If you missed tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Clear,” then you might want to set some booby traps and wait it out, because there are spoilers ahead.
The zombie apocalypse is a difficult place. As we’ve seen, group dynamics can shift suddenly, charismatic but morally ambiguous people can lead others down questionable paths, and relationships are tested repeatedly and brutally. All that being said, tonight’s episode shows us, if there was any doubt, that it is indisputably better to be part of a group in this world, than on one’s own. And not even just for simple practical reasons of safety and resources. For mental and emotional survival, human contact is key. Morgan made a reappearance tonight–the man who saved Rick’s life in the pilot episode, who explained to him what had happened to the world. As Rick noted, they started out in the same place, but oh, how differently things have gone for them.
Rick, Carl and Michonne are on a run to gather up guns and ammo to improve their odds against the Governor, so we open with the three of them driving to the Grimes’ family old hometown, where Rick knows he has access to the weapons locker at the police station. It has to be the world’s most awkward road trip. Michonne is driving, and they all sit in silence. The drive is broken up by a brief interlude where they’re stuck in the mud and some walkers come up on them, but Rick seems to dispose of them pretty handily, and shows Carl how to free a car stuck in the mud. Never too dangerous for a teachable moment! Michonne learns something too. She overhears Rick and Carl talking, and realizes she is still an outsider to them. A useful outsider with common interests, but an outsider. What I enjoyed was that none of these three are too fussed about walkers at this point. They just handle it and move on. One other interesting thing–they pass a man, a lone backpacker, who desperately tries to get them to stop, and almost catches up to them when they’re waylaid in the mud, but they leave him in the dust. There’s not even a discussion about picking him up.
When they get to the town, they’re devastated to see that the police station has been cleaned out. Rick knows the place, though, and has a beat on a few other businesses that might have guns. As they start to walk to the main street, they see an increasing amount of disturbing graffiti messages, and a large pile of burned out corpses. When they finally turn onto the main street, their jaws collectively drop. Someone has done a LOT of work to make the street as impassable to walkers as possible. There are spiked traps, baited with live rats, everywhere. As they’re taking stock, trying to make their way through this disturbing landscape, a man in a helmet appears on a nearby roof, gun on them, shouting for them to drop their weapons. He sounds crazy, and Michonne offers to head up to the roof, because she is a ninja, and dispose of him. Rick draws his fire, sending Carl back to the car, and they shoot at each other, then the man disappears right before Michonne reaches the roof to take care of him. He’s suddenly on the street, gun leveled at Rick, when Carl steps out and shoots him in the chest. Rick is a bit unsettled by Carl’s disobeying orders, and also that Carl didn’t hesitate to shoot this guy, but you can’t argue that Carl saved Rick’s life. Luckily, as they soon learn, the man was wearing kevlar, and isn’t dead, just knocked unconscious. Rick removes his vest and helmet and gasps in recognition when he sees Morgan’s face.
They can’t leave him on the street, and now that Rick has seen who it is, he tries to explain to Michonne what Morgan did for him. She looks around at the insanity of this place, and looks skeptical, to which Rick says, “He wasn’t like this then.” Taking him inside the building proves challenging. There truly are booby traps everywhere. And serious ones too. Tripwires and axes and all kinds of things to dodge. When they reach his rooms, they see the reason the police station armory was emptied. Morgan has stockpiled so many weapons. There is also writing, the crazy person kind, all over the walls. Some of it is indecipherable, and some of it…is not. There is a place where Morgan wrote, “Duane turned.” Duane was the son, Rick remembers, studying it in shock. Carl looks at the map Morgan had drawn on the wall of the whole town, and sees that their old neighborhood had burned down. Michonne is all for packing up the guns, but Rick will not abandon Morgan, and insists they stay until he wakes up. To be safe, he binds Morgan’s hands. Michonne starts to eat some of his food–when questioned, she shrugs, “Mat said welcome.”
Carl has his own agenda now–some special gifts for baby Judith. He asks for permission to go on a run to a baby store around the corner. Michonne offers to go with him, to both Rick and Carl’s surprise. Carl tries to shake her off by sending her to kill a walker and getting away, but she’s quick and she catches up to him. She realizes he’s not going to the baby store, but Carl is adamant about what he must do, and walks on, Michonne trailing him.
