Already seen Episode 4? Read on at the bottom for spoilers.
Episode 4 finally allows viewers to catch their breath, as The Walking Dead Season 6 takes a step back from Alexandria and the herd of walkers headed towards it. Instead, we are given another insight into Morgan (Lennie James) and how he has survived the zombie apocalypse. The last Morgan-centric episode was ‘Clear’ back in Season 3, which saw him bereft and begging for death. Now, he is a changed man, preaching that all life is precious. Here’s Not Here shows us how Morgan came to believe that.
It’s a slightly longer episode that, aside from a few walkers, features only Morgan and a man he meets in a wood cabin, named Eastman (John Carroll Lynch). Focusing just on dialogue, the interactions between the two men are a world away from the opening trio of episodes yet still contain the emotional attachments we are used to. It’s excellent writing, able to skew our opinion of the character with nothing more than the words and kind actions of a stranger. Through the flashback, the episode makes Morgan unrecognisable from his current self and almost unlikeable. He comes across here as childish and selfish, forcing Eastman to talk to him and treat him like he’s a dog.
Morgan’s journey begins with him clearing areas of threats and burning bodies, the flames etching further into his mind that the only place he’s in is hell. Even the visuals during fight sequences are blurred around the edges like his blinkered mental state, but things soften as Morgan adapts and, although a clichéd training montage is thrown in, we become attached to his development.
Everything is explained as to how Morgan came to be the man he is – the aikido, the rabbit’s foot, the staff – but none of that really matters. As Eastman says, “everything is about people”, and that’s just what this episode is. We’ve never met Eastman before but it instantly feels like we know him. He has an aura that draws your interest and a way with words that makes you feel everything he says. It helps that he used to be a forensic psychiatrist – and that both actors are at the peak of their form.
How much of Morgan is left? Back in Season 3, he was a wreck, stabbing Rick and stockpiling weapons, keeping himself trapped in a room full of ramblings on the walls. Both Clear and Here’s Not Here show a man destroyed by the loss of his family. Should he lose any of his new family, will his art of peace be shattered? His refusal to kill may get himself and Alexandria into trouble – already, he almost had Rick killed by allowing the Wolves to escape with a weapon. (We suggest he should never be too far away from Carol.)
Firmly a character-driven episode, this is a change of pace from the opening three episodes, but still succeeds in making this one of the strongest seasons of the series so far. It succeeds on the performance of Lennie James, who is able to take us with him through his trauma. Every. Last. Bit.
The Walking Dead Season 6 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. You can also buy and download it on pay-per-view VOD.
Spoilers and further consideration
– It would appear Morgan has been babbling that “you had the knife, you had the gun” line since Season 3. Clearly he has suffered some severe post-traumatic stress having to witness his son eaten at the hands of his wife and it took a goat (and a bit of a beating) for him to be able to suppress his pain, but suppress is all it seems to have done.
– Morgan’s mental state will have to come back into play as the season continues: he was begging for death, even after appearing to get better.
– Is Morgan at fault for the Wolves attack? Despite him leaving them for dead at the end of Season 5, they survived and appear merciless. Aaron was probably at fault too; the photos in his satchel surely led them to Alexandria, but if Morgan had killed them in the first place would these events have transpired?
– We now have two very different styles of management on display in the peaceful Morgan and the shoot-anything-that-moves Rick. We’ve seen the rise of the Ricktatorship and his methodology has gone unchallenged mostly, but now there is someone who will stand up to him. Should it come to it, their confrontation should make for very interesting viewing.
– Did the show just spoil itself? That was clearly Rick screaming out for Morgan at the end of the episode, wasn’t it? So he’s clearly got out of the RV trouble he was in…
– From what we learned about Eastman and never actually locking Morgan in the cage, has Morgan done the same? Did he turn the key to lock the wolf away or will he walk out and continue his slaughter?
– Congratulations to Lennie James for an outstanding performance that should earn him at least a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the next Emmy Awards. His ability to twist from tortured soul to master of zen is remarkable.
Photo: Gene Page / AMC