The Walking Dead has never been a funny show. Its grim subject matter and gruesome visual style easily make it the most miserable show on TV, one where you're always wincing rather than laughing. But what do you expect. In the world depicted, where people are just trying to survive, who has time to play?
This was one of the themes addressed in this week's episode, Claimed, as Michonne (Danai Gurira) divulged more of her back story as she bonded with Carl (Chandler Riggs), a weakened Rick (Andrew Lincoln) survived a terrifying home invasion, and Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) managed to finally persuade the new trio of Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) to go back down the road for Maggie rather than continue up to the capital.
Michonne's backstory was teased in episode 9 in a dream sequence that felt strangely out of place with the gritty realism in the rest of the show. We knew she once had a boyfriend and baby, but as she attempts to engage Carl she reveals his name, Andre Anthony, and that he was lost not long after the apocalypse occurred.
It was another significant stride by the show's writers to make Michonne a more rounded character. Her attempts to make Carl laugh were great to watch, and I'm sure there's already dozens of gifs online of her eating 'crazy cheese' for his amusement. Michonne's humour is checked when on a supply run she finds a room full of family members who have simultaneously committed suicide. In a neat visual touch by the set director, it takes place in a room where the word 'play' is described in colourful letters right behind her, emphasising the joyful innocence that has been lost in this world.
The weak Rick stays behind to rest, but soon finds himself in a terrifying 'Home Alone' scenario in which he must escape from a group of threatening strangers. Director Seith Mann captures Rick's fear in claustrophobic close-ups, first from under the bed where he waits for a chance to escape, and later as he goes about the rooms and peers down the stairs, desperately hoping not to be caught.
The scenes are all delivered with quiet, slow-built tension, the only major action taking place in near silence as Rick is forced to strangle one of the strangers to death. It reminded Rick once more that they can't treat anywhere as home, and pushed the trio on the path towards the mysterious 'Terminus' where a promised sanctuary exists.
Saving the World
It gives them something to live for, in the same way that Glenn lives to find Maggie, and Tara to prove to herself that after what happened at the prison she can be a good person.
The three strangers, butch ginger soldier Sergeant Abraham Ford, Lara Croft lookalike Rosita, and deadpan scientist Eugene, have their own agenda.
Abraham tells Glenn he can't leave but is needed as part of their plan to "save the world" in Washington DC. The importance of the mission lies in the fact Eugene claims to know what caused the zombie outbreak, but as he insists it's classified we're left to decide whether he is lying or telling the truth.
One thing is for sure, and that is he can't handle a weapon. When a fight breaks out between Glenn and Abraham, he is left to shoot out the zombies, but ends up taking out the truck's gas tank in the process. The group end up with no choice but to follow Glenn and Tara back down the road towards the bus. Glenn's desire to find Maggie against Abraham's desire to reach DC shows the contrast between living and surviving, but for now it seems saving the world will have to wait.