So after last week’s Rashomon inspired episode, The Walking Dead gets back to linear storytelling this week with “Claimed.” This week serves to introduce the audience to our three new faces from the end of last week’s episode, but, as with the previous episodes, sets up the overarching arc for the remainder of the season. This week contained the storylines to three and felt more focused than last week, but also continues to deal with clinging to hope when all seems lost.
The episode begins with Tara riding in the tank that belongs to the three newcomers. As they make their way, Tara marks down street names, but the tank comes to a halt due to attracting walkers. The muscular leader of the group makes quick work of the walkers, conserving ammunition in favor of just bashing in some skulls. Tara watches and notes that she’s never seen anyone smile while killing a walker. The man’s response? He’s the luckiest man in the world. Well, better luck than most people are having during the zombie apocalypse.
We then return to Rick, Carl and Michonne, with the latter two trying to connect. The two talk of cereal, which leads to Carl describing his hatred for soy milk. The conversation takes a dark turn when he talks about formula and is reminded of Judith.
In another room, Rick thanks Michonne for making Carl laugh, as Rick himself has forgotten what that sounds like. Rick concedes that he’s never going to be Carl’s father and best friend, so he needs someone like Michonne in his life. Michonne asks whether the building they’re in will be a permanent home, but Rick insists it’s home for now while they figure things out. However, they still need supplies, so Carl and Michonne will go out for some. Rick offers to join, but Michonne has him stay put. After all, he spent most of yesterday unconscious and he’s still recovering from the prison assault. He’s of better use at full strength, so no need for him to drain what’s left of his strength by just trying to help.
This leaves Carl and Michonne to try and bond as they make their way through an abandoned home. Try. Michonne tries what should pass for humor, but comes off as awkward. She does get around to talking about her life before the walkers and speaks about her son. But because this is Michonne, she’ll answer Carl’s questions: one at a time, one room at a time and after said room has been cleared. Picky, picky.
But her son’s name was Andre. Andre Anthony. Carl presses for more, causing Michonne to say he could have been a great spy. Michonne confesses that she never told anyone about this, not even Rick. Carl assures her that the secret is safe, even though it’s not a secret. When the two get back to looking around, Carl finds an unwrapped painting and looks further into the house. When Michonne unwraps the painting, she finds it covered with blood and decides to investigate. She enters what appears to be a child’s room and after thumbing through some books, enters another room- this one belonging to sisters.
But Michonne finds nothing but corpses of girls on their beds and a woman with a shotgun blast through the head. She recoils and doesn’t reveal to Carl what she saw. But then it’s Carl’s turn to open up: Rick was the one who let him give Judith her name. Maybe she and Andre are together somewhere. There’s something to talk about later.
Back at the house, Rick is playing hide and no seek after hearing men enter the building. He hides under the bed and grabs his bottle of water to give no indication that anyone has recently been there. One of the men has camped himself right on the bed when another comes in and demands it. A fight ensues. One of the men ends up on the floor and is able to look Rick right in the fact, but before he can say anything, he’s strangled by the other man and passes out. Guess Rick caught a break.
On the road, Glenn finally awakens and demands that the tank stop. It doesn’t, so he bangs his gun against the glass. That’ll get their attention, and it does. They’ve already passed the prison bus, so Glenn has to go back. The leader of the three advises against it, saying that they’re on a time sensitive mission. His advice to Glenn is simple: find strong comrades and stick together. Few could last a night alone in this world and there’s strength in numbers.
Tara is still skeptical and as she doesn’t even know the names of the three survivors, it’s time for proper introductions: the leader is Sergeant Abraham Ford, played by Michael Cudlitz. Accompanying him are Dr. Eugene Porter, played by Josh McDermitt, and Rosita Espinosa, played by Christian Serratos. Their goal is to get Dr. Porter to Washington D.C. Why? Because he knows exactly what caused this mess.
What caused it? Classified. Damn. There’s always something classified. But Eugene has been communicating via radio with contacts in Washington. The three could use Glenn’s help, but he refuses. He and Tara start the long walk back toward the prison bus until Abraham tells him there’s zero chance of finding Maggie since she’s probably dead. No need for him to die, too. How does Glenn respond to that? With a punch to the face. Wow. Some gratitude to the folks who gave you a lift after you passed out. Plus, Glenn’s not too smart if he’s gonna take on a big, muscular man he just met while he’s still got his own bruises.
But as expected, Abraham fights back and overtakes Glenn. In the name of convenience, walkers emerge left and right. For some reason, no one’s able to hear Eugene call for help even though they’re only a few feet away. So Eugene loads a gun and begins firing wildly and without direction. Only this alerts the others to the walkers and they lay waste to the horde. They’re successful, but the tank is now leaking. Way to go, Doctor!
Rick is still under the bed, but manages to slip out when the man has fallen dead asleep with no sign of waking up. Despite hearing other noises, Rick makes his way to another room just as another man prepares to enter. Rick’s unable to open the window, so he grabs a trophy as his weapon. Unfortunately, fooling the men into thinking the house is empty falls flat when one of the men finds a woman’s shirt.
When the two men head downstairs, Rick heads to the bathroom and encounters a member of the group. A fight breaks out with Rick managing to get the upper hand and strangle the man to death. He manages to get his jacket and slip out of the house undetected.
Back on the road, Rosita hands Glenn his photo of Maggie while Abraham still goes on about Washington. Well, with no tank, it will be pretty challenging to get there. Tara and Glenn take the long walk back toward the bus, and Rosita follows. Nothing else they can really do if the tank’s no good, so why not? Tara questions Abraham’s involvement, given how Eugene is apparently the one with the smarts. But Abraham just wants to help save the world.
