‘The Walking Dead’ groans back to TV

Sunday night brought with it the first new episode of AMC’s hit series “The Walking Dead” since its shocking mid-season finale in December.

Although the episode may have disappointed some viewers following the action-packed cliffhanger on which the show left off, I found myself completely satisfied with the episode and intrigued as to where the rest of the season will be going.

When we left our group of survivors, the prison they inhabited lay a shambles from the Governor’s fatal attack, the Governor finally got what was coming to him and the group was scattered. Rick and Carl scrambled one way, Michonne another, while Glenn and Maggie escaped with a group of other survivors on a prison bus. Daryl, Beth, Tyrese and Sasha escaped as well, but their fates remain unknown.

 

 

Rather than catch us up to speed with the entire group, “After” (written by series executive producer Robert Kirkman), features only three characters: Rick, Carl and Michonne.

After barely escaping the prison, Rick knocks on death’s door. In searching for shelter, he and Carl find an empty house in a rural neighborhood and choose to stay the night.

For the very beginning of the episode, it’s clear the dynamic between father and son has changed drastically since the attack. Carl, who has endured more than any sane teenager should, is beligerant. He begins defying his father, digging up memories from the past just to hurt him and becomes suddenly careless and cocky.

Numerous times throughout the episode Carl put his life on the line by carelessly raiding houses for supplies, shooting walkers and making unecessary noise so as to, in a roundabout way, attract more attention. All of this occurs while Rick is passed out on a couch, and though Carl gives a short speech about how he doesn’t need his father, it becomes obvious when it seems he might have to “put his father down” that despite the façade he is putting on, he’s still a frightened kid.

Meanwhile, Michonne wanders on her own. As when we found her, she turns two walkers into her pets so as to keep others away from her. In looking for a trail, she comes across Rick’s boot print in the mud but makes a choice to ignore it and keep moving alone.

Michonne remains one of the more interesting characters on the show. The way in which actress Danai Gurira plays the character emphasizes her troubled past and leads viewers to assume Michonne has a severe case of post traumatic stress disorder.

A fantastic moment in the episode comes from both great writing by Kirkman and strong acting choices from Gurira. Michonne finds herself shutting down and returning to her old, solitary ways.

Rather than let herself do this, she releases her anger by slaughtering a horde of walkers while emotionally breaking down. It may have felt strange to some to see the strongest character on the show break down, but it just goes to accentuate the very human element that the show so deftly explains.

It may not have been the most action packed episode, but it was never meant to be. Rather than keeping their foot on the throttle, Kirkman and the rest of the show’s writers seemingly intend to take things slow for the next few weeks, focusing on character connections and the human story evident within the series.

The fans have come to know and love this fend-for-themselves, post-apocalyptic world. Inherent in this setting is the action-packed sequences we’ve come to know and love, but fans must realize that in order for the “Walking Dead” to realistically represent the characters, moments of tedium and emotional loneliness must exist.

Tonally, last night’s episode felt closer to that of the second season than what we’ve seen as of late, but that should be viewed as a positive. The writers have carefully broken up the characters, many of whom viewers care deeply about, and we all look forward to seeing how they bring them all back together over the course of the next seven weeks.

You can reach the reporter at seweinst@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @S_weinstein95