This episode brought us a welcome respite from the back-and-forth of the prison/Woodbury feud that’s been dragging a bit in the second half of season three. With the focus on only three main characters there was plenty of time to add some much-needed depth to Michonne and spend some time watching Rick climb back from the edge of insanity.
The opening scene has Michonne driving Rick and Carl on the supply run when they pass a lone survivor who begs them to stop, but they coldly ignore him. After getting the car stuck in mud a little ways down the road they have to deal with a walker ambush. Apparently the undead have the ability to appear out of nowhere in large numbers without being seen by the living until they’re within arm’s reach.
Just as they’re getting the car clear of the mud the hitchhiker comes running down the road begging for their help, but again they just ignore him. I’m pretty sure the Rick Grimes of season one would have done everything he could to help the poor guy, but this Rick has been through so much he’s less trusting of the living and rightly so. After all, his former partner and best friend tried to kill him and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
The trio have gone back to the Grimes’ hometown to try and get weapons from Rick’s old station, but the weapons locker is cleaned out save for a single bullet. Rick says he knows where they might be able to find a few hidden guns in town. The main business street of the town is filled with odd looking groupings of spikes each with a small, caged animal in the center. Later we see that these are basically walker traps. The hungry biters blindly head for the tasty critter in the center and impale themselves on the spikes, rendering them immobile.
They’re not twenty feet down the street when a walker comes up from behind them and gets taken out by a sniper perched on the roof of a nearby building. The masked gunman demands they drop their weapons and leave, but they make a run for it while Michonne tries to get to the roof. The gunman makes it down to the street about the same time as Michonne makes it to the roof. He opens fire on Rick who runs out of bullets then Carl comes out of nowhere and shoots the guy, laying him out.
Rick looks pretty surprised by what Carl did, but not half as surprised as he is when he pulls the mask of the gunman. The guy Carl shot was Rick’s friend, Morgan, whom we haven’t seen since the pilot episode. Morgan is only bruised by Carl’s bullet because he was wearing body armor.
They find Morgan’s heavily booby trapped abode and it’s a huge stockpile of weapons and ammunition. The walls are filled with insane scribblings and the word “clear” peppered everywhere. Instead of taking weapons and leaving, Rick decides to stay until Morgan wakes up.
Carl wants to go find a crib for his baby sister and Michonne offers to go with him. Carl had one other item in mind, though. There’s a picture of he and his parents on the wall of a local cafe that he wants so Judith can see what her mother looked like, but the cafe is filled with walkers. They distract them with caged rats on skateboards which works at first, but soon they’re being chased and barely manage to get out though Carl drops the picture.
Michonne won’t let Carl go back inside the cafe and instead tells him to wait outside the front door with walkers on the other side trying to get at them. Michonne goes around the side of the building and nabs the picture while the walkers are distracted by Carl out front, but that’s not the only thing she returns with. She’s also got a multicolored cat figurine that she says with a smile is, “…just too damned gorgeous.” Finally! Michonne has other emotions besides “scowl.” It’s about damned time.
Back at the homestead/ammo dump, Morgan wakes up in an insane rage and stabs Rick in the shoulder. When Rick pushes him off and draws his gun on him, Morgan pleads for Rick to kill him. Rick finally gets through to Morgan just a little by telling him the story of how he left the radio for Morgan, but Morgan tells him he never heard him on the radio. Rick explains how he got pushed farther into the woods, but Morgan’s just plain crazy from being alone and from the personal tragedies he’s had to endure.
Morgan tells Rick how he lost his son, Duane, and it’s one hell of a tragic tale. Rick had left a gun for Morgan so he could kill his wife who had already turned, but Morgan just couldn’t do it. Then one day while searching for food he has Duane wait outside a cellar and when Morgan heads back to the door he sees that Duane is standing before his own undead mother, gun in hand and unable to shoot her. Before Morgan can do anything his wife kills their son then he has to take care of them both. Rick and Carl have had to do horrible things, too, but at least they had the company of others to keep them from completely going over the edge.
Morgan refuses to go with Rick because if he needs so many guns and has something good someone else is just going to try to take it. He says, “You’re going to be torn apart by teeth or bullets,” and he’s probably right. Unlike Morgan, Rick isn’t resigned to giving up and he does his best to convince Morgan that he can come back from the bad place he’s found himself in, but it doesn’t work.
The three friends load up the car with a large supply of guns, ammunition, and that crib Carl was determined to get for Judith. Morgan just goes on piling up walkers to “clear” while they leave and Carl apologizes to him for shooting him. Morgan says, “Hey son. Don’t ever be sorry.”
At the back of the car, Carl tells Rick he thinks Michonne “might be one of us,” indicating the bond the two formed on their little mission. A bit later Michonne tells Rick that she knows he’s seeing people and that she used to talk to her dead boyfriend. He asks her if she wants to drive and she says yes. Rick says, with a hint of a smile, “Good, because I see things.”
On the road out of town they head down the same highway they drove in on. This time, instead of passing the hitchhiker trying to get their attention, they pass his bloody remains. In one final gesture showing how different they’ve become, this time they stop, but only to pick up the hitchhiker’s backpack. That’s pretty damned cold.
Watching “Clear” I couldn’t help but feel the title had multiple meanings. The most obvious was Morgan’s obsession with clearing out walkers, but just as important was Rick, after seeing Morgan’s deteriorated mental state, getting a clear view of where he could’ve been heading. Personally, I felt the most important meaning was that we, the viewers, were given an episode clear of the tiresome entanglements of the drawn-out battle between Rick and the Governor.
This episode brought back memories of The Walking Dead‘s first season when locations and situations were less static than they’ve become in the second and third. I hope this is an indication of things to come because I’d almost forgotten how really good The Walking Dead could be.
Please give us more episodes like this.