The Walking Dead Review: “Clear”


Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

The Walking Dead did a bottle episode.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, it’s one that’s been around in TV for quite some time. The idea is the entire episode takes place in one location, often with a stripped down cast. For some of the better examples, see Doctor Who’s “Midnight,” Firefly’s “Out of Gas” or Breaking Bad’s now famous “Fly.”

The bottle episode serves the dual purpose of being cheap, one location with a few actors is likely to cost a fraction of a full episode, and being a prime opportunity for character development, something I think we can all agree that The Walking Dead sorely needs.


I didn’t realize that bamboo was so readily available in suburban Georgia.

And for my money, they couldn’t have picked three (later four) better characters, and in the end this was one of my favorite episodes of the entire series.

We open with a few surprises. I thought that Rick, Carl and Michonne were on their way to try and assassinate the Governor again, but rather they’re on the hunt for more guns. I didn’t realize guns were a problem as practically everyone in the prison, Judith included, has an assault rifle to their name. It seems like they need bodies more than weapons, but crazy Rick turned away four potential soldiers a few weeks back, so more guns it will have to be.

I also didn’t realize that we were so close to where the show first started. I guess my Walking Dead geography was a bit off, but I was under the impression they had strayed quite a ways away from Rick’s old neighborhood. But after all this time, they’re just a few miles away. It gets you thinking about what this show is really about: survival, and little else. That’s really the only endgame in sight right now. Sure, we have short term conflicts that will last a season or so like Woodbury, but that’s not the long term conflict of the show. I will say that I think there’s an overall lack of direction with the series as a whole, as they’re no longer trying to get to an army base or the CDC. They’re simply trying not to die. A fine objective, to be sure, but I think there still needs to be something that’s being worked toward, and I don’t just mean a bullet in the Governor’s skull.

How high a price can you pay for survival however? That was one of the central questions of this episode, one brought to life by the fractured mind of poor Morgan, finally making a “surprise” return from season one.


“Surprise motherf***er!” Whoops, wrong reference.

I use “surprise” sarcastically of course, as yet again, the idiotic “previously on” scenes ruined what semblance of a surprise his appearance might have been. The last time The Walking Dead did this when Merle finally returned I was so pissed off I wrote an entire article about it. This time I was equally steamed, but the episode turned out so well I let my anger dissipate by the end. Long story short, the show needs to stop telegraphing the return of long-lost characters before the episode even starts. I’d love to be surprised for once without needing to put quotes around the word.

In any case, Morgan serves to show what might have happened to Rick had he never found his family. Morgan has set up a twisted zombie killing amusement park that would make Tallahassee from rival zombie universe, Zombieland, mighty proud. He’s holed up in a house guarded by bamboo pikes and foreboding spray painted signs. He appears as a masked figure, but when Carl knocks him unconscious with a shot to his torso’s armor plating (uh, okay?), Rick uncovers who he is.

When he comes to, we learn that Morgan has lost what little he had when Rick last saw him. That includes his son Duane, poetically killed by the zombified version of Morgan’s wife that he was too sentimental to kill (perhaps too much of a coincidence there). He’s also lost his sanity, scrawling on the walls and hoarding more guns than he could shoot in a lifetime. Rick slowly brings him back around, but even when he’s lucid, he’s still preaching fire and brimstone.

The Walking Dead doesn’t often make too much of an emotional impact on me, but Lennie James performance as Morgan has stuck with me since season one, even if he only appeared briefly. His inability to shoot his dead wife was heartbreaking, and he put on one HELL of a show for his return last night. His monologue about being “torn apart by bullets and teeth,” warning Rick that all the good people will die and the weak, like him, will survive, was powerfully delivered and some of the best writing and acting of the entire series.


“Dad, he’s written plot points on the walls!”

Elsewhere, we saw further growth in both Carl and Michonne. Carl has come a long, long way from being the running joke of the series; the kid who was always running off and almost dying time and time again. He’s not just a certified badass now, but he’s evolving into a protector. He risks life and limb to make sure his baby sister will grow up knowing what his mother looked like. He’s grown way, way up this season, and it’s rare a character can go from mocked and hated to beloved in this fashion.

Similarly, we learned that Michonne too has a heart of gold. Perhaps not exactly a surprise, but it was nice to see her as an integral part of the story for the first time in weeks, and it’s good they realized that averaging one line of dialogue an episode wasn’t doing her any favors as a character. She too risked a lot to ensure Carl had his photograph, and proved that she’s not just looking out for herself. And finally she told Carl exactly what he needed to hear. “No more bullshit!”

