The most compelling aspect of post-apocalyptic stories are the twin questions of how the survivors navigate the changed circumstances of their world and whether it is possible to hold onto the qualities we define as “humanity” and still survive. The Walking Dead has, from the beginning, addressed those questions, with varying degrees of success and preachiness, but rarely has it done so as well as in last night’s episode, “Clear.”
We open with Michonne, Rick, and Carl on the supply run that Rick mentioned at the end of the last episode. They zoom past a sign that says “Erin, we tried for Stone Mountain” and then pass a human on the side of the road, who shouts for them to pick him up. They don’t even slow down, and no one discusses the decision.
At the site of a giant car wreck, their car stalls in the mud; a group of zombies is immediately drawn to the hard-shelled, flesh-filled treat of the car (and one of them wears a bracelet that says “Erin.” Heh! But also, ouch!).
Rick and Michonne take care of the zombie threat, and then Rick and Carl create a makeshift lever to get the car out of the mud. Carl asks why Michonne has come with them; Rick tells him that for now, he and Michonne have the same problem (a problem named “The Governor”) and maybe they can work on that problem together.
Just as the car starts to move again, the hitchhiker reappears in the distance, begging them to take him with them. No dice! Michonne starts the car and they zoom off again. Gosh, imagine if people like Morgan or Glenn or Herschel had ignored Rick’s obvious need for help back in the day!
They drive on until they reach the town where Rick once lived; unfortunately, the sheriff’s office, where Rick was counting on finding lots of guns and ammo, has been completely cleaned out. Rick tells Michonne that there are other stores on Main Street where the owners had guns; he knows this because he’s the one who signed the permits.
Carl, Michonne, and Rick proceed cautiously through the empty town. They pass a broken down wall that shelters a pile of burned corpses, and bears a sign that says “Away With You.” Someone has also spray painted arrows on the street and behind them, another sign says “No guilt, you know that.” It’s creepy as hell, but clearly not the work of zombies.
Finally they get to what I assume is Main Street, which has been rigged up as a gigantic zombie trap, filled with trip wires and bamboo stakes. Another sign, painted on a sheet for variety, says “Just listen” and on the pavement beneath their feet, yet another warning says “Turn around and live.”
Michonne tells Rick that it looks like someone’s already made the place into home, as a zombie drifts into one of the traps. At this point, a figure in a mask and helmet appears on the roof of a nearby building and starts shooting at them. I think it’s time to switch to plan B. The man shouts at them to leave their shoes and weapons, and he’ll let them go.
Michonne goes up to the roof to look for the sniper, but he’s already made his way downstairs. He and Rick cautiously stalk each other, and then Carl shoots him before Rick can.
“Are you okay?” Rick asks Carl. He scolds Carl that he should have run for the car. “I didn’t want you to have to do that.” Well, Rick, the kid had to shoot his own mother in the head so she wouldn’t come back and eat him alive, so I’m thinking a masked man with a gun threatening his father was probably slightly less traumatic, all things considered.
The masked man is wearing a Kevlar vest, so Carl’s bullet just knocked him out, rather than killing him. This bit is a little fuzzy since the bullet hit the guy in the ribs so I don’t quite see why he’s unconscious, but I’ll go with it, because the reveal when Rick peels off the face mask is so awesome! It’s MORGAN, played by the amazing Lennie James! (Of course, Morgan, being an African-American man, is making me fear for the life of Tyreese, because of the whole zero-sum game aspect of African-American male characters on this show!)
When Michonne wonders why Rick won’t leave Morgan unconscious on the street, Rick reveals that Morgan saved his life. “He wasn’t like this then.”
Michonne helps Rick carry Morgan up the stairs, warning Rick about a “Welcome” mat that covers up a pit of stakes. When they get upstairs, they realize that Morgan has amassed a lot of weaponry. He’s also written all over the walls, in a shorthand for crazy. The word “clear” appears all over the place, invariably written in bright red or yellow chalk.
Rick notices that Morgan still has the radio he gave him, just before he notices one of the chalk sentences says “Duane turned.” Poor Morgan. Poor, poor Morgan! The combination the radio, symbolizing Rick’s failure to keep his promise to stay in touch and Rick’s realization that Morgan’s child is dead make Rick insist that they stay until Morgan wakes up. Michonne points out that since Morgan tried to kill them, and they already didn’t leave him for the Walkers, he’s having a pretty good day.
“We’re waiting for him to wake up, and that’s it!” You can take Rick out of the Ricktatorship, but you can’t take the Ricktatorship out of Rick, I guess!
Michonne tells Rick that she thinks Morgan is dangerous; I wonder if it was the arsenal or the crazy writing that gave it away. “He wasn’t like this then,” Rick repeats, apparently forgetting that Shane “wasn’t like this then” and ended up trying to murder Rick.
Carl explores what Morgan has written everywhere, including a map of the town that shows “Rick’s house” as “burnt out.” Michonne settles in and enjoys a bag of crunchy things. “We’re eating his food now?” Rick asks her. “Mat said ‘Welcome’,” Michonne replies. You know what? She’s right! Also, she’s so awesome this episode that she’d be one of my favorite characters if she were like this always.
