The Walking Dead "Claimed" Review: Characters Welcome

By Tim Surette

Feb 24, 2014

The Walking Dead S04E11: "Claimed"


I don't ask for a lot from The Walking Dead: 1.) Make me feel something, 2.) Scare the piss out of me, and 3.) Give me an idea of where we're going. And obviously 4.) Make sure there are zombies, lots and lots of zombies, but that should go without saying. The first two episodes of this half-season had bits and pieces of those first three items, but only in small doses, and it certainly didn't employ them with a high-enough level of competence. So I was forced to heckle them from afar like a jerk. 

Well, I'll shut my trap now, as I quite liked "Claimed." It was split into three stories that covered each of my desired elements, making it easily the best episode of the back half of Season 4, even though it was also the quietest. "Claimed" is the kind of blueprint The Walking Dead could use for a better future. 

Because the group is still shattered into a handful of pieces after the hoedown at the prison, The Walking Dead still has to pick and choose which stories to focus on until enough wandering around brings everybody together again. That means individual episodes can't cover every character. "Claimed" turned to Maggie and said "Sorry, you're riding the pine!" (Ditto for Bob and Sasha.) And Tyreese, Carol, and Dumb and Dumber got to take a day off. And Beth and Daryl's game of silver lining versus just the raincloud was postponed for at least another week. That left us with Rick, Carl, and Michonne, plus Glenn, Tara, and their new military friends. Screen time is becoming more precious than ammo in this world, and until everyone reunites for a big group hug, the stories will shrink and we'll see smaller micro-arcs instead of the larger group dynamics of an ensemble drama. (I'm not totally sure it'll work, but if The Walking Dead handles things like it did in "Claimed," it should be alright.)

So what did "Claimed" do? It split up Carl, Michonne, and Rick—a group that just got together—into two different tales: "Carl and Michonne the supply runners," and "Rick Grimes in Home Alone." I feared we were headed for a palm-meets-face situation, but both stories were pretty good! We'll start with Carl and Michonne because they've become the Abbott & Costello of the group, one of the series' best pairings. I'm not sure why, but there's always little bit of magic when these two get together. Remember when they retrieved the Grimes' family photo in "Clear"? They embarked on a similar outing in "Claimed," with emotional walls slowly collapsing between two characters who have a tendency to hide behind them (while that can be said about pretty much every character on this show, Michonne clearly trumps Carl in the category).  


Michonne and Carl's adventure began with breakfast cereal and an argument over the deliciousness of soy milk, which chiseled away at whatever barrier Carl had built to forget that Judith was DEAD (she's not dead). It continued with a demented game 20 Questions that focused on Michonne's past life (one kid, Andre Anthony). And the wrecking ball hit hard when Michonne found a family of corpses that appeared to have perished via murder-murder-murder-murder-suicide, with four children carefully positioned in their beds after being put out of their misery and a mother painting the wall behind her with her brains, though that's just my interpretation. Ugh, just thinking about that actually going down makes my heart weep, and I'll never get tired of the untold stories left behind by those who've died. But the real kicker was Carl telling Michonne that maybe Judith and Andre Anthony were playing together in the real afterlife (or maybe they're just zombies playing house somewhere). It was a common thread—the loss of a tiny loved one—that united two very, very different people, and dammit, it was sweet. There's that "make me feel something" component that I was asking for. 

In the meantime, Rick was just looking to chillax with some Jack London when a bunch of human jackals broke into the house and pinned him inside. I don't know who these guys were or how they survived for so long seeing how stupid and pissy they were to each other, but they served their purpose as (mostly) faceless intruders putting pressure on Rick to think fast and not die. Their arrival didn't really serve any importance except to make us pee a little, and thanks to plenty of tension and some near misses, my jorts got a little moist. Anyway, it was enough "scare the piss out of me"—even if the threat was a simple human one—so check that box off.

But remember how I said the home invaders were stupid? Well, they were really stupid. Not only were they choking each other out over a BED (in what was surely a two- or three-bedroom home, with at least some comfy couches to supplement the "kids' beds"), but some of them were willing to move on while the rest of their party was either unconscious or in the bathroom. And what about that dude who was in the bathroom? Not only did he not say a word when Rick barged in (how about locking the door next time?), but he was sitting on the toilet with his pants up and his shoes off. What mysterious bodily function or private-time restroom activity was this man engaged in? Was he clipping his toenails? Was he having himself a healthy cry? Does he have some perverse fetish that involves smelling his own feet? The world needs to know about this weird man! Get me Scott Gimple, the writer of this episode, on the phone! 


