The Walking Dead: "Claimed" (Season 4, Episode 11) Recap/Analysis | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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The Walking Dead: “Claimed” (Season 4, Episode 11) Recap/Analysis

AMC, Sundays 9/8 Central

Feb 25, 2014
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[Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the latest episode of The Walking Dead, "Inmates," then read no further.]

One of the benefits of being a viewer of a show that routinely kills off main characters is that we're always becoming acquainted with their replacements. In "Claimed," we are properly introduced to Sgt. Abraham Ford, a man who figures to become a central player in wherever the show goes over the next few seasons. And from the first moments of the episode, it's apparent that he will represent a slightly different take on the kinds of walker-stomping alphas who have populated the show to this point. Shane, Daryl, Michonne, Andrea, Tyreesethese are all characters who have taken their zombie killing duties as a joyless necessity, something that had to be done to live. Abraham, by contrast, is all smiles and one-liners as he bashes and smashes his way through a small group of undead, so much so that Tara asks for an explanation for why he seems so happy. "Well, I'm the luckiest guy in the world," he says with no sense of irony. This guy is going to be fun.

Why would he consider himself lucky to be living in a world gone to hell? That much isn't entirely clear, but it seems to have something to do with the fact that he believes, again with no sense of irony, that the fate of the human race rests on his broad, freckled shoulders. In fact, he says those very words (minus the "freckled shoulders" part) to Glenn as he's trying to convince him to stay with him and head to Washington, D.C., explaining that his companion, the mullet-headed scientist Eugene, has unraveled the cause of the zombie outbreak and had been in contact with government agents until the line recently went dead. Simply surviving is no longer the goal. They're going to solve this mess.

Now three hours away from the spot where he passed out, Glenn isn't interested in any attempts to save the world, however, and picks up his gear and heads down the road, new friend Tara in tow. Having woken up in the back of an Army truck after passing out at the end of the previous episode, Glenn is singularly focused on getting back to Maggie, even throwing a punch at Abraham when he suggests that Glenn needs to accept that his wife is dead and that he needs to move on to more realistic concerns (namely, saving the world). As the two brawl, walkers start to emerge from a nearby cornfield, causing the previously stone-faced Eugene to fumblingly load a machine gun and fire wildly, taking out their vehicle's gas tank in the process. The mission to D.C. is cancelled, though Abraham still needs to be convinced that the group's best choice is to retreat back home. "Trust me," Eugene says by way of argument. "I'm smarter than you." As he walks away, he flashes a curiously contented smile.

Still at the house where we left them two episodes ago, Team Grimes is bonding. In particular, Michonne is becoming the cool mom Carl never had (sorry, Lori), as the two are out searching for supplies while Rick continues to recover by taking a post-coma nap. But, haunted by the reality that his little sister is probably dead, Carl is slipping back into moody teen mode, even failing to crack a smile when Michonne loads up a mouth full of crazy cheese for comic relief (a few episodes ago, could you have ever imagined Michonne would provide one of the show's most lighthearted moments?). With no other way to reach him, Michonne starts to open up about the fact that she understands his loss. After all, she lost her son too.

While it's hard to imagine that Michonne could have earned the trust of everyone in the former prison group and never had a conversation regarding the losses in her life, I suppose that's just a testament to how emotionally closed off she had been up until now. Whatever the case, Carl immediately perks up when he realizes that she is finally opening up, and quickly starts throwing questions at her until they get distracted by a disturbing painting of a woman, her face disfigured by smears of black paint.

All of this leads to one of the most unsettling scenes in the show's history. Walking through a child's playroom, Michonne enters what appears to be a little girl's bedroom, the walls bright pink. In the room are two bedsone with two girls in frilly little dresses, the other with what appears to be two older boys. All are long dead and nearly mummified, apparently killed by their mother who is sitting in a nearby chair with the back of her head missing. Surveying the scene, Michonne wipes away a tear and backs out of the room.

Though it's unlikely that the scene will have any particular bearing on future episodes, it's a telling reminder of the horrible reality that would have faced everyone who was forced to consider how they were going to keep their children alive during the zombie apocalypse. Like no scene since Rick came across the bodies of the elderly husband and wife who killed themselvesthe words "God forgive us" scrawled on the wallit's one tinged with the sort of tragedy that transcends the kind of routine death the show usually offers. We don't feel empathy for walkersleave that for crazy Lizziebut it's hard not to feel sympathy for a mother forced to kill her four children because it appeared to be her best option. The show would do well to include more similarly humanizing moments every now and again.

