointlessly risk my life multiple times to prove it? Plus, Dad's kind of a loser and is a shitty messiah figure here in the zombie apocalypse, so...yeah, go ahead and die, Dad. You're my only living relative and without you I'll be alone against untold dangers from both zombies and other people, but whatever. Hormones, y'know."

  • TK

    That entire sequence, I kept thinking that even if I'd never watched a single second and never read a single page, there's STILL no way that I'd have bought into it. Who would? It was bush league antics. Babytown frolics. The lamest lameness that ever lamed.

  • lowercase_ryan

    OK say what you want about Carl being a teenager and resenting Rick, yada yada yada. I can accept that.

    What I refuse to accept is the stumbling when walking backwards and falling down trope. I'm fucking sick of it. Carl's motivations may have been genuine and accurate, but the manner in which they played out on screen felt contrived and forced as anything I've seen on the show to date. As did Michonne's monologue.

    The dynamic between Rick and Carl is boring as shit to me at this point. They need someone that understands teenagers better. Whoever writes Loretta and Kendall on Justified could maybe give them some pointers. This Carl felt like Dana on Homeland.

  • Laura

    I was just really irritated that he walked backwards into the woods at all, forget the tripping. I mean, how long have you survived in this world? Ya think maybe you should always know what you're walking into? I actually thought "This is is, they're going to kill of Carl finally". I was slightly disappointed.

  • Nadz

    I thought he fell because another walker appeared behind him and he was overwhelmed by the three walkers? Not tripping because he was walking backwards?

    I remember expecting that "stumbling while walking backwards" trope and was surprised when it didn't happen.

  • lowercase_ryan

    There were two pointless and painful monologues in which characters talked to themselves. I hated that shit. It was lazy and frankly I was a little disappointed in Gimple.

  • mairimba

    Well, with no one around and no internet to post it on their facebooks I guess you're only left with expressing your thoughts out loud. *side eye*

  • Michonne's arc was handled well. I think the scenes between Carl and Rick were done as well as they could be. It was an attempt to take a scene that happens in the comics and transfer it to the screen. For what they did, I think it worked. Was it the best arc, no. But it was a nice change of pace and served as a logical (albeit cliched) response to the loss of the prison, the family, and Judith.

  • Hmm. I felt that the return to previous form for Carl was natural and expected. He'd been a wee bit traumatized, and the dude is only what? Ten? Twelve? Backsliding into sullen disobedience felt age- and situation-appropriate. What tweener kid hasn't thrown around melodramatic rants at unresponsive parental figures, and with much less provocation?

    Frankly, I felt like they had to spend an episode reminding us, and Carl, of who he had been, who he had the potential to become again. Then he faced the reality of what becoming that sulking sociopath again would mean (putting a bullet in his own zombie father), and he chose not to. And then, to seal the deal, we have Michonne re-appearing in their lives. Carl earned having her back. Rick knew it, too - "It's for you."

    Look, you can't possibly have expected that the destruction of his home, the (presumed) death of his baby sister and with her the last memory of his mother, the utter failure of his father, and a return to the hardscrabble scavenger existence of the bad old days would lead to some kind of instant forward evolution of a child character. He's going to fall back on old ways.

    I say congrats to the show for only dragging it out for one episode.

  • SeattleIsInfected

    He's 14 or 15 now.. they say he's 10 at the beginning of season 1. I'm not saying he should be expected to act like a completely mature adult, but i thought many of his actions were uncalled for. Such as always walking way too fast for his dad, who is injured trying to protect him.

  • Well, then I guess TK's point is made. Based on the boy's behavior, I've always assumed he's quite young. Maybe eight or nine with the show started, making him at most 13 now.

    Every year that he may be older than that would mark an exponential decrease in my patience for his crap.

    Walking Dead Wiki confirms, he's 14. NEVERMIND.
    http://walkingdead.wikia.com/w...

