The Walking Dead S4x9 After
|Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page|
Sunday night marked the return story of three essential characters so far: Michonne, Rick Grimes, and Carl Grimes. And what character-driven gripping episode it was!
Younger Grimes cares little to nothing as anger, rage and disappointment boils over. At one point yelling at his unconscious father that he would be happy if he could die, he let everyone down and Carl can take care of himself. Without his dad being a leader, the teenager saves them from walkers coming to the front doorway and gathering other supplies in other houses - but almost at the cost of his own life again and again.
Truly some of the most breathless scenes in the episode was when Carl's life was threatened - almost being buried under a group of walkers and another one almost taking a bite out of his shoe. Carl isn't a popular character in the series but I was literally jumping up and down for him to make it out okay. Without Carl, Rick has nothing left to live for. Without Rick, neither does Carl - and it takes him dealing with his grief trying to prove himself as a protector on his own to realize that nobody in the apocalypse can truly be alone once this survival-mode life takes hold.
We were finally "treated" to a dream sequence of Michonne's past. In her "past life" with her lover Mike, her baby child, and their family friend. Within a matter of minutes or seconds really, we see her nightmare progress as her loved ones become ill and then we finally see them removed of limbs as they first appeared beside her in season 3. She couldn't save them in life; in their death, they became her protectors.
Contrarily to Carl acting out to handling his grief, Michonne becomes another member of the walking dead. No, she doesn't die (thank heavens) but she is left to tread with a group of walkers aimlessly - without direction or essentially purpose. The both of them need a spark to ignite their reason for living.
For Carl it's terrifyingly coming oh-so-close to having to kill Rick. Waking up on the couch and clinging to breath similar to a walker, Carl's wish of his father reaching his mortal end almost rings true. Those one liners of Carl throwing Shane in Rick's face and blaming him for the death and missing status of everyone in the group almost becomes a moment of freedom for Carl...In true form of The Walking Dead, one of the biggest moments of emotional impact takes place when Rick is struggling off the couch reaching out. For a moment it truly seemed Rick was dead until he cries out his son's name - as he has done in every turn of mortal and immortal danger before. Carl can't do this alone.
Neither can Michonne. As I look back on this season re-premiere episode, she defaults. She's without a friend like Andrea. She's without a family like the prison group. At the prison, she is entirely in solitude besides her pets. Even in crossing the abandoned road where she saw footprints, she goes another direction not ready to open up to a life she once had with the few people she let in.
So fascinatingly used in this episode as well as previous is the surveillance of what's behind closed doors. When entering their first place of refuge for the season, Rick reminds Carl to stay close to him as they go checking in every empty room for any walkers or signs of life. They don't want to be caught off-guard with a surprise attack. So as it comes in the final moments of the episode, and Michonne follows those set of footprints she had surpassed earlier, she's lead to the place they're staying. For the remaining members of the Grimes family and Michonne, they look through the front door peephole. Staring at each other, hope waits on the other side.
This episode perfected something that I think other episodes touched on but didn't fall through in the exact same tone: the choice to live or die. In past episodes the characters dealt with the opportunity to treat walkers like true yet damaged people, "grave-robbing" homes and automobiles, killing the weak and sickened before they are ravaged by this zombie disease. The heart of this episode and dissection of both Michonne and Carl spans more than the friendly bond they've form in the past. They make choices of what could've been and accepts life over death. Because in a zombie apocalypse what is there to live for except life itself. It reached a new level of survivors coming through a cycle of darkness to seeing the light. (Thank heavens, it was not the white light.)