‘The Walking Dead’ Season 4 Recap, Episode 11: ‘Claimed’
Season four of The Walking Dead, AMC’s television adaptation of the Eisner Award-winning Image Comics series launched by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore and now drawn by Charlie Adlard, is well into its second half, and the despair has been turned up to eleven. ComicsAlliance’s John Parker is back again to see who lives, who dies, and who rocks a mullet like his last name is Ray Cyrus.
A massive revelation rocks the world of The Walking Dead to its core! is what I would say if that had happened.
Guh. This is one of those weeks when I hate this job, he said like a cop staring into his coffee for answers. Not because the episode was bad, or because something soul-crushingly awful happened to a pregnant mother or a special needs kid wearing a “Life is Beatiful” t-shirt. Actually, I love those episodes; terrible or terribly sad moments are good fuel for recaps, and when you’ve got to write between 1500 and 2000 words in two hours, you need a little fuel. The episodes I dread are the ones where not much really happens. When there’s no big emotional arc to the episode, when they’re too lean on plot and action, when there’s not a twist in sight, those are the episodes that bum me out. For sixteen-hour show, The Walking Dead wastes a lot of time, and even though I’ve only done this 11 times, I can recall a couple of weeks already where there just wasn’t much to go on, and I’d throw “Claimed” into that pile as well.
Thin on plot and emotional content, “Claimed” was a table-setting, smoke-em-if-ya-got-em episode that just felt like it was there to get a few pieces moving – to get Rick, Carl, and Michonne on the way to Terminus, the same sanctuary that Carol, Tyreese, and the girls headed for, the television show’s version of the comic’s Sanctuary; to get Abraham’s crew to back Glenn on his search for Maggie. That’s about it. It lacked the emotional weight of the second-half premiere, “After,” and the twists and turns of last week’s “Inmates.” A couple of things happened, but it was flat and unremarkable.
However, it does give me the opportunity to applaud the show on its casting of Sgt. Abraham Ford. Michael Cudlitz is the absolute personification of Abraham, a physically-imposing tough guy with a granite exterior, and gentle, wounded eyes that belie the crushed insides beyond it. After five seasons on the criminally-underappreciated Southland, Cudlitz brings a real subtlety and a unique vulnerability to the cast of The Walking Dead, and if Abraham’s arc in the show is similar to the comics, we may get to see some of Cudlitz’s chops.
We get a glimpse of it early in “Claimed.” After Ford takes out a few walkers on the road, Tara remarks that she’s never seen anybody smile while doing it. And in just one moment you get an idea of exactly who Abraham his – how much he believes in his mission, how he has accepted this new life because something went bad in the old one. Even if you haven’t read the comics, you can see something in Cudlitz’s face that tells you; hints of anguish beneath the hope. He believes in something because he has to.
While Tara gets acquainted with her new companions, Michonne begins to open up a little more, specifically to Carl. After her trial in “Inmates,” maybe she needs to communicate with others more, maybe she just appreciates not having to go alone again. She speaks openly for the first time about her son, Andre, and exposes herself to the type of pain those memories are likely to evoke for Carl’s benefit, but for her own as well.
Even though Carl has just remembered that he has a baby sister and she was probably turned into spam by walking nightmares and all life is horrible and this is Hell, Michonne has never discussed her own pain with anybody, not even Andrea, leaving that wound to fester. Now that she’s reunited with the closest person she has to family, she has to share more, because the odds are she’s not going to get another chance. Still a little guarded, she opens up a bit with Carl while out on a run with him, and he’s able to get his mind off the thing that didn’t really seem to be bothering him that much in the first place.
But because this is The Walking Dead, she comes across a grim reminder of the struggles that she and Carl are going through by the end of the episode’s first half. After finding a painting that looks like it was made by a cutter, Michonne somehow knows that there’s somebody else in the house. How, I still don’t know why: the painting was wrapped up like it was pre-apocalyptic, and why would Carl or Michonne think it would be useful anyway? Michonne comes to find a little girl’s room filled with the entire family who used to live there, dead. It looks like it was before they turned, and self-inflicted.
