"Everything I see is red!"
A substantially emotional and intense reunion of friends brings about some surprisingly solidifying relations of trust and some great character developments for one of my personal favorite new characters, Michonne. The Walking Dead presents another shocker that should keep fans talking, although some of them won’t be entirely “Clear” on where these dark and troubling developments will lead our characters. We get to see what happens when a lone survivor pushes everyone away and is left in the depressing, dark, dismal and wholly melancholy hurdle that is this post-apocalyptic zombie world. Some get broken and some find their hellish purpose or maybe even both, which brings us to Morgan. The clear way does open in the wake of tragedy, but sometimes at the cost of one’s sanity and their hope. This is the end of the world and sanity, as well as hope, are fairly limited…
Right from the opening we spot Rick, Carl and Michonne on their mission to gather much needed ammunition for their upcoming war with the folks from Woodbury. This little outing is full of awkward tension, especially when Michonne accidentally gets them all stuck in a mud ditch which leaves them crowded around a bunch of walkers. Rick still doesn’t trust the katana-wielding Michonne, which is quite understandable, yet given the entire theme of the episode which is “You can’t survive without good help”, something’s gotta give. However, how does one walk the line between inclusive trust and lonesome paranoia? Rick and Carl spend much of this mission away from the prison gauging Michonne, attempting to get into her head and decipher if they can keep her by their side.
Rick and Carl’s first impressions of Michonne don’t do well to help conclude her as a perfect match for them, but as this installment continues, Michonne begins to show more layers to herself. The trio in the car drive past an unfortunate hitchhiker, who shall be dubbed Backpack Guy. Can they trust him--bring this stranger into the fold and make him an ally? Can’t Rick and his group do with more allies in this time of war? Even when considering those questions, it seems that our survivors are so far into this gruesome, hellish world that the natural instinct is to not trust another human neighbor, no matter their undesirable circumstances. Rick and Carl already have Michonne to try an make a decision on, they don’t need another. That’s just the harsh reality of this ravaged world.
As the trio move on, they come about a small town full of warning signs and booby traps that are meant to keep both the alive and the undead out. The lone solider in charge of this huge trap town turns out to be a long lost friend, Morgan (Lennie James) which is a very exciting and fascinating little surprise of deadly proportions that adds a dark twist to the episode. Rick is compelled to stay by Morgan’s side, making sure he’s okay before they leave. A move Michonne doesn’t quite understand, but respects in the end. Rick is indebted to the man that saved his life--the man he promised to save, but unfortunately had to leave behind due to the circumstances of the world. Rick stepped up to the plate of being a leader and fell from his promise to help rescue Morgan and his son, Duane. It’s just another reminder of his own occasional fallibility. Seeing that Morgan has fallen so far from humanity--from sanity--is like a warning of where Rick could end up if he continues to push everyone away, including new possible allies and friends, such as Michonne. A lot of people might occasionally be on Rick’s back, but at least he’s still got hope left. He’s lost a lot of his people, but he’s still got something to fight for and to hope for. Morgan? Not so much.
Morgan is The Walking Dead. He’s dead now. He’s not desperate. He’s got nothing to fight for now. No need to seek out revenge or salvation. Morgan is just dead and gone. He’s found his hellish purpose, which is to clear. To clear the world of the hell that is stumbling around and has taken his own family away from him. Everyone is a threat to Morgan, seeing as how he can’t even trust himself now, after his inability to kill his undead wife which ultimately led to the demise of his son, Duane. Morgan is stuck with himself now because he won’t even take the possible chance of being close to someone just to watch them perish in the worst ways. Nor will Morgan take the chance of being overrun by another. Hope for something better is useless in his eyes, which makes his world--his hell and his purpose--all the more clear. Morgan must be content with this new hell. He doesn’t have anything else left. Unlike Rick, Morgan has to wrestle with the horrific visuals of what has happened to his family--to Duane and Jenny. Holding out for hope killed Morgan’s only tethers to sanity and humanity--and hope. Hope for Morgan is just a trap that will sooner or later kill everyone, including Rick and his son, just like it killed Lori and T-Dog. It is better to be weak and sit guarded, without hope…at least for someone who has been through so much unbelievable trauma that they’ve given up on surviving the inevitable reckoning.
