The Walking Dead continues the split narrative approach that has given the show some much needed variety. However yet again this means that the quality of the episode changes depending on what is on the screen. This week we have Glenn and his new merry band of misfits, Michonne and Carl getting to know each other and Rick hiding under a bed.
This is perhaps the most tonally inconsistent episode of the show so far. The audience is treated to a smorgasbord of plot elements. We have humour, warm fuzzy moments, art appreciation, murder/suicide, murderous intruders, action film escapes, mullets and hot pants. Non of it blends together well and the episode seems schizophrenic as it can't decide on what it wants to achieve. This is mainly due to Rick's portion of the episode.
When dealing with Glenn, Carl and Michonne there is a levity that is juxtaposed with some hard hitting moments. They maybe heavy handed narratives, but at least they both go together. Rick's seems to be from another show entirely. It was more reminiscent of 24 than The Walking Dead as we see an injured Rick hide and fight his way out of the house. In a world full of zombies this is perhaps the most absurd thing the show has ever done. Rick is not Jack Bauer, but here we are watching him strangle people in the bathroom and stealth his way out. It is all very unnecessary, action and tension for the sake of it. It is as if the showrunners are scared of having another episode without Rick. Also the way director Seith Mann handles the whole escapade actually makes it unintentionally laughable as opposed to tense. Having the intruders move close to Rick but not see him (apart from the dying man cliché) was bordering on slapstick. It was all a waste of the episodes running time.
This is in stark contrast to the Michonne/Carl narrative. This actually seems useful as the characters are explored more and their friendship strengthened. Carl may not be many peoples favourite character, but at least his interactions with Michonne have a point. Danai Gurira continues to evolve Michonne into an actual character. Writers Nichole Beattie and Seth Hoffman give Gurira a lot to do and she brings a warmth to her performance that really sells Michonne's scenes. Chandler Riggs does his best, but Carl isn't as compelling as he was last time. It may not forward the grand plot, but these two characters are quickly becoming the heart of the show due to their friendship.
It is down to Glenn to come in an move the plot forward. This episode drops a massive new plot point in the form of Eugene "mullet master" Porter (Josh McDermitt), who apparently can help fix the world. It is a moment that will have fans of the comic screaming at the TV. Porter is joined by Abraham "not a natural redhead" Ford (Michael Cudlitz) and Rosita "Only here as eye candy" Espinosa (Christian Serratos). Together they are on their way to Washington, D.C. to get Porter to the people in charge. However Glenn is obsessed with going back for Maggie and his stubbornness gets him into a scuffle with Ford. This is all very standard Walking Dead territory as we get the obligatory zombies being killed sequence and little in the way of character development. Only Ford gets to shine really as the soldier with a mission, the rest (including Glenn) seem to have little to do. Well that is not entirely true as Tara has a few lines, but Alanna Masterson's delivery ranges from wooden to annoying. This whole section isn't bad and does have some interesting elements, but it is like the show is treading water whenever Glenn and his friends are on screen.
So, "Claimed" marks another step down in quality for the show. The inconsistent tone makes it difficult to care for anything that is happening. The only real success is in the development of Carl and Michonne's friendship. The whole thing would have benefited if Rick's plot had been omitted. Average viewing at best.
4.5 conveniently stupid intruders out of 10
Review by @gizmo151183