“The good people, like you, die. The bad people too. But weak people, like me, we have inherited the Earth.” — Morgan Jones
Tonight’s episode marks the halfway point of this second half of this third season. This second half has been all about setting up the war that’s brewing between the Woodbury and Prison camps. We’ve seen some unsuccessful attempts to defuse the explosive situation between the two groups (mostly Andrea being her usual clueless self) and some interesting group additions on both sides. Last week’s episode saw Merle trying to build bridges and make nice with the people in Rick’s group he had a part in torturing and trying to kill. The surprising part of the episode was seeing a huge departure from the comic book narrative: Tyrese and his small group making it into Woodbury and seeming to side with the Governor (well, at least Allen and his son Ben) in his war against Rick and his people. This change looks to be one of the this season’s gamechangers. With Tyrese in the Governor’s camp the chance of him and Rick ever finding a common bond looks to have been made quite difficult.
“Clear” looks to be one of this season’s somewhat standalone episodes. The interesting thing about tonight’s episode is that it brings Rick right back to where he started when the series first began. His town looks to have seen better times as it looks like someone has turned Main Street into some sort of zombie trap with sharpened stakes, triplines and cages with live birds as bait. The scene looks like a set-up for what Max brooks has termed the LaMOE scenario.
What is LaMOE you ask?
It means Last Man On Earth and that Main Street and then the sinper on the roof of the building that starts shooting at Rick, Michonne and Carl look like a prime example of one. Yes, the unknown gunman was a LaMOE but as soon as they incapacitate him Rick finds to his surprise that this crazed gunman was someone he knows well from a year ago when he first came out of his pre-zombie apocalypse coma.
One of the characters from season 1 which many have been wanting to make a return was the first person Rick meets for the first time: Morgan Jones. It was this man who gave Rick the lay of this new zombie land and gave him the rules on how to survive. It was Morgan Jones and his young son Duane who was this show’s last symbol of normalcy before everything turned into a living hell for Rick even after he found his family. It’s now been a year since Rick last spoke with Morgan and the time since hasn’t been good for the latter.
The sequence where he finally recognizes Rick as someone he knows who is still alive was one of this show’s more emotional scenes. Then an even stronger scene follows it as we find out from Morgan’s emotional monologue of what happened since Rick left. His retelling of Duane’s fate was an emotional rollercoaster not just for Morgan who had to relive the awful memory but also for Rick who sees in Morgan someone he’s on the path to becoming since he lost Lori earlier this season. This made Rick’s attempt to bring Morgan back from the brink and join them at the prison even more telling. The fact that Morgan refuses almost destroys the last hope Rick has in seeing himself redeemed. This realization was then tempered by a revelation from Michonne that she understand what Rick is going through emotionally and mentally and that it was ok.
“Clear” shows Rick seeing a mirror-image of himself in Morgan and despite the latter’s fatalistic look on what life he has left it leaves Rick with both a sense of melancholy that the future will not be as bright as he hopes it will be, but also some hope that he’s seen what could happen to him if he gives up all hope. It helped that Lennie James returning as Morgan Jones was such a standout in not just tonight’s episode but also the whole series as a whole. James’ heartbreaking performance as Morgan truly made tonight’s episode one of the strongest this season, if not, one of the best in this show’s three year span, so far. It definitely brought out a great performance from Andrew Lincoln who reacted to Morgan’s circumstance with equal parts horror, pity and compassion. The fact that Rick doesn’t get to redeem (hopefully a temporary thing) Morgan (and in some small part his own self) only adds to the notion that Rick can’t save them all and that when he can’t that he needs to move on instead of internalizing the hurt of failure.
The other subplot in tonight’s episode saw Carl look both a badass and a young, reckless kid. On the one hand, Carl looks to be more stable than his father Rick, but his mission to retrieve a personal item from one of the cafe’s in town shows just how much a child Carl still is. It was during this part of tonight’s episode that we finally get to see Michonne become a much more fully-realized character instead of just glowering in the background.
Michonne’s character looked like she was going to be similar to Morgan’s character in tonight’s episode in that she worked best as a lone wolf. While it looked like she never reached LaMOE status as Morgan, there was a sense that she felt more at ease when just worrying about herself. She’s seen what happens when she finally cares for someone and it bites her in the ass (Andrea), but tonight we also saw how Rick’s group is actually one that she could truly belong even if it means opening herself up more to them and risking being hurt again.
“Clear” was clearly one of this show’s strongest episodes and the fact that it had Lennie James in the cast list was no accident. His only other appearance on The Walking Dead all the way back in the extended pilot is also considred one of this show’s best. While it looks like tonight might’ve been a one-off Morgan appearance there’s always hope that Rick and his people will run into this LaMOE when things become desperate for them. I sure hope that tonight’s episode was not the last time we see Morgan Jones as played by the great Lennie James.
- Tonight’s episode, “Clear”, was written by next season’s new showrunner in Scott M. Gimple w/ series newcomer Tricia Brock in the director’s chair.
- That was some coldhearted shit that Rick w/ Michonne and Carl pulled on that lone hiker on the road. Considering all the issues these people have had with strangers I think most people would agree with just driving past the guy.
- Looked like the makeshift sign telling one Erin that her people were going to Stone Mountain didn’t end up going well for this Erin as the zombie with Erin wristband showed in the cold opening.
- Oh shit on a cracker! news that Lennie James would return as Morgan Jones was received well by fans of the show, but the fact that he shows up in tonight’s episode should be a delight to fans all-around.
- Love the different looks given by Rick and Michonne after seeing Carl gun down Morgan. From Rick it was that look that he can’t believe his son just did what he did. Michonne’s expression was more of respect like seeing Carl was truly turning into a true badass.
- That is some very inventive booby traps laid out by Morgan.
- That is also a lot of guns. I am envious.
- Makes one wonder how Morgan got a hold of all those guns.
- Rick and Morgan seem to have more in common. They’ve both lost people they love but where Morgan’s son Duane was unable to defend himself the same turned out differently for Carl who seems to be turning out a better survivor in this new world that his father.
- Stupid actions by Carl to retrieve something for Judith, but it was a nice moment which helps both Carl and Michonne bond together. Plus, it was a nice, compassionate gesture Carl wanted to give his baby sister.
- Chandler Riggs’ performance during his scenes with Michonne was up and down, but it was mostly up and it was nice to see that realization on Rigg’s performance that Michonne was someone he could trust.
- Michonne actually smiled in tonight’s episode which helped opened up the character to something other than a glowering badass.
- Will this be the last we see of Lennie James as Morgan on this show? After tonight’s episode I’m hoping the answer is no.
- Hitchhiker looks like he should’ve been more quiet after trying to catch up to Rick and his group.
- Zombie Kill Count of tonight’s episode: 9 (6-8 more off-screen)
Past Season 3 Episode Review