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Was Sunday's 'Walking Dead' the Best. Episode. Ever?




Last week I carefully, spoilerlessly reviewed The Walking Dead's Season 4 midseason premiere, leaving out such noted details as...Michonne was once a mommy!!!...Hershel's snappy undead head!!!...Carl's poignant door graffiti ("Walker inside, got my shoe, didn't get me")!!! So now you've seen the Mark Twainian ep too (hopefully), and we can get to talking. BEST EPISODE EVER?

Maybe, just maybe.

Its competition is the former standard bearer, Season 3's poetically tragic "Clear," with gone-mad Morgan and his street-fair zombie traps. Season 2's "Sophia" reveal at Hershel's farm was the dooziest of doozies, too, if only for that final, jaw-dropping twisteroo. But I'm on the record for liking the series' smaller, more contained installments, and Sunday's "After" was one of the most careful, character-driven hours of The Walking Dead ever. This season's first 8 shows were sloppy, sloggy affairs -- too many plot threads and characters; too many questions, too few answers; and curious actions that didn't seem right (Carol getting the boot? Really?). The show lost serious creative momentum; I was bummed. Things didn't pick up until showrunner Scott Gimple threw on the parking brake, told the rest of the cast to take a knee and focused exclusively on what the One-Eyed Governor had been up to. (For one, he found a tank.)

Last night's "After" (after the prison demolition, after a lot of people died, after all hell broke loose) cleared the deck and gave the show a needed gulp of fresh narrative air. Carl as Huck Finn with a gun; Michonne as a real hurting human being; Rick as a fallen leader. In fact, following Season 4's clunky first half, this might have been The Walking Dead's most essential episode as well as its best. AMC's No. 1 phenom needed change, and boy did it get it. Presumably, the rest of the scattered ensemle will get their own scaled-down story arcs as well. I know I could use a reason to care about Glenn and Maggie, again.

By the way, the fact that crowssbow-toting hunk Daryl was NOT in "After" -- and people aren't complaining that much about his studly absence -- just shows you how strong the episode was. I'm frothing for this upcoming Sunday, and that's the first time I've said that in awhile.

[Last modified: Monday, February 10, 2014 11:40am]


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