If there is one thing I hope to see in the plot progression of The Walking Dead, it is the idea that the show can have some episodes focused on something more than just characters dealing with incredibly dour scenarios. Obviously a show that is set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse will feature a lot of plotlines that will result or are the result of bad things happening to decent people, but given that we are dealing with a show based on a comic book, it is nice to see some stories that feel like they are ripped from the pages of a comic every now and then. “Claimed” manages to feel that way, as we get to deal with three new characters that feel a bit larger-than-life, which is something that The Walking Dead could really benefit from. Of course, this is also the episode features Rick hiding under a bed for 20 minutes.
“Claimed” picks up soon after where we left off last week. Comic fans are already aware, but now everyone is clued in on who this new trio of people are comprised of. Michael Cudlitz is Sgt. Abraham Ford, a badass on a mission to save the world. Christian Serratos is Rosita Espinosa, Abraham’s hot girlfriend (I don’t quite know the more critic-approved way to describe her…fit?). Josh McDermitt is Dr. Eugene Porter, a quiet-type, who claims to have the smarts we need to get out of this zombie jam. Even as a comic fan, seeing this trio coming to life is borderline silly, but in a very good way. Instead of having a conflicted group of individuals adding new levels of dire drama to the proceedings, Abe, Rosita, and Eugene are people that quickly establish character types who are ready to roll, with a mission in mind.
The plotline involving these three has Glenn and Tara basically resisting the classified mission, because Glenn is set on finding Maggie, because he can feel in his bones that she is still alive. We obviously know she is alive, Abe obviously assumes the worst, but it matters little, as just enough is said to escalate things to a fistfight. The results are silly as well, as the one guy who has presumably ridden with Abraham long enough to know what not to do against walkers, ends up spraying bullets everywhere, including into the gas tank of their vehicle. This is not a summer blockbuster, so that doesn’t mean the truck explodes, but rather leads to the group being out of luck with transportation and forced to follow along with Glenn, who is going on a Maggie hunt.
All of this worked for me. I used the word “silly” a few times, but not because I disliked what was happening. I used that word because The Walking Dead could use more “silly”. We have gone through the rough times that tend to happen when the normal way of living comes to an end. Having the show embrace a concept that is a bit broader can work in its favor, even if the inevitable conclusion will likely put these characters back into downer mode…or who knows, maybe Abe and gang really will save the world. Regardless, it does not hurt that Abe and Tara have a conversation about what makes a good person, which was a nice way to end this plotline.
Moving to the other half of this episode, which focused on what Rick, Carl, and Michonne have been up to, the episode does a lot to continue to click for me, as it focuses on a tense scenario involving Rick and a reflection on loss with the other two. Those other two are featured in the bulk of the first half of this episode, as Michonne and Carl get a brief moment at their temporary home, where they share a laugh and an awkward silence, before heading out on a supply run. “Clear” was the episode that first established a friendly relationship between Michonne and Carl. Perhaps not a pairing I would have predicted, but Danai Gurira and Chandler Riggs work well together and the later scenes play well because of that.
Once in a home full plenty of rooms to check out, Michonne initiates a game with Carl to both keep him engaged, rather than drift into teen angst, while also letting the audience in on who she once was. We have been given plenty to understand that Michonne was once a regular, working mother in previous episodes, but now she’s just handing out information, without making it sound forced. If there is one thing these focused episodes have done recently, it is making me completely satisfied with Michonne taking on a lot of responsibility for keeping this show interesting. What once felt like potential being squandered for the sake of making a character constantly look cool, without being all that important, has turned into one of the more layered characters on the show.
Getting back to Rick in his mini-episode titled, “The One Wear Rick Hides Under A Bed,” the show decides to put Rick in a desperate situation and do something it tends to do really well with Rick: keep him quiet and have him deliver via facial expressions and physical actions. Andrew Lincoln has been delivering plenty this season (take note of his pig bleeding scene in “Infected”), but I always like him most when he’s taking action, instead of speechifying. When a random group of jerks invades the house he, his son, and Michonne are staying in, he does his best to stay hidden, escapes when the opportunity presents itself, and nearly makes a clean getaway, save for one poor soul on the toilet (with his pants still on). It is all handled quite well, as the tight close-ups are filled with sweaty tension, but it is even better to see the show not trying to resolve things with Rick negotiating for harmony, only to have it all fall apart.
Once Rick does make his exit, after a recognizable character actor has his face shown, so we know we will meet him again at some point, he quickly gets to Carl and Michonne, and the trio get the hell outa there. They find the train tracks, see the same map and sign that put Carol, Tyrese and the gang on a path last week, and head the same direction. The groups are slowly coming together, but at least we will have a better grasp on who they all are individually, once they do.
A little silliness can go a long way, and even with a super tense Rick-based scenario and the image of a creepy pink room, filled with bodies, I am fine with The Walking Dead letting its comic roots show every now and again. The joy comes from seeing some of these established character continue to develop, while also going with the flow on the nature of some of these new ones. It has been a messy lead up to the end game of each season of The Walking Dead in the past, but I am continuing to respect the confidence in what this second half of Season 4 has been offering up.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Abraham may or may not be the luckiest man in the world, but he really squished that zombie’s head good.
- Carl may not have laughed, but I’m sure America ROFLcoptered at Michone’s Crazy Cheese guzzling.
- Books and comics spotted: “Super Dinosaur” and “Jack London Short Stories” – Nothing to add, just pointing it out.
- Who wears short shorts? Rosita wears short shorts.
- I would subscribe to Eugene’s Twitter feed, if he had one. #ItsClassified
- It seems pretty clear to me that we will encounter these house thugs again; presumably in an episode titled Walking Dead: Lost In New York.
- Alanna Masterson and the Tara character are getting better. That is all.
- “Do you have something to say about my extremely comfortable and attractive shirt?”
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what myself and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on the The Walking Dead TV Podcast.