***WARNING. MANY SPOILERS AHEAD***
After the brilliant mid-season climactic Episode 8, “Too Far Gone,” possibly the best episode yet, we get a welcome return to Atlanta’s wasteland. The Group is split, we don’t know if baby Judith is alive, Rick is barely walking, his head recently severely broken up by The Governor. The Governor got his comeuppance in Episode 8, courtesy of Michonne’s Samurai sword and a gunshot to the head courtesy of his “wife.” He will reappear.
We see nothing of the Group in After with the exception of Rick and his now very grown up and hardened teenager, Carl, stumbling around Atlanta suburbs looking for sleep and supplies. The gun arsenal is perilously low for the men. Once they find shelter, Rick and Carl argue about the conservative use of their pistols as a walker sneaks in for a possible meal. Rick finally gets to sleep but does not wake up the next morning as Carl begins a brilliant monologue. Over four seasons of work, the child actor Chandler Riggs is developing his acting skills and on this episode he shares the spotlight with Danai Gurira with chops. Carl tells his sleeping (Or dead? Or in a Coma? Of course not! The 5th season was green lit months ago and is about to go into production) father that he alone is at fault for the splitting of the group (“and all you cared about was your stupid garden,” [Sic]) and for the death of group members including Rick’s wife and Carl’s mother, Lori. He tells his dad that he no longer needs his protection and we certainly do not believe that. Carl gets careless and has a couple of close calls.
One annoyance with this episode is its slight leaning towards the typical horror surprise timing.
Michonne has gone back to her original posse of two walkers with their arms chopped off and mouths scraped out. This time, interestingly enough, the rope bound walkers follow her instead of leading her as in earlier episodes. She has the only weapon she needs.
One of the creepiest scenes is a flashback sequence in which a beautifully dressed and coifed Michonne is preparing gourmet food for two men in a posh flat, one her husband and the other a mystery friend. When Michonne is first introduced in the show, her dead cohorts are these two men. Michonne is holding a small child as the two men get in a cryptic conversation (in the scene Michonne just grins at the two arguing men) that continues this interesting story arc. Alas, the flashback is yet a dream; but the flashback bleeds into the dream as the child disappears, the men now appear armless and mouthless, the power is out and M is shrieking. M wakes up in a car with the walking dead surrounding her overnight accommodations.
As she walks among the disinterested dead she recognizes a woman, we think. Off goes her head and Michonne’s invincibility is gone in a cool sequence of multiple zombie be-headings.
Given the producers’ penchant for a memorable kill we get an early scene with Michonne’s sword going into the poor severed head of beloved Hershel. Hershel has turned but will have trouble biting others as he is only a severed head. Superb effects and makeup as always.
Now we await the appearance of the separated group, the majority of which escaped from the war torn prison in a bus. Sisters, Maggie and Beth? Tyreese with two young heroic and one of them possibly insane young girls that saved him? Daryl, where the hell are you? You cannot go away because you are, after all, the soul of the show. Carol, will you re-amerge and become the next Governor? At the end of the episode a healing Rick tells his son that he is officially a man, not after granting the audience with the possibility that Rick has turned as he stumbles toward Carl. Carl is brandishing a gun in tears then becomes willing at that moment to accept his fate and meet his father in the undead. No biting occurs, Rick is going to be ok and Carl gets to eat a 100 ounce can of chocolate pudding.
“It’s for You,” says Rick to Carl as Michonne knocks on the door.