(Photo: Gene Page/AMC)

AMC’s The Walking Dead: After is the premiere episode after the holiday break and the 9th episode of this 4th season.

There’s no sense of expecting some huge reveals. This is our ragtag team of survivors separated and spread to the four winds. Early on, we get to see Michonne deal with the reanimated head of Hershel. That’s one “this world is cruel” statement if I ever saw one. Carl and an injured, beaten and barely standing Rick have somehow managed to steer clear of zombie hordes. It’s back to scavenging for scraps. Back to find a semi-secure place to sleep.

Carl is moody, he’s doing his teenager thing. It’s almost like he wants to be on his own. When they finally find a place to crash, Rick loses consciousness. With two walkers at the door, it’s up to Carl to lure them away. He seems to be doing fine, but his overconfidence almost gets his killed. When another one comes out of the bushes, he once again relies too much on precious bullets.

With Rick still out of commission, Carl goes off the handle letting him know how he feels. You can almost tell he’s just ranting away, but is Rick really just passed out or is Carl going to have to face down a zombie parent soon? I almost feel like I’m cheating because although I know the comic and the TV series don’t see eye to eye, I do have somewhat of a clue as to where it’s going.

Regaining his composure, Carl goes scavenging on his own. Life on this world quickly teaches him a lesson as he runs out of bullets fending yet another walker. It’s luck and not skill that he manages to get away. Still, he collects some reward in the form of a can of chocolate pudding.

When Carl makes it back to Rick, he’s reconsidered all the things he said to his unconscious form. It’s that moment in which Rick wakes up… and Carl almost, almost has to face his worst nightmare. It would’ve been too much too soon, but we learn Carl for all his bravado would not have been able to do it.

(Photo: Gene Page/AMC)

Meanwhile, we also get to follow Michonne with two new walker pets, cut up and tied to a leash. The fact that it’s the same way she appeared first in the series is not a coincidence. We get an inside look into what’s going on in her head as the images of her life before the apocalypse come back to haunt her dreams.

It takes her a while to snap out of it, but when she does (and she does by beheading a whole bunch of walkers) she starts tracking a set of footprints towards what she hopes is another survivor from the prison. There’s a little glimmer of hope as she finds the empty can of pudding. When she finally sees the familiar figures of Carl and Rick inside a house, we can tell things may be bad but we may yet dare to hope again.

It’s a new episode and a new arc. The prison is done. We’re moving on, and starting from the very bottom. Characters are all over the place and it’s going to take time until everyone finds their bearings and each other.

Highs: The inside look into Michonne’s past life, although a warped dream / nightmare grounds her character in reality. We learn a little of how she lost her loved ones. Carl is both a high and a low. He’s doing a little growing up on this episode.

Lows: Well… perhaps Carl. He does slip up a little in this episode. A minor character would have died for sure. He does turn a new leaf at the end but he’s done that before. The pace of this episode is really slow but it’s going to be a slow build up until the next crazy event. Then again, I may have to revise that statement next week.

That will do for now.

(Sources: AMC)