12 February 2014

Talking Out The Dead: "After"

So Thomas Crawford and I (Kelen Conley) are going to attempt to recap the rest of The Walking Dead (TWD) season 4 through this weekly back and forth entitled Talking Out The Dead. We’ll see how it goes. Spoilers…

Kelen Conley: Something I’m noticing about TWD: When they do these character driven episodes, they’re either hit or miss. This episode was a huge hit for me. As much as I despised Carl for the first few seasons, tonight’s episode may have been the final turning point. Seeing Carl finally being able to take charge for at least half the episode was nice but the situation with the pudding walker was stupid. He just fought off three walkers the day before but he narrowly escapes one because he suddenly can’t hit the broad side of a barn? And also, pudding walker may qualify for the worst walker ever. We’ve seen other characters get their legs bit while they were putting up better struggles than Carl managed.

Carl’s monologue to Rick was spot on though. I would blame Rick for everything as well: He didn’t kill Andrew when he had the chance and left him outside the prison, so he survived and let walkers back in, leading to Lori and T-Dog’s deaths. He decided he wanted to be a farmer and better father after Carl killed Jody, and never mounted much of a search for The Governor (aside from Michonne looking for him). The Gov, of course, struck back by destroying the prison fences, killing Herschel (and maybe Judith), and almost killing Rick. Rick has constantly found ways to make the wrong decisions, leading them to their current predicament. Telling his father that he would be okay if he died was a bit much though. And pudding walker helped drive that lesson home.

Michonne was the true star of this episode though. We finally got a peek into her past life and figured out who her original “pets” were and why she was so freaked out about holding Judith earlier this season. And I liked the fact that they had her go solo and then come back into the fold within this one episode as well instead of stretching it out.

Speaking of selling, Andy Lincoln sold the Governor’s beatdown of Rick super well this episode too. I mean, he was unconscious for what, two to three days? And Carl thought he had died and turned at one point? I’m glad they didn’t just gloss over everything and have Rick just have a couple bruises. The Governor damn near killed him and it showed.

Also: Did you see how Carl saw the note from Joe Jr. saying, “Do what I couldn’t do” and then when he thought Rick had turned, he couldn’t kill his father either? Loved that parallel. I guess Carl is only good at killing people that we don’t know (Jody), never liked and was already dead (Lori), or loved (Dale).

And what about that “Shane taught me” line? Wow. No better way to get at your father than to bring up the man who slept with his wife, may have gotten her pregnant, and tried to kill him.

Thomas Crawford: What can I say about the premiere, except WOW.  I’m with you, a lot of character driven episodes of The Walking Dead are spot on, and some I can do without.  This one was a hit out of the park for me.  It focused on one of my favorite characters, Michonne, and showed more than a little tension between Rick and Carl.

The episode started with Michonne doing what she tends to do best, surviving.  She lured two walkers to impale themselves, then cut off there arms and lower jaws.  The rest of the episode she uses her, “pets,” to amble through a horde of walkers in search of her friends.  I would like to point out I don’t like the term pets.  They aren’t anything of the sort to Michonne, they aren’t even mules to her, another term I’ve heard.  I don’t have a good name for them, but those terms just don’t seem to fit.

An intense and very sad moment in the beginning was Michonne walking up on the beheaded Herschel.  She looked almost in tears, as the head was wide eyed, and making biting motions with its mouth.  After seeing him brutally beheaded in the finale, this was a tough scene to watch.  Michonne, looking totally dejected, stabbed Herschel’s head, ending its existence.

We finally get to the back story of Michonne.  It starts as a dream sequence, she is cutting something in a kitchen, while two men are talking at a table.  We see Michonne pick up her young son, and carries him over to talk with the two men.  We find out that one is Mike, Michonne’s lover.  The other is Terry, Mike’s friend.  The scene becomes surreal and dark, the men looking haggard and dirty.  The talk has turned from a night out, to should they leave the city.  Michonne doesn’t seem to know the time has changed.  She still is smiling, and seems to be happy even as the image turns darker.  Then we see Mike and Terry sitting at the table, armless, with Michonne’s son gone.  She suddenly wakes up in a car, looking around confused, and possibly terrified.

