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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: Walking Dead: Clear

Well, whoo boy, that is why I watch this show. Spoilers, as usual.

I've been slipping into bitching in the last couple episodes of the third season of Walking Dead. There's been too much - what? - high level bullshit about society and human power structures and blah blah blah. Zombie stories can be attuned to this sort of thing. They are lifeboat situations with a leaking raft of incompatible people struggling for the oars, and while I think this sort of thing can be fun, I have been unimpressed so far with how that high level stuff has been dealt with this season. Or, really, ever on this show. It's not even so much that I disagree, which I think I do, it's that I think the whole question has been framed wrong.

But, Clear manages to hit all the interpersonal harsh realities that I love so very much about the end of the world. In fiction anyway; the world hasn't ended yet for me. Rick, Michonne and Carl are in their lifeboat car when they drive past a hitchhiker on the road. They don't even rubberneck, like we do at a car accident, and just the passengers even register what is going on on the edge of the road. They get hug up on a snarl, a single walker crushed under the edge of a vehicle, until the walkers all come, banging their hands on the glass. It's iconic, in a way, inside and outside, same same. Rick rolls down the window, tells everyone to cover their ears, and it's almost comic that we don't see the zombie clearing sequence, just an aftermath of bodies in the grass.

Rick and Carl have a conversation about Michonne well within her earshot - it's almost like the end of the world makes people stupid to the life happening just right there, and Clear is absolutely the first episode of Walking Dead to give Michonne something like a character and humor. You can see her thinking, I have to win this this kid, and when she does it is a revelation. Carl's been doing the pre-teen of death thing for a while now, stalking off, being smarter than his elders, and when he does it here, it's funny to see someone calmly play equal or confident. Of course it's for Judith you're doing this, Carl. Of course. And here is your rainbow consolation prize!

I am jazzed to see Morgan, whom we haven't seen since the pilot, Days Gone Bye, when Rick stupidly called out to a walker in front of his house and Morgan's kid hit him with a shovel. Morgan has obviously had a hard time of it, losing his son to his zombie wife, like there "wouldn't be a reckoning," as he says. Maybe this is a larger metaphor for Rick and the crazytown he's been building, but it didn't feel like it. It felt like two fucked up, traumatized people fighting hand to hand with grief, with each other and their simple likenesses and differences. It felt like what should be happening with the Governor but isn't.

But here's the thing that moved me about this episode. The opening shot is a sign, strung with ribbons, that reads, "Erin, we tried for Stone Mountain." It's facing the wrong way, so probably our protagonists never see it, and moments later, a walker with a bracelet that reads "Erin" bangs on the window of their car. Not so long ago I read Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse, which was put together by the fine folks at Lost Zombies. The end of the world by needs is epistolary, the electricity gone, the computers bricks. We need to write our damage on the walls and signs, the last articulations that only humans can understand. Literacy is what separates us from the walkers; grief is something that can be written, and, pray hope, can be read.

So again, whoo boy, that was nice. Keep it up, Walking Dead.

6 comments:

  1. This is why I read your TWD blogs. I saw Clear and there were so many parts of it that had me rolling my eyes, which always seems like an indication to me of something being flawed or missing. Mostly it was the interaction between Rick and Morgan that struck me as contrived, but my wife has never eaten our kids before, so what do I know about tragedy? So do you make yourself a drink before watching? I think that's what I need to do next time.

    So like I was saying, I like your blog because it gets me to appreciate that which I may not have otherwise. I'm reading Proust right now and there was just a passage this morning that talked about how the narrator sees a production that he's not all that keen on, but then afterwards when other people are talking to him about how much they loved and what they loved about it, he comes to appreciate it almost as if he had always appreciated it, even initially. Sounds phony, but I think it's accurate.

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    1. Yeah, a lot of it was contrived, but I thought Lennie James had just some great lines that he sold with conviction - "You're going to be torn apart by teeth or bullets" - which, yeah, they probably are. I like that we have an arc with these dudes - we know what Morgan was, and how he's changed. Man, though, every single dude on the show is some kind of extension of Rick's ego, which might be the lameness you feel.

      Michonne though, fucking finally! She cracked several jokes! Carl acts something like the kid he is! That was just great. So was the hitchhiker, even if that little story was completely predictable.

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    2. The hitchhiker thing made me sad. I just feel like at some point, they're going to have to start taking chances with newcomers again, no matter how badly they've been burned in the past. Right? Help a screaming hitchhiker out every once in a while for chrissakes.

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    3. I'm saying. I thought it was interesting the way they played the hitchhiker, because the episode was definitely intended to be a Rick has a breakthrough epi. Like, here's the ghost of crazytowns future, man. But not all has changed by the end.

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  2. I loved this episode. Particularly, thinking over Morgan's crazy-babble about Rick wearing a dead man's face and not being clear, it wasn't crazy at all: Morgan figured out the same core truth that Jenner revealed to Rick at the CDC, that they're all just zombies-in-waiting. It's like that message has been running through Morgan's head over and over on repeat, so what we get is like a 7th generation VHS recording of a fuzzy UHF broadcast. There's another great dichotomy there between Morgan's and Rick's respective journeys, in which Rick was simply handed information Morgan earned through loss and suffering.

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    1. It was pretty great. This show has to get down to simpler plotting, because this running all over blazes business has not been working for me. I really like your observation about how Morgan and Rick learned that everyone is infected, and how it changes the way they cope.

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