Feb 24 2014 11:30am

The Walking Dead, S4 E11 “Claimed”

It’s clear with the back half of season 4 that Scott Gimple is trying to redress the errors caused by previous showrunners. This Michonne is practically an entirely different character than the one who first arrived. Carl isn’t an insipid, frustrating little brat, but an interesting, challenging teenager. Carol is a revelation compared to the cowed, quaking nothing she was in season 1. Daryl, Glenn, and Maggie, are growing and deepening, albeit far slower than I prefer. Characters who used to sit around whining and bickering until Rick gave them something productive to do now make their own decisions and act on them. Granted, those decisions tend to be fairly one-dimensional, but at least there’s some personal motivation beyond “Rick said so.” We’re getting episodes with an actual plot and mostly decent dialogue that build on each other and appear to leading to a cohesive arc. They aren’t stellar episodes, mind. But I’ll gladly take B-level quality with developing characters and solid storytelling over the crap the show usually cranks out.

Rick is rarely more exciting than when his back is against the wall and he’s forced to act without moralizing, philosophizing, or sermonizing at everyone within hearing distance. “Claimed” lets Rick do what he does best by trapping him in “his” house—the house he’s, wait for it, CLAIMED—with a bunch of psychotics and watching him squirm. More than a few times it looks like Rick will be forced to play his hand, to either make a run for it and hope he isn’t spotted or fight his way out. Instead he catches a lucky break (he kills a guy in the bathroom, said guy reanimates and goes on an off camera rampage) and makes it out of the house just in time to drive back Carl and Michonne.

Speaking of which, Rick has appointed Michonne as Carl’s new bestie, so the two of them go on a foraging expedition while Rick takes a nap. They share some nice bonding moments over memories of dead kids. Carl tells her he picked Judith’s name, and Michonne shares tidbits about her life pre-End!verse. In previous seasons, the scene where Michonne finds the family dead in the little girl’s room would’ve come off as gruesome and grim. But now, with what we know about Michonne and the sincere way the scene is shot, it comes off as a sort of twisted version of hope. It’s tragic, yes, that this family couldn’t survive, but it’s also kind of sweet that they decided to back out of this world together, to leave the way they lived. It helps Michonne reaffirm her choice to live instead of just survive, to make connections and cultivate a family. The only other option is death.

Glenn isn’t having any fun at all. Poor guy comes to hours and miles away from Maggie in the back of some random truck crewed by a trio of losers straight out of a cheesy 80s movie. Eugene claims to be a scientist with an expertise in zombies. Abraham is part numbskull, part walking punchline, part tragicomic figure probably suffering from PTSD. Rosita wears as little clothing as possible without any concern for her own safety and basically spends her screentime posing like a Guns & Ammo model. They’re on a mission to get Eugene to Washington D.C. so he can reverse the apocalypse. Glenn doesn’t buy it or doesn’t care; his whole reason for living is Maggie. After a minor skirmish with Abraham and a horde of roamers, Glenn heads back the way they came. Tara follows because she’s consumed with guilt over the whole Governor thing. The rest follow because why not. It’s not like they could simply keep walking north until they found another vehicle. No, what makes the most sense for a group on an urgent mission to save the world is to follow some random dude they just met going in the opposite direction from their destination.

Even without reading the comics, the whole Eugene thing sounds completely idiotic. I mean, really? A dude with the worst mullet this side of Billy Ray Cyrus is supposedly a “scientist” with the secret to life, the universe, and everything? If you believe that, I got a bridge to sell you. What intrigues me more is Abraham’s interest in Eugene. Does he genuinely believe Eugene’s claim? Or is he completely off his rocker? Is he Shane 2.0, the Governor 2.0, or just plain nutso? Should I even waste time caring? (Keep in mind, Dr. Jenner from way back in season 1 never figured out cause or cure for the mass zombification of the world, just that everyone living was already infected. So if Eugene does actually know something, his clearance would have to be higher than Jenner’s.)

I think the reason the non-Rick/Carl/Michonne scenes don’t click for me is that, after 4 seasons, we still don’t really know any of the other characters. The writers have spent quality time fleshing out Rick, Carl, and Michonne, showing and telling us what makes them tick. Put them in a bad way, and we feel for them because we know them. We know what’s at risk if Rick gets caught by those assholes, and not just that bad things will happen to decent people. Even non-desperate scenes carry extra meaning when the character’s histories color the subtext. Glenn is the only “known” quantity in the other scenes, and even he doesn’t have much depth beyond his love for Maggie, that he’s the only person smart enough in the End!verse to build himself some anti-zombie riot gear, and he used to be a wisecracking pizza delivery boy. His sole motivation is Maggie, and while that’s romantic, it isn’t exactly a personality trait. If I’m supposed to root for Glenn and Maggie, I need a reason besides that they look cute together.

Everyone else barely make it out of caricature stage. It’s like the writers spent all their energy crafting meaningful connections between Rick, Carl, and Michonne, and then trawled through to fill the rest of the roles. But, like I said before the jump, at least the writers are trying. Thing is, it took four seasons for Glenn to become a person instead of a cardboard cutout. I don’t have that kind of patience with the three idiot amigos and Tara (or, for that matter, Tyrese, the psycho girls, and Beth).

