Kudos to the minds behind The Walking Dead. After a meandering second season (particularly the first half), Season 3 has really upped the stakes and forced the gang to deal with some truly unpleasant realities: the death of Lori, the threat of the Governor and his followers, the reality that survival gets harder with each passing day, the fact that they will all rise when they die, etc.
But I thought Sunday’s episode – “Clear” – perfectly illustrated how the group has changed, particularly Rick. At the open of the episode, Rick, Michonne and Carl are driving, scavenging. They pass a lone human on the highway, who yells and pleads for them to take him along. Michonne, without blinking, drives straight pass. She is soon forced off the road because of accident debris blocking it, and the car is stuck. Rick and Carl get out to find some items to help give the vehicle traction. Michonne gets the vehicle out of the mud, and just before Rick gets back in the car, he sees the loner running up the road toward them, yelling for help. But Rick doesn’t acknowledge him, getting in the car and resuming the trip.
At the end of the episode, after Rick has met up with his old friend Morgan and learned of he and his son Duane’s fate, the trio head back the way they came from. As they pull out of town, Rick notice’s the body of the loner and his pack lying beside the road. Another one bites the dust in post-Apocalyptic America. Then, the camera focused on the pack, Michonne reverses the car and steers back to the pack. Someone scoops it up, throws it in the car, and they are once again on their way.
A brilliant piece of writing by Scott Gimple. That simple act of putting the car in reverse to retrieve the bag summed up the way our gang of heroes has changed. In the first and even possibly second season, Rick likely would have picked up the loner, tried to make him one of the gang. If the loner had died even before coming close, Rick might have buried the man and posted a simple wooden cross, maybe said a few words. But here, there is no emotion, sadness, regret, feeling of any sort. There is only survival. The loner is dead and gone. What he has left may help the gang. The gang takes what he has left. Hope, fear, anger, none of it matters. Emotion has been sublimated by cold pragmatism, the hard, true vision of what needs to happen for survival. That, in the end, is all there is.
Man, I can’t wait for next week.