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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Walking Dead 4x09: After

My family and I don’t discuss our genitalia. I mean, maybe I had some questions when I really young but I don’t remember that long ago. There was never a formal declaration of this non-genitalia talk policy. We just all have had an unspoken understanding that none of us are interested in the others' private parts. The Grimes family must be very different than mine because Rick and Carl seem very concerned with whose dick is bigger.

We review How I Met Your Mother on this blog and, in general, there’s very little the two shows have in common. However, this episode cements one problem both these shows share: Recycling the same, annoying plotline to death. Just as I don’t care about taking another spin on Ted/Robin carousel, I’m very uninterested in rehashing the father/son problems of Rick and Carl. This a world filled with danger lurking behind every corner. Put your daddy issues aside, Carl.

I’m going to reference the comic in this part of the review. I’m 99% sure I’m not spoiling the comic nor the show with what I will say but if you’re really cautious about this sort of thing feel free to skip to the “Other Notes” portion of this post.

So this episode is almost directly lifted from a story from the comic. It was either one or two issues long. (I can never tell since the format in most “trade paperbacks” is to not put a break between issues. It’s a pet peeve of mine to be sure.) I remember liking the story from the comics. I did not like this episode. (I went back and read the issue(s) from the comic just to refresh myself.) There was one simple reason I liked the comic version: Carl was young.

I’m not exactly sure how young Carl is in the comic but he seemed 8-10 to me. Comic Carl was realizing his dad wasn’t perfect but he still respected him. And when Rick fell unconscious due to his injuries? Comic Carl actually tried to help him with what limited medical knowledge had (beyond violently shaking him). TV Carl’s actions were callous to the point of sociopathic. Seriously, his dad was seemingly close to dying and Carl did NOTHING to try and help him.

When comic Carl has to deal with the three zombies it’s suitably tense. Comic Carl is small, young and inexperienced. When he’s eventually dispatches them it is a feel good moment for this little kid. When TV Carl struggles against three zombies it’s laughable. Wasn’t he just mowing down 100 or so zombies with his dad just a few episodes prior? And then to act all tough and proud about taking down three zombies when he nearly failed? It just made TV Carl look even more silly.

When comic Carl talks to his unconscious dad about how he doesn’t need him anymore and can protect himself it comes across as a young kid being scared and vulnerable. Comic Carl believes his dad is going to die and he'll be left alone. Comic Carl was more trying to convince himself he could survive on his own more than really believing it. When TV Carl yells to Rick that he can take care of himself better than Rick could ever care for him? TV Carl just comes across as an ungrateful, punk teenager.

Perhaps that was what the TV show is going for. Maybe they’re trying to use the father/teen aged son drama as something the audience can relate to. Maybe it even it works for some people. It doesn’t work for me. I find it boring at best and infuriating at worst. Never am I enjoying it.

Other Thoughts:
I had no idea The Walking Dead was back until it popped up on my DVR. I don't know what that says about me, the show or my credibility as a reviewer but it probably says something about at least one of them!

When Michonne was swording all the zombies in the beginning my instinct was that she should keep going until all the zombies were dead. I had to remind myself that muscles do tire after extended and repeated use. I get worn out playing Zelda on the Wii!

Of all the dreams I’ve had in my life none of them have been as introspective, lucid and/or metaphorical as any dream ever in TV/movies.

I need to reiterate, you killed three zombies Carl...barely. No need to separate your shoulder patting yourself on the back.

Regarding Carl’s tirade against Rick, I’m confused what Rick’s farming had to do with the Governor attacking the prison.

Always remember: A zombie’s bite is only as quick or slow as the plot necessitates.

The people on the Talking Dead were really impressed with Carl’s crying scene. Me...not so much.

Also on the Talking Dead, they had an apocalypse survivalist giving tips. When your first tip is how useful Hydrogen Peroxide is for its “medical benefits” you’ve lost all credibility.

12 comments:

  1. The one thing I'll say for this episode is that it seems like they're trying something different, actually keeping the cast separate for more than an episode, highlighting one segment of the cast in each episode while not even checking in with the other segments.

    Now, I could be wrong, and next week could begin the rebuilding of the group, and lord know I much, much prefer an overarching macro-narrative to the kind of small "done-in-one" micro-narratives this more character-focused approach suggests, but at the same time, this show has so thoroughly and repeatedly shown an inability to satisfyingly tell any kind of long-form macro-narrative that maybe they'll be better at this new approach?

    My family and I don’t discuss our genitalia... The Grimes family must be very different than mine because Rick and Carl seem very concerned with whose dick is bigger.

    Haha! I was *really* wondering where you were going with that. Nicely done!

    but if you’re really cautious about this sort of thing feel free to skip to the “Other Notes” portion of this post.

