This week’s episode of The Walking Dead was an interesting one. Each week, I watch Twitter as the episodes move and noticed so many people hating the episode because it wasn’t telling the story that these people wanted to hear. Basically, the people believed that the episode sucked because they weren’t learning what happened to Glenn at the end of last week’s episode. They weren’t learning what happened to Rick after last week’s episode.
Instead, this episode took a needed breather to learn how Morgan went from being a grieving father who wanted to die to a calm and quiet man who valued all human lives. This episode was actually a fantastic episode that did a lot of things that The Walking Dead needs to spend more time on. It humanized the survivors, told gripping and heartbreaking stories, and actually went a ways to humanize the zombies themselves. Many of these Walkers were once humans.
It is often easy to forget, while watching this show, that the nameless zombie walkers were once mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. When someone like Merle shows back up as a walker, and Daryl is forced to take down his own brother, it shows how devastating this entire zombie apocalypse is on people. However, with Daryl running around and shooting an arrow in the head of any zombie he sees, it really desensitizes people to who these zombies really are.
Why are we so devastated about the zombies of beloved characters, but so happy to see Daryl, Rich and Michonne cutting other zombies down? I think after two weeks of endless killing, whether it is zombies as Glenn and company tried to return home, or The Wolves as they attacked Alexandria, it is time for an episode that allows us to breathe and remember what the fight is all about.
The Walking Dead is in an interesting position. As one of the most watched shows on television, it has way too many fans to make everyone happy. People want carnage, but they don’t want the heroes to die. When people watch a horror movie, they know that only one or two of the heroes will live to the end. But that is only 90 minutes in length. Now in its sixth season, there have been many hours for fans to fall in love with Daryl, Rick, Carol, Michonne, Glenn and the rest. However, they will not all survive and, on a **SPOILER FOR THE COMICS** side note, Glenn is already dead in the comics and his death there was more disturbing and unexpected than his apparent death on TV.
With that said, there is also a need to slow down and take a breath at times. Sure, people want to see Glenn’s fate right now, and that is why sometimes shows like The Walking Dead are better left to binge watch. On a week-to-week schedule, that makes an episode like “Here’s Not Here” hard to come across for some of the less patient fans. However, for those who paid attention, this episode was fantastic.
It opened with Morgan talking to someone and then flashing back to his past. The entire 90-minute episode then followed Morgan from his most feral moments to his finding the road sign to Terminus, and filling in the blanks from season one until he reentered out lives. Morgan was overwrought with grief from the loss of his son and was killing everyone – walkers and human survivors – trying to cleanse the Earth of everyone. He kills walkers and burns them. He kills humans without mercy.
Quickly, he finds a cabin in the woods with a goat tied up out front. A voice warns him not to hurt the goat, so Morgan opens fire. The voice belonged to a man named Eastman (John Carroll Lynch), and after he disarms and knocks out Morgan, things really start to get juicy in this episode.
Morgan wakes up in a cage and Eastman feeds him, while Morgan wails for the man to kill him. However, Eastman won’t kill Morgan because he has become a pacifist who won’t even eat meat anymore. His motto is that “all lives matter.” After a while, he tells Morgan that the cell was never locked and he is free to stay or go. Instead, Morgan tries to kill Eastman again but stops when he realizes that, during the fight, he breaks some plaster that has a child’s drawing on it.
This is where the episode just breaks the heart. See, this episode of The Walking Dead is basically a two-man dramatic play, and most of it is Eastman telling Morgan his life story. After explaining to Morgan that he is suffering from PTSD, which is why he has such a strong need to kill or be killed, he explains that he himself was at that point once. However, he starts the story with an explanation that he was once a criminal psychologist and his job was to interview prisoners and determine if they could be rehabilitated.
He said that most people were not bad or inherently evil. However, one person he interviewed was, and that man was a pure sociopath. When the prisoner realized that Eastman knew he was evil, he attacked Eastman, but was subdued. Eastman then explained that this prisoner broke out of jail, went to his home, and killed Eastman’s wife and two children. He then turned himself in and said he only broke out to ruin Eastman’s life.
Eastman returned to his cabin in the woods and secluded himself from the world. Then, one day, he returned to kidnap this prisoner while he was working on a road crew, took him to the cabin, put him in the cell, and starved him to death. After that, he went to turn himself in and saw that the world had been overrun by zombies. He retrieved the plaster art from his child and walked back to the cabin, where he has lived ever since.
While there is learned Aikido and took on the ideal that all lives mattered and just killing to kill was a way to lose your soul. Eastman then did something that really struck home. When he killed a zombie, he didn’t burn them. He buried them. He also dug out their wallets and found their IDs, so he could label their graves. To Eastman, even the zombie’s lives mattered at one time and they should be treated with respect when dispatched.
With all that said, anyone who watches The Walking Dead knows that bad things were coming. Sure enough, a zombie attacked Morgan, and he was no longer able to fight it. When Eastman saved him, he was bitten and his days were numbered. After that Morgan returned and saw that two zombies had killed the beloved goat. Eastman had lost everything, but he achieved one thing before he died.
Eastman saved Morgan.
Now, by the end, it was clear what this episode was trying to do. The zombies that the heroes kill without recourse were at one time human. When viewers of The Walking Dead see a zombie killed, the zombies are just more monsters. If Glenn returns as a zombie, and Rick has to dispatch him, it will break viewer’s hearts because they got to know Glenn for the last six years. If Rick kills a zombie on the side of the road, no one cares because no one knew that zombie before they died. Morgan now has that understanding, and that is what makes him different than Michonne and Rick now.
Secondly, Morgan’s PTSD is exactly what Rick has lived through the past few seasons. Rick will kill anyone now, and fans know that this is what keeps his group alive. However, by becoming a bloodthirsty killer, is Rick really any better than the Wolves? We know he is, and Morgan knows he is, but this episode puts a name on Rick’s attitude. It puts a label on what many people in our group of heroes psyche. Many suffer from PTSD.
Glenn was the only one who really seemed to have compassion. Now that we have gotten this breather, it is time to get back to the action and learn if Glenn has died in vain. Just don’t make the mistake of calling this episode boring.