The Walking Dead 3.12 "Clear" review(opens in new tab)
Writer: Scott Gimple
Director: Tricia Brock
THE ONE WHERE On a scavenging mission, Rick, Carl and Michonne come under fire from another survivor – only to discover that it's Morgan, the man who rescued Rick way back in season one.
VERDICT This week, The Walking Dead took time out from the Governor/Woodbury storyline to tell a small scale one-off that, rather than being filler, turned out to be one of the best of the season – if not the series as a whole. A large part of that was, undoubtedly, down to the unexpected return of Morgan. Fans have often wondered what happened to him, and now here he is, holed up in a room alone, going nuts. His son and his wife are dead, but he lingers on, mad with grief and surrounded by guns.
It's fantastic to see Lennie James back in the role, and a real surprise when he is unmasked. He puts in a fine performance that ranges from traumatised and psychotic, to heart-broken to reaching some kind of calm – if not peace – at the end. More importantly, it forces Rick to confront what he could become, should he let his grief over Lori's death consume him. It may be only a subtle shift, but Rick at the end of this episode is different to how he was at the start. There's a thawing of the tensions between him and Michonne, and he even cracks a smile when talking to Carl. While he's never going to get over Lori, this could (and hopefully is) the beginning of the end of his seeing ghosts and talking to people who aren't there.(opens in new tab)
Michonne, meanwhile, gets her first meaty subplot for weeks as she accompanies Carl on his search for a family photo. As ever, there's an economy to her dialogue and emotional responses, but in helping out Carl and opening up to Rick (albeit only slightly) at the end she has become more than just a sword-wielding scowl machine. Plus she looted a rainbow-coloured ornamental cat, which was pretty hilarious.
On the production side of things, the deserted town looked splendidly eerie covered in Morgan's manic scrawls (I especially liked his “not shitting you!” warning sign), and the entry into his base felt like a hardcore Home Alone . The battle in the café was also impressively staged. The fact that, three seasons in, this show still makes fighting zombies exciting is an impressive feat in itself.
Above all, it was just really refreshing to get away from the prison and Woodbury and Andrea for a little while. I've (mostly) loved this season, but honing in on just Rick, Michonne and Carl for a change worked wonders. It also bodes well for season four that this episode was written by the new showrunner-in-waiting, Scott Gimple. Season three, so far, has been great for action, but perhaps lacking in characterisation (something that has been a weakness with this show from day one). Gimple could just be the man to tie it all together. Oh... and on another note, the rats (or were they Guinea Pigs? I couldn't quite tell) on skateboards trick was inspired.
Next week, presumably, will see Rick and co return to the prison. But what’s happened in their absence?(opens in new tab)
HEY YOU, WHAT'S THAT SOUND? The song we hear at the end is “Lead Me Home” by Jaime N Commons.
Morgan (to Rick): “You said you would turn on your radio every day at dawn AND YOU WERE NOT THERE!”
The Walking Dead airs in the UK on Fox on Friday nights at 10pm