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Sunday, November 8, 2015

THE WALKING DEAD "Not Here"

Article originally written for Seat42F.



Last night’s THE WALKING DEAD ignores conspiracy theories that Glen is somehow still alive (why does anyone buy into those?), and instead gives us a ninety minute flashback as to how the Crazy Morgan of season three becomes the nonviolent Morgan (Lennie James) of the present day. Will what he’s experienced mean he cannot change again, and is his new path going to be a detriment to his attempts to stay alive?

I always enjoy THE WALKING DEAD, and normally, I really, really like a slow burn that focuses in on a character or two, but “Here’s Not Here” is not one of their stronger episodes.

For one thing, it just was not necessary to do ninety minutes on this transformation. Morgan has PTSD from losing his family. He meets a man who is into peace. Morgan comes around and takes on the man’s ways. The man dies. This same story could be accomplished in four or five cut scenes interspersed into a normal episode, and certainly doesn’t need to be supersized.

For another, it’s not that big a change for Morgan. Had Morgan been portrayed for a long time as an uber-violent man and he showed up different, that would be one thing. Instead, he’s first seen as a kind individual who helps Rick, and only goes crazy after losing his son. It’s easy for an audience to understand this flip, just as I believe it’s easy for us to understand how he could heal and turn back.

The journey Morgan goes on is completely predictable from the start. As soon as we see him set up his new camp in the same way the building he lived in is set up, and as soon as we meet Eastman (John Carroll Lynch, American Horror Story: Freak Show, The Drew Carey Show), the observant audience member can put together the pieces for themselves as to what exactly will happen.

Now, this has not always been the case for other character-driven episodes. Often, THE WALKING DEAD shows us something unexpected, and some type of unforeseen threat that must be overcome. Who expects Carol to shoot a little girl at the end of one of the finest hours of the series, or Rick to have to hide under a bed for hours or Daryl to open up? It’s simply because of how normal Morgan’s arc is that “Here’s Not Here” is a bit unsatisfying.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like the episode. The worst episode of THE WALKING DEAD is still miles ahead of most installments of television. The two performers in this hour-and-a-half are both absolutely fantastic, and it’s easy to watch them and be moved. Their plight, along with that of Tabitha the goat, may not be inspired, but it’s well done. I do care about the characters and feel for them, being saddened at the death of the goat as much as when Eastman goes.

The final scene in which Morgan talks to the Wolves leader (Benedict Samuel), who is every bit as much of a psychopath as the killer in Eastman’s past, is so much more compelling and interesting than the rest of the episode that it immediately highlights the flaw in doing this story now. At the end, we’re left wondering if Morgan is making a mistake in leaving this guy alive, even if it will give him no satisfaction in killing him. As Eastman says, every life is precious. However, if it’s OK to kill a walker, who is only there to endanger and kill you, it should be OK to kill a human who serves the same purpose, right? Will Morgan regret leaving him alive? This is a question worth pondering, and the outcome is uncertain.

At least Morgan locks the cage that the Wolf is in. This Wolf is not at all the same as Morgan is when he is in Eastman’s cage, and I’m glad Morgan realizes that. It’s a positive sign.

THE WALKING DEAD airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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