With the Governor of Woodbury knocking on the prison gates, Rick Grimes has decided to take his son on a road trip. Michonne, Rick and Carl go looking for guns. Rick seems entirely confident that they will find guns, which is confusing until we realize that Rick is remembering the guns back in his old hometown. On the way there, the little band drives remorselessly away from a survivor who runs behind their car, screaming for help. This ain’t no trip to the beach.
Not surprisingly, there are no guns left in the police station that Rick used to police. On their way to check other places, Rick and company discover a compound festooned with junky booby traps. It becomes obvious who took the guns when the compound’s occupant opens fire with an automatic weapon. The surprise in the episode is that the gunman proves to be Morgan, the man who saved a bewildered Rick’s life during the first episode of the show.
Poor Morgan has had such a horrible zombie apocalypse that Rick seems absolutely lucky by comparison. The walker wife he couldn’t bear to kill attacked his son, and Morgan was forced to kill them both. Consumed by loneliness and guilt, he has become a kind of serial killer, except the victims he lures and traps are already dead.
Rick invites Morgan to join his people at the prison, but Morgan declines. Maybe he knows that the prison group already has their quota of nuts (Rick). Maybe he knows that he is too nuts to fit in with other people. His remaining skills seem to be killing walkers and writing crazy stuff on walls.
“Clear” is actually the best episode that The Walking Dead has offered us in a while. We get some much-needed character development for Michonne when she tags along with Carl on his secret mission to retrieve the one photo that still exists of his shattered family. Both Michonne and Carl have been little more than hard people doing hard things all season, and their budding friendship in this episode is a refreshing relief.
We get a little of Rick back, too. Morgan is his unflattering mirror. Like Rick, he’s useful in a murderous sort of way, but crazy fuckers are terrible for group dynamics and morale. And, they totally screw up situations that call for diplomacy rather than screaming crazy-talk. Rick actually has a conversation with Michonne, before they return to the prison. We haven’t seen Rick really talk to anyone who isn’t a hallucination in a long time.
The great part about “Clear” is that a little relief isn’t a cure. These people aren’t going to go back to being who they were. The old Rick would have knocked Morgan out and dragged him to the prison for his own good rather than leaving him in his lonely hell. And that clear-eyed, selfish, survivalist cruelty is the last thing we see in the episode, when the survivors come upon the smear of blood that once was the man they didn’t stop to rescue. This time, they do stop… to grab the dead man’s backpack.
Plus points for the episode’s subtle salute to Mayberry’s Deputy Barney Fife, when Rick goes around with one bullet in the pocket of his shirt.