The Walking Dead Season 4 Review “After”

It’s finally back, folks! It may have only been a couple months since the mid-season finale back in December, but it sure felt a lot longer than that! Yes, The Walking Dead returned tonight with “After”, as we see what’s happened to a few members of our ragtag group of survivors since the climactic battle of the prison. It’s safe to say that neither group here has been faring particularly well, but they’re definitely handling their newfound predicaments a little differently.

In a very cool callback to the very first episode, we started the episode with a zoom in on a tank that is being swarmed by zombies. This caught us back up with Michonne, who has reverted to the lone wolf status that she was in when we were introduced to her, even going so far as to neuter and leash a couple more zombie pets to drag around. I really enjoyed this dialog-free opening scene, and I was very surprised to see quasi-cameos from David Morrissey and Scott Wilson, as Michonne sees The Governor and Hershel on the ground. It really brought me back to all of the bloodshed in last year’s mid-season finale, and it was especially effective to see Hershel’s zombie head on the ground, opening and closing his mouth. I had totally forgotten that his brain wasn’t killed, and that it was just his head that was cut off.

Speaking of cutting off heads, man did we get a lot of decapitations tonight! I really liked the flashbacks for Michonne, as the non-book readers get further confirmation that her “lover” and son died, and it makes it sound as if her lover took his own life, and the life of her son, thinking that they couldn’t make it. I don’t know if that’s what we were really supposed to get out of that scene, since that’s not exactly how it happened in the books, but the show has veered from the source material plenty of times in the past.

All of those flashbacks were great, and the zombie heads rolling left and right was fun, but I couldn’t help but feel like we’re going backwards with this character. I was so irritated with Michonne’s character in season three, when she was so sullen and grumpy all the time that it started to become unbelievable, and now I feel like she’s reverting back to that. I loved that her character was opening up a little more earlier in this season, even going so far as smiling and cracking a few jokes, but now she’s back to being sad and lonely all the time. I’m hoping that meeting up with the Grimes boys will help prevent her from going back to that quiet and grouchy Michonne, but I guess we’ll see.

Speaking of the Grimes boys, we had a lot of Carl tonight. Like…a lot. Carl has been an often criticized character thus far on this series, and mostly in the past for the standard “dumb kid stuff” that so often happens on shows like this, with him just being an immature young man and making rash decisions. I was praising his character earlier this season, and the talented actor Chandler Riggs, because I felt like Carl was finally maturing. He seemed to be learning the importance of the different roles in the prison, and he was becoming a good role model for the other children there, but now I feel like we’re going backwards with him, as well!

I was a little irritated with Carl at first, as he’s clearly harboring some blame towards Rick for Juith’s death, as well as everything else that went down at the prison. I was hoping that he would have matured enough to realize that his dad was doing the best he could to protect him and his family, and that what went down was out of his control. When a dude shows up with a tank and an army, what else are you supposed to do?! His whole rant at his dad’s inanimate body just felt like we were going back to the bratty little kid that made Walking Dead fans angry.

Oh, and how ’bout that inanimate body? The whole fakeout of Rick’s death completely missed the mark for me. First of all, it should be Zombie Apocalypse Survival Skill #1 to check the pulse of anybody who’s laying motionless on a couch near you. Maybe make sure he’s still breathing? If you shake him like crazy and he’s still not waking up, that’s cause for serious concern! Not a cause for you to start leading zombies into the woods and eating chocolate pudding! Second, the fact that Rick’s breathing is so raspy and incredibly similar to the breathing pattern of a walker was just goofy. I feel like Rick has been through a lot of beatings on this show, and he’s never been so incapacitated before that he was unable to move for a day or two and had a zombie breathing problem. I guess The Governor really rang his bell!

When it comes to suspense and zombie scares on TV, The Walking Dead is the best game in town. They do that stuff really well, and they always have. However, this show has always struggled with is how to develop their key characters in a believable and consistent manner, and they displayed that tonight. I’m hoping that Michonne reuniting with the Grimes’ will help correct the character shortcomings for both her and Carl, but when the episode leaves out the vast majority of the show’s ensemble cast, you have to make sure those character moments are strong.

What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments section below!

Random Thoughts:

– I’m glad that AMC has finally stopped cutting directly from the show into Chris Hardwick’s Talking Dead promos. Now at least there’s the buffer of “Next on AMC” to give me enough time to press the fast forward button.

– Despite my frustrations with Carl’s character tonight, I did like the moment of him looking longingly at the stack of video games before quickly knocking them down and ripping out the HDMI cord.

– Something else about the whole Rick thing that bugged me was that he seemed well enough to walk for miles and clear out restaurants and houses, but then he crashed on that couch and seemed pretty darn close to death, but then in the end he seemed fine again! Make up your mind!