While Rick waits for Morgan to wake up, Carl decides to go on a run for baby stuff, including a crib for little Judith. Rick makes another one of his mystifying decisions, letting Carl leave with a woman he doesn’t really trust while he waits, alone, for the guy who tried to kill all of them, including said kid, to wake up.
Outside, Michonne and Carl walk past Walkers impaled on Morgan’s booby traps. Carl tells Michonne she doesn’t have to come with him; she replies that she told his dad she’d help him. Carl seizes the opportunity of an impending Walker to take off from Michonne, but she catches up to him.
Carl explains to her that he wants to get something for Judith that’s not available at the local baby store, and that he needs to do it by himself. Michonne follows him at a distance.
Meanwhile, at JPMorganCrazy, Morgan wakes up and tries to kill Rick. They have a huge brawl, with Morgan yelling “You don’t clear, man, you turn!” before he stabs Rick in the shoulder. Rick fights him off, pointing his gun at Morgan’s head, and Morgan begs Rick to kill him. Morgan clearly doesn’t remember Rick, who fills Morgan in on the Rick-rescue Morgan initiated last year. “You know me. I’m not wearing a dead man’s face.”
Finally, Rick shows Morgan the radio and Morgan makes the connection. He yells at Rick that he checked the radio every day at dawn, just as Rick told him to, and “YOU WERE NOT THERE!”
Rick tells Morgan that he found his wife and son and they had to keep moving, so he ended up out of range of the radio, but he tried. Morgan isn’t even really listening, because he’s telling Rick about how he, Morgan, was unable to kill his now-zombie wife with the gun Rick gave him. “I let it go like there wasn’t going to be a reckoning,” he says.
One day, Morgan went down into a cellar to check for food leaving Duane upstairs, and Morgan’s wife somehow followed them into the house. Duane pointed his gun at what was once his mother, but he couldn’t shoot her; trying to distract her, Morgan shouted at her. Instead, she bit Duane, and that’s when Morgan was finally able to shoot her. This is one of the most heartbreaking scenes on the show.
“Your boy,” Morgan asks Rick, “is he dead?” When Rick says no, Morgan tells him: “He will be. People like you, the good people, they always die, and the bad people do too. The weak people—the people like me—we have inherited the earth.” Leaving aside Rick’s questionable inclusion in the “good people” category, this is just gut-wrenching, and Lennie James is amazing.
Meanwhile, Carl and Michonne arrive at the “King County Cafe.” Michonne tells him she’s not going to let him go in there. Carl persists, telling her that he has a plan and “this is important.” Michonne tells him that she can’t stop him, but he can’t stop her from helping him. Awww! I’m so glad Michonne has actual lines and conversations in this episode, because she has apparently been secretly awesome all this time!
Michonne and Carl wheel in some skateboards with caged rats strapped onto them. The zombies, smelling fresh rat meat, try to get the cages open. While the zombies are distracted, Carl runs in and grabs a photo of him, Lori, and Rick from over the counter. One of the rats escapes from its cage, and the zombies chase it down, finding Carl and Michonne. They run out of the cafe, but the picture falls from Carl’s hands. Velcro, Carl, look into it!!
Michonne orders Carl to wait outside the cafe doors which are partially made of glass, so how long can they even hold? I shouldn’t have worried because it takes Michonne all of about 20 seconds to return with Carl’s picture and a very cute cat sculpture that she took a fancy to.
“I just thought Judith should know what her mom looked like,” Carl tells Michonne. Awww, he really isn’t a budding sociopath as so many have conjectured. Just a kid with a gun, great aim, and many, many emotional issues.
Rick tries to persuade Morgan to return to the prison with him. Morgan tells Rick to take the guns, but he won’t go with Rick because he can’t bear to see anyone he cares about die again. “You will be torn apart by teeth or bullets. Not me. I’m not going to watch that happen again.”
“We both started out in the same place,” Rick tells Morgan. “You can come back from this, I know you can. This can’t be it, it can’t be. You gotta be able to come back from this.” Rick is talking to himself, though, because Morgan isn’t listening.
Rick, Michonne, and Carl bring a bunch of guns, and a Pack-and-Play and other baby supplies for Judith to their car. I hope they’ve picked up some soap and shampoo (maybe that waterless stuff you can buy for dogs) because I can practically smell Rick through my TV. Morgan deals with the zombie flytraps as Michonne asks Rick if he’s okay. “No, he’s not,” Rick tells her. None of them are, though, are they?
As they finish loading up the car, Rick asks Carl if everything’s okay with Michonne. “I think she might be one of us,” Carl tells him.
Michonne ascertains that Rick sees people, and reassures him that she used to talk to her dead boyfriend. They’re all crazy together.
As they pull away, we get a last glimpse of Morgan burning the zombies he pulled off his stakes. At the site of the road accident, Michonne avoids getting the car stuck again before they see huge smears of blood along the roadside. They pass the hitchhiker’s backpack, stop, and pick it up. In this world, a bag of supplies is far more valuable than the human being to whom the bag belonged. None of them are who they once were.
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current TV shows, and a hopeless romantic.