Last week I reveled in owning up to the fact that I may be an occasional apologist for The Walking Dead when its quality doesn’t rise to its potential, and felt as though the back half of this season was finally hitting a stronger and more consistent stride. Claimed, the third episode following the fall of the prison, has some wonderful moments… but unfortunately, some of what has made the show frustrating to many reared up and muddied those good feelings in what was ultimately an uneven and tonally awkward chapter of everyone’s favorite zombie drama.
Sticking with the structure of only following a few arcs as our group struggles to reconvene and make it alone, we return to Rick, Carl, and Michonne… but that story gets split into two as Carl and Michonne leave Rick to rest up and lick his wounds. While Carl and Michonne plumb the emotional depths of our favorite samurai’s past, Rick falls into a pit of tension in a scene that may rank as one of the better moments the show has every experienced.
When Rick’s nap is interrupted by a roving gang of thugs, the fear and enormity of being alone and unarmed is driven home by a fantastic performance by Andrew Lincoln. We had previously seen Rick hand over the Python to Carl in a moment that had me thinking, “that was not a good idea”, and as he wakes up to hear the intruders, we see him reaching for his sidearm… oops. Under the bed he goes, and in a scene that felt as though it were hours long as opposed to minutes, we share those moments of terror with Rick as we move from one fat guy plopping down above him, to a scuffle with yet another fat guy who plops down for his own forty winks. And the weight on Rick is both metaphorical and literal as he eventually manages to escape the bedroom before coming face to face with what may be the oddest situation one could find in a bathroom barring any actual normal bathroom activities.
What was that guy doing sitting on a toilet with his boots off, pants on, toilet seat closed? Was he reading? Trying to avoid the asshole fat guy who choked out the first asshole fat guy? Of course, we will never know thanks to Rick dispatching with him and making sure to crack the door enough so that his reanimated self would wreak havoc on the interlopers, which we get to hear the outcome of as Rick scurries out the window, onto the roof, and dropping down onto the back porch in what may be one of the more entertaining escapes we’ve seen to date. Plus… he got a very cool jacket in the process.
With regards to clothing… I was very happy to see Michonne changing shirts in this episode, only because I have been noticing closets full of clean clothes in each house they visit… but Rick, for whatever reason seems to be perfectly happy to look as though he is covered in filth from head to toe and every garment is either ripped or stained with so much blood that I was surprised they didn’t smell him under the bed. Can he not take some form of bath or shower at any time? Are there no water sources in Georgia? Small quibble… but clothing and whether or not someone is filthy or not has always been something of a make or break thing for me in other movies or telelvision shows as well… but I will discuss that a little later in this post when we get to my major gripes with Claimed.
Carl and Michonne offered some much needed levity and managed to dip into some emotional material that helped give greater insights into both Michonne’s history as well as her’s and Carl’s relationship. She may not understand how to entertain a sullen and moody young teenaged boy, but she does understand the need to try. I am always pleased to see more of Danai Gurira, and when she is allowed to relax, smile, and crack a joke or two… something she seems to only feel comfortable enough with Carl to express… it’s as the light of the sun penetrates the shadows that hang over everyone like a blanket of misery.
On the other side of that equation is Carl. While I think Chandler Riggs did some heavy dramatic lifting in After, he came off as somewhat wooden in the early scene discussing soy milk… and his reaction to mentioning Judith felt forced and a bit stilted. I’ve often had a few issues with his acting chops, but usually attributed any shortcomings to the fact that he was an exceptionally young actor… that excuse is wearing thin at this point. Once he and Michonne were clearing the other house however, I found his questions and gamesmanship to be a wonderful foil to the experience his father was having, and a welcome respite from that aforementioned tension.
As to what Michonne stumbles upon in what I am referring to as the ultimate portrait of despair… shudder. No one, much less a young boy, needs to discover that.
Now… onto what didn’t quite work for me. As much of a fan I am of Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita in the comics, I am not really digging how they are being portrayed at this point… and I will be the first to admit that may be a result of heightened expectations, or just that I had a different take on the tone that each of them would take. I never quite thought of Eugene as being somewhat on the spectrum, and his performance comes off as a bit Milton 2.0. Abraham reads as someone who is competent and self assured in his mission… and it’s at this point that I’m reminded of what Harrison Ford said to George Lucas while filming the first Star Wars, “George, you can type this shit, but you can’t say it!” What works on the page does not always translate to film (or television as the case may be), and Abraham is given some rather clunky phrases to work with. Son of a dick? I applaud the creativity, but I have never heard that phrase before Sunday. Who says that?
Do you think Eugene shot the truck on purpose? If he is as smart as he claims, what would be his motivation for doing so? (complete devil’s advocate there)
The other aspect of their scenes with Glenn that got under my skin goes back to my issue with clothing and cleanliness. My recent favorite example of how the wrong choices in this matter can distract and pull the viewer out of the story is the remake of Conan the Barbarian. It’s a crapfest of a movie from start to finish… but it was the cleanliness and well coiffed beauty of some of the women that annoyed the hell out of me. A group of women in a cage are not going to be fashion models with perfect breasts, make-up, and not a speck of dirt to be found. Now juxtapose the extreme filthiness of Rick and company, even when they were living in the relative safety and quiet of the prison, with the remarkable cleanliness and well managed hair of Abraham and his companions. Even Eugene seemed to be rocking some product in his unfortunate mullet (and I am loving all of the speculation surrounding his mullet and whether or not he knows how to stop the zombie apocalypse)… but most of the ire has been directly towards Rosita and her rather skimpy, yet flattering, Lara Croft get-up. Personally, as a red blooded heterosexual man… I’m ok with it… but when considered critically… How are your armpits so silky smooth? Why is there not a grain of dirt anywhere on her firm and shapely body? Stupid thing to be annoyed with… but it felt wrong.
As for Glenn’s decision to punch a large military dude before planning to walk about 150 miles in search of his lady love… well, all I can say is… the things we do for love.
I did enjoy the exchange between Tara and Abraham in the cold open. Her noticing that he takes a certain amount of glee in zombie killing was a nice bridge between the laughter shared with Carl and Michonne before Carl goes all emo and skulks off. Smiles and laughter, two rarities in The Walking Dead… and many differing profiles in how to cope with the horrors surrounding them all.
In the end, I enjoyed Claimed, but feel it fell into some cliched traps during the Glenn segments and suffered a little from Riggs’ performance in the early half of the episode. Rick’s experience however gives this hour a much needed boost, and if it were paired with a more compelling story, this could have been one of the best.
I can’t wait to catch up with our other survivors and see how they are faring on their various roads to sanctuary… and for those traveling with Lizzie, who will even make it that far?
Are there no cows to milk in Georgia?
Cornelius J. Blahg