When Morgan first wakes up, he lies still to loose his bonds so he can jump Rick. The two scuffle and go at it pretty seriously, all the while shouting–Rick shouting about who he is and that Morgan knows him, and Morgan shouting crazy person things about people wearing dead men’s faces, and everybody turning. He even stabs Rick right below the shoulder, but Rick manages to get the upper hand and points a gun at his head, at which point Morgan begins to beg Rick to kill him. Rick ties him up again, and Morgan continues to mutter, “Just kill me.” Finally, there is a glimmer of recognition when Rick spells out everything about their first encounter and shows Morgan the walkie talkie he gave him so they could keep in touch. Once Morgan realizes it really IS Rick, his story is able to come out.
He is angry at Rick, naturally. He believes he was abandoned, and that led to him losing everything. He tells Rick what happened to his son, and even in this effed-up world, it’s still pretty awful. Like a Carl-shoots-his-mom level of awful. Morgan was never able to shoot his wife, even though she was a walker and she kept showing up at his house, and he knew he should. He just couldn’t get himself to do it. “You gave me the gun,” he says to Rick sadly. Instead, one day, coming up from a cellar scouting for food, he spots his wife facing down his son, who is point his gun at her. But Duane couldn’t pull the trigger either. He lost focus for one second, and then, says Morgan, “She was on him.” This appears to be the final straw that drove Morgan round the bend, as he blames himself for his weakness in not doing what needed to be done, the cost of which was his son’s life.
Carl and Michonne’s field trip isn’t going so well either. They’re at small cafe that Carl needs to get into, but it’s full of dead. Michonne won’t let him just walk in, and he lashes out at her, saying she doesn’t know him, and doesn’t know why this is so important. So she does what a friend would do…she offers to help him. They send in some rat baits to distract the walkers and then sneak around them to get to the bar, where Carl finds what he’s looking for, a family photo of him and his parents that was hanging in the cafe. Unbeknownst to them, however, a walker was hiding behind the bar, and he makes a grab at Carl’s foot. Michonne takes him out pretty quickly, but as they’re attempting their escape, a loose rat runs around the corner towards them and they realize they’re in the shit now. All the walkers follow, and the two of them have to do some careful dodging (both getting in a couple kills along the way) to make it out the door safely. Only the precious photo is dropped in the melee, and Carl is determined to get it back. Michonne says no, and says that for once he’s going to listen to her and stay put, exactly where he is. He does, and his standing outside the door keeps the walkers’ attention so that Michonne, like the ninja she is, can slip back in and grab the photo…and some ugly plaster cat. Is this Michonne’s first attempt at a joke on this show?
Rick is trying to convince Morgan to return with them to the prison, but Morgan knows it can’t be as great as he promises if they’re so desperate for guns. He refuses, and his determination unsettles Rick even more. “This can’t be it. It can’t be. You gotta be able to come back from this.” But for Morgan, there is no going back. Rick has to learn that not everybody can be saved. When Carl and Michonne return, Michonne observes Morgan back at work, clearing zombies from his traps. “He’s okay,” she says to Rick. “No, he’s not,” Rick replies quietly. Carl apologizes to Morgan for shooting him, to which Morgan says, “Don’t ever apologize.” When Rick asks Carl, back at the car, how things went with Michonne, he’s surprised to hear Carl’s remark. “I think she might be one of us.” On The Walking Dead, that’s about as high as praise gets. Michonne shares with Rick that she knows about his hallucinations, and that she used to talk to her dead boyfriend. A joke AND a tidbit from her past? This episode has gone further to humanize Michonne than all the rest combined.
As a poignant coda to the dangers of being alone, as the group drives off, they pass the remains of the lone backpacker they saw earlier. They stop now…to pick up his backpack. It’s good to have a group, but it’s still a jungle out there, and every tribe has only so much room.
Quote of the night:
“The good people, they always die…and the bad people do too. But the weak people, the people like me…we have inherited the earth!” – Morgan