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.