By Sherry Lipp
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
The burning question that’s been on my mind since the pilot episode of The Walking Dead is what ever became of Morgan (Lennie James) and his son Duane (Adrian Kali Turner)? We last saw them in the pilot episode. When Rick (Andrew Lincoln) left them, he promised to contact them via walkie-talkie every morning at dawn. We saw Rick keep this promise, but never had a word back from Morgan. Just as I was giving up on ever finding out, this week’s episode “Clear” sheds some light on their fate.
What I liked best about this episode was that it reminded me of everything I loved about the first season. Isolation, desperation, and the utter devastation of the zombie outbreak were the overriding themes of the early episodes. Those things are still present of course, but this episode was dripping with them. It showed just how much things have changed to go back and revisit where things started. That’s exactly what Rick does in this episode. Needing more guns for the upcoming war with the Governor (David Morrissey), he heads back to his hometown, along with Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Michonne (Danai Gurira).
While I didn’t realize they were so close to home, I thought it was cool to get to see what things were like so much time later. I also found it a nice break from the prison and Woodbury stories. This episode was sparse, featuring only Rick, Carl, Michonne, Morgan, and a lonely hitchhiker begging Rick for help. The backpacker was not so much a character in the story, but a symbol. He also showed just how much has changed since the beginning of the show. There was a time when Rick would have helped the hitchhiker, but that Rick no longer exists. Well, maybe there is a little of that Rick left, but more on that later.
Rick’s hometown was vastly changed from that last time we saw it. It wasn’t in good shape to begin with, but now it has definitely taken on a post-apocalyptic appearance. It’s filled with booby traps and warning messages scrawled everywhere. Also scrawled everywhere is the word “clear.” There is only one resident left in the town, and he doesn’t want visitors. Guess who the one resident is? It’s Morgan. I might have been surprised if I hadn’t attended an appearance by Danai Gurira at Emerald City Comicon on the day the episode aired. There she mentioned Morgan as being a good character. I figured he must be coming back, why else mention him? That very night, a mysterious figure was seen in Rick’s hometown. Otherwise it would have been a cool surprise. I was still pretty happy to see him, though he wasn’t exactly the same person we last saw.
This Morgan is suffering with grief and an obsession with “clearing” the dead bodies all around him. He doesn’t even believe the man he’s seeing is Rick at first. Once he comes around a bit, we find out his journey did not go as well as Rick’s. Not that Rick had it so good. He just had it better than Morgan. I really liked the scenes where Morgan recounted what had happened to him since he had last seen Rick. They were genuinely emotional and heartbreaking.
In the meantime, Carl went on his own mission to find a family photo he knew was hanging in the town diner. Michonne went along, against Carl’s wishes. He wanted the photo so his baby sister would know what their mom looked like. I liked that we got to see a different side of Michonne. She seemed to loosen up a little around Carl and let her guard down a little. I’m not sure what to make of her wanting the cat statue from the diner, but it was kind of funny.
Actually there were a couple of out of the ordinary moments of absurdism in the episode. I might have said humor, but they weren’t exactly funny (except for the cat). The other absurd moment was when Michonne went back into the diner to recover the dropped photo, and she was only gone for about 10 seconds despite there being dozens of walkers inside. I might have called this a continuity mistake, but upon thinking about it, I think it was intentional. This episode had a tone that felt different than the rest of the season.
It made me think about what direction this show is headed. It made we want to see more of the world outside the group and Woodbury. Although I have enjoyed the Governor storyline, I’m looking forward to moving past it. Now that the battle is a foregone conclusion, there is less surprise. Not that they won’t throw some surprises in most likely, but I’m looking forward to seeing something really new.
(Photos: Gene Page/AMC)