I really loved this scene.  Michonne is one of the more mysterious characters of the entire show.  The writers have hinted and teased about her origins without giving much up.  The most recent was the first part of season four, her crying as she holds a baby Judith.  It hinted that she had a child, or lost a young infant some time in the past.  This scene filled in a huge gap of her past that many fans have wondered and hypothesized about since she arrived on the scene.  (Many that read the graphic novels might have a different view, but I would like to point out that so much is different from TWD show that nothing is 100 percent certain.)

In true Walking Dead fashion though, this scene filled in so much information, and left even more unsaid.  Kudos to the writers for not giving up too much.  Part of the scene showed Terry mentioning Michonne’s growing skill with her Katana.  However, they never actually showed why she picked the weapon or how she trained with it.  They show Mike and Terry armless, but never show Michonne doing the deed.  Her son disappears from her arms, yet they never give a concrete reason why.  All we are left with is a dark scene that touches on her past before and during the opening cataclysm, and our imaginations to fill in the missing pieces.  We can only hope that this second half of the season will highlight more of her past in episodes to come.

Moving on to Rick and Carl.  We were left with them fleeing the prison, and Rick telling Carl not to look back.  We find them moving slowly away from the prison trying to find food and shelter.  Like you said, there was a lot of tension.  Carl seems to view his dad with disdain even in the beginning of the show.  At one point, Carl curses at his dad and telling him if walkers were in a house, they would show up.  It was comical and sad, Rick just looked at Carl, and told him to watch his mouth.

I’m not going to rehash what happened, you already did that.  I would like to put my own thoughts about some of what happened though.  First, it was an intense scene when Carl mentioned Shane.  He was tying a rope while Rick was trying to push a sofa against the door.  Carl told him it would hold, it was a good knot.  Then he looked at Rick and said Shane taught it to him, and asked if he remembered Shane.

This was an emotionally charged scene.  Mostly because it reminded the viewers of all that Carl had seen during the show.  Shane was the man that had saved him and his mom, and gotten them to safety.  Shane had been the one to work and keep them safe in the very beginning while Rick was out of the picture.  Obviously, Shane meant a lot to Carl.  In my opinion, I don’t think Carl realizes the triangle of Shane, Lori, and Rick.  In the end, Shane was a friend and surrogate father to Carl, and Carl watched Rick kill him.  Carl also had to pull the trigger on the Walker Shane, to save his dad’s life.  This scene showed a lot of anger and resentment in Carl with just those few lines.

The next emotional scene was Carl, standing over his half dead father who couldn’t wake up.  In the monologue he blamed his father for everything.  He said his dad was a failure, and that he wanted to play farmer instead of keeping them safe.  He blamed Rick for the deaths of all their friends, and said he was their leader, he was supposed to protect them.  Carl showed an amazing amount of emotion and depth, something that I think has been building for the entire show.  A final verbal blow was telling him it was okay if Rick died, Carl didn’t need him anymore.

This scene reminded me of a teenage son rebelling against his father.  In normal every day life, this would have been a fight about borrowing the car or staying out too late.  However, under the circumstances, it was filled with venomous hate and contempt.  Carl was telling his dad he was a man, and he could take care of himself.

On one hand, I really liked this scene.  I have felt that TWD has been building tension between Carl and Rick since they got to the prison.  Rick has been holding on to the past life, trying to protect his son.  In some ways, his attempt to protect his son has clouded his judgement and decision making ability.  I’ve watched many episodes, and wondered when Rick was going to wake up.  When was Rick going to realize the world is completely different?  He is trying to protect his son, not prepare him for the day he will be on his own.

