In a season with tension so thick you could cut it with Michonne's sword, "Clear" took a step back, revisiting an unresolved plot point that goes all the way back to the pilot, and focusing entirely on Rick's trip back home with Carl and Michonne. By leaving out Woodbury and the prison, the episode zeroed in on what's going on with Rick and allowed us to really examine what he's been through and take stock in this whole situation. It ended on a darker note, but - and this may just be my optimism at work - Rick does seem to be finding some peace again, in the wake of Lori's death.
The episode had Rick, Carl and Michonne journeying back to Rick's hometown in search of weapons. And boy did they find plenty of them. With the Governor and his people breathing down Rick's neck, stocking up on weapons and ammo seems like a good plan, and knowing the lay of the land (and where some guns might be stashed) made Rick's hometown a prime location to scour for supplies. What they found was a very unstable Morgan, who attempted to gun them down when they arrived, and then took a bullet to his armor in return.
Morgan, if you recall, is the father of the father-son duo who helped Rick get caught up when he came out of his coma. Morgan's son, unfortunately, met his demise at the hands of his own (zombified) mother. Morgan was never able to bring himself to shoot her, and his son had the same problem, which inevitably cost him his life. The boy's death draws a notable parallel to Carl. He too was faced with having to put a bullet in his dead mother's head, but in Carl's case, he was able to do it. Morgan says the weak inherit the earth, but I think he's wrong there. Carl's living proof that strength does prevail, at least some of the time.
Morgan and Rick had a bit of a scuffle when Morgan came to, but after his knife to Rick's shoulder didn't fatally wound him, and Rick refrained from putting a bullet in Morgan's head to return the favor, the two talked, and Rick attempted to persuade Morgan to come with him. Once again, we're faced with another parallel. Both men have lost their wives. Morgan has also lost his son, so he has that on Rick. But in the end, even through his hallucinations and agonizing grief, Rick is finding a way to move on. And moving on isn't as simple as getting up every day, setting booby traps, finding food and killing walkers. It's socializing and making connections with people. It's accepting a world and a future without some of the people you once lived for. Rick is doing that, or he's trying to. Morgan, on the other hand, isn't willing or able to take that step forward. So he's staying put to "clear."
Rick's hometown is like some kind of bizarre limbo place that Morgan has sentenced himself to, and when he's presented with the option to leave and choose to move forward with his life, he can't do it. Rick has Carl and Judy to live for, and maybe that's part of what keeps him going, but I like to think that he would still find it in himself to choose to live even if he did lose the baby or Carl.
Speaking of Carl, while Rick was dealing with Morgan, Carl left to find a crib. Or that's what he claimed he was doing. What he really wanted to do was find a photo of his mother, so that his baby sister would know what she looked like. It was a sweet thing to do, though I'm not sure why he couldn't just tell Michonne that instead of telling her off with his father's words. In the end, Michonne ended up helping him get the photo, and the two managed to connect, which was a nice moment. Probably Carl's best, in fact. And Michonne got herself a decorative cat. They also found a crib for the baby.
The trio left the town stocked up on guns, and Carl gave Rick the thumbs-up about Michonne, which I think will go a long way. Between that and Michonne's admission to Rick that she used to talk to her dead ex-boyfriend, it seems like maybe Rick and Michonne found some common ground, to go with their common enemy and interests. So hopefully this means she'll be sticking around for more than just a little while.
Things felt almost better when the episode started to wrap up, as it seems like maybe Rick will find a bit more hope in himself in his choice to move forward. But we were once again reminded of the world they're living in when they passed the body of the hitchhiker they ignored on the way to town. Whoever he was met his demise on the side of the road. His death didn't appear to stir Rick or Michonne, but they were sure to stop to grab his backpack. That's the current reality. Alive, that man was a wild-card who may have presented problems for the group, and at this point, they can't afford any more of those. But dead, he's a backpack that may or may not have some useful supplies in it. It's a harsh reality, but it's hard to blame them for throwing walls up.
All in all, this may very well be the best episode of the season. As appreciative as I am for the twists and turns introduced by the Governor and the people of Woodbury, and as much as I like the way the show usually divides its focused between different characters and stories, zooming in on Rick, with a slight branch-off for Carl and Michonne kept the focus on Rick's story, and given everything that's been going on with him, it seems like the perfect time to do that. Bringing Morgan back was an excellent way to do it, and great throwback to the pilot, which feels like an eternity ago. It needed to happen, and hopefully this is a sign that Rick is, once again, climbing out of a coma and ready to live.