The Walking Dead Recap: Growing Pains

The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 9Although the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead divides its time between Rick and Carl’s increasingly contentious relationship and Michonne’s crisis of faith, its conclusion leaves you with a sense that you could almost put “Happily Ever” in front of the episode’s title, “After.” Read on, and I’ll explain why.

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NOTHING BUT RUBBLE | The hour opens with Michonne watching walkers amble toward the smoking prison as if they own the place — an especially sad tableau, considering that, just before the Governor’s assault, she’d decided to stick around. Yet even that sight pales in comparison to what she sees next: After (literally) disarming two walkers for camouflage, she happens upon Hershel’s zombified head and has to put her katana sword through her friend’s skull. If that doesn’t bum you out, wait…

SHARPER THAN A SERPENT’S TOOTH | On the road, an injured Rick and Carl clash more or less non-stop as they seek out food and shelter. And, if it weren’t for the constant danger that they’re in, it would be easy to mistake their power struggle for typical father/adolescent bickering. (“Excuse me?” and “Are you kidding me?” are just a coupla the classics that they shoot at each other.) Even after the duo take refuge in an abandoned suburban home, Carl can’t resist baiting his pop by mentioning Shane.

MOST HAUNTED | Meanwhile, Michonne spots Rick and Carl’s tracks on a muddy path… but chooses instead to wander the woods among the living dead. In other words, she surrenders. Only after a nightmare flashes her back to her late lover and their baby — and his eventual hopelessness — does she have a (well-deserved) mini-meltdown, kill all of her undead traveling companions (including one who coulda won a Michonne look-alike contest) and try to catch up with her pals.

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THIS BOY’S LIFE | Back in the ’burbs, Rick is so achy and tired that it’s hard to tell whether he’s sleeping or in a coma. Either way, during his extensive nap, Carl has one near-miss after another while protecting the house and scavenging for supplies. And, with Rick in no position to respond, the teen really lets his old man have it, blaming him for the demises of everyone from Judith to Lori and insisting, “I’d be fine if you died.” (Ouch.) Mind you, his anger and bravado evaporate instantly when his dad’s raspy breathing makes it appear that Rick has turned.

TOGETHER AGAIN | Thankfully, Rick has not turned. He’s just so banged-up that he sounds like he feels — in other words, like s—. “I’m scared,” Carl finally admits over and over. The next morning, Rick tells it to his son like it is — things are never gonna be the way they were again. Not only that, but he apologizes for treating him like a kid. “You’re a man, Carl.” Then, as if to suggest that, while things may never be the same, they may still be okay, there’s a knock at the door. “It’s for you,” Rick says to Carl. And it’s hard to tell who looks more elated to have found each other again, Rick or Michonne.

Okay, your turn. What did you think of the episode? I was impressed that, even after all this time, the show can still make me jump (as it did when the walker hidden behind the door surprised Carl). Grade the ep below and then elaborate in the comments!

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