I will disagree to an extent with you, Kelen.  Yes, Rick has made some mistakes.  He has made some very big mistakes.  However, is he completely to blame?  Did he want to play farmer?  Yes he did.  He was trying to build a life, something that had been shattered.  He was trying to make sure there was food for the people, including his son.  Was it the right choice?  In hindsight, no.  He should have been preparing for another incursion.  He should have been preparing Carl for the day he wasn’t going to be around.  I think the hardest thing to watch in this scene was seeing Carl so sure of himself, and at the same time knowing that he was also wrong.  He is not ready to be alone, he is not ready to face the new world without Rick in it.

Rick did the best he could under the circumstances.  Do I think he deserves all the hate and blame? No.  He was vindicated in one of the final scenes as well.  Carl thought he was dead, and had turned.  Rick could barely move, he was panting and making gasping noises.  Carl, seeing his dad like that, couldn’t pull the trigger.  He even said go ahead.  He would rather die then face the world alone.  In the end, Rick laid there while Carl cried, and cradled his dad’s head.  The next morning, it showed them talking, and seeming to have reconciled.

All in all, it was an emotional ride.  It was condensed, but I think this tension is something that has built up and needed to escape.  This episode was the perfect opportunity for the safety valve to be opened.  Carl got his thoughts and anger out.  He also got to see that even though he thinks he is ready, in many ways he still needs his dad.  The question is are they completely healed?  Is the rift between Rick and Carl gone for good?  I’m not sure, as Carl’s treatment and monologue showed there was a lot of pent up anger towards Rick.  This is something that could possibly build up and explode again in the rest of the season.  Only time will tell.

The ending was a good note as well.  Michonne, after seeming to have gone back to her old ways, just says no.  She kills all the walkers she had been walking with, including her pets (There is that word again, have to think up something better).  This is an important scene for Michonne, because she had found tracks that were Rick and Carl’s.  Instead of following them, she just walked the other way.  This scene, showed that she didn’t want to go back to her old ways.  She wanted to be with her friends; her family as it is.  This scene solidified her commitment to not be the lone survivor.  She wanted to live, and for that she needed to reunite with those she cared about.

She sees Rick and Carl through a window, and just starts to laugh in joy.  She knocks, and Rick looks through the peep hole.  He smiles at Carl, and says it is for him.  The screen goes dark, and we are left with our own thoughts as to how the reunion will take place.  We will have to wait until next week to find out if they show a tearful happy reunion or not.

KC: I think my major issues with Rick come from the fact that I feel like I would be able to disconnect from my former life if I was in his shoes. Zombie apocalypse, the rules have changed, adapt accordingly. The times Rick has adapted accordingly happened when he killed Dave and Tony in the bar and the way he was acting up until the time of Lori’s death. Ruthless. My way or get out. Don’t trust anybody. The minute he let Woodbury join the prison, I knew he was being too soft again.

And honestly, I feel like Shane was right about how to lead in the post-apocalypse world. Sure, Shane was batshit crazy but so is/was Magneto (is he alive right now?) and I still can’t read any X-Men without thinking humans will never accept mutants. Same here: Do what you have to survive. There’s no time for morals and for trying to make your child have some form of a childhood. As Andy Dufresne once said, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” But that’s just me I guess. My wife tells me she wouldn’t be able to put me down if I turned into a walker, yet I tell her I would put her down without hesitation. I could just be full of myself and be one of those people that “opt out”. Who knows?

Maybe Carl and I are being too tough on Rick though. The council were the ones who were in charge of making the decisions since sometime between the end of season 3 and the start of season 4, so they should have stepped up there efforts to find the Governor.

Then you had the prison plague going on, so they had to split up and they lost a lot of Woodbury people that could have been in charge of finding the Gov.

Then again, we now know the Gov was in hiding for those 6 or so months since the end of season 3 until the day he kidnapped Herschel and Michonne. Trying to find himself. Trying to forget his past and failing miserably.

So I’m being hard on Rick. He’s human and I tend to forget that in this fantastic, walker filled world. Carl still lost his mother and maybe his sister though, he’ll be mad for awhile.

