‘The Walking Dead’: There’s no place like home

The Walking Dead
March 3, 2013

No Andrea, no ghost Lori, no arguments over whether to stay or leave the prison? Sign me up and PREPARE FOR ALL OF THE FEELS.

Rick, Michonne and Carl head to King County, Rick’s old home, on a weapons run, passing a sign that reads, “Erin, we tried for Stone Mountain. -J,” and a live backpacker who could really use a ride, guys. But nope, they just pass him by, because ain’t nobody got time for that.

While trying to get past a pile-up of deserted vehicles, they get stuck in the mud and surrounded by a bunch of walkers, including “Erin” who appears to have not met up with her group at Stone Mountain. Shoot shoot, kill kill, and with the walkers out of the way, Rick is able to teach Carl a lesson in traction and getting cars unstuck from the mud. Carl is more interested in talking about when they are going to get rid of Michonne because he does not trust her. Pssst, Carl, she can hear you, buddy. That’s kind of uncool. And just as they get the car unstuck, along comes that pesky backpacker again. Everyone back in the car! Drive away! Faster!

They arrive at the town only to find the sheriff’s office completely stripped of weapons, because of course it was stripped of weapons, come on Rick. Rick suggests they go further into town and check some of the stores whose owners had secret gun permits. Before they leave, Michonne hands Rick the one bullet that was left in the joint and I was like, “Chekov’s bullet!1!!1!” But spoiler alert: no, sometimes a bullet is just a bullet unless it is being used as a metaphor about trust between two characters who are wary of one another and struggling to find common ground. Then the bullet is a symbol.

The trio head further into the town where they are greeted by caps lock graffiti warning them to TURN BACK! GO AWAY! THIS MEANS YOU!, piles of burnt bodies and finally a booby-trapped mess of spikes and caged rats and pigeons. And that’s when a motorcycle-helmeted sniper begins shooting at them from the roof. Shooting shooting shooting, and eventually the helmeted sniper makes his way down to the ground where Carl shoots him in the chest. The Harlem Shake, ur doin it rong.

Rick opens the sniper’s shirt to reveal that he was wearing body armor, and therefore is still alive, just unconscious. Rick removes the sniper’s helmet and ZOMG YOU GUYS, IT’S THAT GUY THAT SAVED RICK IN THE FIRST EPISODE, WHATSHISNAME, THAT DAD. (Morgan. His name is Morgan.) Fun trivia from a fan much more into the show than your trusty blogger: Carl shooting Morgan is a nice parallel to Morgan’s son, Duane, bashing Rick in the head with a shovel in the pilot.

Rick, Michonne and Carl make their way through the booby traps with Morgan’s unconscious body to return him to his apartment, which they magically knew the location of? (Seriously, how did they know where he lived?) and Rick urges Carl to “watch The Wire,” something that as a television writer I’ve heard too many times to count. I WILL WATCH THE WIRE WHEN I AM GOOD AND READY, YOU GUYS. The safely make their way past the booby-trapped welcome mat, and the trip wire that would have unleashed an axe at their faces, and find an apartment covered in crazy writing, most of which repeats “CLEAR” and “HIGHER GROUND” over and over again. And guns, so many guns. All the guns they could possibly want. Rick also finds the walkie talkie that he gave Morgan so long ago, and notices “DUANE TURNED” scrawled on the wall. Rick has the feels. Rick declares that they are going to stay with Morgan until he wakes up, but just to be on the safe side, Rick is going to zip-tie Morgan’s wrists, because he’s grateful, not stupid.

Carl notices a chalk map of the town on another wall, including his own old home, and announces that he’s going to go to the baby store to get a crib for The Baby. Michonne puts down Morgan’s food that she helped herself to, and replies that she’ll go with him, to which Rick is like, Cool, Almost Stranger. Please escort my young son through a booby-trapped and walker-filled hellscape while I sit here and wait for some guy to wake up. This all sounds like a very solid plan.

So Carl and Michonne make their way through the town past walkers impaled on Morgan’s ingenious rat and pigeon traps. At one point, Carl tries to lose Michonne, but it’s a small town and he doesn’t get very far. Michonne notes that Carl has passed the baby store, and he explains that he needs to go pick something else up first, gah, leave him alone, she’s not his mother.

They eventually arrive at a cafe, and Carl is about to march right in because he is an idiot teenager, when Michonne stops him. This leads to a Carl fit; she can’t stop him, this is none of her business, etc. And Michonne is like, look, I’m just trying to help, dummy. She then pushes some rat traps into the cafe where, sure enough, they are set upon by the cafe walkers who are inside, because of course there are cafe walkers inside. They are able to make their way past the distracted walkers and get to the bar, where Carl retrieves a framed picture, and Michonne saves him from a bar walker. As they attempt to make their leave, a rat runs towards them and Ratatouille is followed by a mass of walkers. Run run fight run, and Carl drops the picture in the chaos. Outside, they bar the doors but Carl insists that he go back in for the picture. Michonne sighs heavily and makes him promise that he will stay RIGHT HERE. She disappears around the corner and then returns, somehow, with picture in hand. Don’t worry about how she got into a nest of walkers, found the photograph and returned unscathed in 30 seconds. The point is, Carl now has a picture of himself, Rick and Lori that he can show The Baby so she will know what her mother looked like.