It wasn’t as big a moment as it tried to be. Frankly, we’ve seen too many scenes like this to be that creeped out or saddened anymore. Maybe it’s just me, but there have been so many of these tableaus of despair that I’m a little desensitized to it. Carl, however, might have a little more trouble than most of us at this time, and Michonne keeps him from going inside by lying to him.
By letting Carl go off with Michonne, Rick was showing the trust and understanding he’d come to in “After” – that Carl may not entirely be a man, but he’s close enough, and he needs his father’s belief in him to survive. While Carl and Michonne comb the surrounding area for food, Rick gets some much-needed R&R, and kicks out for a nap. Like any dad, when he’s awoken by loud noises and sudden banging, the first thing he does is look at his watch, so he knows at what time to shout at his kid for waking him up.
But it turns out that the violent shouting and stomping was caused not by his rotten kid, or (like I was hoping) some Barton Fink-like hallucination as a result of The Governor’s ass-whupping, it turns out to be actual survivors. And within a moment it’s clear they’re not the good kind, who care for each other and only flip out and beat each other up and set the flu-stricken ablaze when it’s absolutely necessary. Rick slips under the bed with a book and some water, reliving the first act turn of Taken and setting off a good forty minutes of tightly-choreographed “almost got found!” Don't get me wrong -- they maintained a high level of tension for a few minutes, but after a while it bordered on something from a Pink Panther movie. I’d recommend you take a drink every time Rick almost gets discovered, but I’d fear for your health.
While Rick does a convincing impression of a ninja, Glenn wakes up in the back of Abraham’s truck and immediately heads back to find Maggie. Abraham, believing in his mission and finding in it the same type of meaning and purpose he did in the military, does everything he can to stop Glenn from leaving short of popping him in the face. So Glenn does that for him. Before Glenn feels tall, though, Abraham tells readers of the comic what we all know is coming: that Abraham and his folk are out to save the world.
As Abraham explains, Eugene, the 5’10” sack of gym socks with the mullet, knows exactly how the zombie apocalypse started. He’s been in contact with Washington the whole time, but he hasn’t been able to raise anybody on his sat-phone, and they’re headed to the nation’s capital to make things right. When Glenn asks Eugene what raised the dead, he responds that it’s classified.
I know. My BS detector’s ringing too. Longtime readers of the comic already know the whole story behind the mullet, and for a moment I thought that was why I didn’t care at all about this moment. But even my girlfriend, who’s never read the comic, a) didn’t believe Eugene and b) didn’t think it was a big twist. It didn’t even seem to impress Glenn that much: he didn’t get an answer to his question, and doesn’t ask again. He doesn’t care – Maggie’s still out there.
After showing that he’ll do whatever it takes to find her, including taking on a guy twice his size, the A-Team not only let Glenn take off after his wife, they go with him. What could have been a giant revelation that sucker-punched the audience quickly got brushed aside for character interaction. Overall, that’s been the show’s way, and overall, it’s the way that I like, but it feels like there should have been more drama surrounding that moment, if only to get the audience to buy in. But for even the uninitiated, it feels like a revelation that can’t be taken seriously.
So Glenn and the A-Team are moving back in Maggie’s direction, and after Rick narrowly avoids discovery half-a-dozen times more, he, Michonne, and Carl end up on the railroad tracks, looking for yet another new home. Shortly, they come across a sign for the same community Carol and Tyreese set off after, a place promising sanctuary, a new home called Terminus. In the comics, the new community, but in the show, they’ve decided to rename it Terminus, giving it a more ambiguous quality that almost borders on the on-the-nose. “Sanctuary” means a safe haven, asylum, protection; “Terminus” means an end destination, shading their future destination with darkness and uncertainty.
Those 10 seconds that I thought about the meaning of terminus were literally the most interesting part of the episode. Really. It was so boring, I'm going to make a catty comment now.
"Claimed"? Who claimed you, dahling? Mediocrity?
BOOOM! Take that, millionaires.