RECAP: ‘The Walking Dead’ – S03E12 – “Clear”

NOTE: Let’s be mindful of all the new viewers participating in this conversation and try not to spoil plot points taking place deep into the run of the comic series. Mild speculation is fine and encouraged, as well as talking about things that have happened in the comic up until the point they are at in the show, but don’t get too explicit with regard to future surprises. They will be deleted. Thanks!

The Walking Dead_Clear



“Hitch Hiking is Even More Dangerous in the Zombie Apocalypse”

Last week, Andrea stopped by for a visit at the prison and it was as uncomfortable as the time I hung out with people from an old job after I had moved on to a new company. “Right. So this is awkward now.” She returned to Woodbury with Carol’s suggestion in mind to murder The Governor as he lay in sleepy post-coital bliss, which she did not do. Also, Tyrese and his people moved from the prison to Woodbury.

This week, Rick, Carl and Michonne embark on the worst road trip ever. It starts off with them blowing right past a back packing hitchhiker (“This isn’t the ‘60s anymore, hippie!”) and then getting stuck in the Georgia mud. Zombies are dispatched and lessons about how to use found items to unstick your car are attempted to be imparted to Carl, who is having none of this because he’s crazy and creepy. He’d rather talk about his much Rick sucks for every bad thing that has happened to them recently. The car unsticks and as they’re about to take off, the hitchhiker calls out to them from far in the distance. “Help me!” he pleads. Rick, doing his best Rorschach, smirks a “no” and they drive off. Cold, man. COLD.

Roll credits!

(During the commercial break there’s a screen of The Walking Dead producer Dave Alpert’s thoughts on the prevalence of the phrase “I don’t disagree with that” and how it applies to the zombies on his show. It’s up on the screen way too fast to read, but if you have a DVR you can pause and read the block of text and decide for yourself whether or not Dave needs a vacation.)

The Road Trip From Hell pulls into a small town and they scavenge the local sheriff’s office looking for guns and ammo, which their group is light on and which they will need in the coming war with Woodbury. Hey, it’s Rick’s old town and Rick’s old sheriff’s station! Man, it’s been so long since we’ve been back here! Anyway, there are no guns and only one bullet, a far cry from the pilot in which the guns and ammo were plentiful.

Rick decides they should check all the businesses in town for all the under-the-counter guns and on their way they pass an uber creepy pile of burnt bodies in a vacant lot. This, my friends, is where I would get back in the car and drive back to the prison. I’m not one for omens, but that seems to be a big one. They turn the corner and find a main street covered in spray painted slogans of doom and debris scattered all over the road with homemade spikes and barbed wire sticking out of everything. A zombie appears behind them and gets caught in the maze of debris. A man in armor and helmet appears on one of the rooftops and dispatches the zombie with one head shot and then orders Rick, Michonne, and Carl to lay down their weapons and shoes and swords and leave town. Instead of doing that, Rick shoots at the guy and everyone scatters. Rick draws fire as Michonne heads for the roof but the man in the helmet appears on the street and uploads what seems like a wasteful amount of ammo trying to shoot Rick who is out of bullets save for the one they just picked up in the sheriff’s station. Rick goes to shoot the man but before he can pull the trigger, Carl steps out of a doorway and puts a bullet in the helmeted man’s ribs. He falls over and Rick, Michonne, and Carl quickly descend upon him and learn that one, he was wearing a bulletproof vest so the gunshot didn’t kill him and two, it’s Morgan, Rick’s friend from the pilot episode!

(I kind of want to watch Vikings.)

Rick and Michonne take an unconscious Morgan back to his HEAVILY booby trapped house. We’re talking a Kevin’s-house-from-Home Alone level of booby trapping. In addition to finding the walls covered in insane ramblings, they also find not only all the guns and ammo from the sheriff’s station but like twice as many guns as were kept in the sheriff’s station. It’s a guns and ammo bonanza! Rick also finds the original radio that he left with Duane so that they could stay in touch as well as writings that would indicate that Morgan’s son Duane had turned into a zombie. Rick decides that they should wait until Morgan comes-to and try to talk to him, a plan that Michonne is not at all happy with. Carl discovers an incredibly detailed map of the town drawn in chalk on the wall. According to the map it would seem that Rick and Carl’s house has burnt down since we last saw it. Carl shows no emotion about this or anything that has happened so far. In the future they will find a lot of body parts underneath Carl’s floorboards. In the meantime, Carl reminds Rick that there is a baby store in town so he and Michonne head out to find supplies and a crib for Li’l Ass Kicker. They encounter a zombie along the way and Carl uses that opportunity to try to slip away from Michonne. He wants to go on his own and doesn’t need a babysitter!

