Isolation is a terrible punishment for any creature to suffer. When I say any creature, that means humans, canines, felines, crustaceans, and heck, even trees. As a matter of fact, I especially mean trees. Loneliness (actual loneliness, not being a shut-in on Friday night playing Dota 2) is a terrible kind of freedom, where one is no longer bound by the restrictions and guidelines put forth by society. Now that may not sound so bad, if I were on my own right now, I’d have my music on full blast, and I would probably be in my underwear (full on nakedness seems impractical). It’s all well and good for a little while, because as I engage with my surroundings, I’m shaping and adjusting things to my preference. However, as time goes on, I realize how much I’ve become accustomed to interacting with others, and that on my own, I begin to lose my sense of self. The self is an unwinnable battle that we place upon ourselves, struggling to find a balance between who we are, who we wish we are, what we need to be, and how others see us. The question that this phenomenal episode of The Walking Dead, titled “Clear,” asks is: Who do we become when we’ve lost everything that tells us who we are?
Let’s Spoil some Beef.
I had a really good feeling about this from last week’s previews because The Walking Dead has a great track record for “adventure/excursion” episodes; Vatos, TriggerFinger, and 18 Miles Out are all terrific episodes that used a smaller group. Not trying to spin so many narrative wheels at once gives the show an opportunity to develop key relationships between the characters involved.
There was one bone I had to pick, and that’s Carl’s subplot. Oy vey, again with the cryptic “something I have to do” shtick. I get why it’s done – to keep the audience guessing – but I just don’t see why it’s so hard for Carl to just say what it is he needs to do. If he reveals his intentions, it gives them something to talk about, which gives the writer an extra element to add to dialogue so it doesn’t end up with, “Let me do this!” “No!” “Not asking for permission!”
Michonne: I know she’s been getting a lot of criticism this season, but personally most of that comes from just how damn impatient we, the consumers, can get. Michonne is a crowd favorite, and is one of the story’s most important characters. She’s also been on her own for a long time since the outbreak. If this wasn’t about the zombie outbreak, she’d still be a regularly guarded kind of person, but as I’ve said a million times, the purpose of this show is to amplify those traits to an extreme level unattainable in our world. In the wake of this apocalypse, there is no reason why she can’t be super-mega-ultra-giga-guarded; I mean, it’s life or death every single day with these people. Her actions were completely justified both realistically and for the sake of the narrative. She’s going to be on this show for a long time – there’s no good reason why she needed to have her guard brought down just because we think “it’s gone on long enough! We want our bad ass!” Be patient; you’ll get your bad ass.
That said, she did excellently this episode. Her dry wit in Morgan’s house is some of the show’s most natural humour. She’s apparently even more agile than I thought, being able to scale a building in seconds and retrieve a photo while surrounded by the zombies. Most importantly of all, she’s starting to show how much of a positive effect she’s going to have on Rick and Carl, as she has a way of appealing to both of them.
Setting the stage: It wasn’t until the behind the scenes look on Talking Dead that I realized what the arrows on the ground were for. Between the spray paint, the zombie traps/lures, the burning body pile, the coloured ladders, the tower and of course Morgan’s HUGE weapon pile (I tweeted, Morgan’s become the stocking dead), the amount of work that went into defining the look for this episode makes up for anything lackluster throughout the season. Giving us a convincing look at what one man’s world could become when he’s on his own showed an incredible respect for the show, because all this effort may not have any more use past this episode. But to ensure that this episode was done as well as it could be, they went through a lot of effort, and I commend them for it.
What happened to Morgan? The thing about our culture is that we are constantly influencing one another with our actions and words, both directly and indirectly. I am a nerd, obsessed with video games and great storytelling. I embraced that term as a means to define who I am, and furthermore to define who I want to associate with by extension. My interests are formed partially by what I find (no one told me to read these books), and also by what others show me (If not for a friend, I probably still wouldn’t have gotten around to watching Community, knowing full well it’s an outstanding show). It’s the constant flux of cause and effect: what others put out, we take in. And then we put out (stop laughing) new ideas and decisions based on what we took in from others.
So what happens when 1) The world goes to hell, 2) You’ve been cut off from everyone, 3) You have to fight to survive and 4) The dead are out to feast on your living flesh? Well, you might just make a few mental changes to how you think the world works. Since no one is there to influence you, that means the only thing you take in is that which you put out; it becomes this vicious cycle of being influenced by your own mentality, which increases in severity to the point where you can’t even remember the person you used to be.
Personally, I’ve recently been very afraid of the opposite problem. It is so easy now to be influenced by all that’s out there, and the self is struggling to make any solid decisions about who it is. But that’s another discussion altogether.
See you next week.