Tonight's "The Walking Dead" gave us yet another unpleasant reunion between characters when Rick, Carl, and Michonne walked right into the crazy zombie obstacle course of a mad man. Intrigued? Then it's time to review "The Walking Dead" episode 3.12, "Clear."
SPOILERS AHEAD! TURN BACK NOW OR BE PERMANENTLY SPOILED!
Considering there are shockingly few people left alive in the world, they keep bumping into each other on a surprisingly frequent basis. Or maybe Georgia is just a lot smaller and more densely populated than I was led to believe.
This is one of those episodes where the “previously on…” segment ruined the whole surprise. As soon as we saw the clip from season one of Rick talking to Morgan on the walkie-talkie, followed by the trip to Rick’s old police station (emptied of all but a single bullet), we knew they were going to run into Morgan. The police station was cleaned out. And who did Rick give the extra keys to when he left town? Morgan. Who did we last see with an assault rifle shooting from a high window? Morgan. And who was the last man standing in Rick's hometown? Morgan... and his son Duane.
In this episode Morgan is set up as a very effective foil for Rick. He's what Rick could be if Rick didn't have a whole community to support him. He's Rick if Carl had died horribly. His story is just as tragic, if not more so, than Rick's, but he has come out of it completely different because he is utterly alone.
And speaking of parallels, the second reference to the series pilot did not go unnoticed. Rick says “I’m sorry this happened to you” to Morgan just as he did to the Bicycle Girl walker he put down in the park. The difference (besides the fact that Morgan has to live through his nightmare instead of shuffling off his mortal coil) is that all of that and more has also happened to Rick at this point.
Despite all the parallels, this episode doesn't feel like it's beating us over the head with its references to the beginning of the story. It's obviously a checkpoint, a way of taking stock of all that has changed and happened to Rick, but it never feels preachy or obvious. In fact, it's one of the best episodes of the season.
I thought Rick finding the walkie-talkie would be the most heartbreaking moment in the episode. I was wrong. That moment was followed up with one of the most moving performances in the history of "The Walking Dead." Lennie James has only appeared in two episodes, but he has made Morgan a memorable and beloved character. His worldview is tragically expressed through a brilliant monologue: “The good people, they always die. And the bad people do too. But the weak people, the people like me? We have inherited the earth.”
If that doesn't hit you right in the feels... you need to grow a soul. This is TWD at its finest: going from brutal violence to heartbreaking monologues in under a minute. I only hope that Lennie James returns periodically throughout the series to give us the perspective of those who have inherited the earth.
Carl and Michonne's plot was almost cute. Even as hardened and bad-ass as he has become, Carl still finds ways to be a kid. He wants his little sister to know what her mother looked like, and that's just about as sweet as it gets in the zombie apocalypse.
If you don't love everything about Michonne... you are wrong. Part of the purpose of this episode was to make you love her, not just for her sword and for her seldom heard but awesome voice, but because of who she is. She's damaged and vulnerable beneath her battle-hardened shell, and she has a soft spot for other damaged and vulnerable people. Her relationship with Carl is cemented through her quest to help him get a picture of Lori for Judith. But really what endears her to the audience is that damnably "gorgeous" cat thing.
In the end, Michonne's relationship with Rick--and therefore her place in the group--is secured as well. One aspect of Michonne from the comic books that hasn't been seen yet is her habit of chatting with dead people. But just like in the comics, it is her coping method that unites her and Rick. They've both lost people, and they both get by through interacting with people in spite of their deaths. It's crazy, but hey: it works for them. And more importantly, it gives them something in common.
The title, "Clear," is not fully understood until the end, when we see Morgan clearing the obstacle zone, burning the bodies, cleaning up and clearing the area. But it's also about Morgan clearing his life and his mind of danger, of complications, of anything that reminds him of before.
All this makes it even more painful when Carl--a parallel for Duane just as his father is a foil for Morgan--apologizes for shooting Morgan. And Morgan, seeing what happened to his son when he looks at Carl just tells him never to be sorry. They could've called this episode "Morgan Makes All of Us Cry, Parts I & II."
A moment of silence for that poor sucker with the backpack they abandoned on the road... twice.
We are the walking dead: Tune into AMC every Sunday night at 9 p.m. for the latest episode of the little zombie show that could, "The Walking Dead."
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