    Alan Sepinwall thanks you. :)

    I can never tell since the format in most “trade paperbacks” is to not put a break between issues.

    Ugh, that's a shame. I've obviously never read the Walking Dead trades, but fwiw not all trades are constructed that way - that is, some of them do indicate when an issue ends, usually by including the cover of each issue as it occurs.

    Wasn’t he just mowing down 100 or so zombies with his dad just a few episodes prior?

    In a scene AMC reprised during a commercial break of this episode in a (successful) attempt to get me to stop fast forwarding through commercials at the wrong time.

    I had no idea The Walking Dead was back until it popped up on my DVR.

    Yeah, I meant to give you a heads up about that last week, and just kept forgetting...

    I need to reiterate, you killed three zombies Carl...barely.

    And wasted the rest of your precious ammunition NOT killing another one.

    Regarding Carl’s tirade against Rick, I’m confused what Rick’s farming had to do with the Governor attacking the prison.

    I took it to mean that Carl felt Rick could have been out hunting down the Governor instead of farming, so that he never could have come back, blown apart the prison, scattered their friends, etc. Which, he kinda has a point, though the show did at least suggest that Michonne had been looking for, and not finding, him.

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  2. @Teebore - "The one thing I'll say for this episode is that it seems like they're trying something different, actually keeping the cast separate for more than an episode, highlighting one segment of the cast in each episode while not even checking in with the other segments."

    Yeah, just in general I'm not a fan of having groups split up for long periods of time. For whatever reason I enjoy watching teams be together. I feel like scattering group members is usually used as a way to pad stories. The members spend their time trying to find each other instead of working towards whatever they should be working towards. Then again, I have no idea what this group is working towards.

    Long story short (too late), it may not be my preferred approach but, like everything, it will really come down to execution.

    "Ugh, that's a shame. I've obviously never read the Walking Dead trades, but fwiw not all trades are constructed that way - that is, some of them do indicate when an issue ends, usually by including the cover of each issue as it occurs."

    Yeah, in the old days trades were constructed with issue breaks. I just feel like most modern trades (including non-Walking Dead trades) don't do that. But maybe I'm reading the wrong ones.

    "And wasted the rest of your precious ammunition NOT killing another one."

    Yeah, that was ridiculous too. I didn't discuss it because that scene doesn't occur in the comic but, frankly, it would've fit better there.

    "I took it to mean that Carl felt Rick could have been out hunting down the Governor instead of farming"

    Yeah, I guess, but as you say Michonne was out looking for him and had no luck. The practical side of me just thinks about how difficult it would be to track down anybody once their trail has gone cold. At that point they're better off just securing the defenses of the prison in case the Governor comes back, which is a big if. The Governor is insane but that insanity could either lead to him trying to get revenge against Rick (which it did) or to him forgetting about Rick and the prison altogether.

    Beyond all that, though, the people of the prison do need to eat and farming is a good way to feed them. It's not like Rick was building a ship-in-a-bottle. He was providing a valuable service.

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  3. I really liked this episode. I hesitate to use the word "realistic," but 13-ish Carl blaming all the stuff he's gone through on his dad? I found it believable. Same as when Carl overestimated his skills, ignored dad's advice about wasting ammo, went from rejecting to needing his dad, and showed self-centeredness; very much in keeping with adolescent males.

    Also, Michonne's dream sequence was one of the freakiest scenes the show's ever had. It got under my skin way more than any zombie action.

    Different strokes, I guess.

    - Mike Loughlin

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  4. The members spend their time trying to find each other instead of working towards whatever they should be working towards. Then again, I have no idea what this group is working towards.

    Yeah, that's the only reason I think maybe this could work: this show already is never really building towards any specific goal or overarching narrative (and if they are, its destined to be blown up by season/half season's end). So since they're not going to be building towards anything anyway, eh, maybe a different approach will work out better?

    It's not like Rick was building a ship-in-a-bottle. He was providing a valuable service.

    "Dad! People are dying out there!"

    "In a minute, Caurrrl, I've almost got the main sail in place!"

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  5. We also didn't realize WD was back until we saw it on our DVR. And then we sat on it for a few days, feeling conflicted. We both wanted to watch it, and not.
    Finally we decided we'd just keep watching and reassess at the end of this season.

    I felt Carl's attitude was appropriate for a preteen boy, but i didn't feel it was that appropriate for Carl. It seemed he was just rehashing stuff we had already gone through in regards to his relationship with his dad.

    And we are with Bitz in that we'd much rather watch a show where the characters are together than separate.

