You want to know how Checkov's gun works? It goes like this: you don't show a stranger with a backpack crying at the group to help him two times (and being ignored two times) if you don't want to do something with him. They hapless guy with the backpack frames the best episode of the season. You know, when I was bitching about just how bad "The Walking Dead" had become last week, I seriously expected this week to drive a nail into the coffin. Instead, we got everything of what makes this show great and none of the stupid yadda-yadda that has so often dominated the show, nevermore so than in season 2.
|Having a focus on these three might have helped the writers considerably.|
The story begins on the road with Michonne, Carl and Rick on what seems to be a supply run. They come across a guy with a backpack, trying to stop them and crying out for help, but they ignore him and rush by. In the first of many not-too-subtle hints they also pass a hand-drawn sign telling someone where someone else went, a common sight in these days. When their car gets stuck in the mud at the site of a mass crash and zombies surround them, they're more annoyed than frightened, despatch them quickly and don't give the zombie with the name around her wrist even a second glance. We, the viewers, can see that it's the girl adressed on the sign, yet another crush for any hope of happiness.
|But that leaves more time for intimate father-son-moments, does it?|
When they finally arrive in the city, we learn that they drove all the way back to Rick's former home, in hopes of looting the police station for weapons to fuel their war with the Governor. But all weapons are gone. Rick, in a well-known pattern, decides to go deeper in the city since he knows which bars and stores had permits for firearms - maybe they're still there. Michonne obviously doesn't think that's a good idea, but it's Ricktator-time. The mood between Michonne and Rick is stressed anyway, since Rick only took her to keep her away from Merle and clearly distrusts her still. Can't blame him here, until now Michonne didn't really give that much grounds for trust.
|Fuck you, Rick.|
So, they delve into the city and quickly pass a funeral pyre of dead zombies (I thought for a moment it was the asylum from season 1, but then I remembered that was Atlanta. Would be nice to know what happened to them, by the way). But what comes after is even more disturbing. In not unclear terms signs and sprayed letters tell everyone to keep away, and the street is full of traps for zombies. Clever traps, by the way: a lot of sharpened sticks, and rats and doves in cages in between to lure them in. Zombies get pierced and can't move, easy disposal. Someone's clever. And soon, we learn just how clever, as the three are threatened by a guy with a motorcycle helmet and an assault rifle who demands their weapons and retreat, in that order.
|Eh...our what? You nuts?|
What ensues is a brief firefight. Rick and Michonne are both outsmarted by the stranger, but Carl, who was ordered to flee to the car and didn't comply, shoots him point-blank in the chest. We're lucky that the stranger wore body-armor, though, or Morgan would have found a rather short and unheroic although hilarious end. This way, Rick can be astonished on Morgan still living here, insist on bringing him in his flat and waiting until he wakes up.
|Fighting the guy on the rooftop.|
And a good thing, that. Morgan's flat is crammed full with high quality weapons and ammo, but that's only half of it: the walls are smeared with writings of a madman. The whole place is also booby-trapped in Vietcong style. That bodes ill for Morgan's recovery, and comic readers know about that already. Devestated, Rick learns from the scramblings that Duane is dead, and he finds the walkie-talkie among the personal effects. Carl has to learn from a map that their house is totally burned down, so no walk along the memory lane for him, which clearly was his motivation to come along, as Rick realizes. Since Morgan doesn't want to wake up so soon and Rick ignores any advice by Michonne, Carl asks to be allowed to make a run since a baby-shop is just around the corner.
Rick is suspicious, and with good reason. Michonne traps Carl by saying that the crip he declares to want is too heavy and that he needs her help. Quickly, she gets his true destination out of him (after a half-hearted attempt to shake her off): a diner containing the (likely) last picture of Lori. The intense scene of the diner-infiltration serves brillantly to give some direly needed personality to Michonne who hasn't been much beyond badass with a sword to that point, and oh boy, do they deliver. Michonne likes colored cat statutes! Carl really gets warm with her, and that says something, coming from the cold-hearted killer machine he became.
Same is true for Rick. In the meantime, Morgan wakes up and shows himself to be just nuts, trying to stab Rick to death and succeeding in stabbing his shoulder (a wound of which Rick recovers remarkably fast). Rick manages to get through to Morgan, who tells him how his zombified wife killed Duane, and who blames himself for being too weak to kill her before. Rick is totally shocked to see Morgan like this, and we're at the core of the episode: Rick essentially looks in a mirror. That's what he is becoming, where he is headed. Morgan lost a close family member and broke, and Rick snapped, too.
|And he realizes it, too.|
But using Morgan as a mirror is, while certainly blunt, a very effective method. Rick has even a bit of character growth when he finally admits Michonne to the group and hands the wheel over to her (a nice metaphor), if only for the drive back. We had no reaction (yet) to the picture, but it seems like Carl isn't really considering him as the emotional dad of Judith at that point, and it might be he's right. - That reminds me, I was talking of Checkov's gun in the beginning: on the drive back, they come across the bloody remains of the poor, hapless hiker, and they only stop for a second to loot his backpack. A grim world that he have here, and one in which you only care for your own. It's really harsh, and the episode does a lot to build the world, explore the morals that were sorely missing in last week's episode especially and to explore the characters. Feat accomplished, kudos!