Smarter Than You: A Review of The Walking Dead Season 4, Episode 11 “Claimed”

Posted: February 24, 2014 in Reviews, The Walking Dead, TV
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Last week saw us catching up with several of the scattered survivors from The Governor’s attack on the prison, and the addition of three new characters right at the very end of the episode. Abraham got to speak one line, and a pretty badass line it was; how about the other two, Eugene and Rosita? What do these newcomers bring to the table? And how will the game change over the back half of Season Four? The title for tonight’s episode – “Claimed” – suggests ownership, and perhaps disagreement; claims lead to counterclaims, and sometimes more than one person wants the same thing bad enough to fight for it. Click through after the break to see how things turn out.

<<Spoiler Alert: The following review will discuss at length plot points of The Walking Dead S04E11, “Claimed.” Read more at your own risk.>>

The episode opens as Abraham’s truck goes down a country road, passing a road sign saying Crook Rd. In the back of the truck, Tara writes this down on her hand with a marker, also noting that there was a balloon hanging from the signpost, and we see that there are several other street names and landmarks written down on her arms. A few walkers are following them, and Abraham pulls over. Tara gets out, getting a machine gun ready, but Abraham exits the cab and tells her not to fire the weapon. He dispatches the three, smiling and speaking with them, telling one female walker that she’s looking a bit worn out. Tara questions his apparent glee, and he can’t really explain why he’s so happy – I don’t think he’s particularly psychotic; why shouldn’t he take pleasure in putting down more walkers? Better him than they, is how he seems to see things.

In the house, Carl and Michonne are eating cereal with water. She’s wearing a large man’s dress shirt, and she asks Carl if she likes her new fashion sense, making him smile. She laments not having soy milk to put on her cereal, and Carl laughs. He tells her that the one time he tried it, he threw up. She calls him on that, and he admits he’s exaggerating, but that he’d rather have powdered milk than soy, that he’d rather have Judith’s formula. This halts him in his tracks, and he becomes sad – he hadn’t thought of Judith for a bit, and he feels guilty for forgetting her long enough to laugh. Michonne goes to the kitchen, where Rick thanks her for making Carl laugh. They decide to stay at the house until they can figure out their next step, and Michonne takes Carl scavenging, talking Rick out of going with them so that he can recuperate further. Rick gives Carl his handgun, and tells them to be careful – Michonne says they’ll be back soon. Rick barricades the front door, and goes upstairs carrying a book of short stories by Jack London. He checks out his bandages, and lies down in the master bedroom to get some rest. Meanwhile, we see Michonne and Carl leaving a house, their bags partly full. Michonne asks Carl what’s wrong, and he says he’s just tired. She tries to get him to laugh by spraying Crazy Cheese (a spray type cheese in a can) all over her mouth and making zombie sounds, but he’s still in a bit of a funk. He tells her he was laughing on the inside. Michonne does something surprising at this point: she decides to open up to Carl about her past. She sees his pain, and recognizes it in herself. Further, she is thinking about how far from humanity she’d removed herself in dealing with her grief, and how hard it was for her to come back. We saw two weeks ago how close she was to just giving up on people and on life, and she’s afraid that Carl might start going down that same path. So instead of watching him and allowing him to internalize his grief, she opens enough of herself to let him know that he isn’t alone in this particular journey. She tells him that she used to have a three-year old who found her very funny, thank you very much. He’s fascinated – this is a side of Michonne he’s yet to see – and he starts asking her a bunch of questions. She makes him a deal: one question per room, and only once they’ve cleared and scavenged it.

Back at their refuge, Rick is asleep, and seems to be dreaming, listening to a bunch of rowdy voices apparently arguing and bantering. He opens his eyes; it isn’t a dream. He hears someone coming upstairs, and rolls off the bed and beneath it just in time to avoid being seen. He reaches for his holster, but it’s empty, Carl carrying the gun he gave him earlier. He sees a man from the waist down walking around carrying an automatic rifle. He comes into the bedroom, and Rick is literally dripping sweat on the floor. He’s tense, he’s trying to stay quiet, and his beat-up body is having a difficult time staying still and allowing him to maintain his position. The man lies down, and the bottom of the springs press Rick even closer to the floor.

