It's nice to get out once in awhile. Breathe in some fresh air, take the car for a spin. We've been trapped inside walled towns and broken minds for most of the season, so a reminder of what it's like "on the road" can give our characters some perspective, fortunately or unfortunately for Rick, he gets far more than he could have ever imagined.
Let's take a moment to appreciate the little details this show bothers to include. From the post apocalyptic Rip Van Winkle to Merle and Daryl's argument about "Yellow Jacket Creek" a few episodes back, the little stories truly add some welcome depth to the world. This week we get a quick look at the fate of a girl named Erin, and sad bookends featuring a backpack laden hitchhiker. Rick and Michonne's casual indifference, and Carl's brief consideration really keep the theme of survival front and center. You never know when you might run into the next Merle. Still, you have to notice just how cold they've all become.
Obviously Rick goes through a lot in this episode, but it's really nice when the writers can use the subplot to flesh out other characters, particularly one who desperately needed it. We've become used to Carl's forced and accelerated maturity, but seeing him confidently come to the rescue is very impressive. He's in danger of skipping the Robin and going straight to Batman. His quest to find a picture of his family shows he's not all business, there is some compassion there. He's not a complete product of the apocalypse. Michonne, on the other hand, is positively effervescent. She uses humor more than once in this episode, and that's twice as much as usual. There's something to be said about the scowling lone wolf who speaks with her sword, but finally adding some depth to her was long overdue. It's no coincidence she's the one they brought along for this run-- like Rick, Michonne needs to let other people in, or her future will be grim. However, the rainbow cat proves her taste is still questionable.
It's surprising to hear the producers wanted to bring Morgan back last season, as his return in this episode couldn't have been more prophetic. His Rube Goldberg world full of stream of consciousness graffiti is not just a sad look at a broken man, but a portent for Rick. It's amazing how reflective we can get with something as simple as Rick picking up his old walkie talkie. The last time Rick was there, both men were sane. The attachments they both had to the previous world have brought them to the brink of madness. Rick gets a double dose of reality from Morgan, and actor Lennie James gives one of, if not the, best performances in the show's history. Rick sees what happens when he leaves someone, Morgan needed that call on the walkie, it was one of the few lifelines he had, but Rick had his own problems. Rick also sees what happens when you can't let go of the past. Morgan's story of his son being unable to do the same thing he struggled with is heartbreaking. Now Morgan is doomed to a life of trying to making everything pass his check of "clear", and there's no end in sight.
The theme of loneliness and learning to trust others is tied up quite well in this episode. Michonne realizes to survive she needs to come out of her shell, and does by helping Carl. For most of the episode Carl is determined to quest solo, but Michonne and a restaurant full of awakened walkers proves he shouldn't be so headstrong. Rick realizes Morgan represents his possible future if he keeps pushing people away. He also has a nice moment with Michonne that tells us his phantasmal visions are not going away anytime soon, but maybe that's ok. The episode ends with Rick and co. essentially picking the doomed hitchhiker's bones, and Morgan's last words to Carl echoing in our heads- "Never be sorry."
Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him onTwitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.