Yeah. That’s a Mike & the Mechanics quote from “In The Living Years” up there. And yes, that’s pretty much their only song, kids younger than me. But it follows the “Rudy” principle: it’s okay for men to cry over it. (Also see: Michael Corleone kissing Fredo, Brian’s Song, and Field of Dreams, the only time crying’s allowed in baseball.)
Previously on the show, everything was terrible and nothing was good. I SAID NOTHING. But! The agony of hiatus is over! The agony of the show, however, has just begun.
Walkers have overthrown the prison, the tank – a burning mess, thanks to Daryl and his Holy Hand Grenade – is given the riot treatment, the fences are for the most part down, and Walkers stream in from everywhere. Michonne stands among them (wow, she is just one cool cucumber and can shift back into Hard Core Survivor in a snap), taking in all that’s been lost. Any time a Walker gets too close, she takes them out with with Hattori Hanzo’s weapon. (Look,I’m just saying that if Michonne should encounter God on her way, God will be cut.)
She backs up to one of the spiked defenses, traps two of the Governor’s men (now Walkers) and with quick work, turns them into new pets on long hanks of rope. She knows what works, so why mess with a classic? As she leaves the prison (no one from her group is in eyeshot) she finds Hershel’s head doing a Hungry Hungry Hippo impression. She takes it out, costing herself that much more of her soul in the process. Hershel was good people.
(Also: we had the theory before the break that Michonne took Judith. Well, there goes that theory.)
In a sort of fugue state we see Carl walking down a road, shell-shocked, every step on automatic pilot (which is set to GTFO). As he picks up speed we can see that Rick is behind him, stumbling and coughing, trying to get Carl to slow down. He just took a beating and found his daughter’s bloody car seat, kid, so maybe stop with the hot-foot? No? God dammit, Carl.
Rick tries to tell Carl they’ll be fine, they’ll make– Carl scowls at his father. “Will we, Dad? We’ll be fine? Huh. Because nothing about this–” He points at the world dying all around them, all of their friends lost, no roof over their heads, no Spaghetti Tuesday. “–looks particularly fine to me.”
Damn, Carl got grizzled.
They come upon a diner, Big Joe and Joe Jr.’s BBQ, and I bet they make a good pulled pork sandwich with a name like that. Carl goes on point, which upsets Rick because he’s fine [cough, cough,wheeze], he’s totally got this [hack, grunt, stumble]. Carl rolls his eyes and checks the place out.
There’s a Walker in the back, and a note tells us this must be Big Joe and that Joe Jr. couldn’t do what needed to be done (a son unable to rid himself completely of his father, oho). Rick doesn’t want to waste a bullet – it’s the apocalypse version of Every Sperm Is Sacred – and goes at Big Joe with a hatchet. And barely makes a dent. Whoops! Carl shoots him (nice shootin’, Tex!) only to get chewed out by his Pa. Bullets are valuable, kid!
“So are these pickles. Can’t eat a pork chop sandwich without pickles, Dad.”
Angry Carl is back.
Michonne leads her pets across a muddy road and sees two sets of prints. She thinks for a minute, then pushes on her own way, because it’s all the Michonne Show now, people will just tie her down. Like Andrea. Like Carl. Like Jud- She straightens her spine and keeps going.
Carl leads his dad to a nice looking suburban home where they break in and leave the door open. Why? Why would you do this? For a quick exit?
Protip: The chance that there are more Walkers inside a home than there are outside the home are slim. Shut the damn door and follow Maze Rules.
Protip #2: Maze Rules state that when entering an unknown place, hug the right wall and you’ll make your way out.
Carl is tired of his dad treating him like a little kid, so he acts totally mature by throwing a fit, yelling, pounding his hand on the wall and cussing up a storm. Aww, someone’s jibblies dropped and he’s got the peach fuzz on his chin, Pops! With an eye roll that made my peepers ache, Carl goes off in search of supplies. (I spy with my little eye a bottle of Sweet Baby Rays! That and some pickles’ll dress up that pork chop sandwich even better.)
Upstairs is where Carl finds the best thing ever: a teen boy’s room, filled with comics, books, posters of Blink 182, and an X-Box. SWEET. But before he can get excited over Halo 4, he remembers there’s no electricity. Well, at least there are HDMI cables! …what?
He wraps the cable around the front door (which was busted slightly when they broke in) to act as a sort of security measure. Rick isn’t convinced it’ll work, but you know what, Dad? Carl tied that in a clove-hitch, which is the best hitch of all the hitches. Wanna know who taught him that?