Rick waits by the side of the building when one of the men sits on the porch to eat some food. At the same time, Carl and Michonne are closing in on the house. Before a confrontation can take place, the man hears a scream from inside and goes back in the house. This gives Rick the chance he needs to warn Carl and Michonne away from the home as they head elsewhere.
They end up by a freight car displaying a very familiar notice: “Sanctuary for All. Room for All. Those who arrive survive.”
As the case has been with the past two episodes, “Claimed” felt like more setup. Focusing on just three storylines allows for longer stretches where the characters can develop. Sometimes that can work. It didn’t always work this week, but the episode’s weaker moments were strengthened by the more tense moments, such as Rick dealing with the marauders.
But before we get to that, let’s deal with Carl and Michonne. So yeah, Michonne isn’t exactly known for being open at all. Heck, she spent a good amount of time not saying anything before, but when she tries to converse about herself, it feels very awkward. And I mean very awkward. Michonne shouldn’t be treating Carl like a kid by trying to make him laugh. The stuff this kid has seen, you don’t have to force humor on him. I understand that it will take a while for Michonne to come out of her shell, but I just wish the dialogue between her and Carl wasn’t so off. I mean, saying you’ll only reveal one fact per room is a bit childish, even for Michonne. Treat Carl like the man he’s become. Though at the same time, Carl isn’t one for nagging, so it felt a bit out of character for him to play 20 questions with someone he knows isn’t the best conversationalist.
It’s like Michonne’s emotions are on a dial. If she’s not trying to be super animated, she’s back to being her usual, quiet self. She hasn’t found that fine balance, but she’s making an effort. I’ll give her that, but these moments don’t carry the same emotional weight as did the flashback that showed her home life.
But I do like Michonne’s reveal of her child, as it gives her and Carl a connection. To Carl, it makes Michonne seem less cold and distant. But the moment where he laughed at her shirt felt very real and unforced. And like Rick said, it’s been awhile since he heard Carl laugh, so it was a good moment for both father and son. And I did like Carl trying to be optimistic by telling Michonne that maybe Andre and Judith are together somewhere.
This is very different from the Carl that called Carol an idiot for believing that Sophia was in Heaven, but since Carl believes that Judith is gone, he can relate to what Carol said. A well-done ironic echo in my opinion.
Michonne finding the girls’ room was one of the creepier moments of the episode. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: the innocent of a child’s room against the dead bodies laying almost perfectly on their furniture and bed.
It’s reminiscent of a scene in the comics where Morgan finds the remains of a family in a house he’s exploring. Though that scene is more graphic, as the father had poisoned his child, scrambled his brains and then blew both his wife and himself away with a shotgun to the head. Like Carl finding the abandoned room with video games and a television, it offered a brief glimpse into the world children had before everything went to hell.
Rick definitely had my favorite segment of the episode. His moments were very tense, with us able to hear every single sound in the house as he tried to avoid detection. You could see the fear etched onto Rick’s face not just when he realized he was not alone, but when he was almost exposed if not for strangulation. And with no music at all, suspense always building and no false scares, it felt like a genuinely tense moment for Rick.
Even in his weakened condition, Rick just can’t have one decent day off, but when it’s ruined, he still manages to find a way out. Though, in typical television or film fashion, no one bothers to check under the beds when surveying their surroundings. Seriously, one simple look and Rick would have been exposed, but I guess even in the post apocalyptic zombie world, raiders aren’t that smart.
While I think this sequence was only here to give Rick something to do, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of these men, given how they were not only found Michonne’s shirt, but they know one of them had been attacked by someone else. I get the feeling they’ll be back.
And then there’s Glenn and Tara. Glenn’s pretty much repeating the same mantra he had last week: Maggie’s out there and he’ll find her. I get his determination, but he doesn’t progress beyond that. After meeting three other survivors, one would think that both he and Tara would at least take the time to consider the possibility of finding out what caused this mess, something that hasn’t been touched upon since the CDC at the end of Season One. For now, though, Glenn has a one track mind and it only leads to Maggie, so any insinuation that she’s long gone doesn’t even enter his mind.
So it makes sense that he’d slug Abraham for implying that, even though, again, not the smartest of ideas to strike a man whose physically more intimidating than you. But he’s going to find Maggie, and Tara really has nothing else to do, so no reason she won’t join him, even if she doesn’t really add anything to the plot right now.
As far as our new characters, I think Michael Cudlitz does a good job as Abraham, though I do wish he was a bit more physically imposing than he is right now.
His reveal about Eugene knowing what caused this mess came a bit too quickly for my liking. Better that it be revealed when more of the group has reunited, but then we as an audience may have spent the entire time wondering about Abraham’s intentions.
He’s certainly fun to watch, proving this through the smiles on his face as he bashes in walkers. And I like how determined he is to get to Washington even though he isn’t the one who needs to go. Appearances can be deceiving and rage can change a person, so it’s too early to draw conclusions on Abraham.
The same can be said for Eugene and Rosita who, like Abraham, are mostly here for introduction. Eugene’s the scientist, supposedly, with the answer to this problem, and Rosita is attractive. Again, it’s all set-up, so I assume they’ll get more to do later. Though it is a bit presumptive of Tara to say that Rosita will follow Abraham anywhere, given how she barely knows Rosita.
“Claimed” was a mixed bag for me. It allowed for character growth between Carl and Michonne, some well done tense moments for Rick and fighting between Glenn and the newcomers. The Carl and Michonne storyline had the potential to be stronger, if not for the shoddy dialogue, but the other two plots made up for that. A decent episode.