Most of this entire season, Rick and Carl’s relationship has been rather compromised due to some distressing emotional events that have left them both shaken in different ways. However, children are always more resilient, so Carl has rebounded more effectively than his father has. Rick is all over the place this season, zoning in and out of whatever is left of his sanity and attempting to keep his withering group together and alive. As a leader, Rick is just continuously slipping. I dare say Carl would be the best leader, next to Daryl to take the helm. And even beyond the leadership aspect, Rick and Carl’s father-son relationship is still suffering.
Rick has been ignoring Carl for some time now, still putting him on the back burner, even as his son begins to occasionally step up into his position of leadership. This installment sees Carl forcibly pushing his way back into his father’s sight and proving that he is not a kid anymore. He can’t afford to be, for himself or the group. Which will have some troubling affects as Carl continues to mature. Carl’s just as much of a leader as Rick could be and in a way, he’s been emulating Rick’s more ideal leading moments. However, the young lad is also becoming a bit reckless in some ways, still growing and soon to reach that good ol’ teenage phase (God, help Rick) he might need to be held back a little and Michonne might be the one to reel him back in! His recklessness leads him off to a little side adventure with Michonne watching his back in order to acquire a gift for his baby sister, Judith.
Michonne gets to shine in this installment a bit more than she’s ever done in the series thus far. Her character has always been quite a complex and silent but deadly warrior with a brutal bite. Trust and loyalty aren’t really her thing, yet Michonne begins to see that her circumstances have pushed her into a group of close-knit survivors that are worth salvaging with. At this point, Michonne’s best option is to find more than a common interest with these people in order to keep herself alive and stronger than she could be alone. And to Rick’s credit, he does give her a chance in this scenario. When things get incredibly messy, Michonne is a vital asset to the team. If Carl had gone on his mission alone, Rick would have most likely lost the last person tethering him to his own sanity, to his hope, and to his humanity. Michonne is a savior in this instance and Rick doesn’t even know it. If Rick had given up on Michonne earlier, Carl would be likely be dead by now, simply to get a gift for his sister--a gift that would give both Judith and Carl himself some semblance of hope in surviving--beating this horrifying world, just like Lori insisted they would.
Michonne and Carl both bond in an odd way in their tense adventure together, which gives Carl the incentive to insist to Rick that keeping her around would not only be a good idea--but the best idea. Michonne seems to have a weakness for kids and protecting innocence, so it is also a bit heartwarming to watch team Carl/Michonne working side-by-side in order to achieve something. And in the process the audience gets to know Michonne a little bit more. This is an episode where Michonne actually didn’t scowl angrily and untrusting throughout. In fact, I believe she smiled this installment! More than once! I’d say the silent ninja is beginning to open up, slowly but surely. She can’t afford to keep up that Chinese wall any longer. Michonne had a boyfriend (now dead) whom she used to converse with, insisting to an unstable Rick, suffering from phantom visions, that he is just as crazy as the rest of us. Rick finds that opening up the boundaries between trust and paranoia are imperative in his and the group’s survival. Rick has a glimmer of hope seeing that he can still trust another, even in this world. But Morgan refuses to go back to the prison with Rick seeing that they are prepping for a new bloodbath and a war all because of his inability to return from the despair he previously faced alone. A man in Morgan’s state cannot confront that kind of terrifying massacre again. So the decision is clear…
You cannot survive alone. As is apparent when we revisit Backpack Guy at the end of the episode. The ramifications of isolation are huge. The colliding opposites of foolish trust and destructive paranoia has many survivors in this post-apocalyptic world succumbing to the breakdown of their own humanity and falling into a visceral hell. This is quite a strong episode, one with great writing and story/character development that makes the dark, twisted and ultimately depressing episode a stellar, winning installment. The Walking Dead likes to surprise and this episode is no different! Things shift in surprising ways and what is left of this world full of undead freaks leaves the survivors stuck between two big evils that will either make or break them. Hope isn’t always the clear answer. What is? “Clear” gets 5 out of 5 stars!
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© Patrick Broadnax 2013