And in our third story, Tara and Glenn rode along with the season's new characters. Let's meet 'em officially, shall we? First there's Sergeant Abraham Ford, who should be your new favorite character already. And I do mean "new favorite character," not "favorite new character," because I LOVE THIS DUDE. He's a realist, probably to a fault, and better yet, he's played by Southland's Michael Cudlitz. As soon as he said his first line at the end of last week's episode, he became The Walking Dead's best actor. Man, this show needed him. With Ford was Rosita Espinoza, the woman wearing the sexy army girl Halloween costume who is probably zombie chow, and Dr. Eugene Porter, a scientist who knew what caused this whole mess in the first place. 

That last detail... pretty darned big! I suppose I should say that The Walking Dead has now made it past where I've read in the source comics so I don't know how anything turns out, but the idea that might get some answers regarding how the zombie apocalypse happened presents a new goal for the series. I've always assumed The Walking Dead wouldn't ever search for a cause or a cure, and that it would be a never-ending zombie horror. But a character knowing the cause is the first step to knowing the cure, and this might be the biggest step The Walking Dead has ever taken toward setting an eventual end date. Unless Eugene is full of baloney—then it's back to everbody wandering around and watching Rick grumble. Anyway, the cause of the outbreak presents a big question that The Walking Dead can answer. It gave me an idea—or at least the illusion—of where we are going, and that's worth more than a hundred zombie headshots. An idea of where we're going! The trifecta is complete. 

Of course, knowing this show's pace, getting there could be a long way off, if it happens at all. At least we have The Terminus to look forward to in the meantime! Tyreese, Carol, Lizzie, Myka, and Judith are on their way there. Rick, Michonne, and Carl are headed there, too. And Glenn, Tara, Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene were following some train tracks, so maybe they'll end up there as well. 

One of the reasons I stopped reading the comics is that eventually, the story was more of the same, over and over again. That kind of repetition is a better model for a comic book than a television show, and I think that if The Walking Dead: TV Edition wants to survive, it might have to adopt a more traditional TV model. Of course, we're talking about the biggest show on television right now, so there's a better chance that a real zombie apocalypse will happen before AMC ever cancels it. But I'm hearing more and more people say that they're quitting The Walking Dead, and I'm hearing fewer and fewer people are talk about how excited they are to sit down and watch it. I regularly find myself going back and forth, but then a well-written episode like "Claimed" pulls me back in with the belief that The Walking Dead can still tell interesting stories. Let's hope it continues.



NOTES

– Seriously, who wakes up in a zombie apocalypse and puts on short shorts, hoop earrings, and a midriff-baring shirt then puts her hair in pig tails? I could never trust a person who looked that during the rise of the undead. But a dirty wifebeater and a handlebar mustache? I'm following that guy.

– I'm still trying to wrap my head around Michonne's transformation. The Walking Dead is eager to spill the beans on her character's backstory after keeping a lid on it for so long, and that's resulted in a much more personable Michonne who pours Easy Cheese into her mouth. I'm not sure her current arc qualifies as character development; it's more like the show is taking her in a different direction. The Walking Dead's writers' room probably had "HUMANIZE MICHONNE" underlined in big red marker on the whiteboard. Or maybe she's just comfortable around Carl? Either way, it's worth noting that Gimple also wrote "Clear," which was Michonne's other big, big episode

– I loved Carl's story about his friend being allergic to dairy and how he almost threw up drinking soy milk. It was a character moment that made him feel real. Now if only Chandler Riggs could sell it better...

– So, last week zombies were attracted to fire, and this week they were attracted to Mylar balloons? They're getting dumber as the show progresses.

– Eugene's explanation of how he killed the truck: "A fully amped-up state and an ignorance of rapid-fire weapons." Very nice, Eugene.


  • Comments (286)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • milanz Apr 20, 2014

    Guys, really? When Glenn asked Eugene what happened, what caused everything, Eugene replied something like: it's confidentional. And there is no reaction from Glenn. WTF? You spent year or more fighting this and when some fat idiot (who appears to have all the answers) says: it's confidentional - you just give up? LOL! Stupid, at best.