  • melissa82

    But that's just because of how filming has been broken up. Carl is supposed to only be 8 or 9 at the beginning of the series and technically only 2.5 - 3 years have gone by since the outbreak. So he's 11-12, I think your first comment is right on point.
    (I know GoT has trouble with their aging actor-kiddos too)

  • Caseyc7

    I completely disagree with this entire review. I'm sick of reading these from you when you clearly lack the intelligence to understand simple yet crucial plot lines and why they are needed in the story. This is the last review I'll ever read from you. There are much better sites out there.

  • lowercase_ryan

    YOUR CARL IMPRESSION IS SPOT ON!!

  • TK
  • Nicely done, TK. I disagree with your review but that doesn't mean I'll stop reading your stuff. You're a good writer and one of my favorites on this site.

  • Laura

    Yeah, I thought one of the points of these reviews was to foster discussion, not so that everyone would just agree with the reviewer and be on their way.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    Ah yes. Because TK's review (which I absolutely agree with [I feel dirty]) it is completely without merit and therefore you shall take your ball and go home where your mommy will pat you on the head and tell you how special you are. Well argued, good sir/madam.

  • TK the Other (de-lurking)

    Can you elaborate? (Note: I'm not *THAT* TK, I just happen to have his initials...) I'm just curious to see what your take was on it, instead of sweeping generalizations. Explain it to us! :)

  • Glory

    Well, my hopes were dashed when Rick was not a zombie and did not eat Carl.
    I can't stand either of them - I don't know if it's the actors choices or the direction/script, but the only member of that family I ever liked was Judith :)

  • Dennis Albert Ramirez

    michonne's dream sequence was pretty cool. i actually thought it was a flashback at first, and liked the gradual deterioration that tells just enough story to sketch out her life before we got to meet her, with the rest up to me to imagine in horrible detail

  • Kate

    Agree to disagree. Maybe the Rick/Carl story line wasted your time, but in my opinion, I feel like it was a process that everyone has gone through at one point in time: Carl needed to learn the lesson in the only way most of us know how, the hard way. His rant at an unconscious Rick would have hurt more had it not fallen on deaf ears. He needed to vent, to be that Billy Badass; only to venture out on his own to realize that it's not quite the party when you're all by yourself in the big bad world. He needed to remember that he still needed Rick, but he needed to do it the most obnoxiously teenage-y way possible (aka the hard way) [personally, no matter how old I get, I still sometimes just want to talk to my parents] Maybe this time the respect for Rick will stick with Carl.

    Also, I'm pretty sure Carl referencing Shane was just another dig at Rick. Kicking a dog while he's down, teenage angst in it's truest form of assholery.

  • Laura

    Well said!

  • Wigamer

    I get what you're saying, but is teenage angst really going to manifest itself this way during the zombie apocalypse? It's like in movies where a couple's in some life-and-death situation, and they stop to kiss just to remind the audience how in love they are--sure, they're in love, but would anyone really stop and do that, given that circumstance? I agree that Carl would have many feelings of resentment towards Rick, but couldn't they articulate that in such a way that's a little more subtle? The monologue was the worst. Maybe I'm cranky because the kid's not that great an actor, I dunno. I just found myself rooting for the zombies a couple of times.

  • Dennis Albert Ramirez

    yeah, Chandler's not that great of an actor. i still stand by my what i said, but he sure doesn't help me out, haha

  • Teenage angst never goes out of style, even if the world has come to an end.

  • Maydays

    Agree that the kiss thing is ridiculous, but I DO think that teenage angst would manifest no matter the severity of the situation. It's just part of the teenage brain chemistry, being self-centered and unable to see the big picture and assigning blame to everyone else. Plus, this has been his new normal for 18 months now? I thought that was the point of finding the boy's bedroom...to show us how far he's come from being a normal teenage boy, even though he's still going to occasionally show his true teenage boy colors. He's smart enough to know he's never going to be a kid again, but he's having a hard time adjusting to being an adult.