Hope, humor, and happiness are flickering through these last few episodes, giving the audience something to look forward to. The Walking Dead can’t just be about blood and violence and death. Kirkman always described his comics as a story of survival. Survival only gets you so far, as Michonne’s journey attested. You either have to want to live or be willing to die. With Woodbury and the prison, everyone was trying to go back to the way things were, to reestablish civilization and assert the old codes of ethics on a world that no longer tolerated them. The people who have accept this new world are the happiest—both good guys and bad. And this mysterious community Tyrese and the girls found last week and Rick, Carl, and Michonne spotted this week poses an interesting option. Is it another Woodbury, another Hershel’s farm, or something more sinister?


Final Thoughts

  • Whoever gave Cudlitz that that dye job should be fired immediately. I’ve seen better color jobs on teenagers obsessed with Manic Panic.
  • I doubt that’s the last we’ll see of those rapist creepers, not with Jeff Kober as their leader. 
  • Logistical question: If the corpse in the rocking chair was the one to off the rest of the family before blowing their own brains out, how did they manage to prop the zombie painting against the outside of the door?
  • Something that’s bothered me since the end of the first half of season 4: How, in all that time they were living in the prison, and after the Governor made his threats, did NO ONE THINK TO MAKE AN ESCAPE PLAN OR RENDEZVOUS POINT? All this chaos could’ve easily been avoided if someone took 30 seconds to formulate a plan B.

Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

Colin R
1. Colin R
"Instead he catches a lucky break (he kills a guy in the bathroom, said
guy reanimates and goes on an off camera rampage) and makes it out of
the house just in time to drive back Carl and Michonne."

I interpreted this as partly calculation, not luck--after he kills the guy, he purposely leave the door ajar so the zombie can get out. Sort of clever ruthlessness.
Colin R
2. REWaters
I'm glad they did not implement a Plan B. A plan B would have had them all coming back together too quickly. It's much better that everyone is spread out. It just allows the writers to come up wit more interesting storylines IMO.
Bill Capossere
3. Billcap
This one for me was more taketh than giveth, though it had its moments. Rick trapped in the room was a nice bit, and the bonding/revelation scenes with Michonne and Carl were hugely welcome, if oh so delayed. And while I really liked the dead family, I wish it didn’t have to come in the same episode where she opens up about her kid—couldn’t we have a little separation so it falls on us slightly less like a sledgehammer blow? But mostly, as happens far too often with this show, I’m left annoyed with writers who continue to have a bunch of people act as if this is day 7 of the crisis.

Yep, I too wonder how the hell you live in this world and don’t have escape plans and meet up points. Even without the Gov—but throw him in and it’s even more ridiculous

How you lie down for a nap, alone, without weapons in your hand and the door blocked, especially as you are just as likely to be unconscious as opposed to asleep, given your last few days. (and did I miss how the psychos got in? Did Rick et. al seriously only block one entry? Did psychos not wonder why the door was blockaded?)

How you decide to live in a place and don’t check out possible quick exits

How you enter a home and only give it a cursory once over—never, say, looking under a bed or examining left behind material (was Rick’s water bottle really the only sign of their living there?) and then sleep there

How you still think walkers come only in single units. Always.

And don’t get attracted by yelling. Ever.

Or shooting. Ever.

And are not a threat because they’re just one (see above) and you have a gun (see above) even if you can’t fight, can’t use a gun, and people who can do both are all of 25 yards away

How bullets are not a resource to be hoarded, so shoot ‘em if got ‘em—there’s always more right around the corner!

How when you are picked up by armed strangers who act like assholes who don’t want to let you go, you turn your back on them and walk away, as opposed to say, pointing your gun at them and backing away until you’re out of sight (after having them toss their guns in the truck). Then again, Glen has had good recent experiences in the past he and a girl hang out with strangers, so maybe that’s just me.

I’ll ignore the general silly stuff, like just passed out, dehydrated Glen becoming He-man. Or asshole—provoking guy never thinking Glenn might punch him (cuz I’m sure the whole asshole—provoking thing is a brand new shtick and he’s never been punched before for being an asshole). Or Glenn thinking “Well, now that I’ve sucker punched asshole guy because he’s an asshole provoking me, I’m sure he’ll just lie on the ground and not try to hit me back so it’s fine to turn my back on him . . . . “. But I am so tired of people not acting like they live in the world they live in. So. Tired.

Plus, what the hell is the geography of this place? How far are they from the prison? How hard is it to try and hook up? Are they all unaware of this lovely little town with houses and food? Did they never see Terminus signs before? I’ve never ever had a firm grasp of distance and logistics on this show.