Michonne and Carl are still scavenging, and Michonne is looking at a series of amateur paintings, likely done by a child’s hand. The one she’s perusing is of two bunnies, which brings to mind the contrast between the innocent of small, fluffy animal babies, and the kind of mind that would allow someone to take pleasure in killing them – it’s good that even here, in an episode without Lizzie, that we’re reminded of the contrast between her and some of the other survivors, while at the same time we’re made to question both the value of innocence, and even the possibility thereof in a world such as this. They’ve cleared a room, so Carl asks Michonne what her son’s name was. “Andre,” she says, “Andre Anthony.” In the next room, as she looks at a painting of a sunflower, she tells him that she only had the one child. Carl checks out the hallway, and brings Michonne a painting that is sealed in paper. He asks her if it counts as scavenge, as it was all he could find. She smiles and tells him yes, and he asks what happened to Andre. She doesn’t go into details, but does tell him that she lost her son after the events that woke the dead began. He asks why his dad never told him about Michonne’s son, and she says it’s because Rick doesn’t know. He tells her that her secret is safe with her, but she denies that it’s a secret, almost looking surprised at her own words. Carl goes into another room to clear it, gun drawn. Michonne unwraps the painting, and is disturbed to see that it is a portrait of a woman, her eye and mouth crossed out in paint, streaks of more appearing behind her. She looks up at the door against which the painting was laid, and she approaches it carefully, hand on her hilt. She opens the door – it’s a children’s bathroom. A second interior door leads her into what appears to be a boy’s room. One final door, opening into a very pink room with two beds. On each are laid two corpses, two adults or large children on one, two small children on the other. The corpses are desiccated, their eyes gone. They’ve not turned into walkers, because they were all dispatched with wounds to the head. When Michonne turns away from them, she sees a fifth corpse sitting in a chair, a self-inflicted gunshot wound having blown out the back of its skull. The entire family chose to go out together, rather than trying to survive in this horror show of a world. Michonne is clearly struggling with her emotions, especially considering how close to the surface her own feelings are right now as she opens up to Carl. She leaves the room, and Carl is coming through the boy’s room. She shuts the door behind her, and looks afraid that he might try to get past. He want to know what’s behind the door, and she tells him it’s nothing, that “It’s a dog.” He knows she’s lying, but doesn’t push her, instead saying that he hopes that somewhere Andre and Judith might be playing together.

Back with Rick, the man on the bed has begun to snore, so he tries to edge his way out from under the bed. Just as he does so, however, he hears a voice calling upstairs. Another man arrives, and he tells the man on the bed to get up, that he wants to use it. The first man refuses, and the two get into a fight. The first man ends up on the floor, and just as the second man puts him in a choke hold, he turns and sees Rick – but the choke hold means that he can’t warn his buddy/assailant about the potential danger right beneath them. He passes out, and the second man throws himself on the bed, one foot hanging off.

We go back to Abraham’s truck, where Glenn comes too and groggily assesses his situation. He asks Tara if they’ve passed the bus, and she tells him that they did, three hours before. He asks what she saw, and she tells him that everyone was dead. He yells for Abraham to stop the truck, and Abraham gives him the finger through the cab window. Glenn grabs a machine gun, and begins to hit the butt against the window, cracking it and getting Abraham’s attention. He stops, and Glen grabs his pack and hops off the back, beginning to walk back down the road. Abraham catches up, physically impedes Glenn from going back, and introduces himself and his two companions, Rosita and Eugene. He tells him that he needs Glenn to help him with his mission, a mission to get Eugene to DC. He tells him that “Eugene is a scientist, and he knows exactly what caused this mess.” Glenn won’t bite – he wants to find Maggie, and he knows that she will have gone after the bus. Tara tells him that she knows the way back, that she’s been taking notes of landmarks along the way. Abraham, however, won’t give up, telling Glenn that Maggie’s dead, and that there’s “no need for you to die, too.” Glenn, pauses, looking down, seeming to weigh Abraham’s words; instead, he’s trying to control his rage, and turning, punches Abraham square on the jaw, nearly knocking the much larger man down. Abraham comes after Glenn, tackling him, and they roll around on the ground fighting, while both Tara and Rosita try to separate them. Back at the truck, Eugene sees several walkers, attracted by the noise, coming out of the nearby cornfield. He grabs an automatic rifle, and seems to struggle with it as he attempts to turn off the safety. He tries to get Abraham’s attention, but he isn’t hearing anything as he struggles with Glenn, so Eugene opens fire, spraying the area around the walkers randomly. This gets everyone else’s attention, and they come to Eugene’s aid, each of them grabbing guns and efficiently dealing with the threat. As the last one falls, Abraham takes the gun from Eugene and, squatting beside the truck, sees that the gas tank has several holes in it, and that the gas is pouring out. In a great moment of descriptive narrative, Abraham says, “Son of a dick.”

