So are you ready to find out if Glenn is really dead or not? Anxious to see how Rick gets out of that RV? Curious about how everyone will react to the attack on Alexandria? Well you’re just going to have to hold your undead horses, because this Sunday brought us 90 minutes of The Walking Dead: Morgan Rises.
Is it good?
This is awkward
The episode opens with Morgan speaking directly to the camera, presumably to the member of the Wolves who he last fought with (yes, that really was my original guess). We then flashback to Morgan from a few months ago, who is definitely not the calm and collected man we know now. He paces, he screams, and he kills anything that gets in his path—human or walker.
His travels lead him to a cabin with a goat tied up outside of it and an unseen owner who offers him food. Morgan reacts by shooting at him. The owner reacts by swiftly kicking his ass. When Morgan wakes up, he finds himself inside the owner’s house… and inside a cage.
Quick side note: During this part of the show, Amazon’s Twitter account sent out a promoted tweet for a large pet cage of about the same size/dimensions. Kind of weird and more than a little creepy…
The man (who we later learn is named Eastman) offers Morgan food and asks for his name. Morgan replies by screaming “KILL ME!” Eastman responds by saying “That’s a stupid name.”
I like this guy.
Eastman attempts to break down Morgan’s walls. After revealing that he used to be a forensic psychiatrist, he diagnoses Morgan with PTSD. (It’s probably a bit too convenient that Morgan just happened upon someone who is perfectly suited to treat his mental illness, but let’s just roll with it).
Eastman also reveals that Morgan’s cage has been open the entire time. He gives his non-prisoner two options: Leave or crash on the couch, which are pretty much the same choices you give a drunk friend when they show up on your doorstep at 1:00 AM. Morgan, however, decides to try and kill Eastman… and promptly gets taken down.
Turns out that Eastman is skilled in the art of aikido, the ancient Japanese art of kicking your opponents ass with a bo staff while also finding inner peace. He explains that it helped him deal with all the terrible things he’d seen at his job—and had a touching link to his now deceased daughter. This moment final breaks through Morgan’s shell a bit, but only enough so that he puts himself back in his cage.
Later, Eastman leaves Morgan to guard his goat, Tabitha (and start reading the book he left him, The Art of Peace). It’s a ballsy move that he hopes will force Morgan out from self imposed prison…and it works.
Eastman begins teaching Morgan aikido. Morgan begins finding himself again. In one of the episode’s best moments, we see him sneak some peanut butter to Tabitha when Eastman isn’t looking.
After a while, Morgan asks Eastman about the cage. He reveals that it was built for a man named Crighton Dallas Wilton, the one truly evil/irredeemable person Eastman had ever treated. He’d planned to trap him inside and starve the psychopath to death. When Morgan asks if he did, Eastman redirects Morgan’s question with his new outlook on the world: All life is precious.
The pair plan for a road trip to an undecided location. After heading back to Morgan’s old campsite for gear, Eastman decides on an impromptu aikido lesson that involves Morgan saying the names of the people he’d loved and lost. As they begin, a walker appears (convenient). Eastman sends Morgan to test his new skills on it. Unfortunately, Morgan sees that the walker is a person he’d once killed back when he was insane (too convenient). Eastman intervenes, saves Morgan’s life, and gets bitten (OH C’MON!).
Morgan is upset and very pissed off. He didn’t want to do the lesson in the first place and now his only friend in the world is a walking dead man. He attacks Eastman, gets his ass kicked, and once again starts begging to be killed. When Eastman doesn’t comply, he takes off into the woods to be a lone wolf again. Later, he comes across a pair of survivors and lets them live—something he definitely wouldn’t have done before. This leads him back to Eastman’s cabin, where his friend/mentor isn’t looking so hot…and poor Tabitha has been ripped apart by zombies.
This might have seemed a like a gross ploy to make the audience feel sad (and it did make us feel sad), but it was also a good metaphor for Eastman’s fading hold on humanity. Tabitha had been the one thing he’d cared for that had always been with him (at least as long as we knew him). Now the zombies had taken her away and would soon have him, too.
The Long Goodbye
As Morgan cares for his ailing mentor, he learns that Eastman did, in fact, capture and kill the psycho… AFTER the man got out of jail and murdered his family. It didn’t bring him peace, though. He urges Morgan to find peace through refusing to kill, even if it’s the most horrible person you can imagine.
Back in the present, we see that Morgan is, in fact, talking to the final Wolf he faced in Alexandria (HA! CALLED IT!). And in a nice parallel to Eastman’s lesson, his attacker states that if the injuries he’s received don’t end him, he’ll kill every person in Alexandria that he can, children included. Morgan considers this, then locks him inside the house…still (barely) alive.
Is It Good?
Much as it killed me not to follow up on the events from the last episode, I really enjoyed this look into Morgan’s past. I also think it was a necessary journey the show’s audience needed to take if we were going to take Morgan’s ‘No Killing’ creed and random bo staff skills seriously.
And sure, some of it is a little too contrived—like a PTSD sufferer finding a kind hearted mental health care worker with combat skills and a perfect shelter in the middle of the post apocalyptic wilderness. But the great interaction between Eastman and Morgan helped make up for it. Both of these men are terribly flawed. They’ve done horrible things that will haunt their conscious for the rest of their lives. Instead of responding to this with a descent into madness or further violence, they both decide to seek peace by redirecting their lives from the toxicity that killing another human being (justified or not) brings.
So yeah, a very cool character study that gives us a lot of insight into a character who is exceptionally different from the first time we met him…NOW TELL US WHAT HAPPENS TO RICK AND IF GLENN IS REALLY DEAD OR NOT!