The almost nightmare is Carl's, and Chandler Riggs gives his best performance in this role tonight in the entire series so far. Angry at Rick for what happened and didn't happen at the end of the prison story in 4.8 last year - but just a few minutes in the past as 4.9 begins - Carl at first pulls away from his father, thinking and even wishing him dead in an Oedipal story come to fruition in The Walking Dead. He nearly gets killed by walkers a bunch of times as he walks to his presumed destiny, and when he wakes up in the house with Rick it seems highly likely that his briefly epic journey was just an horrific and instructive nightmare.
It's only when Michonne makes her own way to the house, after a real journey and real nightmare of her own, that we learn for sure that what Carl experienced was not a dream at all. Michonne finds the note that one of the walkers when alive as a human left and Carl found, and she then find the can of pudding which we saw Carl eat - like Tom Sawyer sitting on the roof - and Carl told Rick about. And right before our eyes, in what passes for a happy ending in this series, Carl has grown up yet another notch, as has Rick, as he correctly recognizes that Carl has become a man. For Michonne this is also a happy ending at least for now, as the three reunited give her just a little more reason to live than she had wandering with walkers in tow to who knows what end.
I liked this episode a lot, in part because it was the perfect breath to take after the carnage at the prison, and in part because it offered a fine tableau of the razor thin boundary between dream and reality in this compellingly insane world. It will be good - well, maybe not good but worthwhile - to find out what happens to the rest of our heroes in episodes to come this year.
See also The Walking Dead 4.1: The New Plague ... The Walking Dead 4.2: The Baby and the Flu ... The Walking Dead 4.3: Death in Every Corner ...The Walking Dead 4.4: Hershel, Carl, and Maggie ... The Walking Dead 4.6: The Good Governor ... The Walking Dead 4.7: The Governor's Other Foot ... The Walking Dead 4.8: Vintage Fall Finale
And see also The Walking Dead Back on AMC ... The Walking Dead 2.2: The Nature of Vet ... The Walking Dead 2.3: Shane and Otis ... The Walking Dead 2.4: What Happened at the Pharmacy ... The Walking Dead 2.6: Secrets Told ... The Walking Dead 2.7: Rick's Way vs. Shane's Way ... The Walking Dead 2.8: The Farm, the Road, and the Town ... The Walking Dead 2.9: Worse than Walkers ... The Walking Dead 2.11: Young Calling the Shots ... The Walking Dead 2.12: Walkers Without Bites ... The Walking Dead Season 2 Finale