Back in the house, Rick listens as thug number two’s breathing gets regular, and he tries to get out from under the bed once more, almost waking the man when he bumps into his hanging foot. He gets out, and leaves the room carefully, as he hears two more men talking downstairs. They’ve found Michonne’s shirt, and realize that it’s just been washed – they argue mildly over who gets to have her first when she comes back. He hears a steady thumping – thug number three is bouncing a tennis ball on the floor as he walks. Rick scrambles into a child’s room – the one where Carl found the wires two weeks ago – and tries to open the windows, but none will budge. He hides behind a bookshelf as the thug comes up right beside him, bouncing the ball against the wall, but not seeing Rick. As the thug moves again, Rick changes rooms, backing into a bathroom and closing the door behind him. He turns – there’s another thug on the toilet, looking totally shocked at Rick’s sudden appearance. Rick hits him hard in the belly, and the two struggle. He gets the man’s gun, and begins to strangle him with the shoulder strap, as the thug tries to get his hands on a pair of scissors on the bathroom counter. He can’t quite reach them, and his struggles cease as he dies and Rick takes him to the floor. He opens the door to the bathroom a bit, and then climbs out the window, carrying the thug’s gun with him. Carefully, he checks through the windows he can reach, and then lowers himself to the veranda below, making noise as the eaves trough bends, but not getting anyone’s attention. He gets down into the yard, and then begins to edge around to the front of the house, hugging the walls. He hears the tennis ball guy again, this time out front, and he crouches beneath the front porch, trying to make himself small.

On the road, Abraham is trying to repair the gas tank, and he asks Eugene how he could have managed to break the truck, after he’s scene similar vehicles survive much more dangerous situations. Eugene mumbles something about not having received proper training with automatic weapons. Glenn approaches Abraham, thanks him, and hands him the machine gun he used earlier, turning and walking up the road. Tara hands Rosita her gun, and follows Glenn. Rosita looks at them, looks at Abraham, and then starts to follow Glenn as well. Abraham begins to complain, but Eugene interrupts him. He tells him the way back is clear, the way forward uncertain, and they should go back to find a vehicle. “Trust me,” he says. “I’m smarter than you.” Abraham takes that in stride, and begins to follow Eugene.

Back at the house, Rick is still trying to look small. The tennis ball man bounces the ball, and then sits almost directly above Rick. Rick looks up, only to see Michonne and Carl approaching. He grits his teeth, and decides to take out the thug before he sees them too; however, as he braces and lunges, the sound of a walker, followed by a gunshot, comes from inside the house. The man with the tennis ball runs inside, and Rick runs to Michonne and Carl, the three of them moving quickly away from the house. Looks like opening the bathroom door paid off for Rick, as the guy he killed rose at a very helpful moment.

Everyone’s now on the road. Abraham is walking with Tara, talking to her about Glenn. He tells her that he knows she’s a good person, because Glenn’s a good person, and she’s following him. She laughs at this, and points out that they don’t know each other at all, and suggests that following doesn’t make her good. Her memories of The Governor are far too fresh – remember, it’s been at most a day or two since the attack on the prison – and she knows exactly the price one might have to pay for following. She and Lily thought that The Governor was good when they met him, and paid a huge price for that mistake. Abraham hints at having a few secrets, and looks taken aback that Tara doesn’t seem to appreciate his compliments. I wonder what exactly he is hiding?

And back near the small town, Rick, Carl, and Michonne have made their way to the railroad tracks, presumably the same ones we saw last week. Michonne asks Carl if he wants some Crazy Cheese, and he scoffs at her good-naturedly. They’re passing a boxcar, when they stop. There’s a sign attached to it, tied on by rope, and part of it protected under plastic. It’s a signpost for Terminus, and after a moment’s consultation, they decide to go there.

