‘The Walking Dead’: Inside the Show’s Recent Origin Story
The Walking Dead aired its fourth episode of Season 6 on Sunday night. Needless to say, it was a bit of a digression. Sometimes, however, these short detours are healthy. The episode, “Here’s Not Here,” outlines Morgan’s spiritual journey after he left Rick’s company early on, but before he reappears in Season 5.
All things considered, the episode is kind of sluggish, compared to what we’ve become used to with the first three episodes. What’s more, there are no answers about Glenn’s fate (and Rick’s for that matter). There are no answers about the movement of “the herd.” But there are plenty of answers, gifted in small doses. That is, episode writer Scott M. Gimple drops us into Morgan’s frenetic trials and tribulations, while he’s alone after the death of his family.
The non-sequential episode shows Morgan corralling and swiftly killing walkers and people alike. At this point, he is still using weapons, and does not hesitate to kill. You can be assured that any signs of pacifism had not crossed his mind.
Altogether, the episode provides viewers with a much-needed synopsis for Morgan as a character, as a human. While he’s always been a fan favorite, up until November 1’s episode, he was still something of a cardboard cutout, or two-dimensional. Sure, fans have already seen what’s happened to his family. And, they already know that Rick spoke into the radio hoping to communicate with his season one friend. But still, Morgan was lacking in potency.
Sunday’s show packs a bunch — adding depth to Morgan, and reverting to a somewhat optimistic anecdote. Sure, the Twittersphere and the rest of social media may be up in arms about this narrative “side-step.” But hey, at least fans don’t have to channel a similar brand of anger toward Morgan and his decision to spare the “wolves.” Some fans can now at least empathize with him.
Plus, the showrunners knew that by shooting episode four, and programming it where it is, they are shining light on the past, but they do it for a strategic reason. There will come a time where Morgan, the Aikido-loving, stick-wielding peacenik, will have to confront his decisions, or confront the darkness that has infected Rick.
Episode director Stephen Williams helps leave his mark as well, juxtaposing Morgan’s mental state with the at-times euphoric frames (the meadow of wildflowers stands out). Further, the way Williams uses POV shots to underscore the insanity plaguing Morgan is a little trite, but nevertheless distinct.
“Here’s Not Here”
When Morgan stumbles upon a cleanly, country hermitage, he is greeted by a polite voice which asks him to lay down his weapon. The PTSD-crazed Morgan refuses to comply, and is easily silenced by the homeowner, C. Eastman (John Carroll Lynch), who drags his visitor into a cell inside his cabin.
At first, Morgan does not listen to the man, who appears to be peace-loving and amiable. Eastman has a goat named Tabatha, and has his property is lined by empty-bottle tripwires. Eastman places a copy of “The Art of Peace” in Morgan’s cell, but the prisoner refuses to look at it, instead choosing to talk wildly to himself. Gradually, Morgan warms to his captor, and the two forge a relationship that is tough to sever. Eastman informs Morgan that his cell has been unlocked since the beginning — the latter moseys out.
Eastman begins to teach Morgan his ways: self-discipline, and Aikido, a form of Japanese martial arts. The process serves to ground Morgan, and bring him back down to earth. Eastman, a former forensic psychologist, also talks Morgan through his troubles.
While the special 90-minute show carries on, and the two men respectfully bury each walker, viewers have to know that Eastman’s plight is not all that cheery. While out gathering supplies for an anticipated trip to find more survivors, Eastman is bit by a walker — the zombie is the same man Morgan ruthlessly killed before going to the cabin. Because of Morgan’s hesitation in killing the walker, Eastman gets bit on the back.
Understanding his own fate, Eastman resigns to his mortality, but ties up a few loose ends. The two bury the walkers, and head back to the cabin. Here, Eastman admits that he once killed (through starvation) the man responsible for butchering his family. In his last words of wisdom, however, Eastman says that Morgan could stay at the cabin, but shouldn’t. Life is about people, he urges. Morgan’s decision is then made.
Viewers do not get to see the gruesome final moments for Eastman, just a respectful glance at his grave from a now-mobile Morgan, who has packed up and is heading off to find Rick Grimes. And so, Morgan the non-belligerent is born.
(Cutting back to present day, the episode shows Morgan trying to counsel one of the wolves the way Eastman counseled him. This endeavor, as of right now, could spell some trouble for Alexandria, for Morgan is hiding the wolf right beneath their feet in one of the basements.)
Catch The Walking Dead on Sundays at 9 p.m.
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