So, The Walking Dead is back. When Season 4’s mid-season finale came to an end, we were minus several big characters and the survivors led by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) were minus their walled-prison home. Split up, homeless, struggling to survive and facing growing numbers of walkers, our key characters are once again up against it.
This return finds us focusing our attention on Rick, son Carl (Chandler Riggs) and the machete-wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira), giving viewers an emotional insight into just where these characters have been and where they are now at. Whereas Rick and Carl’s journey focuses on the changing dynamic in their relationship, Michonne’s story is as equally compelling as it is saddening, as we get an almost Lost-esque flashback sequence to her ‘real’ life; a time before the outbreak that caused the world to go to shit. As part of a stable family unit and mother of a small child, the Michonne that we see in the past is massively removed from the cold, clinical ass-kicker that we’ve become accustomed to in the show.
Whereas the previous episode, the mid-season finale, was almost a survival of the fittest, After is similarly a tale of survival, adaption and suffering, be it physical or mental. Picking up in the aftermath of the deaths of The Governor (David Morrissey) and Hershel (Scott Wilson), this outing is as depressing and downbeat as you’d expect from The Walking Dead by this point. Michonne goes back to the prison in order to get herself a few new “pets,” much like how she was when we first came across her in Season 3, whilst Rick and Carl struggle to find themselves a safe haven. After Rick’s brutal brawl with The Governor, he’s beaten down and heavily reliant on the ever-maturing young Carl. With this change in dynamic of the relationship between these two, Carl is becoming more of an equal to his father and becoming more of a man, although certain facets of the character show that deep down he’s still just a boy that misses his family and wants a sense of stability. As it stands, though, his father is seemingly on death’s door, his mother is dead, his baby sister is presumed to have been turned to walker-chow, and anyone he’s built up a relationship with could easily be dead as far as he’s concerned.
With most fans of The Walking Dead finding Carl Grimes to be the most irritating character on the show – or is it merely just because of how Andrew Lincoln pronounces his name? – it’s a bold move for the show to focus so much of its return episode on the troubled teen. In fairness, though, Chandler Riggs is brilliant here, fully stepping up to the mark and making the most of his time in the spotlight. Previous interviews with cast and crew members suggested that Riggs’ Carl was going to be playing an important role going forward with the show, and that seems to be the case.
As touched upon earlier, Michonne’s appearances here have a certain Lost vibe to them, as we get to take a look at her ‘normal’ life. Again sticking to the Lost feel, it’s been said that the next few episodes will see different characters taking centre stage as we get brought up to speed with where they are each week. That means that we may not get to see quite as much of Rick, Carl and Michonne for the next few weeks, but these characters have been given a solid return from The Walking Dead’s mid-season break.
Solid, downbeat and with a certain silver lining, After is a welcome return for The Walking Dead. From certain reports and logical thinking based on the comic book series, it would appear that there are some big issues and story arcs coming up for the show, but then isn’t that always the case with The Walking Dead?
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