Michonne, however, will never be soft. She’s already lost loved ones before she met the group, lost another loved one in Herschel, and probably thinks the rest of the group is dead. She cares for Rick and Carl (and I’m still hoping that the Rick/Michonne hookup will happen at some point. Just a weird theory I have) but this episode shows that she knows how to carry on with her “life” if it all goes bad again.

TC: I admit part of me wonders if something drastic like this happened, could I disconnect from my old life?  I have to be truthful, Im not so sure.  According to the rules of Zombieland, I would be one of the first to go (If you haven’t seen the movie, first rule is cardio, so obviously in the beginning the fatties were the first)  That aside, saying I did survive, could I forget a lifetime of ethics, morals, and ways of thinking in just a short period of time?  Can’t answer that with any certainty.

It does happen even in modern times.  When disasters strike, and entire areas are devastated, many people resort to anything to survive sort of mentality.  Is it human nature?  Deep down we all like to believe that we are highly evolved, however there is a part of us that is survive first, worry about morality and ethics later.  However, it isn’t across the board.  It is also shown that during times of crisis, there are those that reach out and sacrifice their own well being to help others.  There are groups of people that work together and try to pull through situations.

Perhaps TWD is a fictional mirror of these events.  Think of the things like Woodbury and the Governor.  They obviously represent the anything to survive, kill or be killed first mentality.  Then, there are our heroes.  They have struggled, but overall have pulled together.  They have all done things they have trouble living with in order to survive.  Yet they have striven to make a new life in a world that most of us fans couldn’t really imagine.  We think we can watching, but come on.  Imagine not having electric, cell phones, or even a steady supply of clean water and food.  Try to imagine a world that you have to risk your life, just to get toilet paper.

I seem off topic but I’m not.  This is the world that they have to survive in.  They had this place, a sort of safe haven.  Yes, we find out it is not truly safe, but that is the rule in TWD universe.  “Safe”, is truly an illusion.  It is just more obvious when people are stripped of all comforts that most of us take for granted.  Imagine having that, then having a short break, just a time to sit back, enjoy a hot meal, watch your kids play and know you don’t have to worry about walkers every waking second.

I am trying to shift some of the blame from Rick still.  The entire show has been nothing but terror, uncertainty, and loss.  The prison gave him a reprieve, and I think he was trying to recharge his batteries.  It couldn’t last, because that is one of the central themes.  Nothing lasts, it just hits so much harder because they have very little good in their lives.  Would I adapt? Again, I’m not sure.  I think that honestly, after all they have been through, I would have been there with a shovel in the garden myself.

I also think that this episode really showed a stark difference between two concepts: survive and live.  Michonne as we saw was ready to survive.  She had gotten some of her pets, again that word, and was making her way into the wilderness.  However, she did stop.  Michonne can survive, but can she carry on with her “life”?

This is not a certainty.  Living, is more then survival.  It is a cliche but true, you can survive with the bare essentials, but the majority of us fans wouldn’t consider that any kind of a life.  Michonne was not living before the group, she was merely surviving.  She got used to it, and it made her strong.  However, with the group she got to live.

She got to make friends, enjoy company, and sleep peacefully without worrying about the next day of food and water.  This doesn’t sound much like a life.  However, considering how little these people actually have, friends and company are probably the greatest part of living.  I don’t think Michonne will ever be soft, but she knows the difference between surviving and living.  She chose to live, when she killed all the walkers in the group and tracked down Carl and Rick.  She knew that living meant being with them, those she cared about.

Final note, I have heard this weird idea about Michonne and Rick in a relationship.  I personally don’t see it.  I think it would be a twist, but that relationship has always seemed more like a brother/sister relationship.  I think that Michonne is actually closer to Carl, almost like a big sister.  I could see these two growing closer this season, as Carl is on the verge of a breakdown it seems as well.  Michonne may be the strong person he can lean on as he tries to deal with his own loss this season.  Michonne can continue to learn to live in the new world with Carl’s help.  It is obvious they have a bond that should be explored further.  Needless to say, I could be wrong.  We’ll just have to wait and see what happens this season.

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