THE WALKING DEAD ended the first half of its fourth season with an unfortunate bout of prick-waving by showrunner Scott Gimple; rather than break any new ground, Gimple decided to spend some episodes trying to prove he could do the end of TWD season 3 better than season 3 showrunner Glen Mazzara had done it. No real task, that, and even so, the results were, to put it as kindly as possible, significantly less than spectacular. That's over, though, the prison is gone, our heroes are scattered, and TWD returned tonight from its midseason break to pick up the story. I was curious to see what direction Gimple would take the show. Would it reflect the reformist TWD he launched earlier this season or would it fall back into the unfortunate habits of the Mazzara era, also in evidence in recent episodes? Alas, the first ep out of the gate, "After," is a frustratingly mixed bag, one I'm beginning to suspect may be the new normal for TWD.
The first thing
that must be said of it is that virtually nothing happens. It's yet
another TWD ep that features perhaps 15 minutes worth of plot that has
been padded to the gills in order to fill a full hour. Gimple's strong
distaste for Rick is, depressingly, still in evidence; the first act
features Rick behaving like a clueless idiot toward his son, who, to his
consternation, has adapted rather well to their zombified world. While
Rick sleeps off his injuries, Carl rehashes a monologue he originally
delivered at the end of season 3, noting Rick's serious failings as a
leader and venting his anger over it. He concludes by noting that, if
Rick died, he could take care of himself just fine. All things that
needed to be said, just as they needed to be said the first time around.
And, just as the first time around, the episode then sets out to refute
Carl's view, showing him as less uber-competent than he believes
himself to be.
Need I even note how very tiresome this particular pattern has become?
of the ep is nothing but filler. We follow Michonne around as she
surgically alters a pair of zombies into neutered, zombie-repelling
escorts on leashes, allowing her to once again walk among the dead. She
has dreams and does a lot of walking, pointlessly kills some zombies,
and adds essentially nothing but running-time to the ep. That's mostly
what happens with Carl as well. There are some nice little Gimple-esque
character bits tucked away in his plotline, but they're small and
virtually lost in it, as his "story" amounts to little more than his
doing a lot of walking, foraging for food, dealing with zombies, and
proving not to be as capable as he thinks he is, all stretched over far
more time than it should take. The ep's last line is a good one. I'm not
sure that matters very much.