SPOILER ALERT: The recap for the "Clear" episode of "The Walking Dead" contains storyline and character spoilers.
So, did we exaggerate? Was this not the best episode of "The Walking Dead" so far? We had all been wondering what had become of Morgan and Duane, the father and son who helped Rick Grimes all the way back in the series pilot, when Rick woke up in the hospital and found the world in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.
Well, this week, we found out what happened to Morgan. And Duane. And it was crushing.
Rick found Morgan where he left him -- in his hometown. Rick, Michonne, and Carl were headed off in search of supplies, specifically weapons, as they gear up for another -- a final? -- showdown with the Governor. Along the road, their car gets stuck in some mud, and as the wheels are spinning, walkers attack the car.
Rick clears them away with his gun, and he and Carl snag some clothes from a nearby car to put under the tire for traction. With Michonne still behind the wheel, Carl asks Rick why he brought her along in the first place.
"We got common interests," Rick explains. "Right now we got the same problems, maybe we can work on them together." Besides, he says, he was afraid to leave her and Merle at the prison.
Rick's first thought on his gun run: his old sheriff's office. But he, Carl, and Michonne walk in and find the place has been wiped out.
"Got any other police stations in town?" Michonne asks.
"I was the police here," Rick replies, before they leave with nothing but a single bullet to add to their weapons stash and head off to raid some Main Street business where Rick thinks the owners may have a few guns (which he knows because, as sheriff, he had signed the permits for them -- nice detail).
As the trio head toward the main street in town, they're greeted by a maze of booby traps and messages painted on walls. "AWAY WITH YOU" is painted on one wall, and they see a pile of burned bodies in a grassy area.
Then there is an intricate mousetrap of barbed wire, ropes, spears, and, yes, actual mice, or rather rats, in cages. And while Rick, Carl, and Michonne are trying to wrap their heads around that, someone from atop one of the buildings yells at them to drop their weapons. Michonne runs off to try to get to the masked gunman, Rick tells Carl to run back to the car, and Rick runs toward the building.
The gunman reappears, on ground level, and is about to shoot Rick when Carl pops out and shoots the gunman first. Yeah, of course Carl didn't go back to the car (good thing). Rick checks the man and notes that he's wearing a bulletproof vest, so he's not dead. And then he pulls off the guy's mask …
It's Morgan (Lennie James)! (This, in the ranking of great "Walking Dead" reveals, is easily up there -- and maybe atop that big reveal of the Governor's wall of floating walker heads.) Rick tells Michonne and Carl that he knows him. Rick is also aware that Michonne is probably thinking that Morgan, the architect of this wacky world of zombie traps, is crazy, so he offers a pre-emptive, "He saved my life. … He wasn't like this then."
As they carry Morgan into the building he came out of, Rick is about to step on a Welcome mat when Michonne cautions him to check for traps. He lifts up the mat, and finds a hollowed out piece of ground, with spears sticking up. Phew.
And he quickly repays Michonne, when they carry Morgan up a staircase and he stops her from stepping into a wire, which, a pulled back curtain reveals, would have unlatched a hatchet that would have hit her right between the eyes.
About Duane …
They enter an apartment and put a still unconscious Morgan on a mattress and they are greeted by a huge mass of guns and ammo. It's everything Rick had left at the sheriff's station, and way, way more. When he begins looking through it, he finds the walkie-talkie he had given Morgan when they parted, with the promise they would turn it on once a day to keep track of each other.
Rick also notes the messages painted on the walls of the apartment. They're a scramble of phrases and the word "CLEAR" repeated in several colors. Then Rick sees this: "DUANE TURNED." And he tells Michonne they're not leaving until Morgan wakes up.
She protests. "You think he's crazy?" Rick asks.
Michonne: "No, I think he's dangerous."
Rick ties Morgan's hands while he's still out, and he notices Carl staring at a map on a wall. Carl tells him their old neighborhood, their home, is gone. The map says it was burned down. Rick asks if that's why Carl wanted to come on the gun run, to see his home again. Carl says he just wanted to come along.
Michonne, meanwhile, has helped herself to some of Morgan's munchies.
"We're eating his food now?" Rick asks.
"Mat said 'Welcome,'" says Michonne, who offers several funny lines throughout the episode.
Carl tells Rick he wants to go on a little mission while they wait for Morgan to wake up. He wants to go around the corner, to a baby store, so he can see if there's a crib for Judith. Michonne, much to Carl's dismay, offers to go along for support, and Rick OKs the errand.
Outside, Carl tries to sneak away from Michonne, but she catches up with him. He keeps moving, and she points out that he just walked right past the baby store. Clearly he has another mission in mind -- there's something else he needs to get first, he says -- and Michonne continues to follow him.
Back at the apartment, Morgan wakes up and secretly grabs a knife he had hidden in his mattress. He jumps up, lunges at Rick, and, still not recognizing his old pal, stabs Rick in the shoulder area. "People wearing dead people's faces!" Morgan screams as Rick tries to make him remember who he is.
