By Matt Ern Columnist
The Walking Dead - “Clear” Grade: A-
This season’s narrative of the prison vs. Woodbury has been going so strongly lately that it seems surprising that the best episode since the pilot would feature a break from all that. “Clear” is a remarkably simple episode: Rick, Michonne, and Carl travel back to Rick and Carl’s hometown to raid the old Sheriff’s station for weapons. Once there they encounter Morgan, who’s been surviving alone all this time. He is seemingly crazy now, writing coded messages on the walls and building elaborate walker traps. The old Morgan is able to return, though, when he recognizes Rick. We’ve spent a lot of time with Rick’s group, people who are bent on survival and protecting one another. Rick is determined to kill the Governor because he poses a threat to the way of life they have established in the prison. He needs the prison to be safe from Woodbury so that his son and his friends can live there. Morgan represents a different kind of survival. He’s alone and hopeless, but he doesn’t have the strength of will to take his own life. Instead, he builds walker traps and hoards guns. Morgan won’t be dying from a walker any time soon, and he doesn’t have the threat of a Governor-type character. So he lives on alone, growing crazier each day. Carl and Michonne get some great development in “Clear” too. Carl wants to find the last surviving photo of his family. He says it’s for Judith, but he’s also a child too, a child who shot his dying mother so she wouldn’t come back as a zombie just a few episodes ago. Michonne endeavors to help him because she realizes that she’s perceived as an outlier and wants to win the boy over. Michonne becomes more of a real person here, instead of someone quietly brooding about killing the Governor. “Clear” shines by getting us out of the prison and Woodbury and focusing on one boiled-down concept. There are only four characters in the episode and they’re all served well, unlike the norm in which a bunch of abrasive jerks sit around a prison yelling at each other. Morgan quickly becomes one of the most endearing and best-developed characters in the show, and I hope that in another few seasons he’ll pop up again.
Community- “Alternative History of the German Invasion”
One of the only amusing aspects of the German group introduced last season was the fact that one of them was played by Nick Kroll. So when they returned sans-Kroll, I was less than thrilled. Presumably a dying show like “Community” couldn’t have afforded to have Kroll and Malcolm McDowell guest star in the same episode, and unfortunately McDowell is what we got. He’s kind of wasted here. Other than having to deal with the annoying fake German accents throughout the episode, I liked it by-and-large (at least compared to the rest of this season). I was impressed that I wasn’t immediately turned off by the return of Chang, who I had been starting to get sick of in the past. He might be the only aspect of the show being handled better post-Harmon. The show seems preoccupied by its own reputation as “Community,” but to be fair the show has done callbacks before. The ones here worked for me, showing how selfish the group has appeared in their refusal to let go of the study room while getting into increasingly bizarre situations. The last act of the show really came together to me, and I laughed a lot at Pierce being upset that Jeff was named the obvious Hitler of the group (“What, we don’t even get a vote?” he whines). It’s not a standout episode given the show’s history, but it’s an example of how this new version can make things work when they’re not too focused on the reputation of “Community” itself. While the first few episodes smacked of trying too hard, “Alternative History of the German Invasion” is more relaxed and understated, and it helps.