The Walking Dead Roundtable, 4.9 “After”

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Hosted by Jeannie Chan

“Where is the happy ending here?” I don’t know how close to the end of show we are, but this is the question posed by an unexpected and awesome guest this episode and no doubt will be carried over into the rest of the season.

Previously, on TWD, life in the prison blew up. In every sense of the term. The group is scattered. The whereabouts and welfare of our favorite characters remain unknown. (OMG LIL ASSKICKER.) TWD comes back from break on a rather bleak note, as always, but for specific reasons and moments, has been never been better.

Join Rob, Nicole, and I after the jump as we essentially compose a love letter to Michonne. (And Carl, I guess.)

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Jeannie: Awesome throwback aerial shot of the tank. Not every season opens with this kind of epic, sweeping shot, does it? I miss those. I miss Season 1.

Rob: That shot was a great way of recapping what happened before the break without actually doing a recap.

 

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Jeannie: Did they really have to show Hershel’s head like that? :( I’m just going to leave this right here. And cry. I already can’t handle this episode. I’m done. But let me also take this opportunity to commend Danai Gurira’s acting because this. I’ve never seen Michonne look so defeated. To the point where I almost want to take back every time I complained about Michonne’s lack of lines by which to tell her story. Almost. It’s all right there in her face!

Nicole: Rick limping like that is painful to watch. Takes “bow-legged” to a whole other level!

Rob: Carl’s the man in this relationship now.

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Jeannie: “AWESOME. Look at all these video games! … that I’m never ever going to get to play ever.” Is it bad that all I could think about was how much of a brat he’s acting? I think my bias against him is preventing me from being sympathetic about him losing, like, everyone who mattered to him. Until this. This was sad. It only gets worse from here on out, I guess.

Rob: I loved the way Carl was at first excited about the games and then his face hardened as he realized he had no way to play them. He switched back to survival mode. He’s straddling the line between kid and adult, and it showed throughout this episode.

Jeannie: And I should give Chandler Riggs credit for doing it so well too. I don’t know why I’m so hard on Carl. I guess I have a low tolerance for bratty pre-adolescent behavior, which mapped into this post-apocalyptic world kind of makes how Carl has been acting seem like he’s entitled? Iunno.

Rob: Cut Carl some slack! He’s caught between wanting to respect and trust his father and also feeling like not every call Rick made was right. He’s starting to think for himself and struggling with trust vs. independence.

Jeannie: Okay, okay, okay.

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Jeannie: I actually squealed when I realized we were getting what looked like a flashback scene for Michonne. FINALLY! And then it turned into this bizarre dream sequence? OMG. I got excited when I saw Aldis Hodge’s name listed in the opening sequence but never in my wildest dreams.

Nicole: I was so confused about how Michonne’s Katana went all the way down into the knife block, and that music was really trippy. Also, Aldis Hodge was a very pleasant surprise, and I might be wrong, but those characters are her husband and brother- at least in the comic book, and they are the two original zombies that she dragged around on rope.

Jeannie: Yeah, I stopped reading the comics after the third volume but I’m pretty sure you knew who they were. It’s nice that after 2 seasons we get a clue about who they were. Honestly, this scene was amazing. How it gradually got darker, how every time we cut (ha) to Mike, he looked worse and worse. This is looking good!

Rob: I feel like it was very briefly mentioned in an earlier season that they were people she knew, but I can’t remember if it was previously said who they were exactly.

Jeannie: I can write an essay on this scene alone. I kind of really want to. I’m just so happy that we’re seeing this. I think it’s an interesting choice to make this a dream. Of course Michonne would never let her thoughts drift back to this time in her life. I wish I could recall how many other flashbacks we got were indicated to be dream sequences. I’d wager not many. More often than not, they were just dropped into the story. But this is pefect. This explains so much. Michonne is never going to let her guard down. I’m surprised she is even able to sleep. But when she does, that’s going to be the only time that we will get access to her story. Her demons. Her life before this.

Rob: I like that how she lost her kid was never directly addressed. It was only sadly implied. But honestly, I don’t know if Michonne would have survived if she still had her kid in the beginning. She wouldn’t have been the same person.

Jeannie: Maybe, maybe not. I’d like to think that if Michonne had had a child to protect and keep alive, her same survival instincts would have kicked in just as hard. Yeah, her character would have been drastically different. She might not have had her katana, or been as closed off but I believe that she would have been even stronger if she had a son to look out for. Look at Lori and Carol. No matter what kind of women they were before the apocalypse, they evolved into gun-toting BAMFs in their own way to protect their own.

Jeannie: Michonne walking amongst the walkers on the road again is the saddest thing ever. I don’t think it’s that big of a leap to think that the walker with the braids is Michonne’s future, walking beside her. This is the most depressing (but most awesome) rage slay fest ever. Girl, let it out. It’s about time.

Rob: God, that could-have-been-Michonne walker is so unsettling. I would have also killed it.

Nicole: I know, I started to wonder if they were keeping her company somehow. Sad, and beautiful. We all have to face our demons, and Michonne is really doing this literally, figuratively, in this episode.

Jeannie: And she’s doing it so beautifully. This episode was amazing to watch. From a technical standpoint, too! Some of these shots were just… ugh. Feels

Rob: It really bothers me that we haven’t seen Michonne drink any water during her long trek. She battled in the prison and immediately went for a long walk. How could she fight a group of walkers with the dehydration she must be feeling?

Jeannie: PURE BADASS, that’s how.

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Jeannie: OMG, is Rick dead? Please wake up and put an end to Carl’s heartbreaking, sad rant.

Rob: Rick is of course not dead. The show still needs him —

Jeannie: THEN WHY ISN’T HE SAYING ANYTHING.

Rob: — but Carl needed to wonder so he could realize just how much he needs his dad. His survival game just became very real.

Jeannie: Ahhh, Carl can’t do this!! He’s just a scared little kid! Ahhh!

Rob: I think Carl’s narrow escape from the walker is when he finally realized that he can’t do this on his own.

Rob: I love how this episode really highlights the ways in which Carl is both a kid and an adult. He’s doing all this survival stuff and being clever, but he gets buried by walker bodies, can’t break down a door, and decides: screw it, I’m going to eat ALL OF THE PUDDING. Things like: “Walker inside. Got my shoe. But he didn’t get me,” and “I win” show that Carl has been treating survival like a game. This was a great scene for Carl. He really is a teenager: caught between being a child and an adult. And thank God Carl couldn’t pull the trigger!

Jeannie: Hm. You’re absolutely right, Rob. I definitely was not able to see it this way but it makes total sense now. I think the only way that Carl could have continued to survive, as much as he wanted to present as this tough, capable adult, was to pretend this was like a game. Well, no, not pretend. That trivializes it. This was a fantasy that he needed to sustain for survival.

Rob: I’m not sold on Michonne being able to track Carl and Rick’s footprints through the mud, when there have to have been walkers who would have also walked that path (with shoes on). But when Rick sees her through the peephole and says to Carl with a smile, “It’s for you,” that was just perfect.

Jeannie: Agreed. Perfect end to a stellar episode. The beginning of the season opened on a really optimistic note and that hope was challenged and pretty much destroyed with each passing episode. We always come back from a break bleaker than how the year started but I like the direction this is going. This has been a good year for the show. No happy endings here, probably.