    *ETA: I didn't think the storyline was a waste of time, but I might just have issues with teenagers. I don't expect to like Carl. I don't need to. Does *anyone* like teenagers in the throes of normal, developmental angst? Interesting Random List topic...fictional teenagers we actually like?

  • karen

    Buffy and the gang

  • Ferris Bueller.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Really? Ferris was kind of a twat.

  • Dennis Albert Ramirez

    yeah i'm with you on this. Carl is still a kid, and he just lost his home and most likely his new baby sister. and i dont think he and rick have really grieved with each other over Lori, so I'm Carl is still harboring some horrible shit over having to shoot his mom, his dad not protecting her, etc.

    of course, being a teenager, he does it in the most bratty and unsubtle way, just like everyone does at that age. notice he only really yells at Rick when he's unconscious, as opposed to when he's awake, as I think Carl is still too scared/uncertain to REALLY stand up to his dad and call him out on his BS.

    and of course, for all that bravado, the instant it turns out his dad might be a walker, he learns the difference between being ABLE to survive in such a world and having a reason to survive.

  • Ozioma

    So the baby's definitely dead, then?

  • SeattleIsInfected

    Im saying no, because she didn't appear in the 'in memoriam' section of The Talking Dead. That is when the truth comes out.

  • jon29

    Merle's Law: if you don't see them die, they're not dead.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Exactly why they showed us the governor and Hershel.

  • Yup - plus as someone mentioned in the midseason finale thread - zombies would have eaten through the carseat straps, not taken the time to unsnap them to get the baby out.

  • Edwina the Magnificent

    Not to mention the distinct lack of gore in and around the carseat. If she had been eaten, there would have been baby bits all over the place.

  • Naye

    I'm going to go with yea. I dont think anybody was invested in Judith outside of the actual characters themselves, so the writers holding us in suspense doesnt seem worthwhile. Secondly, she died in the prison attack in the comics, although by different means.

  • grr arrgh

    We don't know that. I think either the little girls or Tyreese have her. I think we'll find out definitively next week.

  • "one wonders why — even when limbless and mouthless — they don’t try to attack her" - way back when we first met Michonne with a similar pair, didn't she explain that they seemed to lose the desire to attack when their jaws were removed since they could no longer bite? I may have imagined that though.

  • Edwina the Magnificent

    I believe it was the Governor's dorky little henchman (whose name escapes me at the moment) who said that. I may also be imagining that though.

  • That would make more sense since Michonne was mostly monosyllabic and that would've required an entire sentence....

  • Enrique del Castillo

    I'll be that guy and point out this plot (excluding Michonne) is straight from the comics. I think it worked better there, since it was just 22 pages, but I didn't hate the episode as much as others. I like the dynamic between Carl and Rick and I felt the series has done a poor job so far with it, but I liked how it worked in this episode.

  • mairimba

    Ya. The Carl/Rick part was from two story lines from the comic (per Nicotero).

  • Wigamer

    Carl seemed to be saying all of the things the dissatisfied fans have fussed about re: Rick. Also, Carl clearly got all his asshole genes from mom.

  • Finance_Nerd

    Isn't that the thing that is true, but so annoying about teenagers? Sometimes they can act really mature and then they turn around and regress into immature assholes.

  • Laura

    My husband decided it was just because of his balls dropping. He says that gives you a different outlook on life. I'll take his word for it.

  • Wigamer

    I mean, yeah, but Carl just seemed to be more of a mouthpiece than a real teenager in this episode. To me it's not realistic for him to bring up Shane for instance. Carl shot Shane, for God's sake, but now it's all Rick's fault?

  • mairimba

    Nicotero explained in Talking Dead that Carl was supposed to say that Dale taught him how to tie the knot, but when going over the script they all agreed that he should say Shane cause Carl is mad at Rick and mentioning Shane is like a punch in the gut to Rick. Made sense to me even before the explanation.

  • Bringing up Shane is a means of giving his father shit. He's pushing buttons, like any teenager does with a parent they're pissed off at.

  • Michonne. Dude. I cried.

  • Eva

    Dude. Me too.

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