The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 9 recap

The Walking Dead returns and immediately makes a really good decision. Carl is Carl is UGH, and Rick might be brain dead, or maybe just dead-dead. And Michonne had a pretty nice life before the zombies came. This week, on These are the Days of our Dead.

No seriously, the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead was a strong episode, even if it did feature an awful lot of Carl being Carl (UGH). Right off the bat we’re treated to the cinematic visuals that have, even at its worst moments, defined the show. The overhead shot of the besieged tank at the prison calls back to Rick in the besieged tank in downtown Atlanta at the end of season one, and is a nice touch as we close out the “prison” chapter of the show.

The prison is abandoned and overrun, and Michonne is all alone as she looks for fellow survivors. Instead she sees the Governor’s dead body and Hershel’s severed head, now reanimated as an ankle biter. She puts him out of his misery, but not before we see a flicker of emotion on her face. Sadness? Disgust? Regret? It seems to be all three rolled into one.

This episode very wisely only focused on Michonne and Rick and Carl. The others will undoubtedly be seen in future episodes, but the major advantage of splitting up the group as they were in the mid-season finale is that it gives us a chance to narrow the focus and deal with just a few characters at a time. Of course, the downside is that that forced us to spend a lot of screen time with Carl (UGH), but we also got to see a flashback to Michonne’s pre-zombie life. She had a boyfriend, a young son and a sweet-looking apartment in Atlanta. She was cultured—the colorful cat takes on new meaning—and her life seems pretty comfy.

But then the scene darkens, the buildings outside are in shambles, and she and her boyfriend and his friend (the two “pet” zombies we first saw her with) are arguing about what to do next. The implication is that her baby son died as a result of the decision they made. So now we know more about Michonne and why she is such a zombie-killing machine. Going to “the camp” or not going, it didn’t matter. Either way, everyone she loved ended up eaten by a zombie.

Meanwhile, with Rick and Carl (UGH). Rick can be annoying in his self-righteousness, and Carl is not wrong that he can be an effective partner in any and all zombie-killing activities. But an entire episode of Carl bitching out his father when Rick is nearly dead from the Governor’s beating? UGH. It just seems like the worst possible time for Carl to be having a bout of teenaged angst. The (supposed) loss of Judith hits both of them hard, true, but I still don’t feel there’s a good reason for Carl to be so dismissive and awful toward Rick. WHO IS NEARLY DEAD.

Given that Rick is badly injured, this would be a great chance for Carl to step up and take the lead, which I think is this point of this episode, but he mostly just comes across as whiny and petulant (also terrible at breaking down doors). It’s partially due to bad writing—most of Carl’s dialogue is just, “God, DAD, you’re the WORST!”—but it’s also Chandler Riggs’ acting range being limited to eye rolls and sighs. Showing me Carl constantly getting in over his head is not the way to convince me that Carl is really ready to leave Rick behind.

Fortunately, Carl ultimately arrives at that same conclusion and makes up with Rick, who admits that he made some bad decisions before, even though all he wanted was to find some normalcy for Carl. And Carl accepts that he does need Rick and is not ready to deal with this sh*t alone, thus cancelling out his Home Alone wish of, “I wish you would just die!” So even though he was annoying along the way, Carl gets where he needs to be, emotionally. And then Michonne shows up! So this is our A-unit: Rick, Carl and Michonne. I’m glad Michonne is there because Carl’s idea of first aid is to violently shake his badly beaten and concussion-having father. Left to Carl’s sociopathic mercies, Rick would be fed nothing but pudding until he died of an inevitable brain hemorrhage.

Status Check:
Officer Rick – Narrowly avoids becoming Serial Killer Carl’s first victim.
Carl – Pudding enthusiast.
Michonne – Processes her staggering grief into sheer, unrivaled badassery.
Everyone Else – In the…woods?

Worst thing seen/heard this week: Carl puking. I cannot STAND watching/listening to people vomit, even if it’s fake and on TV.

Zombie kill of the week: Michonne and her many beheadings.