If Rick’s chest wasn’t already hurting from being kicked in by the Gov, that little tidbit ought to do it. (Except for how Rick totally owns that he shot up that mother fucker – literal M.F. – Shane real good like.) You wanna go hard, Carl? Because Rick Grimes knows how to go hard.
They settle in on the sofa for the night and Rick tries to impart more parental wisdom, but Carl’s full up on that. He’s got this, okay? He doesn’t need any more pearls of wisdom. Rick – not looking too good with a busted set of ribs and one eye swollen shut – asks his son where he learned how to be so grim?
“From you, Dad! I learned it from you!”
Michonne’s backstory time! OH HOW I HAVE WAITED FOR HER STORY. She’s in a fantastic high rise, looking amazing, while she argues with two handsome dudes about an art exhibit she found to be pedestrian. (“You could put a gorilla driving a car in a museum, but I’m not going to call it art.”) They tease one another, and as she wipes off her knife, Mike (her S.O.) says that the exhibit was “a monument to someone trying too damn hard to be different.”
If that, coupled with her knife becoming a Katana blade, didn’t make the hairs on your arms stand up, you’re watching this wrong. This isn’t a flashback, this is a dream.
Her child runs in as she continues preparing food and the men – Mike and Other Guy – keep talking. O.G. starts to look uncomfortable and unhappy and wow, their clothes are dirty and they have blood splatters on their skin while Michonne continues to look fresh as a daisy. The men start arguing about whether they should stay at the camp when Mike just wants to know why on earth they’re even trying. This isn’t living. This isn’t how he wants to be, barely scraping by with death constantly at their heels.
Michonne continues smiling, bouncing her child on her hip while the men grow increasingly angry. O.G. is pissed that Michonne is so great with a blade, that it’s valuable (leading me to think that the men don’t have any skills that are valuable in this life), but Mike just wants to know: why? Why go on?
Michonne pushes the cheeseboard to them, her voice breaking even though she’s smiling, and thinks it’s hilarious. Until she sees that they have no arms. And her child is gone. She begins screaming and we can see through the high rise windows that Atlanta is a hellscape. She screams herself awake in the driver’s seat of a burned out car, her new pets outside standing guard, in a manner of speaking.
Oh, Michonne. She’s the animal in a car in a museum – the monument to someone trying too damn hard to be something they’re not. She’s not a cold, vicious killer. She cares. She just doesn’t want to care.
Carl wakes up at the house to see that his knots held. In your face, Dad. He knows what he’s doing, okay? He grabs his gun, a bag of cereal, and heads upstairs to read some Asimov. When he goes back to check on his dad, he can’t get Rick to wake up, no matter how hard he shakes him or screams at him. Oh, shit.
His screaming brings all the Walkers to the door, and they’re like, “Little pig, little pig, let us come in!” Carl ain’t no little pig, okay? He’s the big bad wolf in this scenario. He sneaks out the side door, sees that there are two of them, and he’s totally got this. He’s an adult now. Got the problems of an adult, got the world on his shoulders. He leads them away by doing the ONE THING WE ESTABLISHED WAS A NO NO:
He walks backwards.
Sure enough, he doesn’t see behind him when a third Walker shows up. He has to waste a lot of bullets to get all three down for good. (Bonus gross shot of maggots pouring out of one of the bullet holes, ewwww!) He throws up and looks at the pile, saying, “I win.”
Carl? This is why you’re not actually an adult. Also, go check those mailboxes for Skill Magazines like Lads’s Life; you could use +10 to your Survival.
Michonne continues on her Vision Quest. As she leads her new pets through the woods – we have no idea where she’s going, and I don’t believe she does, either – she sees a Walker who could be her sister. It freaks her out, but she shakes it off and pushes on.
Carl tells his unconscious father that he killed three Walkers with, like, no problem. “I saved you. I still know how to survive.” (Son? You’re not on Hardcore Mode, even though you think you are.) He continues, “I don’t need you anymore. I can protect myself. You couldn’t even protect Judith.”
He’s all, you just want to be a farmer and grow your tomatoes and prune your roses and watch Golden Girls. Well, I’m a man, who does manly things. I’m wearing Old Spice now, drinking 40s and peeing my name into the dirt and you’re just lying here like a big, fat, nothing. “I’d be fine if you died.”
Wow, that was way harsh, Carl.
He goes out to search the neighborhood for supplies with a canvas tote and a heart full of malice and discontent. Great moments: him with his manly adult survival muscles trying to knock down a door like his father did (while sick and out of it) and falling back on his skinny ass. Better pry that open, kid. He finds can goods galore in there, but the real prize is that 7 pound can of Chocolate Pudding.