Tonight’s episode had some truly horror-movie quality moments of tension, especially in the scenes involving Rick in the house with the group of intruders. His fear was palpable, and it didn’t involve any talking. Andrew Lincoln is a strong physical actor, and his lack of dialogue here meant that he could portray the fear at a much more visceral level. It works for me much better than when he’s telling people he’s scared, and seemed a lot more genuine. In addition, I feel that it’s inevitable that this group of men will show up again later this season. Is it possible that they’re part of the Terminus settlement Tyreese, Rick, and the rest are heading toward? Michonne and Carl’s friendship, something that was established back in Episode 401 when she brought him back some comics, develops nicely here, where they both get to share some grief and some happiness. As Rick tells Michonne in the kitchen, he can’t be both Carl’s father and his best friend, and lacking anyone around his own age, it’s nice that Michonne is able to fill that void a bit – and Carl, conversely, fills the void left in her life as well. The second best horror scene was in the girl’s bedroom where Michonne found the dead family, but it had a certain bittersweet quality, as at least they had chosen to leave this world together. Still, the diorama of death Michonne stumbles upon was particularly gruesome. Abraham and his crew got a little bit of development tonight, and we found out that Mr. Mullet may be very important indeed. If he does know what caused the plague that raised the dead, and they can get him to the scientists in DC, it could be a game changer. Glenn, who is one of my favorite characters, showed great strength tonight, standing up to a much larger man and standing up for his beliefs. He’s going to find Maggie, no matter who he has to go through to get there. It’s also nice to see that Tara has developed a real loyalty to him – he’s a survivor, and a good guy, and she obviously feels that she needs to make amends for her actions on behalf of The Governor.

With Rick, Carl, and Michonne on the road to Terminus, Glenn, Abraham and company heading back toward the prison, Tyreese, Carol and the girls heading in the same direction as Rick, we’re just left with the Daryl/Beth and Maggie/Sasha/Bob groups. Next week will likely be following them, and I think we’re going to see some of the groups meet up in Episode 412, giving us the last four episodes of the season to develop the impending Terminus storyline. As I mentioned in my sneak peek, Terminus is something I’ve no knowledge about whatsoever, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing how things develop over the next few weeks.

Steve’s Grade: B+
Another solid episode with some great horror qualities, something that is occasionally forgotten in a series that is ultimately about the dead walking the Earth. Glenn is on a mission, one that is at odds with Abraham’s, although it appears they’ll work together – for now. And Rick, Carl, and Michonne are heading towards the settlement ominously called Terminus.

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  1. Dan says:

    I thought the best line of the night was Eugene’s.

    Abraham: How did you manage to kill the truck?
    Eugene: A fully amped-up state and an ignorance of rapid-fire weapons”

    He did ask…

    Better show tonight, for my money. I am excited about Abraham and Eugene. Seems like some genuine comedy potential there.

    There were a few signature credibility holes: Why would you choke a guy out then fall asleep, leaving yourself completely vulnerable to an inevitable retaliation upon waking up? Why didn’t Eugene just run over to Abraham and Glenn when they ignored his shouts and he couldn’t figure the gun out? Or he could have just screamed “ZOMBIES,” that would surely have roused them. In fact, why would Glenn risk completely re-crippling himself in a fight with an army guy when he was faced with a lone trek to find Maggie? I know that the mistreatment by Merle and the Governor has turned Glenn from the sneaky-scavenger-kid into the pent-up-rage merchant (replacing Shane, and allowing Carl to assume his old role) — but Glenn seems too smart to let a badly mismatched fight potentially end any chance of seeing Maggie again.

    The first zombie fight was one of the best I’ve seen on the show in ages. The botched brain-piercing and makeshift head-crushings lent a bit of texture to what have become pretty bland slayings of late. Abraham’s goading of the zombies was grimly amusing. Previously if a character showed such bad taste it would indicate their imminent death, or the fact that they are EVIL! With Abraham, I get the feeling we’re dealing with a genuinely nuanced character. And Eugene? A nice mystery to give the show some needed direction.

    Good stuff.

    • zillwood says:

      And don’t forget Rosita, because. Um. Well, she’ll be developed later, I’m assuming. I did find it odd that Tara would tell Abraham that Rosita was in love with him – even though she was pretty quick to throw her lot in with Glenn. I thought the sequence in the house with the intruders was among the best this season, and I have high hopes for Terminus, as it isn’t something that’s in the comics. I have some ideas what it might be (as they often amalgamate ideas/characters), but don’t want to say lest I spoil things.

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