This episode was much simpler (and better) in terms of plot than the previous episode; for that reason I am going to depart from my Jake’s reviewing format and present my thoughts on this week’s episode – ‘Clear’ – in simple essay form.
The episode starts with an ostensibly simple supply-gathering trip to Rick’s hometown, but quickly escalates into what The Walking Dead does best: emotional turbulence with a backdrop of zombie danger.
This turbulence is foreshadowed in the subplot of Carl’s and Michonne’s relationship. Carl doesn’t trust her and questions Rick for bringing her along. Rick tells him that they have ‘common interests’ (one being to obliterate any trace of a certain one-eyed maniac) and ends the conversation. This subplot is interesting because it hinges on Carl’s love for his mum, and this manifests itself when Michonne returns into the café to retrieve the picture of Lori, which Carl couldn’t take. In other words, Carl misses his mum so much that he is willing to trust this stranger to collect something that symbolises his love for her. This then metamorphoses Michonne from an alien stranger to a trusted friend in one action.
This story line was done particularly well, as it revealed much about Carl’s character in a very subtle, yet effective, way. By creating the context of Carl not trusting Michonne at the start of the episode, and then showing Carl to have to trust her if he wants to gain (what he sees as) a remnant of his dead mother, we see that, despite his cavalier exterior, part of him is still the wounded little boy who was forced to kill his mother in a zombie-ridden dystopia. This story line alone eclipsed anything in last week’s episode, and it wasn’t even the best one.
The explosive and surprising return of Morgan, and Rick’s violent and emotional encounter with him, made this episode one of the best in the series. This is because it focussed on the emotions of the characters, and not the boring interplay between two rival factions, as previous episodes have been leaning towards.
This episode was when post-Shane Rick had to come face-to-face with a reminder of who he was before he became the dictatorial leader of the group. He has to face a stark reminder (Morgan) of who he used to be. This is especially evident when Morgan is screaming at Rick, anger mixed with despair over Rick’s absence over the walkie-talkie. Rick has to face up to the fact that he has changed, or, as he puts it, got ‘caught up’; he has to stand up to the fact that he left his hometown a kind man who cared about people, and returned a much colder person. This part of the episode was particularly interesting, as you could see the conflict on Rick’s face as he was contemplating leaving Morgan unconscious without talking to him. Andrew Lincoln did a great job this episode.
Another part of this relationship that made the episode very good and also served to personify the harsh world that these survivors inhabit was Morgan’s madness. Rick left Morgan a sane and lucid man who seemed intent to survival. When he returns he is unchanged in the latter respect, but completely transformed in the former. He is still (obsessively) intent on surviving, but no definition of sanity could be used to describe him. He seems to have gone partially, if not totally, insane. So much so that at first he doesn’t even recognise Rick. He thinks that Rick is ‘wearing a dead man’s face’.
This madness is explained in a chilling anecdote about how Morgan’s son was eaten by his zombie-wife, who (if you remember) was unable to kill when we saw him last. This story drives home the brutality of the world, and also shows that, although Rick’s group has got it bad, they live in a world where other people may have it worse.
This links to another mini-plot that ran throughout this episode: the unidentified lone man. This man chases the trio throughout the episode, begging for them to stop and for help. They ignore him twice, without even a word from anyone explaining why; it’s just obvious to them all that they aren’t going to help him. This sub-plot finished with the man’s off-screen death, after which the group steal his bag.
Morgan and this man combine to show the apathy and brutality of now only the world, but also of the group. Rick does invite Morgan to come back to the prison, but their uncaring attitude towards the unnamed man’s death counteracts that and shows that Morgan only got an invitation because Rick knew him. The group has become something twisted and contorted morally. This exemplified the shift in morality that a zombie apocalypse brings, and also shows, more specifically, the shift in morality that Rick and Carl have undergone.
This was very well done, a marked step above the previous episode, and many others this season.
Everything about this episode was positive. I can’t think of anything bad to say about it. It was interesting and engaging, and it shows us character depth and progression. It wasn’t ‘mind-blowing,’ however, so it does not deserve a 9 or a 10. For that reason I am going to give it an 8.