They struggle, and a frustrated Rick pulls out his gun and holds it to Morgan's head. But Morgan doesn't fight back … instead, he pulls the gun toward him and begs Rick, "Please, please, kill me! Just kill me," over and over.
Finally, as Rick talks to him, reminds him they know each other, that Rick gave him the walkie-talkie he has in his hand, Morgan snaps back to reality. "I know you! I know who you are," the crying Morgan says. He talks about the walkie-talkie, and how they had agreed to turn it on every day and talk to each other.
"I turned it on for weeks, me and my boy. And then … me."
Morgan then tells his story, what happened to him to make him what he is now. "You gave me the gun," he reminds Rick, the gun Rick advised him to use to kill the "turned" version of his wife. Morgan couldn't bring himself to do it, though. "Let it go like there wasn't going to be a reckoning," he says.
One day, while they were hunting for food, he left Duane aboveground while he went into a cellar. When he came up, his zombified wife was standing in front of Duane, who also couldn't pull the trigger on his mom. And before Morgan could do it, his wife bit his son, and Duane was gone.
"I was selfish. I was weak," Morgan says. "People like you, the good people, they always die, and the bad people do, too. But weak people, people like me, we have inherited the earth."
Carl and Michonne have reached their destination: the King County Café. But peering in the window, they see it's full of walkers. Michonne has the bright idea to send in cage rats on skateboards, to distract the walkers so she and Carl can sneak inside and retrieve whatever is obviously important enough for him to risk his life.
His treasure: a photo hanging on the wall in the café wall. He and Michonne are about to flee when some zombies spot them, and they barely make it out the door. Carl dropped the photo, though, and after Michonne tells him -- seriously -- that she'll deal with it now, he stays put. With the zombies pounding at the door to try to get at Carl, she sneaks back in, sneaks right back out, and hands Carl a photo. It's of him, Rick, and Lori.
"I just thought Judith should know what her mom looked like," he says. How many times this season has Carl broken our hearts?
He also thanks Michonne, who has a surprise of her own. She also brought out a weird multicolored patchwork cat sculpture.
"I was going to go back in anyway," she tells Carl. "I couldn't leave this behind. It's too damned gorgeous."
"This can't be it"
At the apartment, Rick is trying to convince Morgan that he'll be OK, that he can be OK, and that he should return to the prison with them. But Morgan, seeing Rick's desire to take some of the weapons, guesses that whatever base Rick has set up, is now in danger, danger from another human.
"You will be torn apart by teeth or bullets," he tells Rick.
Fueled by guilt about what happened to Morgan and realizing that he has come awfully close to a complete breakdown himself, Rick continues to try to persuade Morgan to come back with him, to come and help them defend the prison.
"This can't be it. … You have to be able to come back from this," Rick says, talking to himself as much as to Morgan. Morgan declines again, telling Rick he realizes now his mission, his purpose, is to stay where he is and "clear."
Outside, Rick meets up with Carl and Michonne. They go to load the car with the weapons, and a baby crib they've procured, as Morgan puts one of his trapped walkers on a gurney.
Michonne: "He's okay?" Rick: "No, he's not."
As they walk past Morgan, who seems oblivious to them, Carl stops. "Hey, Morgan, I had to shoot you," he says. "You know I had to, right? I'm sorry."
"Hey, son. Don't ever be sorry," Morgan replies.
At the car, Carl tells Rick he thinks Michonne may be "one of them" now. And then Michonne tells Rick, "I know you see things, people. I used to talk to my dead boyfriend. It happens."
"You wanna drive?" he replies. She nods yes. "Good. Because I see things." OK, so Michonne didn't have all the funny lines.
As they drive out of town, they pass Morgan, dumping the walker from the gurney into the pile of burned bodies they'd walked past earlier. He cleared another one.
- R.I.P. guy at the beginning of the episode, who ran down the road, screaming at Rick, Michonne, and Carl to stop the car and help him. As they drove back to the prison, they saw him again -- in pieces, scattered along the road. They did stop and pick up his backpack, though.
- That haunting song at the end of the episode, the one that's going to be stuck in your head for the rest of the week? It's called "Lead Me Home," by Jamie N Commons, and it's available on iTunes. The song is also included on "The Walking Dead: AMC Original Soundtrack, Vol. 1" that's being released on March 19. The singer will be performing it on the March 10 episode of the "Talking Dead" aftershow.
Listen to the song:
- In the opening scene, Rick and company drive by a sign that reads, "Erin, we tried for Stone Mountain" (see above clip). When Michonne gets the car stuck in the mud and walkers attack the vehicle, the walker on the driver's side was wearing a bracelet that spelled out "E-R-I-N."
Now, what did our fellow "Dead"-heads on Twitter think about "Home"?
We could not agree more with @_REDorBLUEpill_, who loved the performance of Morgan actor Lennie James as much as we did:
And, @HiredGunPR, it's a good point you make:
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"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 PM on AMC.