Opposing Views: THE WALKING DEAD, “After”

Every show requires some suspension of disbelief, but The Walking Dead‘s complete ignorance of logic and its own universe’s rules are really trying the patience of this viewer.

Note: The incredibly talented Rachel Gibson Shepherd and I are splitting write-ups of The Walking Dead’s fourth season. If you’re looking for a more straightforward recap of this week’s episode, head over to her recap. I’ll have that next week. For this week I’ll be discussing my continued frustrations with the show. It may shed a little light on the way our recaps will differ.

Ughhhhhh!!!…….

– Zombies, always. And Chase Branch, every Sunday night

As someone who loves film and TV shows, I’m a firm believer that anything you watch requires at least some suspension of disbelief. Some shows just require a lot more than others. It’s the type of rule that should make a show like The Walking Dead an easy watch for me, and, in a lot of ways, it really is. I’ve seen every episode, but I always catch myself referring to it as “The Stupidest Show I’ve Ever Completely Loved.” The Walking Dead’s problem is that it seems to constantly disregard its own rules, and that issue was massively on display in this half season’s opener, “After.”

We open on the remains of the midseason finale’s battle. Smoke billows, structural damage is recounted, and walkers swarm the prison grounds. The Governor lays cold and dead on the ground, having been brought back at the end of the season’s first half, seemingly just so he could be killed (David Morrisey’s got other shows to work on now, so we’ve got to tie up these Governor storylines FAST!). Enter Michonne stage right. She’s back at the prison to collect some new walker escorts.

Remember the stunning visual the first time we met Michonne? She was a hooded figure walking through the fog with two armless, jawless walkers chained by her sides and a katana on her back. It was awesome. Now, two seasons later, Michonne collects two new walkers – jaws and arms freshly removed – and sets out on the road again. But why? Why does Michonne need these new walkers now?

In the comics, Michonne’s pet walkers were Mike, Michonne’s pre-apocalypse boyfriend, and Terry, his best friend. While there was much speculation as to who the two original walkers were, the show never exactly got around to revealing the answer. “After” seemingly finally confirmed this to be the case with a flashback/nightmare of Michonne’s pre-apocalypse life where both Terry and Mike are present (along with Michonne and Mike’s child) before morphing into an image of the two men with no arms.

So Michonne’s attachment to Mike and Terry was at least partially emotional. She also originally claimed that, with their dangerous parts removed, her pet walkers were no longer a threat to her, and they helped camouflage her from dangerous walkers on the road. She was also able to use them as pack mules to carry her supplies. But at the start of “After,” Michonne needs none of these things. She doesn’t have any supplies since she unexpectedly fled the prison with everyone else during the midseason finale. She doesn’t have any emotional attachment to these two walkers. They aren’t former characters that recently turned. As far as we know, she doesn’t know them from any other walkers. They just happened to be the two that walked into her trap at the beginning of the episode. Lastly, when we first saw Michonne at the beginning of this season she was returning to the prison having spent weeks on her own trying to hunt down the governor. She didn’t have any pet walkers at her side then, so why does she need them now? Simply put, there’s no reason for her to have these walkers except that is makes it easy for the showrunners to draw parallels between her situation then and her situation now. It’s lazy writing.

The other half of the episode focuses on Carl and Rick. They, too, are on the run alone after having fled the prison. Viewers are in for another hour rehashing their same continuous fight: Carl isn’t a little kid anymore, and he wants Rick to stop treating him like one. He’s prepared to face dangerous situations and help provide. Rick, having lost his wife, and with his infant daughter currently missing, just wants to protect his son. It’s a story The Walking Dead has covered a dozen times already.

When Rick and Carl find a bar/restaurant that they can scavenge supplies from, drama ensues. This bar seems to exist miraculously, mostly untouched, and with food to provide our weary travelers despite the crew at the prison having supposedly scavenged this area for supplies repeatedly over the last few months. It’s also just off the side of the road where any passing traveler in the midst of a FREAKING APOCALYPSE over the last two years could have walked in and scavenged for supplies (again, LOGIC!). Naturally, there’s a walker inside, and Rick lectures Carl about the importance of killing this walker without using up their limited supply of bullets.

Now, over the last season and a half, we’ve seen walkers killed in a myriad of ridiculous ways. Apparently walker heads turn into a weak mush after a year or so (theoretically, they’re decomposing, so this doesn’t, by itself, bother me) because one of the chief strategies to kill them at the prison was to lure the walkers up to a chain-link fence and stab pieces of dull rebar through their heads. At one point a character (I want to say Glen, but it might have been Daryl) even kills a walker by just stomping on its head. The walker is dispatched in a squelch of mucky goo. It’s been established: walker heads are a very weak, decomposed substance. So why is Rick unable to drive A HATCHET(!) through the walker’s forehead in the bar? Even given Rick’s weakened condition this ought to be cake. Furthermore, the walker’s head is solid enough that Rick can’t even get the hatchet back out. Carl has to shoot it. Weirdly, twenty minutes later, Michonne is seemingly able to cut through two and three walker heads at a time no problem with her katana, brain matter and skulls be damned. You made these rules, Walking Dead, why can’t anyone seem to follow them? They’re seemingly only useful when the show wants to ratchet up the drama.

Unsurprisingly, Carl later uses up all his bullets in one of those classic “I’ve got everything under control here- OH CRAP! MY OWN HUBRIS HAS LED ME TO FALL INTO THE CLUTCHES OF WALKERS I NEVER EXPECTED!” moments that the show’s writers seem to love. Luring the walkers away from the door of the house his father is sleeping/comatose in, Carl walks backwards and trips right into the arms of another walker. Barely escaping, Carl then moves on to another house to scavenge for food. Again, he trips while moving backwards away from a walker (you’ve learned nothing, young padawan), and uses up the reminder of his bullets wildly blasting at it. He can’t kill it by hitting it in the head with a metal lamp (again, why?), so he has to struggle away from it and lock it in a bedroom, losing his shoe in the process. Carl’s so proud that he sits on the roof eating an incomprehensible amount of pudding, he and the writers seemingly oblivious to the fact that he still has to walk everywhere he goes, and he’s seriously screwed without a shoe.

Back at the house, Carl falls asleep in seemingly comatose or dying father’s lap. This is the episode’s stupidest moment. The Walking Dead has firmly established that everyone reanimates as a walker when they die. They don’t even have to have been bitten. Had Rick died and reanimated while Carl was sleeping, the boy’s head would have been sitting there in Rick’s lap like an appetizer for Rick’s new afterlife. Carl knows this. They’ve been over the rules for zombieism before. As Carl had proved that a door is apparently adequate protection from a walker in the previous scenes, all Carl had to do is sleep in the closest adjoining room with a door to be safe from his father potentially dying, coming back to life, and feasting upon his (obviously empty) young head. Instead he’s seemingly daring Rick to do it. It’s the kind of thing that will drive you crazy.

Don’t worry. Rick somehow turns out fine just in time for him and Carl to be reunited with Michonne at the episode’s conclusion so that they can continue their inane zombie adventures in the coming weeks. I want to love The Walking Dead unconditionally, but they always seem to make it so dang hard. Maybe I’m just wishing that it would take its incredible store of possibility and become a better show. After three and a half seasons that’s seeming like less and less of a possibility. Apparently, I’m the one who’s being completely illogical.

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