    Also, i'm just pissed, as usual. Like, they had an evac plan, which was great and a step up from their usual dumbfuckery of stumbling around. But at no time did they say "if we have to evac the prison, and people get separated, everyone will meet up at the old willow stump a mile from here. We will wait there for three days for anyone before we leave."

    I mean, hell, we as a society do that today in regards to hurricane and earthquake disaster prep plans and you're telling me not one of those people thought something like that would be a good idea?
    I just call bullshit on it once again.

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  6. ooh, i also wanted to add something else we discussed at lenght.

    So Carl's fighting zombs and one of them has maggots crawling around in his skull.

    That opens up a world of problems for me. If maggots are eating the dead, that means bacteria would be eating the dead, which means they should be decaying at a much more rapid pace than they are, ESPECIALLy in the heat down in the south.

    To me, it's just another example of them being like "ooh, maggots would be cool and they'll make Carl barf" instead of thinking about how that one little detail effects the world they've built

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  7. @Mike "Same as when Carl overestimated his skills, ignored dad's advice about wasting ammo, went from rejecting to needing his dad, and showed self-centeredness; very much in keeping with adolescent males."

    First of all, I'll fully admit that I'm not a big fan of family drama on a show like The Walking Dead to begin with. So they were already behind the eight-ball with me.

    But my bigger issue is that this is a road they've already traveled. Carl and Rick seemed to have been at odds with each other for the past two seasons. I thought they had put that behind them in the episode where they mow down zombies together like a good father and son duo should. But rehashing the adolescent rebelliousness, especially so soon, really started to wear on me.

    "Also, Michonne's dream sequence was one of the freakiest scenes the show's ever had. It got under my skin way more than any zombie action."

    I pretty much liked all the Michonne stuff from this episode. Not that it's difficult to get me to like Michonne stuff.

    @Sarah: "But at no time did they say "if we have to evac the prison, and people get separated, everyone will meet up at the old willow stump a mile from here. We will wait there for three days for anyone before we leave.""

    To be fair, Michonne did find Rick and Carl pretty easily. So perhaps where Rick and Carl are is the meeting place and the rest of the group are working their way to it?

    If that were really the case, you'd hope they would have made it more explicitly clear.

    "If maggots are eating the dead, that means bacteria would be eating the dead"

    Well, we're getting away from my area of expertise (Do I have one?) but are we sure maggots won't eat something if bacteria won't?

    Bacteria doesn't eat Twinkies but I certainly can. Would maggots eat a Twinkie though? Is there anything "anti-bacterial" that a maggot would eat or would the same thing that makes something resistant to bacteria also make it non-nutritious for maggots to eat and, thus, maggots could not sustain themselves on it?

    Beyond that, zombies are decaying. What is the cause of this decay? Is it just supposed to be external factors like wind and water erosion or maybe bacteria are consuming the zombies but only very slowly?

    At the end of the day, zombie physics will never make much sense in the real world and, you're right, they just put the maggots on the zombie to make him look creepier.

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  8. @Mike: // 13-ish Carl blaming all the stuff he's gone through on his dad? I found it believable. //

    I'm on that page, mostly.

    Yeah, Rick and Carl have been down this road before to an extent. The attack on the prison — Judith's presumed death, especially, but also the loss of chosen, battle-forged family — was such a major, irreversible explosion of their situation, however, that I can see it kicking up more adolescent dander. Also, I wonder if seeing his dad in such grievous shape didn't prompt Carl to at least subconsciously reject Rick before Rick could "reject" Carl (again, and permanently this time) by dying on him.

    The problem is that despite the plaudits sent his way on the aftershow I still don't think that the kid playing Carl is up to all the material he's been given, so it's hard to separate any frustration with how Carl is written from frustration with how he's being performed on top of the usual schism of acknowledging that a plot is valid even if you don't like what's being done to the characters.

    @DrBitz: // Of all the dreams I’ve had in my life none of them have been as introspective, lucid and/or metaphorical as any dream ever in TV/movies. //

    While this is usually a peeve of mine as well, I can't slam this instance. Dreams that recur perfectly or actually play back past events as they happened? I'm not familiar with that and it feels unrealistic. Just this past week, however, I've had incredibly vivid, believable dreams that in one case eerily anticipate a confrontation I think is looming in my personal life (nothing heavy, thankfully, despite how the dream played out) and in another case dredged up an old friend to counsel me. At first it seemed like Michonne's dream was too perfect a replication of her old life, but the way the landscape shifted around her came across very much like a dream to me. I also liked that in Talking Dead (which I grant shouldn't be in the business of clarifying stuff from the episode itself) Danai Gurira and Greg Nicotero mentioned that we didn't even know if the house in which Michonne saw herself in the dream was indeed her old house.

