The Walking Dead can suffer from some ups and downs.
There are times where moments can be awesome and others that are just plain frustrating, but the series’ ability to suck you right into its zombie-infested stories makes it downright addictive. And the ratings can certainly attest to that fact.
Coming off the heels of the prison’s destruction and the death of the Governor (we finally get to see that he was indeed shot and killed) on The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 8, I was excited for the possibility of shaking things up, starting fresh and perhaps giving the characters a chance to move towards something beyond basic survival.
The survivors have scattered in different directions, as The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 9 put its focus on Rick, Carl and Michonne when they struggled to deal with their emotional drama, losing a shoe and finding that living in this dreary world is ultimately better together.
The Rick and Carl situation didn’t really feel like anything new, but it was great to see a lot of the time spent with Carl. He’s mostly been background, so to have him at the forefront of the hour while Rick lay around injured was a positive change.
Really, the concept of the father and son relationship was at stake as both characters stuck to their rigid ideals. Rick was the over-protective father, and Carl was the son trying to prove he wasn’t a child anymore.
And with Rick pretty much incapacitated for the episode, Carl had no choice but to step up.
It wasn’t really a surprise that Carl was upset with Rick about the way he’d been treated, especially since the life he’s known has been death, despair and walkers. His “normal” life was a lot shorter than Rick’s or even a majority of the other characters. He really is a different breed in his upbringing, even if his parents tried to keep him a child as long as they could.
Yes, Carl knows how to kill walkers and he’s pretty adept at maneuvering his way around, but the hour illustrated that even with his abilities, he isn’t a grown man or as easily able to survive on his own. And mistakes will be made.
Scenes like smiling at the video games before using the cable cords to keep the doors closed from walkers or a simple satisfaction in eating pudding revealed slight moments of the boy still within Carl, even if his experiences have changed the way he thinks.
I knew he was going to get himself in trouble trying to the lead the walkers away from the house, but running from the walker inside the house was heart pounding. I never expected Carl to get it (sometimes those walkers are really slow on the biting part), but it was tense just the same.
As for the overly dramatized moaning and groaning of Rick in the dark - trying to trick the audience into thinking he’d turned - I was more interested in Carl’s breakdown at the possibility of having to kill another parent. He tried to remain so strong throughout, but it was telling to see him at that moment of weakness.
Although, wouldn't it have been wild if the show did kill off Rick? I like Andrew Lincoln, but sometimes I worry the writers aren't sure what story to tell for him beyond being a leader and overly parenting Carl.
At least by the end, after beating the concept in throughout the hour, Rick was able to see his son has grown up and Carl was able to recognize he isn’t as independent or adult. Plus, he still needs his father.
On a similar note, the always independent sword wielding Michonne soon learned that surviving with people was a lot better than being alone.
She got to slice and dice her way on her tracking expedition with two new “pets” to follow, although I have no clue why she would risk walking in the middle of a pack of walkers. Seems a little dangerous, even with the chained zombies to hopefully keep away the others.
Her flashback nightmare was an interesting look back at her own past in a rather sped up version from just having fun with those closest to her to eventually winding up by herself. It's always nice to see a bit of what happened before everything changed.
There was real happiness in finding Rick and Carl, and like those two, she is looking to move forward from her past thoughts and self. It seemed a bit ridiculous she would only knock and not say, “Hey, Rick and Carl, it’s me, Michonne,” but at least three survivors have found their way back and on some level, a sliver of hope in all the darkness.
“After” did allow the three characters to come to terms with some issues, but at times it definitely trudged along. It does make me wonder how the rest of the episodes of the season will be devoted to each character or how long it will take for the group to reunite. And of course, who might be walker food next.
Which main character do you think will be the next to die on The Walking Dead?
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.