Back at the house, Rick's nap is rudely interrupted by the sounds of men yelling and crashing around downstairs. Previously, we'd expect him to take care of this problem quickly, either through negotiation or force. But now, caught off guard and without a gun, his first impulse is to hide. Over four seasons, we've seen Rick go through all of the emotionsconfusion, anger, denial, despairbut this is the first time we've really seen him scared, literally shaking with fear as he hides under a bed as a man walks around the room with a machine gun before collapsing on the bed for a nap. The undead might be terrifying as a premise, but they are, if anything, predictable. By comparison, these mysterious men are far more menacing simply because we don't know what to expect from them. What would they do with Rick if they caught him?

From the start, we know these are seriously bad dudes. When the man sleeping inches above Rick refuses to surrender his bed, the leader of the group attacks him and chokes him until he's unconscious. Before he passes out, however, the soon-to-be-incapacitated man locks eyes with Rick for a long moment, even tries to alert his attacker to his presence under the bed, but Rick isn't discovered. This leads to some of the tensest moments in the show's recent history, as Rick moves from room to room, trying to stay one step ahead of the bandits who are casually making plans to rape Michonne when she returns. Eventually, he chooses to hide in a bathroom and comes across one of the men sitting on the toilet (curiously, with his pants on and the toilet seat up), and the two struggle for a moment until Rick chokes him to death. Taking the man's gun and cracking the door before he leaves, Rick slips out a window and lowers himself to the ground, shaken but alive.

All in all, it's a study in perfectly-paced tension, rivaling one from two seasons ago where Rick made the split second decision to gun down two men who threatened him when he refused to give up the directions to Hershel's farm. But this is a much different Rick Grimesa humbled, weakened one. Even with a gun, this Rick just crouches outside and waits for Carl and Michonne to return, nearly discovered but saved by the zombified remains of the man he killed causing a distraction inside the house. Once reunited, Rick, Carl, and Michonne are next seen walking the train tracks and coming upon a sign for the Terminus community. Reading like an advertisement for an exploitative work camp straight out of The Grapes of Wrath, the sign is emblazoned with the words "Sanctuary for all. Community for all. Those who arrive survive." But no suspicions are raised. After contemplating it for a long moment, they agree that it should be their next destination. Given that they can't trust anyone out on the road, what better option do they have?

All in all, "Claimed" lives up to its title. From the men who fight over the "claimed" bed to Eugene's claims that he knows how to solve the mysteries of the zombie virus, the episode roots us in a world where everything is up for grabs and every unfamiliar face potentially is a threatening one. As alwaysand I suspect especially for the rest of the seasonthe art of survival is figuring out which of those faces you can trust.

What this means for the future:

It seems to be an almost foregone conclusion that the men who raided the house will turn up again later, especially since their leader is played by Jeff Kober (Sons of Anarchy), a powerhouse actor in his own right. It's hard to imagine his appearance will be a one-off. But who are these guys? Were they out scouting for the Terminus camp? Could they be The Hunters, an infamously brutal group from the comics? Or could they be The Marauders, a small group of bandits who are known for attempting to do something so horrible that it's hard to imagine AMC ever allowing it to air? Most importantly, will the man who saw Rick hiding underneath the bed before losing consciousness remember him in a later episode? If the men are from the Terminus camp, Rick might cross paths with him sooner rather than later.

What you might have missed:

The men in the house appeared to be wearing biker gang apparel. Knowing that both Merle and Daryl were members of a similar group of motorcycle enthusiasts, could they know our favorite crossbow-wielding hero? Could the old Daryl and the new Daryl collide if these men remember him? Also, given the bandits' cavalier attitude toward rape, could they be surviving members of Randall's group? If you recall, the former prisoner from season two mentioned that members of his group had committed similar atrocities.

Questions:

Why was Eugene smiling after essentially ruining the group's chance of making it to D.C. to complete their mission? Did he shoot up the truck intentionally? Does he really know what he's talking about? (And, really, what kind of scientist has a mullet anyway?) Now traveling by foot, will the group make it back to join the rest of the former prison group before the end of the season? Could this be setting up a scenario where they rescue their friends after misfortune finds them at the Terminus camp?

Alsoand this probably means nothingboth Emily Kinney (Beth) and Norman Reedus (Daryl) are scheduled to appear on post-Walking Dead chat show Talking Dead next week. Often, cast members appear when they are introduced as a new character or when they've just filmed their final scene on the show. Could Reedus or Kinney be stopping by to say their goodbyes? We know the next episode is going to focus solely on their storyline. Could this be setting up the rare main character death two-fer?

www.amctv.com/shows/the-walking-dead




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