I love the undiluted character episodes that tell an emotional, human story. Last season’s 18 Miles Out was another example of an episode slowed down to take stock of a character and look at where he is and where he is headed. In 18 Miles Out, the show used a solitary walker by the side of the road to foreshadow Shane’s future and the path he was on. Clear also used a character by the side of the road, but this person didn’t foreshadow the future, he illustrated a comparison to the past – to a time when Rick would have shown compassion and tried to help him.
It seems years ago that Rick, Hershel, and Glenn found themselves in a panicked debate about what to do with an injured Randall as walkers closed in. It seems lifetimes ago that Rick met Morgan and his son, Duane, in the pilot episode, Days Gone Bye. Rick’s meeting with Morgan, and where the characters were at that point in time, was the benchmark used in Clear to compare just how much has changed.
Clear starts with Rick, Carl, and Michonne on a road trip, heading back to the Grimes’ hometown to raid the police barracks and stock up on weapons to prepare for a fight against the Governor. It’s on this road trip that they see a solitary man with a backpack by the side of the road who begs them to stop. Without hesitating, they continue on.
In town, Rick meets up with his old friend who once saved his life. But whereas in Days Gone Bye, Morgan shot a walker to save Rick, in Clear, Morgan and Rick’s group are shooting at each other. In Days Gone Bye, Morgan brings Rick into his home to care for him. In Clear, Morgan’s home is booby trapped to keep intruders out.
We see Morgan has become a broken and insane man, obsessed with the need to “clear.” What exactly “clear” means, I’m not sure. He tells Rick, “You don’t clear, you turn.” My money is on the definition being among the answers Rick thinks dead Lori has for him. While Morgan is unconscious, we get another call back to the pilot. Rick says to him, “I’m sorry this happened to you” – the same line he said to one of the first walkers he came across upon waking up from his coma.
In a heartbreaking confession, Morgan blames himself for his son’s death. His hesitation in shooting his dead wife resulted in his wife killing his son. “I was supposed to (kill her). I was selfish. I was weak.”
While Morgan doesn’t immediately recognize Rick, he comes to remember that Rick gave him the gun that he was supposed to use to kill his wife. He says Rick tried to help. He also remembers the walkie talkies, and tells Rick that he kept trying to contact Rick, but Rick didn’t answer. He just heard static.
In 18 Miles Out, Rick was also trying to save a friend. He told Shane, “It's time for you to come back.” In Clear, Rick pleads with Morgan to come back from this. “This can’t be it. You’ve got to be able to come back from this.” But while in 18 Miles Out, Rick’s plea was clearly about Shane and preventing an inevitable confrontation that would end with one of them dead, this time it seems Rick is talking to himself. He needs to believe that he can come back.
Like Morgan, Rick has been flirting with insanity, but this may not be about insanity. When Rick and Michonne discuss Morgan, Rick suggests that Michonne thinks Morgan is insane. “I think he’s dangerous,” she responds. Later in the episode, when Rick and Michonne discuss Rick’s visions, Michonne tells him she used to talk to her dead boyfriend. Seeing the dead might not be worst thing in this world. The worst thing might be losing your humanity.
This episode seems to be a turning point for Rick, one in which he recognizes that he wants to come back. He can’t save Morgan, but he can still save himself. Near the end, he seems to accept Carl’s word that Michonne is one of them and he accepts her help by letting her drive – a small gesture, but a big reversal from where we have seen Rick recently.
What a Picture’s Worth
While Rick was with Morgan, Carl and Michonne set off to find a crib to bring back to Judith. We soon learn Carl has other plans. In Days Gone Bye, Morgan laughed at the sentimentality of his wife grabbing photo albums while he was grabbing survival gear. Lori also apparently grabbed photos. In Clear, we see Lori’s son intent on staging a rescue mission in a walker-infested restaurant for his last chance at a photo of his mother. He wants his baby sister to know what she looked like. I wonder what happened to Lori’s photo albums. They’re probably at Hershel’s farm.
I have to say, I was impressed by Michonne’s reaction to Carl, who was being difficult. She didn’t talk down to him, but didn’t completely let him have his way either. He wanted to go off and steal the photo on his own, but she made him do it on her terms. I’ll admit, I was annoyed during the scene earlier this season where Carl shot Lori, that Maggie agreed to let Carl take the shot rather than insisting she do it herself. Carl may have wanted to do it, and may have thought he needed to do it, but he was still a kid. Maggie was the adult. I guess the writers needed Carl to do it for the story, but if this were real life, Maggie should have said “no.”
But back to this week’s episode. Unable to convince Morgan to come with them, Rick, Michonne, and Carl prepare to leave Morgan. Again, we have another contrast with Days Gone Bye, where Rick gave Morgan a gun. This time around, it’s Rick taking the guns.
In another heartbreaking scene, Carl tells Morgan he is sorry he shot him. Carl had shot Morgan when they first entered the town and Morgan was shooting at them. Morgan tells him, “Don’t ever be sorry.” While it wasn’t said, the meaning was clear. The son who couldn’t shoot his mother was dead. The son who could was still with them.
As for the man by the side of the road, he became walker food. But they got his backpack.