Back at Morgan’s house, Rick continues to check out the crazy writings on the wall and he stumbles upon Morgan’s old hunting rifle that he used to use to protect the house. Morgan stirs and cuts his ties with a a knife he has hidden under hit cot. He lunges at Rick, who pops him in the side of the head with the butt of the rifle. Rick tries to get Morgan to remember him but you can’t reason with crazy and Morgan keeps attacking, eventually getting the best of Rick and stabbing him in the chest up near the shoulder. Rick knocks Morgan off and points his gun at his head. Morgan pleads with Rick to pull the trigger.

After patching himself up during the commercial break, Rick finally gets through to Morgan. He reminds Morgan of the plan they had with the radio and that finally does it. Of course, he goes a little crazy and then angry recounting the story of how he and his son went to the roof every morning to try to contact Rick and Rick was never there! Then they play a fun game of “Who’s Had The Worse Family Tragedies?” Morgan wins the game after telling the story of how his zombie wife killed his son while they were out on a food run.

Carl and Michonne come upon a cafe. Carl wants something inside but Michonne won’t let him go in without her. They grab a bunch of the rats in cages on skateboards that Morgan has as part of his street traps and they roll them into the cafe which is like ringing the dinner bell for all the zombies hanging out inside. Carl and Michonne sneak in and Carl grabs a photograph from the wall of the cafe. Then a whole lot of things happen quickly: a zombie from behind the bar grabs Carl’s leg but Michonne stabs him in the forehead; the noise of that altercation startles some of the other zombies in the cafe; Carl and Michonne head for the back exit but run into a whole gang of zombies who had been chasing a rat; Carl and Michonne stab and shoot their way back out the front and in the process Carl drops the photograph inside. Despite the fact that there are like a dozen zombies clawing at the front door, Carl wants to go back for the photograph. Carl is an idiot. Michonne sneaks around the back and reappears with the photograph—the only one that exists of Rick, Lori, and Carl—and a truly awesomely hideous sculpture of a cat.

Back at the crazy house, Rick decides that Morgan needs to come back with them to the prison. He tries to sell Morgan on how safe it is there but Morgan stymies Rick with two questions: 1) Is that where Lori died? And 2) If it’s so safe why does Rick need all the gun and ammo? Rick tries to get Morgan to see that it would be better to come with him but Morgan takes too much comfort in his tightly controlled world of pain, paranoia, and self-inflicted suffering that he has built for himself. He tells Rick that he won’t go with him, he has to stay and “Clear.”

As Rick leaves Morgan’s house with the bag of guns and ammo, he runs into Carl and Michonne lugging a giant crib. They watch as Morgan works on repairing his zombie traps and Michonne asks if he’s alright. “No,” Rick says. “He’s not.” Right before they leave town, Carl calls out to Morgan to apologize for shooting him but Morgan tells Carl that he shouldn’t ever be sorry, and then he turns to get back to his traps.

At the car, Rick asks Carl how his scavenger hunt with Michonne went. Carl tells Rick that Michonne is one of them. Carl loads his stuff into the trunk and heads to the backseat as Rick stares off into the distance. Michonne walks up and asks if Rick is seeing things and before Rick can answer she tells him that she knows he does and that it’s okay—she used to talk to her dead boyfriend.

On their way back to the prison they pass the body of the hitch hiker who was apparently ripped to pieces by zombies.

This time they stop—to grab his back pack.


This episode was fantastic and one of the best of the series. It harkened back to the focus and personal intensity of the first few episodes of the show. I also really enjoyed the contract between Duane (who couldn’t kill his own mom and thus died) and Carl (who could and lived).


  1. I thought this was a surprisingly good episode, I had been expecting something more low-key, but it was really rewarding to see Michonne and Carl interact as well as the nerdy continuity chills I got from seeing Morgan again. Thank you, producers, for leaving a zombified Duane off the tv screen, though I expect that was as much due to the actor aging up as opposed to any squeamishness.

  2. Great to see Morgan, gave Rick a mirror piece of mind of what road he might be going down and end up like if he doesn’t reel it back in or let people in. Loved the full circle tone set by the hitch hiker in the beginning then they backup to pick up his backpack at the end. Also, Michonne mentioning to Rick that she knows he see’s things and admits she used to talk to her ex bf, really helped not only Rick feel ok and loosen up about that secrecy he’s been carrying which goes hand in hand with what he learned from running into Morgan, it also started the not yet established bond between them two, her time with Carl helped as well. Great calm before the storm episode with music that closed it out perfectly.

