March 4, 2013

Episode Review: THE WALKING DEAD, "Clear"

Like so many things in life, good television needs balance, and sometimes a program like The Walking Dead can miscalculate its equilibrium by focusing too much time on zombies and action sequences and not enough on the development of characters and relationships. Thankfully, "Clear" took a step back from the war between the prison and Woodbury to take a longer look at some woefully underutilized people, the show's core bond, and how this new world has affected others. It was the right calibration of all of these elements than made "Clear" the standout episode of the season if not the entire series.

Rick, Carl and Michonne went out on a run that took the Grimes family back to their hometown. The initial reason for returning was Rick wanted to check out his old sheriff station's armory to find some weapons as they prepared for the impending clash with the Governor, but things took a very different turn when the cupboard was bare and they were greeted with walker booby traps and a masked person shooting at them. It turned out that the man behind the mask was Morgan Jones from Season 1. From that point on, Rick tried to convince Morgan to join him at the prison while learning about how this new world has destroyed his long-lost acquaintance, and maybe even helped him realize that he still has something worth fighting for.

Meanwhile, Carl and Michonne went on a side mission since he felt the need to grab a family photo from the local cafe, but of course that was not as easy as it seemed because the place was packed with walkers. Together, they were able to get the picture, but Carl dropped it while running from the zombies. Instead of letting him go back inside, Michonne went volunteered to retrieve it for him. Carl need the picture because he planned on using it to help his sister understand where she came from. This little adventure made Carl realize that Michonne was one of them and could be trusted, and he shared his revelation with Rick as they headed back to the prison.

It's no secret that Michonne has been one of the most underdeveloped new characters, so it was refreshing to see her get some much needed shading. I don't know if she's still a fully realized person after this episode, but I appreciated the slightest hints at her personality and the small footsteps that were taken, and it was nice to see her bond with someone besides Andrea. Let's just hope the writers can keep this momentum going forward.

The Rick moments were equally effective because not only was it good to have Morgan back, but the scenes shared between the two men gave us a better understanding of life during the zombie apocalypse and how it can go in very different directions. Even though it's somewhat understandable that Rick would crack under the pressure of losing his wife while leading this group of survivors, it was interesting to see someone who's suffered even more, and hopefully this was the catalyst that sets Rick back on the right path since it can always be worse.

Other Odds and Ends:
  • The running bit involving the hitch hiker was another intriguing nod to how these people have changed.
  • Lennie James was phenomenal in this episode and gave Andrew Lincoln a run for his money in the acting crazy department. I hope this isn't the last we've seen of him.
  • Those poor rats and birds.
  • I know we didn't follow Michonne back in the restaurant  but that whole sequence was missing something. And how did she get in and out so quickly?
  • That small moment of shared understanding between Michonne and Rick might be the best thing this The Walking Dead's ever done.
  • "The mat said, 'welcome.'"
The brilliance of "Clear" was the fact that it didn't abandon what has made The Walking Dead successful. We still got zombie kills, people shooting at each other, and tension, but it added a nice sprinkling of humanity that's sometimes lost in the shuffle. I know that it's probably unfair to expect the show to always be at this kind of transcendent level, but it's reassuring to know that it still can reach it from time to time.


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