The Walking Dead Review: Episode 12 ‘Clear’


Switching up the format of our TWD reviews to be less recappy and more reviewy (but still with a creamy maggot-filled nougat center).

If you’ve watched the episode, you don’t need a play-by-play, and if you haven’t . . . well, you’re probably not reading this anyway.

In ‘Clear’, we get a nice and welcome break from Andrea and the ongoing Woodbury saga to narrow the focus on Rick, Carl, and Michonne.

(Welcome here, at least, because frankly, after watching ‘Ain’t No Judas’ for the third time in a week so my girlfriend could catch up with the series, I’m not even sure I want redemption for Blondie at this point: the business end of a crossbow bolt or katana, right alongside her one-eyed boyfriend, suits me just fine.)


No real surprise that Morgan, Rick’s first human contact since waking from a coma into a world gone mad, returns.   Fans of the comic were already expecting it at some point, and the Interweb has been teasing the return of the fantastic Lennie James, with speculation as far back as Episode 10.

I was impressed that James was cast in the role back at the opening of the series.  I was a diehard Jericho fan — still love that series and will always harbor a little anger that CBS didn’t give it a decent chance and completely sabotaged it with poor scheduling choices and a complete unwillingness to account for those of us who watched the show via alternate, non-airdate methods as part of the total audience.

Maybe if they’d have called it CSI: Doomsday it would’ve fared better.

(And note to AMC, if you ever do get the idea of cancelling The Walking Dead — you probably don’t want to know what sort of things us zombie nerds will send you tons of via mail in organized protest.  Just sayin’.)

‘Clear’ came off to me as the most bleak the series has offered up so far, possibly because we’ve gotten a rare glimpse of the destroyed world outside the immediate locales populated by our protagonists.

I think it says something that there’s some real talent at work on this show when the simple opening shot of a desperate, handmade roadside note packs more of an emotional wallop than even the most elaborate post-apocalyptic set dressing and piles of corpses.

Sometimes less really is more.


Morgan’s reintroduction as a lone, almost feral (yet highly cunning) survivor, living in an environment where his unhinged mental state is writ large — literally scrawled — on the walls was a great touch.

Fans of the comic knew of his son Duane’s eventual fate, although the show adds the twist that his mother, the love of Morgan’s life that he couldn’t bring himself to put out of her misery, was the culprit.


(Minus points, though, for not actually showing us this sequence, which granted, goes against the overall ‘no flashback’ aesthetic, but would’ve really brought the series opening full circle.)

Kudos, though, for FINALLY giving Danai Gurira something to do that doesn’t involve silent glaring.  Granted, she’s really good at it, but it’s great to see Michonne open up and be human.  She’s arguably the most popular character in the comic and the show’s incarnation of the character looks to follow suit (although Daryl does offer some stiff competition on the boob tube).


Lennie’s one-on-one exchanges with Andrew Lincoln were really the show stealer, though, as far as I’m concerned.  Amazing, scene-chewing intensity and one of the highlights of this season so far.

Carl’s determination to hold on to some vestige of his past, to give his infant sister a chance to see her mother, was a nice touch . . . and I’m even going to overlook how there was an otherwise intact diner full of walkers who probably didn’t just wander aimlessly in.

Was the blue plate special that day at King’s Country salmonella with a nice side of cyanide?  Looks like those people died pretty peacefully inside.  I can’t imagine going quietly and respectfully into that good night in a backwoods greasy spoon.


My only issue with this episode was with the desperate hitchhiker that Rick & co. so callously ignored — twice — leading to his demise as literal roadkill, and then to add insult to injury, they stopped in the closing moments of the episode to loot his gore-stained backpack after more or less being accomplices to his death by their inaction.

It’s not a moral objection: I can’t say I blame Rick for not wanting anything to do with a random stranger wandering the highway on his own, not with so much on the line with the resupply mission and having his son with him.

