Rick, Michonne and Carl set out to stock up on weapons, only for Rick to encounter an old friend…
An episode built around four characters, a handful of zombies and one doomed hitchhiker might not sound like riveting television, but Clear is simply one of the best episodes of the series this season. While the main storylines about the inhabitants of the prison and Woodbury are compelling, this instalment offers a much needed break from the dramatics surrounding the threat from the Governor and Rick’s breakdown—in fact, it offers Rick some much-needed healing time.
As for the fourth character who joins Rick, Michonne and Carl in this episode, it’s none other than Morgan Jones, as played by the excellent Lennie James in the first season opening episode ‘Days Gone By’. Morgan had rescued Rick from the zombies, but the Morgan Rick finds upon returning to town is a shadow of his former self, driven to madness by the death of his son at the hands of his wife (who he failed to put down when she turned) and by the failure of Rick to respond to his radio calls as promised. In Morgan, Rick can see a path he might be on himself, with his visions of his dead wife Lori being clear signifiers of a mind becoming unhinged.
There’s been some audience controversy about Rick’s failure to pick up a desperate hitchhiker early in the episode, but as the secondary theme of this instalment is Rick becoming more accepting of Michonne… At that stage he wasn’t prepared to take another stranger into his wayward care, as he doesn’t trust Michonne, nor Merle back at the prison, and he already turned away Tyreese and his group. By the time the episode concludes, and the trio are heading back to the prison, Rick’s changed enough through his experiences to be more open to rescuing strangers—except in the hitchhiker’s case it’s now far too late. Can’t waste those supplies in his backpack, though.
It is Michonne’s shepherding of Carl that redeems her in the eyes of Rick. She indulges the boy’s desire to embark on his own mission—to retrieve an old family photo displayed on the wall of a now zombie-infested diner—but she doesn’t let him risk himself or others in the process. The pair bond, and in entrusting his son to her care, Rick is both testing Michonne and himself: is she fit to be permitted to join the group, and is Rick able to clear his mind enough (after encountering Morgan,a vision of his possible future) to accept her for what she is?
One other point: they’re doing a good job of hiding it, but in occasional shots it is clear that young Chandler Riggs is beginning to physically outgrow the character of Carl. It’s been over three years since the show began, but only one winter has passed in screen time. The now-teenaged actor is playing a younger-than-teen character, and that’s only going to become more difficult to pull off as time passes (Lost suffered a similar problem with the character of Walt, played by Malcolm David Kelly, another teen actor who sprouted inconveniently). Recasting seems unlikely, but it could be an issue for the show in the not-too-distant future…
Verdict: An excellent, character-based episode of The Walking Dead offering a welcome breather from the main storylines of the season
Episode 12 ‘Clear’: 9/10
Brian J. Robb