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Michonne also scored herself a paper-mâché cat, so it wasn’t all about Carl.

Back at crazy ground zero, Morgan begins to stir, realizes that he’s been zip-tied, slips a knife out from underneath his mattress and cuts himself free, springing on Rick. Fight fight struggle fight, all the while Rick is screaming “YOU KNOW ME! I’M RICK! YOUR WALKIE TALKIE PAL!” But Morgan stabs him anyway, because: crazy. Rick eventually manages to topple Morgan and pull a gun on him, and Morgan begs him to pull the trigger, please. Pretty please. With a cherry on top.

Instead, Rick cuffs Morgan again, and tries to remind him who he is — that they know each other, come on.  Finally, Morgan remembers: Oh right, Rick’s the guy who gave Morgan the walkie and told Morgan to turn it on everyday and Morgan did but he never heard from Rick again and so Rick found his wife and son? Well isn’t that just SUPER for Rick. Does Rick want to know what happened to Morgan? Here’s what happened to Morgan: after Morgan couldn’t bring himself to kill his wife, his wife came back and ate Morgan’s son in front of him. That’s what happened to Morgan. Morgan then promises that Rick’s son will die and Rick will die and all his people will die because the weak people, the people like Morgan, they have inherited the Earth. Yikes, Morgan!

Rick releases Morgan and urges him to come back to the prison with him, but Morgan is like, “The prison where you are stockpiling weapons so as to protect yourself? Yeah, thanks but no thanks. I’ll take my chances here with my helmet and graffiti. Besides, I’ve got to clear.” And to be clear, when Morgan says he has to “clear” he means that he has to unimpale the walkers from his rat traps and burn the bodies. Everyone needs a hobby.

So Rick and Michonne and Carl head back to the car, and Carl calls out to Morgan that he’s sorry he had to shoot him. But Morgan tells him to not ever be sorry. TOO MUCH. TOO MUCH, SHOW.

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As Rick and Carl load up the car, Carl tells his father that Michonne is one of them. Michonne then notices Rick staring off into the woods, and tells him that she knows he sees things, people (stuff). She used to talk to her dead boyfriend, it happens. Rick asks if she’ll drive, in that case, because he’s seeing things (and stuff).

Driving through the wasteland, driving through the wasteland, driving through the wasteland, and that’s when they see the grease and bloodstain that used to be Backpacker, which we know thanks to his bright orange backpack. Which, in the single most darkly hilarious moment of this show yet, the car backs up to collect. And this is me laughing and feeling deeply ashamed of myself all at once.

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Obviously, this was a profoundly emotional episode that a lot of people have declared to be the best of the season, and one of the best of the series. Keeping Morgan and his story off-screen for so long made for a powerful payoff, and was an object lesson in lonlieness and despair. Morgan also serves as a mirror for Rick: here’s what happens when you lose everything and everyone. Here’s how deep it goes when you can’t pull the crazy train back into the station. This is what lies ahead of Rick if he doesn’t somehow find his way out of his darkness.

Bust aside from the Morgan story, there is the awfulness and honesty of the brief interlude with Backpacker. Some of Morgan’s graffiti reads: NO GUILT > YOU KNOW THAT, and I think as terrible as it is, Backpacker’s death is a part of this. Rick can’t save everyone, people are going to die, even people he loves. And all Rick can do to get through this is absolve himself of the guilt that is haunting him after Shane and Lori’s deaths and keep moving. Loot the dead and keep moving.

And because I can’t leave well enough alone, I wanted to point out what I took to be subtle references to The Wizard of Oz that may or may not have even been intended in this episode. The group sets forth on a journey to get home (or at least Rick’s former home) and they follow a path that is demarcated with spray-painted arrows leading them into the town. There they meet a masked figure who at first is intimidating, but who, with the assistance of his little friend, Rick reveals to be someone he knew from a past life. This person then shares the truth about Rick’s journey: just as Dorothy didn’t have to travel all the way to The Emerald City, she could have clicked her heels together three times and gone home whenever she wanted, Rick’s journey to King County was almost just as pointless: it doesn’t matter how many guns he has, he and his people are all going to die, this is all pointless. Allusions! They are fun!

So, thoughts on the episode? Was it the very best? Or were you looking for more walker curbing action?

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The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on AMC.

This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.

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