The Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 12 Recap: Clear

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Well, looky here.  Someone has rediscovered his soul – and here’s a hint: it’s Rick.

The slow trudge toward Rick’s demise that started when he killed Shane has become the most tedious part of an already tedious season.  But Sunday’s episode restored my faith in the Walking Dead, and even suggested that perhaps the writers of the show actually DO know what they’re doing.

Mercifully leaving the Woodbury drama behind for an entire episode, Rick treks out into the wilderness with Carl and Michonne.  Realizing that Daryl’s crossbow, Michonne’s katana and the three little guns they have left will not protect them against Woodbury’s veritable army of semi-automatics, they head back to Rick and Carl’s hometown to raid the sheriff’s weapons arsenal.

As usual, Rick is inexplicably blithe about returning home – no one has shown any concern that this trip is a potential emotional minefield for someone whose grip on reality is clinging by a fingernail.

Even Rick, who has legitimately conversed with Lori’s ghost in recent episodes, has zero qualms about returning the place where they had their first date, their first apartment, where they were married, or even passing by their old house.  Seems like this whole situation has the word “TRIGGER” written all over it.   Luckily, the show continues its habit of ignoring the characters’ back stories completely if it doesn’t serve the plot they are selling.

At first, the homecoming seems like yet another attempt to “toughen” up poor Carl (who really doesn’t need it, considering he already had to shoot his own mother in the head).  First, Michonne speeds by the most pitiful hitchhiker ever seen, who practically flails himself in front of the car begging to be rescued, but is ignored.  When the car gets stuck and is overtaken by zombies, Rick shows absolutely zero concern for Carl’s well-being, other than to remind him to cover his ears before he shoots the gun.

Once they get to town, however, it’s a different story and Rick’s all about the worry for his son.  When they are shot at by the sniper, Rick tells Carl to hide by the car – a directive that Carl intelligently ignores and is able to save his dad’s ass, yet again.

Later, Carl uses the logic god gave a goat to outsmart his father and heads off to town.  Michonne seems to pick up on Carl’s subterfuge and goes with him.  His half-hearted attempt to shake her is unsuccessful – a classic pre-teen tactic of “leave me alone don’t leave me alone.”  Maybe Carl actually is an adolescent after all?

Rick’s cold heart begins to thaw when he realizes the sniper they were about to murder is Morgan – harkening way back to the first episode of the series (and, according to Rick, “last year” – god bless AMC and their messed up TV time).  Many of us had been waiting for Morgan to reappear, and (like me) had begun to lose hope that we’d ever see him again.  Our patience paid off – in spades.  Morgan has amassed a huge arsenal, cleaning out not only the sheriff’s stash but picking up quite a few extras along the way.

Like Rick, Morgan’s also gone from a softie who couldn’t shoot his zombie-fied wife to a hard hearted survivalist.  He doesn’t recognize Rick, and the months of solitude seem to have had a very negative affect on his mind.  He’s covered the walls of his hideout with gibberish and protected it with elaborate booby traps.

Luckily, it only takes Rick moments to get Morgan to recognize him and snap out of his stupor.  In fact, Morgan seems to have as equally positive an affect on Rick as Rick on him.  We see glimpses of the old Rick – the small town sheriff with a big heart, a strong moral code and humanitarian core.  But Morgan refuses Rick’s offer to join the group – wondering what good could come from three people who need so many guns.

The whole scene reminded me of an episode in the first season – after being bitten during a raid on the first camp, Jim slowly begins to turn.  Rick refuses to kill him despite the fact that he was most assuredly going to turn.  Granted, this was before they knew that everyone turned, but Rick was adamant – “we don’t kill the living” was his mantra for several episodes.

He’s come a long way since then – murdered his best friend, turned desperate people away, let the helpless fend for themselves.  It’s easy when those in question are strangers (or, in the case of Merle, big jerks) – but once he’s faced with someone he knows, Rick’s resolve wilts.

Meanwhile, Carl and Michonne take on a café full of walkers in order to rescue an old framed photo of the Grimes family.  With Lori gone and Rick apparently on his way out, Carl wants a souvenir to show his sister what it was like when both parents were around and sane.  Michonne actually manages to come across as warm, using her willful persona to strong-arming Carl into letting her help him.

The trio takes possession of the majority of Morgan’s guns and head back toward the prison where the Governor’s wrath is awaiting them.  As they pass along the highway, they see the hitchhiker’s mutilated remains.  It’s a bold choice to bring back the hitchhiker as a corpse – a reminder that no matter how far they might stray, and how they struggle to hold onto their humanity, the world is still a dangerous place, and they must do whatever they can to survive.

So Rick and company will survive another day – and are now adequately armed to hold off the Governor’s onslaught.  The reckoning, as they say, is coming

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