And I get the idea was to show how far the formerly compassionate, kind-hearted sheriff has come.

I think the problem is there may come a point where our protagonists stoop a little too low, and it may affect audience morale.  The logic is that yes, this world is only going to become worse and worse as time grinds on, and that even those with big hearts will have to make them calloused in order to survive.

There may be a point, though, where some of the audience — particularly the non-comics fans who haven’t seen but a fraction of the bleakness of the world of the franchise’s printed page on their TV screens — start to doubt what they’ve bought into, when the heroes largely cease to be heroic, and I’m wondering what the breaking point of a more mainstream audience is going to be.

That’s going to be an exceedingly fine line for the writers and producers to toe as the series progresses.  Having some very obvious ‘bad guys’ in the form of the Governor and his Woodbury cronies will help draw some attention away from unheroics, at least as Season 3 draws to a close, but that last scene of ‘Clear’, as powerful and unsettling as it was, might start to be a backpack too far for some.

— mal



  1. Okay, I’m a casual reading of “The Walking Dead” comic book and a fairly avid watcher of the television show. It’s obvious that you have a much better grasp of the show than I do, so I was hoping you could answer a question/concern that I have.

    In “Clear,” we see Rick and Carl head back to their old stomping grounds. Carl retrieves a family photograph that hangs in a restaurant they used to frequent often. We can assume the prison is not too far from this restaurant and Rick’s old neighborhood?

    So why was finding (stumbling onto) the prison a surprise to the group at the end of last season? Rick is a sheriff, so we can assume that Rick is familiar with where all of the jails/prisons are located in the state. I don’t have a job in law enforcement, but I could probably tell you where are the prisons/jails are in my state.

    In other words, why, after Carl recovered from the gunshot, did the group stick around on the farm where they weren’t really welcomed? Why didn’t Rick and Shane say, “Hey guys, there’s a prison not too far from here. Let’s leave Herschel and co. alone and try to take up shelter there.”

    I swear I’m not trying to be one of those jerks that has to pick apart story lines. And I know that interjecting logic into fiction will sometimes kill the fun of the story. I’m just curious if I’m missing something.

    • You know, that’s a very good observation. I’d say they stuck it out at the farm because there was a readily available supply of food. The prison might’ve been more ‘secure’, but as Morgan said in this episode, “It always comes down to food.”

      Also, Lori was pregnant and they needed Hershel’s medical knowledge.

      I would think Rick hadn’t considered the prison because of the logistics. He knew at that point from Jennings at the CDC the nature of the plague, that everyone who dies comes back, so there would’ve possibly been hundreds of inmates inside the facility who had possibly died in their cells from starvation / dehydration.

      They wouldn’t necessarily have *had* to destroy them, but you can imagine the smell and the noise they’d make, not to mention the potential for disease — you wouldn’t want to set up camp that close to something like that unless you had no other options.

      There’s also no way to tell just how far the prison was from the farm — with gas being hard to come by, roads often blocked and impassable, moving the group there would’ve been far more dangerous. And we don’t really know how far Rick’s hometown was from the prison, they could’ve had to drive a decent distance, as well — but that could’ve been acknowledged by a few lines of dialogue, too.

      I do think the writers have been glossing over little bits of logic lately, like not having so much as acknowledging Tyresse and his group leaving the prison. After they spent so many scenes with the two groups interacting, then they just have Rick bellow get out and poof, they’re gone. I realize there’s only so much screentime, but there’s less essential stuff they could have cut or trimmed back on to have at least two minutes of Hershel apologizing to Tyresse, if nothing else.

      That would’ve been a great opening for this epsiode, though, start out with a flashback between Rick and Shane at the farm where Shane brings up the idea of the prison, and Rick, not wanting to tell what he knows about the plague, has to shoot down the idea, then have Rick wake up, he’d nodded off while in the car with Michonne and Carl. That would’ve been especially powerful given the debate over whether or not they should even bother defending the place.

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