Recap | <i>The Walking Dead</i>: 'Clear'

"People like you, the good people, they always die. And the bad people do, too. But the weak people, the people like me, we have inherited the Earth." -- Morgan Jones

Considering the breakneck speed the second half of The Walking Dead Season 3 has been on, this week's episode, "Clear," was a wonderful, welcome surprise. Not only did we get back Lennie James as the long-lost Morgan Jones, but "Clear" also gave The Walking Dead producers a chance to take a breather and reflect on the current state of our leading cast of survivors.

"Clear" opens with Rick, Carl and Michonne heading on the supply run teased at the end of "I Ain't a Judas." They drive past a stranded survivor, who chases after them with the hopes of joining their group, or at least getting a ride. Michonne, Rick and Carl obviously see the man, but none of them acknowledges him as they drive by.

All is going well until their car gets stuck in the mud on the side of the road as they’re trying to avoid a pileup. Zombies attack and Rick proceeds to kill all of them, and then starts teaching Carl how to get a car out of this sort of situation. His son uses that one-on-one opportunity to complain about how it's Michonne's fault they got into the mess to begin with, but Rick says her time with them isn't permanent. Michonne, who overhears the conversation, doesn't seem especially pleased. As they take off, it's revealed the other survivor is still chasing after them.

Somehow I didn't realize throughout the course of Season 3 just how close the Prison was to the Grimes' hometown. That's where Rick takes Michonne and Carl during their run, but it's not quite what he expected. The sheriff's station has been raided of its munitions -- the point of their trip to begin with -- and the entire town has been booby-trapped. They find a pile of burned bodies, and graffiti warnings, "Turn around and live," and "No guilt, you know that," proving that someone has made a home in the town.

The person in question turns out to be Morgan, who saved Rick in the series pilot. After a brief confrontation, with a helmeted Morgan firing upon the group, he’s shot by Carl but only knocked unconscious thanks to his body armor. Rick refuses to leave Morgan behind, and so the three drag him to his upstairs apartment, carefully avoiding booby traps as they go. There they discover a weapons cache, and signs that Morgan is cracked in the head.

Michonne insists they take Morgan's weapons and leave, but Rick finds the walkie-talkie he gave Morgan in Season 1 and refuses to go anywhere until he's had a chance to talk with the man who saved his life. Michonne and Carl clearly think it's a dangerous move, but Carl uses the opportunity to go on a run, and Michonne decides to go with him.

The Grimes' old house has been destroyed, so Carl sets off on a mission he insists on doing "alone." Despite his best efforts to shake her, Michonne manages to stick with him and discovers he’s trying to get Judith something from a local restaurant. Carl's distrust of Michonne shines through and he claims she's only with them out of "common interests," but she reprimands him, saying, "I can't stop you, but you can't stop me from helping you."

Carl finally concedes, and it's revealed the restaurant is home to the last remaining photo of Carl with his mother and father. After a brief skirmish with the zombies trapped in the restaurant, the picture is retrieved, and Carl is relieved to have something to give his baby sister that shows her what her mother looked like -- and to have proof that Michonne is definitely on their side.

Back at Morgan's home, the man finally wakes up and tries to kill Rick with a knife. He succeeds at stabbing Rick in the chest, and Rick pulls a gun on him. "Please. Please kill me," Morgan begs him.

After finally convincing Morgan that he’s the same Rick Grimes the man saved a year before (it's only been a year?!), Morgan catches Rick up to date on his life. He is mad at Rick for not having communicated with him over the walkie-talkie like he had promised, and also reveals why he's become so unhinged: Morgan never killed the zombie version of his wife like Rick had told him to, and the creature eventually came back and killed his son Duane.

"I was selfish. I was weak. You gave me the gun," Morgan says. "People like you, the good people, they always die. And the bad people do, too. But the weak people, the people like me, we have inherited the Earth."

Rick tries to convince Morgan to return with him to the Prison, telling him it's a sign that they've met one another again. But Morgan has had enough with battles and definitely doesn't want to help Rick face off against the Governor, so he tells Rick his mission in life is to "clear." Rick obviously sees some of his current self in Morgan, insisting the man is "not seeing things right" and saying, "This can't be it. It can't be. You've got to be able to come back from this." But beyond giving Rick and his group some of his weapons, Morgan is left behind once again.

All in all, it’s a successful trip, as Carl and Michonne found both the picture and a crib for Judith, and Rick took a slew of guns for the impending battle with Woodbury. It seems tensions between Carl and Michonne have finally eased as well, with Carl telling his surprised father she "might be one of us." Michonne confronts Rick about his hallucinations, but tells him, "I used to talk to my dead boyfriend. It happens," which seems to relax him. Ah, the post-zombie apocalypse.

The three head back toward the Prison, but not before seeing the man who had been trying to join them dead and slathered along the side of the road. The episode ends with a gorgeous shot of their car driving along the highway past the man's backpack, but then backing up and taking it with them. It's clear where our favorite survivors' priorities lie: Leave the humans, take the supplies.

Wow. Just ... wow. Considering the speed at which Season 3 has been travelling, it was a bit surprising to see The Walking Dead take such a pause in "Clear." The only characters featured (other than the zombies, of course) were Rick, Carl, Michonne and Morgan, and the focus was clearly on getting us into the current states of mind of these people. Bringing Morgan back into play helped put Season 3 Rick in context, and hopefully helped him become a bit more grounded.

It's doubtful we'll get a similarly retrospective episode during the rest of the season, but this one just might have been enough. Next week's "Arrow on the Doorpost" will likely thrust us back into the thick of the confrontation with The Governor, but don't think this is the last we've seen of Morgan. IMDb lists James as having a role in the Season 3 finale, "Welcome to the Tombs," so hopefully he finds himself enough to be able to come to the aid of Rick and the Prison.

Also, it was such a pleasure to have the promoted Jamie N. Commons song "Lead Me Home" used at the end of "Clear." Check out the Season 3 promo that featured it back in January:

Grade: A+

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