'The Walking Dead' recap: Carl still needs his dad

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:32 PM ET

No matter how big and tough a man might be, sometimes he just needs his daddy.

As The Walking Dead shambled back to life Sunday night with its mid-season premiere, kicking off eight more episodes that will culminate in the March 30 season finale, it was time for a well-deserved breather.

Last year’s midseason finale, with its chaotic assault on the prison sanctuary that was home to zombie apocalypse survivors Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and the rest of their group, saw everyone scattered to the four winds. That is, the ones who survived. Hershel (Scott Wilson) was beheaded. The Governor (David Morrissey) impaled and shot. And the fate of baby Judith remains unclear.

That’s a tough act to follow. But some of the best episodes of The Walking Dead are the quieter ones, and this episode, written by comic book creator Robert Kirkman and appropriately titled After, was a perfect way to reset the tableau and ease us into the survivors’ new reality, while giving us a glimpse of the mental and emotional state of our scattered, beaten group.

Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), who seems to grow about an inch between episodes now, places the blame for the fall of the prison – and the apparent death of his baby sister – squarely on his dad, Rick. And Rick, savagely beaten by the Governor during their climactic tussle, can barely walk or talk.

The roles are reversed, and Carl is now the capable caretaker. But his resentment for his father is so strong that he openly declares he’d be perfectly OK if his dad died.

Meanwhile, Michonne adopts two new zombie pets – sans arms and jaws, of course – that allow her to walk unmolested among the living dead. And we’re treated to a rare flashback to her pre-apocalypse life, giving us a glimpse of her happy, privileged world prior to the zombie plague. Hopefully there will be more of this, as it raises more questions than it answers.

After Rick and Carl hole up in a house to give Rick some time to recover, we see Carl strike out on his own, pilfering nearby homes for supplies and protecting himself from walkers. At one point, he finds a bedroom that looks like it belonged to another teenaged boy, and his eyes widen with joy at the sight of a flatscreen TV and video game console. Until he remembers where he is and what’s going on, and grimly yanks the TV cord to use as a makeshift rope.

But it’s the episode’s end that marks a possible turning point in Carl and Rick’s relationship. For all his tough talk and simmering resentment, when Carl believes Rick has turned into a zombie – the elder Grimes is actually just regaining consciousness, and is barely able to move or speak – he can’t pull the trigger. Instead, he breaks down, cries for his dad and waits for the end to come.

It was heartfelt stuff, capped by Michonne discovering Rick and Carl’s hiding place, once again reuniting this weird post-apocalyptic family. Things aren’t going to be easy from here on out, as the survivors attempt to re-establish some semblance of security. But things can only get better from here. Can’t they?


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