What We Learned From Last Night's Devastating 'The Walking Dead' And The Future Of The Show

By: 03.04.13  •  428 Comments

I’d mentioned in the Weekend Preview on Friday that The Walking Dead — which is in something of a holding pattern, arranging the chess pieces for the final showdown between Woodbury and the prison gang in the season three finale — was due for a flashback or a bottle episode, another wheel-spinning episode to give showrunner Glen Mazarra some time to formulate the battle lines. Honestly, I was dreading the potential of that particular episode, worried that it’d something akin to one of Darabount’s episodes in season two, a forest-walking episode that provided little narrative momentum and even less character development. A snoozer.

Last night’s “Clear” wasn’t a flashback or bottle episode, but it was a side-trip episode, which fulfilled the same purpose. However, I was wrong to dread it: “Clear” turned out to be one of the best episodes of the series’ run, although it was the episode I suspect ultimately cost Glen Mazarra his job. Let me explain why, and because of the nature of the episode, we’ll skip the numbered list this week.

Two things struck me in the first minutes of last night’s episode, the 12th of the third season (there are four remaining). 1) it was clear early on that the focus would be entirely on Carl, Michonne, and Rick’s scavenger run, and 2), that we’d probably learn a lot about the future of the series from this episode because it was written by Scott Gimple, the man who is set to take over for Glen Mazarra as showrunner next season. What can we deduce about Gimple’s style from the episode? That the action may be slowed down, but that under Gimple’s supervision, The Walking Dead may benefit greatly from better characterization, more levity, and a better sense of humor.

Why? Because in 42 minutes last night, we learned more about Michonne than we have all season long. We now know she has a sense of humor. We know that she has been eager to be a real part of the prison gang. We know that she’s caring, that she actually has a personality, that she can be playful, and that she’s straight. WHAT? That actually came as a bigger surprise to me than it probably should have, but given her mysterious relationship with Andrea, I’d suspected — like most — that she felt something more than simple friendship toward her. (Of course, knowing that she had an ex-boyfriend doesn’t rule out the possibility, but it at least makes clear that she is capable of a romantic relationship, and that in the past, it’s been with men). Yes, Michonne is still the bad ass we’ve always known her to be, but now she’s something more: She’s a character, someone who we like and with whom we can better relate.

Moreover, late in the episode, when Michonne revealed to Rick that she knew that he was seeing people, and that she often used to talk to her ex-boyfriend, it brought out a better sense of humanity in Rick. No longer is he a crazy Ricktator, with some serious control issues, we also know that he

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