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Walking Dead: After

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Walking Dead After

A new season of Walking Dead begins with a perfect blend of emotion and action. It’s Carl’s Big Adventure, and Michonne does some soul searching.

Two separate storylines this week showed us some of the aftermath of the battle at the prison. Luckily they didn’t try to show us every single character, giving us a nice tight focus on Carl and his dad, and Michonne.

Carl has sort of grown up in front of all of us (as has actor Chandler Riggs). In light of Rick’s failures, the death of Hershel and the apparent loss of baby Judith, Carl is going through some teen angst and is rejecting his father’s authority. In fact, he’s even rejecting Rick’s competence as a survivor.

What was good about this episode was that they compressed all the teen angst into a single week. I’m sure there will be some issues in the future, but for the most part we went through an entire story arc, from Carl rejecting and doubting his father to realizing he still needs his dad after all. This could easily have been an entire season of “Carl is angry at Rick,” and thankfully I think we’ve escaped that.

Part of the problem at the start is that Rick is in terrible shape from his fight with the (well and truly dead) Governor. He can barely keep up with Carl, and when he looks in the mirror, it appears he has some serious internal injuries. That’s tough to bounce back from, and after some verbal sparring, Rick falls into a coma.

Carl ventures out alone when a couple of zombies come to the door selling zombie Bibles. It would be really easy to hate Carl in this episode. It’s been popular to hate Carl in general, and you might think I’d get some mileage out of bashing his doucheyness. But I actually liked Carl this week. I understood him and some of what he was feeling. I loved that little moment where he was wowed by the TV in the kid’s room, checking out the Xbox games. Then he remembered that the only thing an Xbox is good for in this world is to use the cables to secure a door against homicidal zombies.

That’s not to say I didn’t love Carl versus the door.

Carl’s battles against zombies were genuinely intense, making a great roller coaster ride between peaceful strolling about the nice neighborhood (with all the lawns neatly mown, what the hell?) and life or death action. At this point it’s impossible to know if any major character is safe on this show, so the stakes always feel high. That zombie bursting out of the bedroom door made me jump, and I am a jaded bastard of a horror fan who doesn’t jump at anything.

Top notch zombie makeup effects this week, too. Individual personality in each walker, a few with really creepy “missing face” effects, lots of detail, just really great work all around.

The writers basically put Carl through the old teen/parent deathwish scenario. Teen wishes parent dead, teen thinks parent really dies, teen reconsiders wanting parent dead, parent turns out to be alive, happily ever after.

Michonne’s tale was not quite so straightforward. She defanged a couple of zombies so she should have her walker pets back, which seem to keep other zombies from attacking her. I wish it was actually some sort of Zen inner stillness that allows Michonne to walk among the walkers unscathed, but her zombie herd was pretty cool anyway.

Then Walking Dead did something really interesting: a flashback to Michonne’s life before the zombie times. I love the idea of doing this, because the juxtaposition between what a character has become and what they did in the “real world” can be really interesting. We’ve seen glimpses of Rick and Shane in the pre-zombie days, and we’ve heard about Daryl’s life, but to see it like this was very cool, especially for an enigmatic character like Michonne. Plus, her boyfriend was played by Aldis Hodge! Leverage fans, represent!

I doubt this flashback was a portent of future looks at prior lives, sadly, since it was particular to Michonne having a screwed up dream. Her nice happy past started getting all mixed up with zombie world, and we learn the shocking truth about her original zombie pets. They were Michael, her boyfriend, and his friend (or brother). And apparently her baby died at some point too. At least that’s what I inferred from her little chat with herself at the diner.

In the end, Michonne stumbles across Carl’s pudding can and finds father and son. She knocks on the door. Rick sees it’s her and just laughs and tell Carl, “It’s for you.” What a fantastic moment, so bittersweet, funny, desperately sad, and a great payoff to fans who have stuck with the series all this time, and who understand the history these characters have together.

With the season off to a fantastic start, I can’t wait for more.

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Posted by on Sunday, February 9th, 2014. Filed under Dark TV, Headline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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