"Claimed" isn't epic, but for concentrating 80% on Rick, Michonne and Carl (mostly Rick, who actually spends most of the episode in one room) and 20% on Glenn, Tara and the newcomers, it's got tension, we learn about the characters organically, Carl isn't too terrible, and there's a major twist. It's exactly what I want out of a regular TWD episode.
We begin with Rick, Carl and Michonne at the house. Carl and Michonne share a bowl of cereal, and a wistful Michonne wishes she had soy milk. Carl does not care for soy milk, and recounts an anecdote where soy milk made him barf, and laughingly recounts all the other fake milk products he'd rather have than soy milk until he includes to Judith's formula, and makes himself super-sad. As awkward as this all is, Rick is just grateful to hear Carl laugh, even for a second.
Michonne and Carl go hunting for supplies; Rick tries to come too and until Michonne tells him he has a bad case of having his ass kicked and should rest. Thus begins the least interesting part of "Claimed," but by no means a bad one. With Carl immediately closed off again, Michonne — whose warmth now makes her infinitely more interesting than her "badass" persona in the first half of season 3 — tries to bring Carl out of his shell and make him laugh again, to the point where she finds a can of spray cheese, delightfully called Crazy Cheese, fills her mouth, and just kind of gurgles at Carl.
Shockingly, the Crazy Cheese gambit does not work, and Michonne knows drastic measures are needed... so she actually opens up. She tells Carl that toddlers found her hilarious, and Carl erupts with a barrage of questions. She tells him about her toddler, Andre, that she lost him, and about her life before — not all at once, but allowing him one question at a time, per room searched for supplies. Carl is too curious to be withdrawn, and as he learns about Michonne, we learn about her in a way far more organic and less hyperbolic than her dream sequence in the first episode. And Carl, having received the trust of an adult (Michonne's told no one else) snaps out of his childish snit, even just for a bit.
And that's when Michonne discovers a very disturbing painting, and wanders around the house until she encounters one of TWD's most disturbing scenes (which is saying something at this point) — a room with five long-dead corpses, two girls lying on one bed together, two boys on the other bed, and an adult (I think?) with a hole in the back of his head. It was all staged, and very possibly these kids were killed there, perhaps while they were asleep, almost definitely by someone who wanted to spare them the horrors of the new world. Michonne quickly exits and slams the door, only to see Carl there. "What's in there?" Carl asks. "It's a dead baby," he guesses. "A dead dog," a clearly freaked out Michonne says quickly.
Meanwhile, Rick falls asleep almost instantly and wakes up to hear voices in the house. Masculine voices. Mean voices. Voices that are, without a doubt, not going to want to team up with Rick. So Rick slides under the bed he was sleeping on — it's all he has time for — and thus begins a tried and true staple of many an '80s movie and sitcom, where Rick is trapped under the bed, but as opposed to being trapped underneath the bed of his girlfriend's parents or his boss or maybe a distinguished visitor, he's hiding from a group of guys who argue about what order they'll rape the first woman the see (they're bad dudes).
Now, this is pretty ludicrous, not only for the fact that this is apparently the only unlocked house in a five-mile radius, but because he stays under there a very long time. But to The Walking Dead's credit, it manages to keep the scenes tense: first of course one of the bastards comes into the room to sleep on the bed, but then another one comes in, fights the first dude for it, knocks him to the ground, and then chokes him unconscious — while he's staring at directly Rick. It's pretty great, because we know if the guy stops choking this dude for a second Rick will be discovered; if he doesn't fall unconscious or die Rick will be discovered; and even when the guy does pass out, he could wake up at any second and remember the dude who was hiding under the bed.
Eventually the second guy falls asleep, and Rick plays an elaborate (and almost stupidly complicated) game of cat-and-mouse with the bastards,w ho seem to be wandering haphazardly through the house like they were the ghosts in Pac-Man, Rick ducks into rooms, hides behind walls, leaps out of sight of guys who are constantly just around the corner, but just barely miss him. Eventually Rick does barge into a room where he meets a very surprised bastard who politely doesn't scream, and Rick manages to get something around his throat to strangle him. Rick escapes from the house through a second-floor window and drops to the ground, where he again is hilariously close to being discovered. Then Michonne and Carl are walking back to the house and they're about to be discovered until [Updated because I was too dumb to realize what was happening] the dude Rick strangled to death in the bathroom and left the door slightly open so he could go terrorize his fellow bastards turns into a zombie and starts terrorizing the other bastards at the opposite side at just the best possible moment, and Rick is able to run off and catch Michonne and Carl. Eventually, they reach the train tracks everyone else has been heading down, towards the supposed sanctuary that is Terminus.
