Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 3, Episode 12 of AMC's "The Walking Dead," titled "Clear."
This week's episode of "The Walking Dead" was a refreshing departure from the Prison vs. Woodbury plot line -- in fact, it avoided both of those locations all together -- and turned a run for supplies into a four-character story that could hold our attention for 42 minutes.
The sight of Rick, Carl and Michonne on the road together in the "family" vehicle set the tone for the rest of the episode, as the three of them would bond before getting back in it at the end of the day (and yes, I did imagine that these three might break off into a wacky sitcom spinoff, but that's just my dream). After a little car trouble, they made a point of blowing past a non-walker hitchhiker screaming for help on the roadside, solidifying the message of Season 3 thus far: that the living are to be feared even more than the dead. Still, it was haunting to watch them drive away knowing full well what's going to happen to this guy:
The trio made their way to Rick and Carl's neck of the woods for guns, ammo and supplies, only to find the police station arsenal had been completely depleted since it was first raided in season one. The town had obviously been "claimed," but unlike Woodbury, there were crude barricades and booby traps set up everywhere to injure and ward off both walkers and humans, and no other sign of civilization. That is, until a rooftop shooter appeared, fully armored, and demanded they drop their weapons and leave. Little did they know, until Carl got trigger-happy at exactly the right moment, that the man behind the riot gear was Morgan: Rick's neighbor and the first man to help him after he woke up from his coma at the beginning of the series.
But back to the booby traps. Not only were they intricate and everywhere, they were ironic, too!
After Carl shot Morgan (he was wearing a bullet-proof vest) they attempted to drag the unconscious man into his "Not Shitting You" den, but first had to pass through a series of traps. There they found the jail's full arsenal and then some. There were more than enough guns to ward off the Governor. But the bad news? Morgan had completely lost his mind. There was chalk writing all over the black walls, showing Morgan has accumulated enough twisted life experience to make him even crazier than Rick, especially since he has been suffering alone. If only walkers didn't kill the Internet ...
Rick insisted that they wait for Morgan to wake up instead of just looting his fortress. He gave Carl the go-ahead to head outside into the town to find a crib for baby Judith, on the condition that Michonne came along. By the way, I love this new talkative Michonne. She probably spoke more in this episode than any other, and we start to experience the tough love that Andrea recieved while they were living together in the woods. Michonne and Carl have a funny dynamic, since they both take themselves so seriously. Carl has proven himself an adult about a hundred times over but he still has to ask permission from his dad to go outside, and Michonne provided a buffer like the big sister or babysitter he never had/desperately needed.
Meanwhile, we saw Rick talking to an unconscious body (which has become somewhat of a "Walking Dead" tradition) when all of a sudden, Morgan awoke with a start and attacked Rick with a knife! He screamed that the he didn't know him, or anyone, even though Rick tried profusely to remind him. It was very intense!
Anyway, Rick was okay despite being stabbed in the chest and patched himself up before the episode's heaviest moment: his heart-wrenching chat with Morgan. Even after he finally calmed down and remembered Rick, it was not a happy reunion. The sight of Morgan's walkie talkie reminded us of the many times Rick tried to reach out to this man, and he told him that, but Morgan isn't exactly an "It's the thought that counts" kind of guy right now. He was angry with Rick for giving him hope and then never finding him. And who could blame him? He pointed out the sick irony that Rick gave him a gun to shoot his wife, who had turned, only to chicken out and later have his son TURNED INTO A WALKER BY HIS MOM. Yeesh! He made Rick's apocalyptic path thus far seem easy by comparison. Rick didn't argue, but side note: can we get a supercut of Rick frustratedly saying, "I had no choice!"? I feel like he says that a whole lot.
I also wanted to point out that Morgan, however disturbed, had the most poignant line of the episode, and maybe even the season so far: "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." Deep, Morgan. Deep.
But back to Carl and Michonne. They used a new innovation of the zombified world to sneak into a cafe so Carol could retrieve a family photo. I like to call it the reverse mouse trap:
Rats in cages on wheels distracted the walkers so that they could snatch the heirloom, a photo of Carl, Lori and Rick in happier times. Michonne helped Carl secure it and they instantly bonded, creating one of the few "feel good" moments the show has had in a while. This scene reminded me that the small group dynamic of the show -- the way it was before there were towns and farms and prisons to worry about -- is why I fell in love with it to begin with. Oh, and I almost forgot! Michonne snatched up something amazing for herself from the cafe, a rainbow "hunchcat" statuette that has absolutely no post-apocalyptic purpose, but was "just too damn gorgeous" to leave behind. MICHONNE FOREVER.
As the episode wound down, Rick pleaded with Morgan to return with them to the prison. But Morgan, now with incredible clarity, knew Rick's offer of shelter meant nothing if they had to take all the guns back with them. He knew they were at war, not just with walkers, but with the living. He let them take some of his guns but stayed behind, presumably with no hard feelings. After Carl said he was sorry for shooting him, he responded, "Never Apologize." At this rate, Carl is going to be the most hardened person in the group by next year.
The episode almost ended on a happy note, when Carl told his dad that Michonne is "one of us," while Rick bonded with her after she confessed that she knew about his little "vision" problem and used to see her dead boyfriend as well. Oh yeah, and she said "boyfriend," for those of you were still holding out hope for a sexy Michonne/Andrea "survival sex" flashback (but hey, you never know). But surprise! the hitchhiker from the top of the episode was reduced to a smear of blood and guts on the road on the way home. They didn't say anything, but they did pull over to loot his pack, so that's .... good, I guess.
What did you think of this week's non-prison/Woodbury episode? The preview for the next episode implies that Andrea is arranging some kind of negotiation between the Governor and Rick. Will it all go down at Woodbury next week? And where is Michonne going to put that crazy cat? Let me know what you think in the comments.