Back by popular demand, Ms. Hillary Bauer will once again be offering Episode-by-Episode reviews and recaps for TV’s most beloved Zombie Apocalypse Thriller: The Walking Dead. So hold on to your butts folks, there are walkers abound!
But wait – you look like you could use a recap! Check out Hillary’s previous posts, here.
And now for Review #9, the midseason premiere:
The Walking Dead is back, people! It’s been a long winter up here in Massachusetts without zombies to keep my heart rate up. In the meantime, the holidays came and went and apparently the most noteworthy thing I did in 2013 was write these recaps because I got a serious amount of zombie swag for Christmas. I got everything from the graphic novel to zombie cookie cutters, and even a zombie pint glass. Not to mention a Daryl stuffed animal to keep me safe every Sunday night. He has a poncho and crossbow; he’s adorable. I was thrilled to break him in this past Sunday with the mid-season premiere.
I spent the first half of the season complaining about there being too many characters. Welp, that’s the one thing I can’t say about this episode. The prison imploded at the hands of the Governor in the mid-season finale and scattered our main players into a million little groups, so we start with one tiny fragment: sleepy Rick and cranky Carl, with a side of Michonne. Actually, this is just the Carl hour. Seriously, there’s a lot of Carl.
We open on the screwed up prison (specifically, the tank that Daryl exploded like the bamf that he is). Michonne is assessing the situation and beheading walkers like it’s no biggie. She even finds herself some new zombie pets to ward off other walkers. We watch them run into the pointy sticks, but I’m happy that the arm and jaw removing happened off screen. Ease me in gently, Walking Dead. But, of course, that doesn’t happen. As Michonne is walking away from the prison, she comes across Hershel’s zombie head. I’m still so not ok with losing that majestic silver stallion! Michonne puts him out of his misery and busts out the sword for Hershel, resting her hand of his forehead as she pulls it out. If it wasn’t already obvious that Michonne had a PTSD story arc coming, stabbing the man who was killed next to you cements it.
We swap over to Rick and Carl on the road. Carl is booking it and leaving his severely injured father in the dust. Rick yells after him, telling Carl that they have to keep together but can’t even bring himself to reassure his son that they’re gonna be ok. Optimism is tough when you just lost your home and baby because of your arch-nemesis. (Sidenote: I’m still holding out hope for Lil’ Ass Kicker.)
The Grimes men come up on a bar and Rick goes into protector mode, telling Carl to keep watch while he goes inside to clear the place. Carl responds, “LOL, you can’t even walk. Are we done pretending I’m still a kid now?” For real though, puberty has hit Carl like a bus since the beginning of the season. The men find a zombie who is likely the Joe of Joe and Joe Jr.’s. The only real hint is a note from Joe Jr. that says “Please do what I couldn’t,” which, it is fair to assume, means kill his father. Rick attempts to take out zombie Joe with a hatchet, but can’t seal the deal. Carl sees that he’s in trouble and shoots Joe which sets Rick off since he’s pretending that his broken ass is still in charge. Luckily, the bar has more in it than just hot sauce so the Grimes men grab their booty and move on. Not to be out done, Carl makes sure to note that he has a bigger haul with a simple, “I win.”
Elsewhere, Michonne is taking her new pets for a walk when she comes across footsteps in the mud. She appears to assume they belong to someone from the prison gang, but crosses the trail rather than following it.
Rick and Carl find an abandoned house and bust in to clear it. Rick insists on taking point, but Carl pushes through the house and gets farther in than his father. When Rick calls him on it, Carl starts banging on the wall and yelling obscenities. Rick tells him to watch his mouth, but Carl appropriately responds, “Really?!” because honestly, should vocabulary be their biggest concern in the apocalypse?
The downstairs of the house is zombie-free, so Carl moves to the upstairs where he finds a teenage boy’s bedroom. This scene is actually pretty sad. Carl’s face lights up at the entertainment center with all its dvds and video games. (P.S. Those are clearly X-box games next to a Playstation remote #gamergirlproblems.) The part that makes it a total bummer is that Carl is looking at what his childhood could have been sans zombies. Carl’s wistful moment passes though, and he rips the cord out of the tv so that he can rig the front door shut. Rick moves a couch over to reinforce the knot which causes Carl to take offense. Gah, it’s a good knot, Rick. Carl even manages to work in a jab by telling Rick that Shane was the one who taught him how to make said knot. Interesting to note that even though Carl is being a bitchy little thorn in Rick’s side, he’s still running around in daddy’s hat.
And now it’s time to contemplate Michonne’s weird ass dream. When the scene first starts, it seems like it could be a flashback. Michonne is cooking for two men talking about a movie which she and her “lover” agree was lame. Everything seems very classy and normal when, nope, Michonne’s sword is in the kitchen and fits neatly in the knife block. Then there’s an adorable toddler and things seriously start to unravel. The two men do a wardrobe switcheroo and go from fancy sweaters to grungy survival clothes. Conversation gets dark and shits from movies to whether there’s a happy ending for any of them, including the baby. Dream Michonne is still intent on who’s opening the wine until the men’s arms and the baby disappear. Then there’s a lot of screaming and fancy Michonne turns back into survival Michonne waking up in a car. I wonder if those are the same actors who played Michonne’s original pets because, if so, they kept Voodoo from Friday Night Lights on retainer for a long friggin time.
