Rick’s been seeing dead people for awhile now, whether it’s Shane or his wife, so it makes a lot of sense he’d run into a living ghost in ‘Clear’, a terrific episode that puts all of its major seasonal arcs on hold for an adventure into the past. Featuring only four characters from the narrative (one of whom we haven’t seen in 30 episodes), ‘Clear’ is a quiet mediation on two broken men (and a boy), and how much they’ve changed (and why) over the past year.
There’s a bit of shtick going on when Rick, Carl and Michonne arrive at Rick’s old home town to pick up guns and ammo. There is ominous, threatening phrases written all over the walls and the edge of town, warning whatever humans might pass by of the many booby traps Morgan lined the town with. But this episode isn’t about some long-drawn out showdown: it doesn’t take long before Carl’s shot Morgan and they’ve uncovered the armory hiding behind the hanging axes and knife traps around the perimeter of his house.
And that’s when the episode really takes off: ‘Clear’ is all about the psychological changes in Rick and Morgan. Although his wife died, Rick’s had a pretty good run of luck since he left Morgan and his kid back in the first episode. It’s amazing what happens when you aren’t along – people keep you from losing your shit and writing all over the walls. Unlike Rick, Morgan’s had nothing and nobody since he watched his dead wife eat his son alive, a moment he admits was “weak and selfish.”
It creates an interesting juxtaposition between Rick and Morgan: Morgan’s literally insulated himself to the point that it takes a ballet dance to reach him with all your limbs attached. Since Rick’s left, Morgan’s isolated himself from the world and the cruelty around it, forced to contemplate his weaknesses. He begs Rick to kill him, which Rick can’t quite do – he might be willing to leave a random person on the side of the road to fend for themselves, but killing a familiar face is too strong, even for someone half out his mind like Rick.
Morgan is a man without a family – and in this world, the only thing that keeps people sane is a connection to another human being. It’s an idea being reinforced all over season three, most obviously with Merle and Daryl, but with many other characters in both factions trying to find something to attach some hope onto. For Carl, it’s finding a picture of his mother so neither he nor Lil’ Asskicker (OK, I’ll start calling her Judith) will forget what his mother looks like.
Written by Scott Gimple (next season’s showrunner), ‘Clear’ separates itself from the main narrative for a moment, to help Rick find a reason to fight for his sanity. He’s seeing things – which everybody does, Michonne assures him – but the sight of Morgan and his situation helps Rick put his post-event life into context. Everything he’s had, Morgan’s done without – and it’s ruined the man, a mess of repeating phrases and trips around the perimeter to find bodies to burn. If anything, Morgan’s presence in ‘Clear’ should be a major alarm for Rick: he can’t keep turning everyone away (whether it’s Beth, Tyreese, or Carl), or he’s going to lose itself, and die crazy and alone, meeting his end being “torn apart by bullets or teeth.”
– Michonne becomes a character briefly, bonding with Carl on his hunt to find a crib for his sister. A nice change of pace from the silent woman who doesn’t relate or connect to anyone. Again, a character reaching out to someone, seeing the risks of what happens when you tackle this world alone
– best moment of the episode: Michonne pulling out the rainbow cat she took from the bar. Now that’s a character I can watch more of!
– How come nobody walked out with a big bagful of grenades?
– The opening sequence features a sign with the name ‘Erin’ on it… two minutes later a zombie with an Erin bracelet is banging up against the window. Translation: transportation is key.