Previously on The Walking Dead, ‘Thank You’
Halfway through the first half of this season and everyone was wondering how Morgan went from “clearing” anyone and anything that crossed his path to “all life is precious,” even the lives trying to take his. The Walking Dead took 90 minutes to tell us last night. And while it was well acted and directed, we didn’t learn anything new about Morgan. We’d already pieced together that he’d met someone who not only taught him how to wield a bo staff, but presumably set him on the journey to preserving all life. And we knew this person made cheese.
After accidentally setting his Fortress of Cray on fire, Morgan takes to living in the woods and hunting walkers. He burns their corpses in the center of his camp, which is fortified by a shield of pointy sticks. So far, nothing about this seems too bad… until Morgan kills a father and son whose only crime appears to be following Morgan in the woods.
While out hunting for things to kill simply because he can, Morgan comes across a cabin in the woods with a goat tied up out front. The owner, hidden, calls out to Morgan to put down his weapons and not harm the goat. Morgan responds with gunfire and is eventually knocked out.
Meet Eastman (John Carroll Lynch), a forensic psychiatrist with a jail cell in his living room. He’s nice enough: vegetarian, teaching himself to make goat cheese, friendly, but that jail cell, tho. Since Morgan has no home training, he spends a few days in the cell ranting first that Eastman should kill him and then that he’ll kill Eastman. To his credit, Eastman continues to feed Morgan and speak to him as though he’s not a homicidal maniac. And clearly Morgan doesn’t really want to die or else he’d not eat this nice man’s tomatoes.
Eastman figures out Morgan is suffering from PTSD having seen his family killed, and tells him there is a way out of that anger and pain. He doesn’t need to kill anymore. Also, there’s a way out of the jail cell beyond jimmying the window open with a broken zipper (as Morgan had been doing) because the cell was never locked. Morgan can go or stay, but Eastman not about that let you kill him life. Morgan’s not out of the cell four seconds before he tries to go for Eastman, who handles him somewhat easily.
The door or the couch, Morgan. DASSIT. There’s no door number three.
Morgan chooses to remain in the cell, closing the door behind him so I guess there was a third door.
Eastman explains he used Aikido on Morgan, and more than being a means to protect himself, it’s a philosophy that believes you should avoid killing at ALL costs. While Morgan lays off trying to kill Eastman, he remains surly and sullen in his cage, reluctantly flipping through The Art of Peace until the goat’s (Tabitha) cries draws him outside. It’s then that Morgan begins to rejoin the land of the living when he saves Tabitha from a walker.
Even though Eastman talks of the two of them taking a trip (he doesn’t know where they’re going, he just knows they’re getting the hell up outta there), they settle into a rhythm of co-existence with Eastman teaching Morgan the ways of Aikido, how to use a bo staff, and how to bury the walkers they kill – giving them dignity in death by bothering to learn their names and giving their graves markers.
Morgan eventually asks the million dollar question: Why the hell you got a cell in your cabin, dude?
Eastman built the cell after he’d decided to kill the only patient he’d ever deemed truly evil. A man who would eventually kill Eastman’s wife, son, and daughter. He’d planned on kidnapping the man and holding him in the cell until he starved to death. Morgan notes that Eastman is good at redirecting all of his pain and anger. Eastman believes Morgan will get there as well.
They take a trip to get supplies from Morgan’s smaller, but no less cray, fortress in the woods. After Morgan speaks the names of his dead wife and son, Eastman decides he needs a little Aikido session to redirect his pain. But Morgan zones out when confronted by a walker, who was the young guy Morgan had killed earlier in the episode. Eastman steps in and is bitten on his back for his troubles. Morgan attacks him in a rage. After knocking Morgan on his ass, Eastman heads home to bury the walker, leaving Morgan at his old camp to make some life decisions.
Morgan saves a couple from a walker in the woods and doesn’t kill them. Progress! They thank him with a can of chicken noodle soup and a bullet. Morgan has embraced Aikido and runs home. There, he finds Tabitha got out of the cage while Eastman was at the graveyard, and she’s being eaten by a walker.
Before Eastman dies, Morgan learns his new friend did kidnap the man who murdered his family and watched him starve to death in that cell for 47 days. It didn’t bring Eastman peace. He only found that when he decided to never kill another living thing. On his way to turn himself in to the police, he learned the world had ended.
Even though Morgan has enough food and security to live out the rest of his days in the cabin, Eastman advises him to take that trip and find people. And so, after burying Eastman, Morgan sets off in search of people and finds a sign to Terminus.
The Walking Dead S6E4
This “all life is precious so never kill” philosophy feels like a square peg The Walking Dead keeps trying to force into a round hole. I understand convictions don’t mean anything if you can’t keep them in even the hardest times, and not killing a man who has killed those around you and who vows to kill you definitely shows you’re devout in your beliefs. But this type of mentality is never going to fly on this show when the human threats they face are getting increasingly more dangerous and devoid of any humanity. Then the philosophy feels extremely foolish and only serves to get you (or worse: the innocent people around you) killed.
This wasn’t a bad 90 minutes of television by any means, but it killed the momentum the show had built in the first three episodes. The reveal that Morgan was holding the Wolf from the end of episode 2 (and telling him the story of his time with Eastman) was something I called back then, though I suspected that Morgan would eventually torture the guy until he gave up where the other Wolves were. Now, it seems he’s just torturing him with the story of how he learned Aikido.