Cormac McCarthy, author of Blood Meridian, No Country For Old Men, The Crossing, and many other celebrated books, often tells stories of desperate men living on the ragged edge. Whether it’s the Wild West or the mysterious man-made apocalypse in The Road, a person’s worth is defined by what he carries. If you have nothing to trade, nothing is what you are worth. If you have nothing to steal, you’re already dead.
Using a similar perspective to McCarthy’s works, “Clear” has successfully revived my enthusiasm for a show that seemed close to over topping itself. Instead of going louder, with more explosions and large groups of confused people, the show goes quiet, bringing three characters together for a road trip.
Rick, Carl, and Michonne ignore the frantically pleading hitchhiker as the sedan speeds back to the town where it all started. They stop, calmly kill a group off walkers surrounding the car, get unstuck, and drive off with the same unfortunate soul, having nearly caught them on foot, screaming at the top of his lungs. It makes me wonder how it is that this guy managed to last this long, the way he keeps ringing the dinner bell to any walker in a three mile radius.
The purpose of the journey is to get more guns, which everyone seems to agree is a good idea now that the prison group and Woodbury are at war. The police department arsenal has been cleared out since Rick last visited. The search leads the three back to Morgan’s door, and what do you know, he’s still alive, still in the same spot where we left him in the first episode of the series. Morgan’s house is booby trapped, there are spiky Walker traps in the street with caged rodents for bait, and he has been hoarding all of the guns from the Police cache.
Lennie James is quite possibly the best actor on The Walking Dead. In the role of Morgan, widower and single father, James made the series’ first statement on the burden of having people. Morgan’s tortured, failed attempt to put his wife to rest was a heartbreaking, unforgettable moment. Now Morgan is childless and very close to insane. “I’m sorry this happened to you,” Rick says to an unconscious Morgan, echoing his words to legless walker in the pilot episode.
While Carl and Michonne run out to get a crib for Judith, Rick is stabbed in the shoulder by Morgan, who does not recognize his friend. “You go clear!” When Morgan calms down, it is revealed that he never received one of Rick’s messages. Also, Morgan tells Rick that his son Duwayne was bitten by his wife. He begs for death.
“The weak people, the people like me, we have inherited the earth.” Rick tries to talk Morgan into giving the world another try, but Morgan is too lost in his grief. The fact that Rick needs the guns that Morgan has hoarded means that there are people who want to take what Rick has. When we leave Morgan, calmly preparing some captured Walkers to be burned, the meaning of “clear” is just that. Morgan, tired of the changing faces, tries to clean up the massive undead heap as best he can.
Michonne’s place in the group is questioned early in the episode by Carl, and so we have an opportunity for the two of them to bond. Michonne is in fact responsible for the best laughs in the episode. The moment she pushes some of Morgan’s bait into the floor of King County Cafe, the late patrons come to life.The two cut and shoot their way through wait staff, cooks and clientele for a framed photograph and a rainbow cat sculpture. When the three reunite, and Carl has made apologies to Morgan for shooting him, Michonne asks Rick if he has indeed been seeing dead people.
“I used to talk to my dead boyfriend.” Michonne says. “It happens.” Rick then allows Michonne to drive, on account of how he sees things. On the way back, they pass the remains of the desperate hitchhiker. His trading days are over and he only has a pack to steal. The car stops, the door opens and closes, and the three are on their way.
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