The Walking Dead season 4 episode 9 review: After

Review Ron Hogan 10 Feb 2014 - 07:20

The Walking Dead returns with a Grimes family special. Spoilers ahead in Ron's review of After...

This review contains spoilers.

4.9 After

The prison is in flames, with the fences battered down and zombies wandering the grounds. The survivors are scattered, injured, without support and without a safe place to call their own. The Governor is dead. Hershel is dead. Lots of nobodies are dead, too. Someone's hit the reset button on The Walking Dead, and it's up to Rick and Carl to pick up the pieces while Michonne goes for a little walkabout.

Those are the three characters who are featured in this week's The Walking Dead, aside from some severed head cameos. Carl, Rick (who is practically dead), and Michonne, and the three spend most of the episode apart from one another. That means there's a lot of talking to no one in particular, some surprisingly interesting flashback stuff, ranting at someone who may be dead or in a coma, and other fun stuff to give characters a reason to talk in an episode that could very feature almost no talking. Fortunately, there are structural ways around this, and The Walking Dead will make good use of those. 

Greg Nicotero has grown into a real weapon for The Walking Dead. As a director, he's improved by leaps and bounds from the very first webisodes he directed this season. As he gets more and more comfortable in the chair, he's showing more of a willingness to think big and to think small at the same time. Nicotero has a great sense for the visual, and he frames some great shots, particularly of Carl when he's leading some walkers down a deserted street and when Rick and Carl go house-to-house looking for food and a safe place to settle down for a rest. The opening crane shot is a thing of beauty, and just the staging of when Michonne goes wandering through the crowds of walkers back towards the prison is stunning to behold. (Michonne's killing frenzy was also spectacular, while we're on the subject of wandering around with a sword.) 

However, the most impressive thing about the directing this episode is the way that Greg Nicotero handles his actors, in particular Chandler Riggs. I trust Danai Gurira to give a good performance, but it's difficult to get good work out of younger actors, particularly in emotionally heavy scenes. It's hard for kids to emote on screen and have it come off well, but Nicotero helps Riggs come through with a really good performance. Carl's obnoxious and a borderline sociopath, but I can't help but feel like that's on purpose, since he's a moody teenage boy and the only girl he's met that's close to his age was locked in a barn full of zombies and executed by his own father. That's going to be hard on a kid, growing up in a zombie apocalypse with a father who doesn't want you to know how to survive on your own has to be doubly difficult. 

Giving the two basically an entire episode to carry is something of a gamble, but it really ends up paying off, due to Robert Kirkman's script. Carl still does dumb things for dumb reasons, but it's more like typical teenage rebellious stupidness and misdirected anger rather than poor scriptwriting. Of course, if you're one of the many, many people who hate Carl and everything he stands for, you won't like the A plot of this storyline; I think he's pulling it off, but I know a lot of people are not fans of him or his angsty behavior. Unlike Carl, everyone likes Michonne, so I think the B story will be solid enough to anchor the episode, especially as it gives us a lot of details on Michonne's life prepocalypse and it answers some questions that fans have been speculating on since her first appearance. 

Of course, this is only two of the many characters we've lost touch with during the fall of the Ricktopia. There are still a lot of characters out there in this big, scary, zombie-infested world, and hopefully the show won't parcel them out two groups at a time for the remainder of the season. I think that kind of slow reunion, even spread across the seven episodes that remain in the season, would really be a detriment to the show's momentum—as if the long delay between episodes eight and nine didn't already do a number on that. (Unless we get an all-Carol episode, of course; that I'm totally on board for.) The sooner the group gets back together and the season kicks back into gear, the better off I think we'll be. 

There's still a lot of room to grow, even though it feels like the season is about over. That's the major problem with the divided season; episode eight felt like a season finale and episode nine is stuck trying to rebuild everything from scratch. The break was nice, and it makes sense for the show to take time off given the holidays and the Super Bowl and whatnot, but it feels like the beginning of something, rather than the end of something. 

Perhaps we should call this Season 4 B.

Read Ron's review of the previous episode, Too Far Gone, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan would love to get his hands on a gigantic can of chocolate pudding. Is that even a real thing? Because if not, it should be. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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What's a Super Bowl?

Why don't you do spoiler-free reviews anymore? This makes me sad.