Protip: How to open a can without an opener. Take your can, flip it over onto a piece of concrete (or use a metal file, if you have one for your Katana blade) and rub back and forth for a few seconds. This should rub off the thin bit of metal that is folded over to make the can sealed shut. Squeeze the sides of the can and watch that top pop off. Now you can use that top – the edges will be sharp! – as a weapon.
Carl goes upstairs to check out the rest of the house – using Maze Rules – and more importantly, does the Quantico trained method of door checking. Open, circle like a clock to check all areas, then pull the door completely shut. He goes through the upstairs until WOW, THAT’S A WALKER THERE.
And oho. It the Dad. Carl? You’re always going to be fighting your dad in some way, welcome to life. Carl falls over shooting (four shots, for those keeping track, which means that 17-bullet clip of his is about empty), fights his way clear, falls again trying to pry open a window to escape, gets grabbed by the Walker and loses his shoe escaping. He does escape, though, and slams the door tight. He finds a piece of chalk and writes on the door:
It’s puddin’ time. (Um, how can you have any pudding if you don’t kill the meat?) He sits on the roof just outside the window that’s half open (a Walker could fit through that, come on) and please note that he’s just out of reach of the father figure, who is reaching for him with increasing desperation. Nice.
Michonne’s herd grows to more than 20, and you can see that it’s getting to her, that Walker who looks similar especially. To the point where Michonne snaps and beheads her. The other Walkers get that she isn’t one of them, turn on her, so she goes into a killing frenzy, taking them all out, including her pets. She cries, “No, no, no,” just like she did in her dream. Oh, baby. I will hug and love you, my Zombie-killing Princess.
She goes back to where she saw those tracks. She’s hoping it’s someone she knows, is my guess, and begins to follow them.
Carl is asleep by his dad – it’s late at night. His dad’s breathing is raspy. Oh…shit. Carl agrees and pulls his gun, his hand shaking. He’s crying, thinking that he has to kill his other parent, too. But…he can’t. He can’t. He’s openly sobbing that he can’t do it when Rick grabs his foot.
Carl has given up. Openly weeping, he tilts his head back, ready to die at his father’s hand. But then…Rick says, “Carl. Don’t go outside,” and collapses again. Carl gently pulls his dad’s head into his lap, stroking Rick’s hair back and admits “I’m scared.” He softly sings, “And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon…”
Michonne, the next day, finds Big Joe, the note from Joe Jr., and puts two and two together. She cries, “Mike, I miss you. I missed you even when I was with you. Back at the camp, I wasn’t you who did it. ” [Is she referring to her baby dying here? I’m guessing so.] “You were wrong, ’cause I’m still here and you could be too. And he could…”
She cries, cutting it off with a sigh, because this is a woman who is in one hundred percent control of her emotions. “I know the answer. I know why.” She goes outside and kills a Walker, which is the Answer. (I’m kidding.)
Rick wakes, chides Carl for going out, learns that his son ate seven damn pounds of chocolate pudding and didn’t save him any. (Rick’s more of a butterscotch kind of guy, don’t you think?) He tells Carl that he realizes there’s something fundamental broken in him, and now that Judith is gone, he accepts that Carl is a man. “I’m sorry.”
Carl, showing actual maturity here, says, “You don’t need to be.”
Michonne – the greatest tracker ever – finds the pudding can. And then she finds Rick and Carl inside, bringing her to grateful tears. That’s “why”: them and the life they all can give each other. (As humans, I’m not saying they’re going to be Zombie Apocalypse Married, or something, although I wouldn’t be opposed to it!). She knocks, Rick looks through the peephole and smiles.
“It’s for you,” he tells Carl.
I want them to make the most amazing Post-Apocalyptic First Family ever, guys. I want that. I loved that one of the themes of this episode was that you can’t go it alone and retain your humanity. I mean, if humanity is something important to you. I know it isn’t for everyone.
I’m pretty sure this is the last “nice” moment we’ll have for a long ass time, too. This is the Walking Dead, after all. This is basically the apocalypse-version of “Hey, Dad. Wanna have a catch?” (Yeah, I’m all over the “I didn’t tell my dad I loved him enough” movie train. It’s a common theme for a reason, okay?)
I also love that Carl has figured out that he should thank his dad for the gravel in his guts and the spit in his eye, ’cause Rick’s the sonofabitch that named him Sue.
Next Week: EVERYONE ELSE! Oh, Daryl, sweet sweet Daryl, how I need you on my teevee screen. Also, please note that it said Melissa McBride in the opening credits. Yay, Carol still being a part of things! CLICK HERE TO READ
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