The Walking Dead took a nice breather from the intense war between the prison and Woodbury this week, as well as from the "Andrea Makes Really Bad Decisions" aspect of the show.
Instead, "Clear" was essentially a one-off episode that took a step back to really look at just how much has changed since the zombie apocalypse began and Rick first discovered his world was turned upside down in the pilot.
Involving only Rick, Carl, and Michonne, the trio traveled to Rick's town in King's County for supplies and guns. While I enjoyed venturing back, it did make me think about the distance between all the locations on the series and not only how far away the prison was, but also how Rick hasn't really gone that far in his journey.
If anything, the small distance is nothing compared to the large changes that have occurred to the characters themselves. Would the Rick, Carl or Michonne from before the walkers have saved the man on the road? Or even stopped to help him out?
There's a certain coldness to these characters in particular that's overcome them, and at the same time the way they handle taking care of the walkers outside their stuck vehicle was more like getting rid of an annoyance that happens from time to time. And I loved the way Carl gave that dirty look of "Are you kidding me?" when Michonne got the car stuck.
Yet, it was the fantastic return of Morgan, who had first saved Rick in the pilot, that really opened up a wonderful mirror for Rick to look at about the potential his character could turn into if he let the crazy and negatives of the new world take over.
I loved how Morgan had set up a wonderful trap system and managed to survive alone in the town. He was loaded with an intense arsenal, as was his copious amounts of chalk writings on the wall.
Which was really a part of the most interesting aspect of the new Morgan, a broken man still surviving, but completely upset with everything that happened.
Especially being alone for so long (I'm shocked he didn't have some beach ball with a bloody hand that he talked to), it was no surprise that he broke down on Rick.
His son Duane was killed by his walker mother, the same mother that Morgan couldn't get himself to shoot when Rick gave him the chance to do so. Ironic and tragic.
And it was great to see Rick, who he himself has transformed dramatically, trying to convince Morgan to keep going, have a sense of hope and believe that everything would be okay in the end. In a way, it was almost as if Rick was trying to convince himself too.
So, was I disappointed that Morgan decided to stay behind and "clear?" Yes, I really wanted him to join up with the group at the prison, and maybe sometime down the road he might, but I understood him needing to work out his issues by himself. If anything, he served a purpose for Rick's character moving forward.
At the same time Rick was having his character exposed, Carl was desperate to retrieve a photo of his family.
It totally made sense, as much as it was ridiculous for him to risk his life in the walker infested building, because I think we often forget that Carl is still a kid. Sure, he's a great shot and he's come into his own as a member of the group, but Carl isn't an adult. He wanted that piece of his past, of his complete happy family, if not just for Judith, but for him as well.
And yes, Michonne was actually enjoyable this episode. While she revealed a little about seeing her dead boyfriend, it was watching her try and be more than just someone fighting a common enemy that worked. As much as she's been a loner, there was a sense that she does want to be a part of the group.
Michonne smiled, cracked jokes, kicked ass, stuck with Carl to get him that photo, retrieved her own odd piece of memorabilia and had a friendly banter with Rick about seeing dead people. She's totally got the potential to be a fantastic character, and if she can keep up this growth and personality, I'm on board and excited to see her really team up with the prison team.
But it was really the final scene of the episode that solidified that dark and grim atmosphere that the world has turned into, with the car stopping to pick up the pack of the guy they had ignored at the start of the episode who was now dead and a bloody mess. The world isn't about making Facebook friends, real friends, hanging out a bar, going to school... but rather surviving and learning to adapt with everything that's happened.
It's cold and cruel, and hopefully the people living in it can maintain some semblance of humanity and morality despite all that's changed.
It was a great bookend for the episode - and while many could argue it was complete filler, it really explored the characters and the dark tone of the world. Let's just hope Rick can keep it together and not turn into a broken man like Morgan, but rather lead the group to victory against the Governor.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.