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Today I was pleasantly surprised. Fans of the The Walking Dead TV series have seen lots of highs and lows through these past few seasons. This episode however, "Clear", is by far one of the best I've seen all season, if not the whole series. Here's why.
Oh, well spoilers, obviously.
This episode was very self-contained, with no cut-aways to The Prison or Woodbury. Instead, the episode focused on Rick, Michonne, and Carl. Surprisingly, this made for a really good trio. We see more of Carl's arc, as he slowly becomes colder and more hollow, and we get to see Michonne open up a bit more.
The episode begins with them on the road, entering King County, Georgia, where Rick and his son used to live. It ends with them leaving the area. The entire episode follows this trio as they venture into town in search of supplies to aid them in their war against Woodbury. Whereas some of the previous episodes acted as a sort of set-up for the more action-packed episodes, this one was more character-focused. Unlike last week however, we didn't have to deal with Andrea.
This episode didn't do much in the way of overall plot progression. Instead of moving people around and setting up greater events, we saw more character development. We saw how the whole group had become hardened (hardened enough to leave a man to die, then loot his corpse), yet we also saw their human side. This episode gave us a glimpse of how pragmatic they've become, yet how they're still clinging on to their human lives. Without these moments of characterisation, this episode would have been nothing but a forgettable detour.
Like I said, this episode didn't move the plot forward so much as it moved its characters forward. It cleared the air and got Rick ready for the coming crucible. It also resolved some nagging questions, like what the hell happened to Morgan.
Of course, it wasn't much of a surprise we'd see him this season, since the "last time" segment clearly showed Rick trying to raise him on his walkie-talkie. That didn't stop the reveal from being shocking however. The last we saw Morgan, he was kind man who loved his son and couldn't kill his zombified wife. Discovering he was the man trying to shoot rick and the gang was a well-executed surprise, because we wouldn't expect that from him. It really drives home how much everyone has lost, how the world is getting worse, and how far these characters have changed.
And then, we learn the truth about what happened to Duane. In an ironic twist of fate, he was eaten by his own mother, the very one that Morgan failed to shoot. After losing his entire family, and having only himself to blame, it's not hard to see how he fell so far. It was a twisted side story that took one of the more wholesome and morally upright characters and transformed them into an unrecognisable monster. That's messed up, yo.
All of this was punctuated by an excellent delivery on the part of Lennie James. His tears and outbursts, and especially his warning to Rick, "You'll be torn apart by teeth or bullets", were very powerful, and an excellent wake-up call for our protagonist.
On the other hand, we also got to see some more out of Carl. At first, I was a little worried he had morphed into his season 2 self, running off and getting everyone into trouble. Surprisingly, this ended up being one of the sweeter and more touching moments in The Walking Dead. It was a bittersweet moment. In the midst of all the loss and chaos, Carl wanted a piece of his past to hold on to. More importantly, he wanted hope for the future. He wanted a picture of Lori so that Judith would know what her mother looked like. That's some touching stuff. So touching in fact, that I can forgive how quickly and how easily Michonne retrieved that photo. I guess she really is a ninja.
We also saw Michonne open up as well. Instead of being her usual overly-guarded self, we saw some actual humour from her, which served as pleasant comic-relief. She also reached out to Rick, explaining how she was once in a similar situation. I really hope they keep this up.
To sum up my thoughts on the episode:
- It was marvellously self-contained and pretty much went full-circle.
- We got to see motha****in' Morgan!
- It was touching and emotional, yet still had plenty of badass zombie slaying action.
- Morgan's actour is incredibly good at his job.
- Motha****in' Morgan!
- Michonne can talk?
- The hitchhiker at the beginning and the end showed some more character development, just for Rick, but for his son and Michonne.
- Did I mention Morgan!?