This week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” may have saved the entire show from becoming its namesake: a lifeless, pointless shell of what could have been that somehow still trudges along week after week.

With a break from the Woodbury drama and the epic (however morbid) return of Morgan, we got to see Rick, Carl, and Michonne undergo much needed character development. Although the reason for these three specifically banding up for a gun run was shaky, I was willing to ignore the gap in logic and see what the writers had in store for a group I was really beginning to despise.

Let’s go character by character.

Oh, Rick. In my last “Walking Dead” review, I argued that the show will eventually deviate completely from the comics, turning the overall plot of the series into Rick’s ultimate downfall as he struggles to maintain his humanity in the undead dystopia.

I think this still holds true. Each major villain (Shane, and now the Governor) has served as a major obstacle for Rick to overcome, but more than that, they paint the picture of what Rick may become as he is further desensitized by unending cannibalism and the extinction of human decency.

This week, this method of foreshadowing bled over to Rick’s friends.

With the anticipated return of Morgan (who hasn’t made an appearance since the pilot), we see a man who started in almost identical conditions to Rick. Two and a half seasons later, we are left to fill in the gaps for Morgan’s unfortunate journey. Though the death of his son explains his lunacy to a certain extent, we must complete the chilling task of picturing how slow and tortuous his descension into psychosis really was.

If it happened to this man, why not Rick? Morgan’s wife died. So did Rick’s, and I would argue in a much more horrific way. Morgan is insane to the point that he holed himself up in a self-made armory, shooting at and stabbing his one friend in the world (Rick) while spewing psychobabble. Though not as intense, Rick has had a habit this season of chasing hallucinations outside the prison wall all by his lonesome self, pointing toward his growing instability.

So what’s to say Rick won’t eventually let his hallucinations take over, much like Morgan?

Carl, of course. For one, the turning of Morgan’s son Duane is the most apparent reason for Morgan losing it. Furthermore, the death of Laurie is what caused Rick’s own beginning stages of psychosis, so the death of his son would arguably complete the job.

Which brings me to my rant on Carl. We’ve all hated on Carl at some point, and this week seemed like another dose of “Carl, stay in the house… Wait, where the hell is Carl?” However, we see that the true intention of his mission this time around is to provide his baby sister with a somewhat normal upbringing by finding the one remaining picture of his family in his hometown diner.

Maybe it’s just the fact that I have younger sisters, but for some reason, I kind of liked Carl this week. For those who still hate the character, this is actually good news.

Think about it. First, it is much more effective and heartbreaking to kill off a character that audiences like, especially one that they have grown to like over time. Second, the war between Woodbury and the prison has to end with at least one major character being killed off. Lastly, Carl is one of Rick’s few motivations for staying sane, with the baby coming in a distant second. Killing Carl would drive Rick that much closer to insanity, his only link to real world being his baby daughter.

But I think the greatest beacon of hope for the future in this week’s episode was Michonne. I won’t say much, but it’s nice to see that a comicbook fan favorite has finally went from a mopey, background character with the occasional katana slice to a full-on badass who actually has speaking lines and the ability to crack a joke. Maybe the writers do care about what fans want.

And my final point: the hitchhiker. The gang won’t stop for a desperate man on the street as they drive past, but they will stop to pick up his backpack amidst his torn remains on the way back.

If this show is really about the downfall of the average human (centered in Rick), then this was the greatest way of showing that these people have stopped living and instead are only trying to survive.

It makes you wonder: Who are they really referring to by calling it “The Walking Dead”?

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