It's what you give your Super Dog his Super Dogfood in.

great review

It was very close to the comic, and

Spoilers

michonne's dream and reverting to and back out of The Walking With The Dead form was excellently realized. And the happy ending was welcome. I thought this episode was excellent and am looking forward to the rest of em

Hahahaha, that's a good one!, you have made my day

Though I doubt they'll waste time on it, I like to think that the reason Rick said to Carl "It's for you" when Michonne came a-knocking, is because she had already been by the other house and was holding his shoe in her hands.

Great review even though I didn't think Chandler Riggs was that good. Without words I can't pick up exactly on what he's feeling. Compare that with storyline B, Michonne had very little lines and I knew and felt exactly what she was going through. I really only enjoyed the B story in this episode, but still looking forward to next week. If next week is the Daryl show, then I may have drop TWD.

Well, if you watch it first...

I'm going to watch it tonight once it has aired, duh, but the spoiler-free reviews that DoG did through part of season 3 were a good read and a decent taster for the episode.

Granted, now I only have to wait a single night instead of nearly a week, but the reviews were good in their own right, focusing more on the shots used, which really immersed me more into watching the episode the review was about because I was looking for these particular shots.

No need to down vote.

It's some big American Football thing I think

What a horrible piece of badly-written, badly-acted garbage. Surely as a show executive, you know you've crapped the bed when you start off the 2nd half of your season with an episode featuring Michonne and Carl, two of the most one-dimensional, wooden characters (and actors) ever to appear on television. The attempt at a dream/flashback for Michonne was laughable at best....providing nothing about Michonne's backstory that a 4-year old couldn't have figured out on their own. I've got to hand it to Chandler Riggs. He's not as bad of an actor as I thought he was; he's actually worse. This was the most pathetic attempt at exploring character depth I've ever seen realised on screen. The writers should be utterly ashamed of their complete lack of skill and imagination. What a wasted opportunity. This show is such a boring turd; I just don't understand why people like this badly-written junk so much. This was like watching a bad high school band play. I'm officially done with this crappy crappy, non-scary, garbage show.

Were you watching the same episode I was?! You thought that was good tv? Wow.

There isn't really a plot anyway, so the spoiler-filled reviews don't really give much away.

I agree with only part of your comment. I agree about Chandler Riggs (Carl), but not about Danai Gurira (Michonne). She was my only saving grace for this episode. She is a fine actress and all you have to do is google her name and see the praise for the other projects she's been in. I don't see how you can say that her scene at the end of the episode or the scene when she is talking to her dead boyfriend was wooden. Her face speaks volumes when she's walking through the herd and even in earlier episodes when she holds the baby and cries. That's far from wooden. I'm trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and not write you off as just a general hater of the show. I'm pretty much on the brink of dropping this show too, but I can admit the small good things about it. Like I said, I agree with most of your comments, but your comments about Michonne are laughable. Especially if you watched the second half of season three and the first half of season four.

it was nice to see Carl, who has previously looked like a bad ass kid actually is like a normal teenage kid. he has two left feet like your average teenager, he does dumb things, he can still get excited at the sight of x-boxes and comics, he's not as badass as he maybe thought he was with a gun in his hand. he needed that little adventure as a reality check that he still needs the support and guidance of adults in particular his dad

Don't be a dick.

I think the level of acting required of Riggs was beyond him, he's not awful, it's just that most actors would struggle to hold the screen on their own.
However, Gurira did, she was fantastic in this episode.
And as for scary, the real monsters in this are the people who are left, not the walkers themselves. It did, for me, maintain the sense of dread that I've enjoyed about the show.
The aftermath of the prison, followed by the death of the Governor - a superlative Morrissey - was always going to be a comedown, but it was fine.
I just hope, as mentioned in the article, that the rest of the season isn't taken up with individual stories.

I smiled at the end of this episode. I don't think that's ever happened before with this show.

See you next week, chum.

It followed the comic closely and that's always a treat. But so are the surprises. Sorry dude, but I like this show a lot.

I don't understand. From your previous comments (every week) you obviously hate this show, so why do you keep watching? Then why do you insist on telling those of us that love the show how much you hate it? Go watch something else and leave us alone!