  • bevjames8526 Mar 03, 2014

    So why is Rosita dressed like GI Hoe?

  • Ankh49 Mar 02, 2014

    I know personal grooming is difficult during a zombie apocalypse but a scientist with a mullet? Nope. Can't take him seriously. He looks too much like Kenny Powers.

  • kremmid Feb 27, 2014

    Really didn't like the last two episodes. I can't help it, but I really REALLY don't like the two little girls. They feel so out of place and forced. Kinda liked bunnykilling psychohead Lizzie because it presents a new kind of unpredictable danger and a setup for (if done right) some interesting plotpoints, but I just can't get around the 'overacting child-syndrome'.

    That being said, I was fairly satisfied with 'Claimed'. It went back to the basics by focussing more on the threats that come from human nature rather than just being sneaked upon by a loudly moaning zombie that for some reason no one ever sees coming. That's what made the first season great for me: It was about humans, not zombies. Having read the comics, I might have an idea about where the show is going, and if they are true to them, some awesome surprises are coming!

  • fangtasiaforev Feb 27, 2014

    As much as I've always looked forward to this show I'm starting to worry. Season after season we hoped for something more, but now I'm wondering if it peaked in the beginning of the first past of this season. Ever since the Governor came back it's been going down hill. Now that it's back it's hard to look forever to each episode if we're being forced to sit through Beth's narration or someone shooting at a truck facing away from the zombies he's shooting. I hope it gets better but I'm starting to think it won't.

  • DonRowe Feb 27, 2014

    I'm getting pretty tired of all the characters (main and support) being so painfully dumb. More than that, these shambling zombies are becoming ridiculously easy to outsmart (e.g. distracted by fire... seriously?!).

    The zombie apocalypse universe is essentially redundant now because the zombies only pose a threat when you stand still with your back to them staring blankly at the middle distance thinking about how much you miss crazy cheese.

  • Misao_83 Feb 26, 2014

    I didn´t enjoy it as much as last week, I don´t know wgy, but it seems a bit...empty

  • Svanehjerte Feb 26, 2014

    I was so excited when they met up with those new characters who seemed to be after a cause and possibly a cure. It made it seem like the series could finally get a real plot, but no... They had to follow stupid Glenn to find Maggie... Gosh, this show will just go on and on in the same manner it always has - survive and nothing more. What's the point? If that was all there is, if that hopelessness was all there was, why bother?

  • Dirk13 Feb 26, 2014

    Were you paying attention though? Their ride was busted (I was surprised they weren't more pissed about that though), and they didn't have much of a choice. They were safer with two more capable zombie killers, and they even vocally agreed that once they found a suitable automobile they'd be back on their way (this may not go as planned obviously).

    I mean, it may annoy you, but it makes sense and stuff at least.

  • Svanehjerte Feb 26, 2014

    I know the truck got busted, BUT they could have walked in the direction they were headed, in stead of going BACK. They could have forced Glenn if they wanted to. I know it wouldn't have helped or worked, but it was annoying nonetheless and Glenn was annoying. I wanted that storyline more than I want to see the lovebirds reunite and be boring together again. They were better characters before they got together, especially Glenn.

  • vcivi Feb 26, 2014

    Loved Michonne this episode...she really started to open up. She looked different...she was laughing and having fun with Carl...
    Was exiting scene with Rick under the bed....for a moment i thought he would get caught....but thank god, he got away...
    Like you said in the review...not much happened, but in the same time a lot happened.

    Glen and Tara...first of all, i don't believe for a second that that guy is a doctor who can solve the issue...he looked like a idiot!!
    Second i thought that Glenn was really strong in this scene. He stood his ground and now they are even following him...

    Loved the end on the tracks..they are all going the same way, so hopefully soon they will be reunited...

  • ale00928 Feb 26, 2014

    One surprising thing I (we all) learned in this episode is that MICHONNE is FUNNY. She is a revelation, and nobody can tell me that when she first appeared with Andrea, or while she had those malicious looks at The Governor, or later on her free lodging at The Hostel Prison that Michonne besides been a close relative to The Bride (Kill Bill?) she could also been a clown. Not the best episode, but Michonne Funny made it worth watching.


  • MollyScandalicious Mar 02, 2014

    Disgusting! The pic i mean.

  • ale00928 Mar 02, 2014

    Well, Michonne was trying to be funny. Give her that ;)

  • See More Comments (120)