In Slate's The Walking Dead TV Club, Chris Kirk will IM each week with a different fan of The Walking Dead. This week, he discusses “Clear” with Sean McKenna, who reviews The Walking Dead for TV Fanatic.
Chris Kirk: As "Clear" begins, Rick, Michonne, and Carl are driving down a lonely stretch of road. They encounter a traveller screaming for help and drive past him indifferently. Rick isn’t interested in helping strangers anymore.
Sean McKenna: Not at all, and the car isn't very chatty either.
Chris: Can’t they at least connect an iPod? Anyway, they get lodged in some mud at the scene of a car accident. As a bunch of zombies beat against the windows of the car, Michonne seems to roll her eyes. Rick shoots one, and in the next shot we see our heroes trying to dislodge their car from the mud, presumably after killing the rest.
Sean: It was a pretty much “one and done” as if to show that Rick and company don't really fear the zombies anymore. The zombies are just an annoying nuisance now.
Chris: And just before they drive away, that traveller shows up again, yelling "Hey! Help me!"
Sean: I felt so bad for that guy.
Chris: Seriously! After Daryl helped those people on the bridge in "Home," do you think Daryl would have helped that guy?
Sean: You know, I actually think he might have. Or at least talked to him to figure out what was up. Rick, despite his desire to save and protect everyone, has become a pretty cold character. Daryl seems to have warmed up and grown a heart when it comes to people.
Chris: Anyway, the three continue on to the town in which Rick, Carl, and Lori used to live. I suppose that's feasible because I am clueless about the story’s geography. Whatever the case, I was glad to get away from the prison and Woodbury for awhile.
Sean: For sure, and away from the "Andrea makes really bad decisions" show.
Chris: In the town, they exchange gunfire with a local. Carl saves Rick at the last moment by shooting the guy in the chest, his first-ever assault on a survivor.
Sean: He's really a child of the zombie apocalypse and has adapted nicely, but he might lose himself because of it.
Chris: The shooter turns out to be Morgan, a survivor Rick helped way back in the pre-Andrea days of Season 1. The guy has gone nuts and his place is Home Alone on steroids, but Rick insists on helping him. To show his appreciation, Morgan stabs Rick in the shoulder. Ouch.
Sean: Surprising, but you would think it would be more serious than just another flesh wound.
Chris: Eventually and expectantly, Morgan cools down and opens up, explaining that because he failed to kill his zombie wife, she killed his son.
Sean: I'm surprised there was no beach ball with a bloody handprint that he talked to. Morgan has given up while Rick continues to fight, but Rick has a purpose in protecting the group and his son. I really wish it was a happier reunion.
Chris: Rick persists and tries to persuade Morgan to come back to the prison with him. It almost seems like he's arguing with himself: "This can't be it. It can't be. You gotta be able to come back from this." Rick has to come back from Lori. I don't doubt that Rick see Morgan as the final form of Rick’s own insanity and cynicism.
Sean: Rick still has hope for the future and a good life. It's hard for him to hear such negativity coming from the guy who first saved him and was so originally calm and collected.
Chris: Morgan refuses to return with Rick. "I have to clear," he says. What does he mean? Suicide?
Sean: Coming from him, it sounded like more crazy talk. Aside from clearing the dead bodies and the zombies that keep getting into his traps, I think he needs to clear his mind. Perhaps it's about refocusing on the important things and learning to live even when everything around is going to shit. I hope he can get it together and perhaps regroup with Rick again in the future.
Chris: I get the sense that this is it for him, that this is the end of his story. But who knows? Meanwhile, Carl wants to risk his life for a family photo, and Michonne is supposed to watch over him. “You can’t stop me!” he yells. What a teenager! She totally can stop him. Why doesn’t she?
Sean: She wants to be a part of a group. Helping out Carl might put her in good graces with Rick, and it gives Carl a chance to see that she can do something good without it being all about the common enemy.
Chris: My favorite part of the episode was when she says, "I was going to go back in anyway. I just couldn't leave this behind," and produces a bizarre rainbow-cat statue. "It's just too damn gorgeous."
Sean: I think Michonne has the chance to be a great character. After an episode like this that gave her a chance to do more than just cut down zombies and give everyone the stink eye, I'm excited to see her grow.
Chris: This was an episode unlike any other in the series. It was much more contemplative and tangential, and only had three of the main characters. It’s a complete, self-contained side quest, more of a short story that a piece in a broader narrative. Do you think it worked?
Sean: You could certainly argue that it was filler, but the whole focus of the hour was on character and how the new world has changed people. It gave Rick a reflection on what could happen if he continues to fall into insanity, it showed Carl holding onto a piece of his past, and it showed Michonne trying to be a part of something in a world where that can be dangerous. This was a breath of fresh air from the prison vs. Woodbury war. I enjoyed taking that step back and acknowledging how much everything has changed.
Chris: Hopefully Rick will stop seeing Lori now and Michonne will collect more statues. Anyway, I have to clear…I think. Thanks for chatting with me!