  3. Good episode. The focus on character made it feel like an issue of the book in all the best ways.

    Just when I thought I was out.

    Lennie James is a powerhouse. Man, I wish that guy was in every episode.

    Next week, more talking about doing something but not actually doing anything until the finale.

  4. Four left to go. Last night was a great one, lots of great character moments, the dinner zombies were creepy and the first honest intentional laugh. That ugly horse Michonne took from the dinner…. I loved the hitch hiker lead and cap to the issue, er, episode!

  5. This was a nice episode. Poor Morgan.

  6. This was by far my favorite episode of this season. Such a great character piece for all four of them

  7. really loved this episode. I was on edge the entire time, especially with all the traps. Was kinda cool to see them go in that direction with the characters.

    I was really interested in who that Hiker was. I thought he would have had more of a presence, but i got what they were doing with him.

    I was kinda bummed that they previews for next week showed the governor…i realized that i really don’t like that character (on the show) and this whole arc with Woodbury is kinda what’s causing me to lose interest in the show. Looking forward to Season 4 at this point.

  8. Also really dug this episode. Michonne really got to shine this episode, I think, and become more 3-dimensional.

  9. The thing at the end with the backpack was just cold blooded. Sheesh.

    “The mat said ‘welcome’.”

  10. Good, good episode!


    * If the dead really started coming back and roaming the Earth looking to eat the living, I think over 50% of those survivors would lose their freakin’ minds! So I’m glad The Walking Dead had Morgan be koo koo – and I’m glad that he sorta stayed koo koo and was cool with “Clearing” and not going with Rick back to the prison. Clearing, in a way, is what is keeping Morgan “sane” in an insane world. Crazy man, crazy.

    * This episode made me want to watch that stellar 1st season again. At only 6 episodes, season 1 of The Walking dead is still the best and some of the most intense hours of television I’ve ever watched. Seems like a lifetime ago that Rick woke up in that hospital, but really it’s only been what? A year since that occurred in the shows time?

    * I can do without the music endings that they have been tacking on at the end of the episodes of late – to me it takes me out of the apocalyptic world of the undead and makes me feel like I’m watching the end of a Dawson’s Creek episode (not that I… uh…. ever watched Dawson’s Creek.)

    * Speaking of the undead, it also bugs me that the word “zombie” is never used in the series. Instead we get Walkers, Roamers, and puss-buckets. Why not just say “ZOMBIE!”? Is there some kinda copyright on the word Zombie or something I don’t know about?

    * Ok, enough bitching, back to the praise – like I said, this was a good episode and the bonding that took place between Rick, Michonne, and Carl the Portrait of a Serial Killer will most certainly come into play in these last episodes of season 3 and into season 4.

    This was a much needed episode for these characters. Nice work.

    • #3 – you and me both. The musical endings are lame. This is not the CW network or the Sopranos. Now, I suppose there is some egghead out there who will come up with some theory about humanity, civilization and the importance/meaning of music in relation… that’s all well and good, it doesn’t make music montages any less cheesy in a TV series like this

      #4 – I remember this being a story trait of the WD comics, its not a copyright thing. Here’s the wiki to help explain:
      “While the term “zombie” does exist within The Walking Dead universe, it is seldom used. In the comic book, when Rick’s group discover the prison, both Rick and Tyreese discuss how it still sounds funny to use the word “zombie”. Likewise, in the Telltale video game, the term is used but very rarely. “Zombie” is never used in the TV series; when interviewed, Lauren Cohan stated that Romero movie zombies never existed in the popular fiction of the TV Walking Dead universe.[4] The characters within The Walking Dead TV series and comic books come up with their own monikers and categorizations for the undead.”

    • Thanks for the Wiki info Jessie. I suppose that makes sense but still, it would be nice to hear the word Zombie uttered every now and then. =)

  11. Really nice to finally see Michonne come out of her shell for a bit. She had me in stitches, between eating Morgans food, to going back for the multi colored cat statue.

  12. It’s interesting to see how some people reacted to Rick and Michonne driving past the hitchhiker that was screaming for them to stop. After living in this world where the living can be just as deadly as the walkers, would you be so quick to trust some random on the side of the road? Let me just point out that he didn’t help his case by screaming out loud that he needed help or being out in the open like he was. After watching the preview in my office at DISH I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was much better than I thought it would be. I learned a lot about all of the characters this week and that was really refreshing after the monotony we’ve been forced to endure this season. I don’t get to see the newest episode of The Walking Dead the night it airs because I’m usually at work but thanks to the Hopper and DISH Anywhere I can catch up on the show on my iPad anytime I want.