The Walking Dead season 3 episode 12 review: Clear

Review Ron Hogan 4 Mar 2013 - 16:02

The latest episode of The Walking Dead could be the best since its pilot. Here's Ron's review of Clear...

This review contains minor spoilers.

3.12 Clear

This just might have been one of the best episodes of The Walking Dead of this entire season. From top to bottom, front to back, in all aspects, this was probably the best constructed episode since the first season, maybe the best since the pilot itself. Part of this is the return of a long-awaited character, and part of this is simply because the show turns back in on itself and revisits the locations from the original pilot. What could easily be a bad idea - reminding us of the show at its highest point - turns out to be one of the better ideas The Walking Dead has come up with during its run. 

Low on guns, low on ammo, low on food, and low on ideas, Rick decided to go on a supply run and thought that it might be nice to pay a visit to his old home town, where there's a gun locker with his name on it. However, revisiting the olden days is rarely a good idea, and when significant blocks of downtown have been turned into barricades, booby traps, and various other manglers with spray-painted words of warning on them, all of which imply bad things for those too stupid to turn back, well... Rick has to proceed anyway, while Carl and Michonne get a little bonding time. 

With Glen Mazzara stepping down at the end of the season, I've been worried about the show. Mazzara has nearly turned the show completely around from a very disappointing second season (and started the turn near the end of season two when he took on the role officially), and has done some great work with plotting and structure as the show runner. However, his replacement is going to be Scott Gimple, the guy who wrote tonight's brilliant episode. Given the way Gimple effectively split up the already-small group, gave all four characters plenty of time to breathe, and resisted the urge to do any check-ins back at the prison or Woodbury, it gives me hope that the show's future might be more focused. 

Granted, the plot wasn't anything noteworthy, but the execution was spectacular and the writing was brilliant. The characters all got notes to hit, and with the returning presence of someone important from Rick's past, it seemed to turn the show up to another level. It was meaningful. For the bulk of this season, The Walking Dead has been an exercise in comparing and contrasting Woodbury with the prison, even down to Woodbury having its own group of fighters featuring an Asian guy and a black guy. This week we get a comparison for Rick, but in the other direction. What would happen if Rick didn't find the steel in his spine needed to actually do what had to be done to survive? What if Rick ran from trouble, rather than facing it head on? What if Rick gives in to his weariness, his grief, his guilt, his growing madness? 

It's a brilliant idea, but it's the execution that sells it. Some of that credit also goes to director Tricia Brock and the incredible cast and crew who designed the set. The centerpiece of the action, which cements the show's full turn back to its original episode, was a gorgeously designed set full of crazy, fun details. It's clever in its intricacy, and tense and funny by turns depending on the message and its location. Some of the shots, particularly of the many zombie traps, are downright disturbing. Other written warnings are borderline hilarious when viewed from the safety of the couch, but probably not as funny when accompanied by sniper fire. 

It's nice to see the show make some nods to its origins in such an overt way, with Rick even handling the rifle from the pilot episode again, while at the same time showing how far things have come thanks to Carl morphing into a goofy-hatted killer, Michonne saying more than two sentences (and telling two good jokes!), and the show itself changing how it addresses issues. There are moments in The Walking Dead that happen this week that would've triggered long, boring debates in the second season (see the guy impaled on the fence whom they brought back to the farm) are now simply dismissed without so much as a wink or nod or unkind word. 

Call it progress via devolution.

Read Ron's review of the previous episode, I Ain't a Judas, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan wants to get a dog and name him Carl so he can say, “Carl, get in the house.” Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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This was the best episode to date. But, the problem is that you get a glimpse of how this show could be fantastic, and yet the reality is that (next week) we're back at the prison with Liam Neeson's lame clone stinking up the place.

What's arguably the best arc in the comic, is the worst in the TV show. The TV version of the Governor is just... meh!

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Ok who found the 'oh for the love of god please help me' guy hilarious

Reversing to take his bag was too funny

There were two really good bits which weren't even mentioned in the review. The first one is the sign addressed to Erin, right at the top of the show, then the first set of walkers the trio encounter, one of them has the name Erin on her wristband.
The second is the poor hitchhiker, desperate for help, chasing after them twice and seen on the way back, a bloody pulp, destroyed and they then go and nick his bag.
Subtle bits, but the disregard to the hitchhiker shows how inhuman the humans have got

Very lazy writing. They have been driving AWAY from Rick's town for months and now we find they can just pop back in the car whenever they want? It makes no sense whatsoever. No, we don't know how long the drive was, but with the Governor threatening to attack, they can hardly have gone far. A well devised episode completely let down by this massive mistake.

I didn't want to spoil the hitchhiker's final fate for those that haven't seen it, but I did address it in the final paragraph of the review.

Not sure how you could spoil this. It was INCREDIBLY obvious that it was going to happen. Only redeeming feature what the complete mess the body was when they drove past...that was slightly unexpected.

It was a nice to have a "bottle episode" (not quite right, I know, but still fairly selfcontained), unfortunately everything was so predictable and so obvious and downright rediculous. Dead hitchiker on way back? check. Obvious sign about dead girl? check. Crazy guy was the "last bit of sanity"? check. Unconscious for 2 hours from a gutshot for no reason? check. More guns than exist in 50 square miles (even if it is the US)? check. Suddenly back in their hometown after trying to get as far as possible from it? check. Logic went out the window this episode.
I guess we aren't all going to see eye to eye on things...especially since I thought season 2 and the slow burn of that season were heads and shoulders above s1 and s3.

You are probably the first one I encounter with this opinion. Season 2 almost made me quit watching the show, now Im glad I didnt because season 3 is very solid until now. Ofcourse with the exception of a few episodes such as ep 9, which was very dissapointing.

Thats the whole thing that is bothering me about this show, the big difference of quality between episodes. I really did like this episode, it shows the cruelty of human kind when living in such a place for to long. Not trusting people who need help, other people are just getting insane over time due to personal losses. Also, the 'outro' was fantastic. Good music with some good shots, very good piece of filming and editing.

I really liked the screentime for Michonne this ep, she is a character with a very vague and probably troubeling past which makes her very interesting. I hope she will get some more lines in the following episodes.

I don't think they were ever too far from Rick's town. They were moving in a circle during the winter around Middle to North Georgia, so they didn't travel too far. I've lived in Georgia all my life, so I have a good grasp of the geography.

The prison is supposed to be located close to Newnan, which is only about 30-40 miles southwest of Atlanta. Based on Rick comments about being on 85 during the pilot when leaving for Atlanta, and the look of the local architecture and fauna (also no mountains), the fictional Kings County is located somewhere in the very northwest of the state, probably close to Dalton or Calhoun. This only puts the prison about 60 miles from Rick's home town, making the total trip around 3-4 hours.

Great review. I was worried about TWD but this episode is my favourite of season 3, despite not having tonnes of action. If the guy who wrote this episode is taking over the reigns, that bodes well!

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