A terrible episode? Not at all. And I do see and appreciate the attempts at improvement with regard to character. But a terribly frustrating episode? Again? Yep.
Colin R
4. Colin R
I've given up on getting excited about how dumb characters in the show are. They alternate between clever and dumb based on the needs of the plot. Why didn't they have a meeting point outside the prison? Because the writers want them split up. Why don't the ruffians check under the bed? Because then they'd find Rick. How did Lilly and Tara and their family survive just hanging out in their apartment for months or years? Because they needed to be there when the Governor showed up. How does Dr. McMullet survive for years without learning how to shoot? Because...

Yeah it's maddening. When the show turns over to pure tension and suspense, like when Rick is trying to stay undetected, it sort of works. But the rest of the time it just makes everyone seem like fools.
Alex Brown
5. AlexBrown
@Colin R: Yes, it was calculated to let the biter out. But it's been established for a long while that each person takes longer to change than others - i.e., each changes whenever the writer deems it most necessary to move the plot forward.

@REWaters: There are plenty of stories to be told about a group desperate to stay together in a world that doesn't want them to, just as there are about a bunch of idiots who can't plan ahead.

@Billcap and Colin R: Seconded. The stuff with Rick was some of his best work (largely because Andrew Lincoln wasn't required to speak), and the Carl/Michonne scenes were good character development, but everything else left me rolling my eyes.
Colin R
6. sofrina
this was a very tense and very confusing episode. jeff kober was a welcome surprise. i'm hoping that is a continuing character. the painting over the door must have been left by someone else who found the family. had the children been shot? i couldn't tell why they weren't reanimated.

abraham is gungho for d.c. because it gives him a clear and noble purpose. trying to save mankind is much better than wandering aimlessly in the wasteland. that he is being fooled by "doctor" eugene is probably more about self-delusion than eugene being smarter than him. rosita's outfit is incomprehensible. she must be amazing in close combat.

beyond that, i agree with all of your logic questions: how did the bikers get in? perhaps they broke a window or came in through another door (which we don't see as rick rounds the back of the house, but okay). why don't the bikers wonder how the house can be empty with all the windows/doors locked and barricaded...? who is being tortured downstairs when rick awakens and what happened with all that? how did rick not realize there was another guy in the bathroom when he is watching each of them come up the stairs...? how is this little neighborhood within walking distance of the prison and yet our group - nor any other survivor - has never found it and raided the daylights out of it?! and now everyone is finding it.

i will say that the bathroom biker was only sitting on the lid of the toilet with his boots off. presumably attending to his swampfoot. but you are so right, that struggle must have raised a ruckus. ...although no one reacted to the other strangling, the one that didn't result in a death. ?! why was it so hard for rick to open a window. why would the terminus group leave all these signs, but not bother to approach the prison?

i'm still shocked that someone on the bus turned and no one got out alive. with all those exits? come on.
Colin R
7. Fuzzy_Dunlop
Well I liked this episode on the whole, but only if I watch it with my blinders on. The scenes with Rick hiding from the bandits were well done and quite tense, but the bandits are seriously stupid people. One guy kills his partner and then promptly takes a nap a few feet away from the soon to rise corpse. I mean how is this guy still alive if he has no understanding of the rules of the zombie apocalypse. Plus the myriad of other problems the other commenters pointed out.

Duke Nukem, Lara Croft, and Billy Ray Mullet were beyond stupid. The last thing this show needs are more characters to be under developed, under used and then killed off. I've read the comics and I know where we're going with them, but this show already has enough tertiary characters. 3 more will be of no help to the quality of the show.

Carl and Michonne's part had some decent character development, even if it was uneven, and forced. Danai Gurira certainly has the acting chops, and can carry Carl through the scenes. But she remains the biggest waste of potential on the show, the writers fault not hers, I think she did a great job as the scowl machine of the last season and a half.
Colin R
8. SeeingI
Eugene: "I know what caused the zombie outbreak, and we need to get the info to Washington, but I can't tell you, it's classified!" What, are you trying to make sure the Russians don't find out about it?? Come on.

Unknown Person: "I will place a carefully wrapped painting full of ominous and grotesque portent against the door of this bathroom, just in case some other characters show up someday to investigate!"
Colin R
9. tigeraid
@SeeingI - I won't spoil any further except to say there's a reason Eugene said what he said. Give it time.

(Assuming it follows the comics.)
Colin R
10. politeruin
Nice to see bill hicks getting work these days.
Alex Brown
11. AlexBrown
@sofrina and SeeingI: I could've filled an entire post just on illogicalities of this episode alone. It boggles the mind.

@Fuzzy_Dunlop: I can do blinders in terms of comparing TWD to other shows, but not when judging episodes in terms of seasonal quality. But I do think Michonne is becoming a much more interesting character. The writers haven't fixed her yet completely, but they're getting close. But I whole-heartedly agree about the pointlessness of introducing more randoms when we barely have any sense of the ones we already have.

@tigeraid: Yeah, I'm assuming they're going to play this one fairly close to the comics, but that still doesn't make me like it any less. I hated the storyline when Kirkman ran it, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to hate it here, too. Not as much as I hated the Governor's TV plot, but close. Very close.
Colin R
12. Xavier_Ninnis
Indeed, the resemblance was striking to say the least, wasn't it?

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