*“The Walking Dead” premiered the second half of its fourth season Sunday night, and viewers for the first time got a flashback into Michonne’s life before she became a sword-wielding, zombie killer.
The episode, titled “After,” is the first of several stand-alone installments as the series focuses on character exploration now that the group is divided, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Michonne (Danai Gurira) is fending for herself and using her sword to slice and dice walkers left and right. (Watch a clip of this scene below.) She camouflages herself with new “pets” — walkers without their jaws and arms — to make her way through the hordes. Exhausted and alone, Michonne has a flashback to before the outbreak and her back story is finally revealed.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the episode, written by comics creator/executive producer Robert Kirkman, takes a page directly from The Walking Dead’s Michonne Story, a special one-shot first published in 2012 that portrayed the katana-wielding warrior’s boyfriend, Mike, and his best friend, Terry.
Only this time, Michonne has a son. It fills in a major blank in the character’s back story and explains why Michonne began to cry while holding baby Judith in the first half of the season.
The episode ends when Michonne decides to track two sets of footprints and winds up at the door of the home where Rick and Carl are staying.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with showrunner Scott M. Gimple to break down the episode and preview what’s to come.
THR: We also learned why Michonne cried when she held baby Judith in the first half of the season: Michonne was a mother and had a son.
Gimple: This, in some ways, is completing a story from last season. Last season, we saw Michonne, with help from Daryl, Rick and Tyreese, figured out that she was running away. She was going off looking for The Governor even though she knew she wouldn’t find him. She was doing it to step away from people and to avoid getting close. The moment she decided to get close, that’s when all those people were torn away from her — not in the least Hershel. In this episode, we start her with that loss of Hershel and the prison and all the closeness she’d achieved. She took that as a message from the universe that, “I was right, you can’t get close to people; that’s how you get hurt. I lost Andrea and I lost all these people so forget it. I had right idea. Let me get some new walker pets and walk the earth alone because that’s how you stay safe emotionally.” She’s haunted by her dreams but more importantly, she finds that her plan leads her to become a dead person. She’s walking among the dead and basically dead inside and she can’t do it. She knows she can’t go back to being a dead persona and isolating herself. In this wonderful moment, she rejects death and she chooses life. It’s this very cathartic action moment and that’s one of my favorite things from the show — when you see action and emotion explode at same time and feed each other and have meaning. [Watch this scene below.]
THR: How will having temporarily lost her new family change her going forward now that we know how valuable family is to her?
Gimple: We’ll see her open up that much more. We’re going to hear more about Michonne and she’s going to be bound to Rick and Carl like family.
THR: Now that Rick and Carl have reunited with Michonne, where do they go from here? Rick will heal — will they look for the remainder of the group? Try to live as a family in the house?
Gimple: That would be giving too much away but we will answer that quickly.
THR: How would you describe the remainder of the season? Who else may be getting more of a back story?
Gimple: There’s more flashback stuff but not a lot. That said, these characters are separated from one another and it will be focusing on each character in different ways. Some will be more deeply though they’re not all like this episode. By the end of this half-season, people will know these characters that much more and have a very good idea of who they were at the beginning after that.
THR: What can you say about next week’s episode, who is the central focus?
Gimple: Next week’s episode has a really cool structure that affords us to not really have a central focus. There are a lot of answers next week — at least a few major ones. You get other big answers next week and different parings we haven’t seen yet we well as stories that fold into each other. The deck gets shuffled. This week’s episode was one of those moments in the show where we’ve told stories that have departed from the comics jut to arrive exactly where the comic is and that was a great deal of fun to do. I love the amount of story in next week’s episode. I love structure and variety of story in next week’s episode. There really are a lot of answers in next week’s episode; not all of them but there’s a few big ones!
“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
Watch Michonne in action from Sunday’s “After” episode below.