Hershall, still, really? Even in death.... die man die! Michonne uses her sabre so much now it's tiresome. Isn't there anyone overseeing the script and the edited film before it's put out? Don't they realise just how bad it is? Cash cow.... However, last 2 eps of 2013 were good, and a zombified governor wouldn't go a miss either, although all he'd be able to do is wander around aimlessly. No change there then. I'll get me coat.

Come on guys, I don't frequent the Doctor Who threads going on about how crap I think that is, leave my show alone!!

Awful episode. The Governor only episode learlier this season, best to date, Carl only, worst episode to date. Awful. Awful. Awful.

Like every episode in S4, it wasn't great but it was fairly good. Not remotely deserving of its viewing figures though. The zombies have really become a parody of themselves now, they're a bit of a joke.

Damn good episode. Governor is dead! Get over it. Twat!

Dork. Do you know the meaning of the phrase "story development?"

Moron.

Bravo.

Surprised at the negative comments on this one. Yes, it was a slow episode, but it needed to be after the events of episode 8 as they start to re-establish the status quo for the show for the rest of the season. Yes, Carl can be a brat but I'm still glad they've gone for a slightly older character than the one in the comics, who I find intensely annoying, of little value in his own right (beyond someone for Rick to care about) and am consistently amazed that he manages to survive when other (better) characters are killed off. In terms of the actor's performance, I thought the transition from "I wouldn't care if you were dead" to "I can't handle this alone" (or sentiments to that effect) was well handled, as was the contrast between moments of horror as he survived zombie attacks with moments of lost childish glee as he saw the bedroom and enjoyed the vat-o-pudding. I was also very happy to see a bit more of Michone's pre-apocalypse life, and really enjoyed the way they did this with visuals rather than exposition voiceover or the like. And it's always nice to see her smile a bit, even if it can be a little shocking given her normal grim demeanour. Like other commentators, I was also pleasantly surprised to see the episode end on a happy note - albeit that I suspect this joy to be short lived as the season progresses based on prior experience.
My one negative comment would be that, although the zombies encountered by Carl were a well-realised threat, those encountered by Michone were not. Even allowing for the return of her slave zombie trick, at no point in the episode was she under genuine threat from what seemed to be a fairly sizeable group of walkers. Although I would agree that the show should continue to be more of a survival show with zombies than an out-and-out zombie horror show, the walkers do still need to be presented as a real threat in order for them to maintain their menace. Having them walk up to Michone one by one and get easily dispatched by her sword does not really do that. On the whole, though, I thought this was a good return episode and look forward to the rest of this season.

Nice reply, idiot. That's my opinion. These writers are useless.

You knew that Michonne had a baby? I had no idea. I did know that the original 2 armless walkers she had were her boyfriend and his brother/friend but that is because I read it in the comics.

I agree with all of your comments, but I must say I have always felt that (28 days later runner style aside) I have always felt that the threat from zombies comes from them being either too numerous to escape or defeat or by them taking the human by surprise and therefore being unable to escape from or defeat. They are after all stereotypically slow and stupid. As long as you stay calm and aware and don't get boxed in you can survive a relatively small number of Zombies.

It was fairly obvious from the way she acted around Rick's baby that she had lost a baby of her own.

I agree. Also, with a sword Michonne can kill many at one time. I never understood the fear if a few zombies start walking towards you, just run away. Andrea managed to get away from a large number of zombies at the end of season 2 until she fell. When Rick was angry about Lori, he took on numerous walkers in the tombs. Can you imagine this show with a fast infected type threat like 28 days later? I think most of these survivors would be dead and gone by now.

Michonne uses her sabre too much? So you don't want her to use her sword? That's her weapon. Michonne has shown that she doesn't know how to shoot a gun, so she has to use the sword. That's like saying Rick uses his gun too much or Daryl uses his cross bow too much. Ridiculous.

That would be nice. But I thought it was because even though Rick was passed out, he could hear Carl screaming about how everyone, including Michonne, was gone.

Agree re: Michonne's baby, but like others have said, if you hate it so much don't watch it. Personally, I liked that we got to see Carl on his own: I think Riggs played the nostalgia for "normal" things like computer games in a nicely understated way,knocking them all over was part of acknowledging - as I think a lot of this episode was - the idea of "don't look back", the final line from the previous episode.

Liked the episode, but the fact that Michonne's jawless / armless zombies didn't try to gum her to death annoyed me. She was walking them like dogs and they were being obedient?

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