This is as much of a recap as it is a review. Here there be SPOILERS . . .
In a bit of a surprise move, AMC made the decision to step away from the larger storyline at work just as Season 3 was gaining serious momentum. "Clear" is a harrowing episode that narrows the focus to Rick, Michonne, and Carl. Initially, I was skeptical of this decision, though I was excited to see the show zero in on three of the program's strongest assets. In the end, we finally found out what happened to Morgan, and The Walking Dead delivered another top-notch episode.
We didn't spend any time at the prison. We didn't spend any time in Woodbury. We didn't see The Governor, Andrea, and the only members of our merry band of survivors at the prison that we got to hang with were those mentioned in the first paragraph. This was a major departure and while the timing was a bit suspect, it didn't take long for me to realize that this was a solid decision.
Stepping away from the looming battle between Woodbury and the prison served many purposes, but none was as meaningful as finally bringing Rick and Michonne together. No, I don't mean that in a romantic way, but in the comics Rick and Michonne are a dangerous unit. They both have issues, but they trust one another and their relationship is one of The Walking Dead's biggest strengths. By the time "Clear" came to a close, I really felt that Rick had accepted Michonne as part of the team. Maybe I should say part of the family.
Either way, Carl was the biggest reason for this, and Chandler Riggs remains one of the show's biggest finds. I thought he did a fine job last night, and I do think he's one of the strongest performers on the program. I like the way his character is evolving, and while there are many areas where the show and the comics vary greatly, the relationship between Rick and his son is one of the key plot points that is totally consistent with the source material.
I did have issues with the geography, as I didn't think the group was anywhere near Rick's old stomping grounds, and I don't know precisely how far we were to assume that our trio had traveled. Regardless, a homecoming was in order, and we finally got to catch up with Morgan and see how he was holding up. Of course, this is The Walking Dead we're talking about, and Morgan wasn't doing so well. His story was a tragic one, and his interactions with Rick were as emotionally-charged as anything you're apt to see on television. Fantastic stuff c/o Lennie James. It was fitting to see Rick pitted against the man who saved him in the pilot, setting everything that has followed into motion. It was wise to encourage the audience to think upon just how much Rick has been through and how much all of it has changed him.
Equally rewarding was the side-mission Carl and Michonne went on, and the bonding that occurred in that brief window of time. This was a major episode for one of fandom's finest heroines, and Danai Gurira was incredible. She is working really hard to nail this part, and there is tremendous depth to the character. The role requires a lot on an emotional level, but that's not all. There's also the physicality and the ferocity that Michonne demands, and I think Danai has been game every step of the way.
The episode concluded with our little trio heading back to the prison with more guns, ammo, and a nifty new crossbow, all while Morgan continued with the life that he has chosen for himself. I wonder if we may see him again, for Rick surely gave him a lot to consider. Maybe it will sink in over time, and since distance apparently isn't an issue (and given the character's presence in the comics) I don't think that we've seen the last of Morgan. Rick seemed to have a better grip on things, and in spite of everything happening around him, he was downright normal at times. Maybe seeing how far Morgan has gone was a tonic of sorts for him.
The bookend bits with the backpacker were priceless. Grim, utterly depressing, and a perfect way to set the proper tone for the show. That close was classic The Walking Dead.
Yes, we're speeding along, zipping toward an imposing battle, and I'm not sure that The Walking Dead has ever been better. I was a huge fan of Jon Bernthal's work as Shane, and I was really worried that this season would suffer from his absence. There's still work to be done, and I have aired a few grievances, but AMC is working to provide us with something spectacular this season and I like their chances.