Carl and Rick wake up from their miserably uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, despite there being perfectly fine beds upstairs. Actually, Rick is aggressively not waking up, despite Carl screaming in his face. After a bowl of cereal and reading some of The Catcher in the Rye (we can’t really see the book, but that’s what all teenage boys read in tv land), Carl hears a few walkers knocking at the door and goes to investigate. He finds a pair of zombies trying to break through his apparently awesome knot, and lures them away from the house to kill them. But then, woopsie, surprise zombie. Now Carl is three zombies deep and a little boned. He manages to take out all three of them, but wastes a decent number of bullets and looks visibly shaken by the ordeal. Plus he pukes a little and gets to drop another “I win” to the dead undead.
Michonne and her pets are wandering through the woods and have picked up quite a few buddies. I know they didn’t do an exact science explanation about why her zombie pals work, but they are apparently really friggin effective. Then we get Michonne’s doppelganger zombie. Mostly it’s just a zombie with dreads, but that’s close enough to identify with, I guess.
Carl comes back home and tells Rick’s unconscious body about his day of zombie killing, making sure not to leave out any insults or guilt tripping. Carl’s screaming basically boils down to “I saved your sorry ass and I’d be fine if you died.” And with that, Carl rolls out to try and find more food in the neighborhood. He finds a promising looking house and adorably tries to break down the door with his shoulder. His body sprawled out on the porch seems to indicate that busting through a door is tougher than they make it look in every cop drama ever. The house, which looks like it could easily belong to anyone in Duck Dynasty doesn’t have much food to offer, but does have a lifetime supply of chocolate pudding.
Carl looks around the house and opens two doors upstairs uneventfully, which means, duh, the third door has a walker behind it. In case you forgot, we’re watching The Walking Dead; you can’t open that many doors without something trying to eat you. The walker and Carl fight for a bit before Carl manages to escape, but not before he loses a boot. This prompts Carl to write a note on the door with chalk which may be the most clever thing his character has ever been scripted: “Walker inside. Got my shoe. Didn’t get me.” If I wandered into that house, I would appreciate the head’s up and the chuckle.
Michonne is still wandering through the woods with her gaggle of zombies, safely protected by her pets. Her doppel-zombie is still trekking along with them which, all of a sudden, strikes a nerve with Michonne. And apparently it was her killing nerve, because Michonne goes ape shit crazy on all those walkers and takes them all out, doppel-zombie and her pets included. With her zombie posse obliterated, Michonne heads back to the road where she originally chose not to follow the trail of other alive people and decides that she should go see who they belong to.
This scene just screams “LAYERS!” First of all, Michonne does a ton of beheading in the zombie slaughter. Considering one of the reasons Michonne is so wonky in the head is that she was right next to Hershel when he got beheaded, that seems significant. Then there’s the fact that the doppel-zombie is what sets her off. There is literally no difference between her wandering through the woods and Michonne wandering through the woods. So then Michonne is faced with the question of whether she wants to survive as an empty shell or try to live an actual life with people that she cares about in it. Killing the doppel-zombie and going back to find the tracks means that, even though she is entirely capable of surviving on her own, she wants people in her life so that she has a reason to live. Phew, The Walking Dead just had one of its deep moments there.
Carl is taking a nap leaning on his dad when all of a sudden, Rick starts breathing heavy and flailing around in very zombie-like ways. Carl points the gun at Rick with tears in his eyes, but realizes that he can’t do what Joe Jr. couldn’t either. He’d rather let his father turn him than shoot and have to go it alone. This actually turns Carl into an interesting contra-positive to Michonne. (Suffering through formal logic in college was worth it just to write that sentence.) Michonne could live alone but chooses not to, whereas Carl wants to be independent, but can’t realistically do it on his own when it comes down to it. End of the day, Carl lucks out and dad wasn’t a zombie, just a pathetic excuse for a human being who probably should have worked to get some words out before his son almost shot him.
Michonne has made it to the BBQ shack where she sees Joe Jr.’s note and is thrown into a total breakdown. She starts talking to Mike (her baby daddy from the dream) and even though she doesn’t explicitly say it, I’ve used my powers of perception and dream analysis to extrapolate that Mike probably killed their kid and possibly himself. I think we pretty much did more back-story exposition about Michonne in this episode than in the entire season and a half that she has been on the show.
Rick is finally awake, so he and Carl decide to talk about their feelings. Rick finally admits, in the best Batman voice he can muster, that Carl isn’t really a kid anymore. Carl totally undermines the gesture by admitting that he ate 112 ounces of pudding, but it accidentally works out really well for everyone. For some reason, the comically oversized empty can of pudding triggers Michonne’s superhuman tracking skills and she finds the exact house that the Grimes men are holed up in. Michonne is so happy to find the guys and the face that she makes when she realizes that it’s them makes my heart happy too. Almost as happy as when she knocks on the door and the boys are like “Whaaaa?!”
So we’ve reunited a couple of characters and got to wave at the rest of the cast as they flew by in the preview for next week. After the insanity of the mid-season finale, this was a pretty mellow return. Fingers crossed, next week we find the balance between killing Hershel and eating pudding.