I liked the way the show handled both Morgan’s entrance and exit this episode. Some may complain that after two years of waiting, it’s lame to see him simply arrive and leave simultaneously, but I disagree. It would have been the expected plot turn to have Rick run into him at some point, and just fold him into the already crowded group. But this? Finding him in his Heart of Darkness murderous obstacle course, half out of his mind? That’s something I didn’t expect. Rick realizes even if he can be coherent, it’s probably best to just leave the man to his work “clearing” the earth of walkers.


The paintball course of doom.

The last scene of the show was perhaps the most telling. Even though they’re the “good people” now, the prison trio not only left the hitchiker behind to get eaten by zombies, but took his pack as a final f*** you in the closing moments. The definition of what makes a “good person” has really changed now, and it appears all new strangers are bad strangers. Still, that was one of the saddest moments of the evening for me, even if many thought it was funny.

This was a fantastic episode that fully brought Rick back from the brink of craziness by showing him what true insanity looked like. Lennie James goes two for two in phenomenal performances on the show, while Michonne and Carl evolve into characters we like even more. After a few lackluster weeks, I was truly impressed by “Clear.”


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  1. my favorite part was when he was stabbed in the chest but ya know, no biggie…rub some dirt on it i guess….

    and why are they not interested in picking up a single person stuck on the road. i mean, i understand groups….but espeically in this time of conflict, more hands the better.

    show is okay at best…something needs to happen…and as you put it…a goal needs to be set and worked towards…or its basically like watching a 3rd world reality show

  2. This was the first episode of TWD that I legitimately enjoyed this season so far. Michonne finally saying something was nice, and I loved Rick seeing what he could become, as well as being confronted with his failure to live up to his promises. I don’t understand what was unbelievable about him passing out from being shot point blank, even with body armor.

    @og bobb j, when I first saw the backpack guy, my initial thought was that it was a trap to get them to stop the car. So, I can get why they didn’t help him.

  3. I was a bit sad that backpack guy died. I would have liked him as a recurring character, somebody they passed every time they drove somewhere. Zombie shows need a bit of comic relief.

  4. When Rick and crew were heading back home, the camera panned and we saw the hilly road that brought them into town. I was really hoping we’d see backpack guy crest the hill and give a “Hey, you guys!!” just as Rick and crew drove past him. Again.

    I’m still hopeful that we might see him again. No body = no write-off.

  5. Lol @Spleenfarmer that last comment made me think what would happen if they turned backpack guy into sort of a “Cabbage guy” from the Avatar series. Like, everytime the group is driving anywhere he goes “Hey guys!” and they just pass him over and over and over.

    Also Paul thanks for pointing out the previously part again. The worst part is: 1) If you’ve seen the first episode, Lennie James performance was so memorable that you don’t need a stupid reminder that he is a character.
    2) If you haven’t seen the first episode, the “previously” clip does NOTHING to bring you up to speed. You are still going to be like “Who the hell is this guy? Oh, i guess it’s some dude from a previous episode.”

    I never watch stupid Talking Dead, because seriously that Chris dude… just… really? But the annoying preview clips make it sound like they take phone calls so I think everyone on this website should try to get on the show and call out AMC or whomever for this BS.

  6. I was really saddened about the hitchhiker at first since I was drinking. Then realized that he made it this whole time just fine and a few get him. Rick and them are better off, he’s weak!!!!

  7. My favorite part of this episode was when Michonne went back into the zombie-filled restaurant for not only Carl’s photo, but she saw a rainbow cat sculpture she couldn’t resist. I loved it.

  8. My favorite part of the episode was that they never once spoke a word about the hitchhiker. Everyone was on the same page, they knew they had to leave him but they also didn’t want to talk about it.

  9. Character growth in this point of the show is just as important as the action of killing walkers. While some people may disagree and say that it was way too slow, I think that this was a pivotal point for Rick to come back to earth and do what he must to survive. He has finally come to terms with his demons and has conquered most of his grief. Seeing Morgan really shocked him back to the Rick we were used to seeing. I was telling my co-workers in my office at DISH that I was surprised at how much this episode touched me. I can’t even imagine how months and months of living in these conditions would affect me. I don’t get to see the newest episode of The Walking Dead the night it airs because I’m usually at work but thanks to the Hopper and DISH Anywhere I can catch up on the show on my iPad anytime I want.

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