Look, this whole scene is definitely a bit much, and it's definitely a bit absurd. But I appreciated that it wasn't another random zombie attack, that the threat seemed credible (because as well all know by now humans are infinitely more dangerous than zombies), and because it was pretty much dialogue-free except by the thugs, and The Walking Dead in general is best (and often Rick in particular) when the show lets its cast act as opposed to announce.
Anyways, the episode also checks in with Glenn, who wakes up in the back of Abraham's massive army truck. Glenn is disoriented, but quickly sees Tara, asks about the school bus, discovers not only was it full of dead zombies (thanks, Maggie!) but they passed it three hours ago. Glenn demands Abraham stop the truck so he can walk back and find his wife. This is when Abraham introduces himself, his girlfriend Rosita, Dr. Eugene Porter, and the Mission.
The Mission is to get Eugene to Washington DC. Because he knows what caused the zombie outbreak.
Also, he has a mullet. We're going to get back to this in a second.
Abraham wants Glenn and Tara to help him get Eugene to DC to stop the zombies for good. And Glenn does not give a shit. Possibly because of his love for Maggie, and he does not give a shit about whether the Walker threat is ended or not without her. Maybe because asks Eugene what caused the plague, and Eugene gives him a flat "Classified" for an answer. Possibly because he understands knowing the problem is not the same as knowing the cure, and Abraham's mission could end up worthless. End result: Maggie > everything else.
Abraham disagrees, and says Maggie's definitely gone and probably dead. Glenn respectfully disagrees, by which I mean he punches the foot-taller Abraham in the jaw and knocks him to the ground and walks away because Glenn is a total badass. Abraham tackles him from behind, and the two fight, and despite the fact that Abraham is huge and Glenn is still sick, Glenn holds his own. This is, of course, when the zombies arrive. Eugene is the only one who notices, and he fails to get anyone else's attention; so he picks up an assault rifle and starts basically randomly firing it at everything. And thus we've met the first person in The Walking Dead universe who can't hit a single headshot.
The gunfire stops the fight, and everyone takes care of the zombies while Eugene continues firingly wildly, even hitting the gas tank of the truck. It's now dead, Glenn and Tara walk off to find Maggie, and Abraham, Rosita and Eugene are forced to follow him. And that's how I met the next major character to join Rick's group. I mean Abraham, of course. I forgot to mention that the episode begins with Abraham and Tara talking, immediately after the end of last week's episode; a few Walkers approach, and Abraham not only dispatches them with a non-chalant attitude, but even a smile. Tara is freaked out, but I'm excited by someone who isn't completely damaged — it's the perfect character to introduce after the loss of the prison.
Meanwhile Eugene. What can I say about Eugene? HE HAS A MULLET AND CARGO SHORTS, THAT'S WHAT I CAN SAY. He looks like Kenny Powers from Eastbound & Down. There's no way this dude is a scientist or knows anything about the plague. And I hope this is addressed soon, because it's baffling that no one would call this out — he might as well be dressed as Ronald McDonald for all he looks like a scientist. Despite his complete ineptitude with the gun, however, he seems fun — when Abraham asks how he managed to kill his truck, Eugene calmly replies, "An fully amped-up state and ignorance of rapid-fire weapons."
These guys are some welcome additions to the ranks (well, I assume Rosita will be, because right now it's like she's T-Dogg's understudy) and I love how fast the various members seem to be coming together; it really makes me feel like progress is being made, even when Rick spends half the episode under the bed. And what's the deal with Eugene? Is this a real gamechanger, or will this just be a more elaborate version of the first season's CDC plot, where they finally get some answers, but the answers don't change anything? I'm suspecting the latter. There's no happy endings in The Walking Dead.
- Gif via the fine folks at Warming Glow.
- Rick, asking Carl the stupidest question in TWD history: "Everything okay?"
- The scene where Michonne slams the door to the death room and Carl guesses there's a dead baby n there and Michonne says it's a dead dog is one of my favorite TWD scenes of all time now, because it showed how subtly but completely fucked up TWD can be. Michonne tries to make Carl feel better by telling him there's a dead dog in the room. A dead dog. Carl guesses the room has a dead baby in it. A dead baby is his first guess is what might make Michonne run out of the room and slam the door. The the craziest part is that the answer is so much worse than a dead baby.
- I kind of loved that Rick's fight with the bastard was done entirely in a bathroom with a shag toilet seat cover on it.
- Eugene, doing what camels with C4 stuck up their asses couldn't since February 23rd, 2014.
- Next episode looks like it's going to be all Daryl and Beth, and there are a lot of zombies. Also the music is crazy ominous. Also I feel like we're about due for a death, and I can't imagine everyone is going to make it to Terminus alive. Just sayin'.
- Tell me this wouldn't be a better world if Easy Cheese weren't actually called Crazy Cheese.