Monday , 6 February 2023

A Clearer picture of Morgan on Walking Dead

“I have come to believe all life is precious.”

WD - Morgan

The Walking Dead has gotten off to quite a strong start this sixth season. As Rick and company have joined together with the residents of Alexandria, threats remain both inside and outside the walls of the community. **** {Spoilers to follow for anyone who is not caught up through episode four of season six} ****
The first episode, entitled “First Time Again,” entailed a risky move to lead a massive herd of walkers away from Alexandria. Episode two, “JSS,” witnessed a brutal attack on the residents of the town by the band of marauders known as the “Wolves.” And the third episode, “Thank You,” showed the attempt by some to get back to Alexandria, while others continued the efforts to lead the walkers away. It also saw the possible demise of a beloved character (though we still hold out hope this is not the case.)

Now comes episode 6.04, “Here’s Not Here,” which centers entirely on Morgan and gets us caught up on what got him to where he is now, a peace-loving, walking stick-wielding zen warrior. When Rick last saw Morgan, in the superb season three episode, “Clear,” Morgan was a shell of a man, having not only lost his wife, who we had seen in the pilot episode had become a walker, but also his son, who died at the hands, or rather, bite, of said wife, because Morgan couldn’t bring himself to finish her off. Morgan had sealed himself off within a small town, arming its perimeter to keep walkers out, and accumulating a small arsenal himself. But he was merely surviving, with no purpose, and really no desire to live, as he tells Rick, “just kill me.” But as we saw a couple of times in season five, Morgan was on the move, following Rick’s trail, and seemingly in a far better place than he was in “Clear.”

WD - Morgan in field

As we see Morgan initially setting out on his journey, he appears to have one objective in life – kill everything that he encounters, whether it’s walker or human. As Morgan explains later to someone, that mission statement is “clear” everything that gets in his way. That someone is a man who Morgan comes across when he spots a goat in a clearing. That goat’s caretaker is a man named Eastman, who we learn is a former forensic psychologist who has made a home for himself in the woods. As Morgan is acting as animalistic and dangerous as the walkers, Eastman ‘locks’ him up while attempting to assess his behavior. ‘Locks’ is in quotes because Eastman ultimately tells Morgan after a number of days, that the door was never locked to begin with. After an altercation that leaves Morgan on the short end of the stick, and where he once again begs to be killed, Eastman begins to pick away at Morgan, and get him to a place where he can move forward in life. You see, Eastman too has lost loved ones, and was once in a very bad place, intent on only revenge and killing. But he has come to learn that all life is precious. And he proceeds to instill that philosophy within Morgan, as well as train him in the principle of Aikido, a fighting technique which has helped transform his life.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones and John Carroll Lynch as Eastman - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Lennie James as Morgan Jones and John Carroll Lynch as Eastman – The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

In time, Morgan comes to learn Eastman’s methods and philosophy, and as we see, by the time he reaches Alexandria, he has fully mastered and embraced them. Whether that will ultimately be a positive or negative when it comes to Rick and the group as a whole remains to be seen. On the one hand, Morgan has already saved Daryl and Aaron, and has stepped in when the Wolves attacked. But he has also kept from outright killing Wolves, on more than one occasion, and that has resulted in the deaths of others, and a vicious attack on Rick as well. It must also be pointed out that while adopting an attitude of preserving all life and retaining one’s humanity is admirable and what keeps people from becoming like the Wolves or the Governor or the people of Terminus, it may not necessarily be the most effective way of surviving in the post-apocalyptic world. And, unfortunately, as we’ve seen time and time again, when someone on The Walking Dead becomes the voice of humanity – Dale, Hershel, Tyreese, ? – they are not long for this world. It would be refreshing if the producers would break that pattern for once – we’ll see.

The producers should be commended for having the confidence, and even audacity, to do an entire episode focusing on not just one character, but a character who has only become a regular in this sixth season, even though it’s one that appeared in the very first episode. After three straight intense big episodes, it was wise to give viewers a breather, and a perfect opportunity to showcase a fascinating character we knew relatively little about. Lennie James gives an amazing, varied performance as Morgan. While the Emmys have consistently ignored The Walking Dead for far too long, it would seem virtually impossible to bypass James’ performance in this episode for a nomination next year. (Of course, it took them three years before they acknowledged Tatiana Maslany’s brilliant work in Orphan Black.) And John Carroll Lynch is equally terrific in this one-off appearance as the wise and patient Eastman. He too will be deserving of a nomination in the guest performance category. Let’s hope the show really pushes for some acting noms next year. Until then, we still have four more episodes this year to find out the fate of a particular character and the future of Rick and the group, and whether or not that future includes Alexandria and its remaining citizens. So, hang on to your sofas and chairs for the rest of this exciting, action-packed season.

— review by Brian de Castro

One comment

  1. It was beautiful to see how Morgan transformed from a crazy man living a solitary life in hell on earth, to a man whose life is defined by peace, love and respect for life. A few years ago, Rick asked him to join the group. An insane Morgan declined. Recently, Morgan joined the group. This in itself is evidence that he has evolved. “Here’s Not Here” not only detailed Morgan’s journey, it briefly introduced us to Eastman, a man once filled with hate and vengeance who then became a patient, kind and peaceful man. How he transformed Morgan was not only intriguing, it was a story that was thoughtfully written, acted and filmed. Morgan has been a favorite character of mine along with Dale and Hershel. Eastman is now added to that list. Like, you stated, the voices of humanity have yet to prevail on The Walking Dead. Like you, I hope that Morgan, a morally centered man, doesn’t become a memory anytime soon. Whether or not holding on to humanity and viewing all life as precious is the way to survive in this type of world remains to be seen. I truly hope that Morgan is around long enough to pass on Eastman’s teachings, so that others will learn from them too.