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  9. @DrBitz: // I’m confused what Rick’s farming had to do with the Governor attacking the prison. //

    Like Teebore said, I took it as Carl believing that Rick should've been out searching for the Governor. Not that others couldn't do that, as Michonne was, but I guess Carl felt like that was Rick's job — which kind-of invalidates another part of his argument, because if Rick was all weak and Carl didn't need him anymore...

    I still wonder why the creative team, in the admittedly little analysis I've read or seen (Talking Dead and posts on the Entertainment Weekly blogs), has never brought up the fact that Michonne was doing more than just looking for the Governor but was in fact leaving booby-traps for him. To me the second episode of that two-part flashback in which his new gang came across various beheaded corpses with signs around their necks totally suggested that Michonne was behind it, decapitation and wanting revenge against the Governor being her things, in an effort to taunt the Governor and lead him to one of numerous places she'd left walkers positioned to get him.

    @DrBitz: // I feel like scattering group members is usually used as a way to pad stories. The members spend their time trying to find each other instead of working towards whatever they should be working towards. Then again, I have no idea what this group is working towards. //

    Like Teebore said, again, I'm with you there but particularly on the last part and so I'm hopeful that this change of pace will be more rewarding. Unless the show (very unbelievably and counter to the way it introduced the show's milieu) puts the means of ending "walkerism" into the hands of our little band of characters, they can really only be working towards one thing: surviving, even living fulfilling lives as much as they can, by creating a little oasis of community. The prison was that and I still think it was a mistake for the series not to really let us see the group's daily life there before the flu and the rat-feeding maybe and the Governor's return sent it all to hell.

    @Teebore: // "In a minute, Caurrrl, I've almost got the main sail in place!" //

    Rick will never starve because he always has his son's name to chew on. That was hilarious.

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  10. @Blam: "he attack on the prison — Judith's presumed death, especially, but also the loss of chosen, battle-forged family — was such a major, irreversible explosion of their situation, however, that I can see it kicking up more adolescent dander."

    While it may be realistic that the events would kick up Carl's adolescent dander (towards Rick) it's also realistic that it wouldn't. And I would have preferred the latter.

    "While this is usually a peeve of mine as well, I can't slam this instance."

    I actually really wasn't slamming this dream sequence. It was better than a lot of dream sequences but it wasn't perfect. My point really is they never can be perfect.

    There's an...ethereal...quality to dreams that can never be duplicated. Plus, there's always a lot of incongruities that you accept as reality in a dream that only come across as odd once you're awake. But to putting those into a TV/movie dream sequence just comes across as overly silly.

    I just recently had a dream where I booked a trip with a group of people but I forgot about it. Suddenly I remembered and had to rush to the airport. So I was scrambling online to get my ticket and then found the plane was delayed but couldn't figure out when the plane was supposed to leave. Then, I saw my itinerary and could swear I wasn't supposed to go where it said I was going. So then I tried to figure out if I really was supposed to go there or if I booked the wrong flight. I was horribly rushed, confused and stressed.

    To sum it up, not only could I not get to where I wanted to go but I wasn't even sure where it was that I wanted to end up.

    Which could be profound but I place a lot less stock into dreams than TV/movies.

    "To me the second episode of that two-part flashback in which his new gang came across various beheaded corpses with signs around their necks totally suggested that Michonne was behind it"

    I got the impression that those were left behind by just some random psycho (who ended up being the zombie in the house). But perhaps I missed something?

    "The prison was that and I still think it was a mistake for the series not to really let us see the group's daily life there before the flu and the rat-feeding maybe and the Governor's return sent it all to hell."

    Totally agree.

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  11. @Blam

    Like Teebore said, I took it as Carl believing that Rick should've been out searching for the Governor. Not that others couldn't do that, as Michonne was, but I guess Carl felt like that was Rick's job — which kind-of invalidates another part of his argument, because if Rick was all weak and Carl didn't need him anymore...

    It was certainly an incoherent and contradictory rant. But then, that's what teenagers do. When they're strung out and pissed off, this kind of stream-of-consciousness bellow against the world is, like, 20% about what they say it's about? At most?

    Trying to parse this stuff is like trying to hug smoke. Carl could just have yelled "I AM ANGRY AND UPSET AND SCARED" thirty times and we'd have acquired almost as much information as we did regarding how he thinks he sees things. Everything of note here is in what his tirade actually reveals, rather than what he thinks he's saying.

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  12. @DrBitz: // I got the impression that those were left behind by just some random psycho (who ended up being the zombie in the house). //

    Apparently that's all it was. I'll chalk it up to the phenomenon of reading more into what we're given than is actually there, recently under discussion in Teebore's X-Men posts.

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