Continuing in what is turning out to be one of the best run of episodes this show has ever seen, the fourth episode of this seasons THE WALKING DEAD entitled ‘Here’s Not Here’ hit all the heights, delivering to us an intimate insight into what makes present day Morgan tick, why he is the man he is today, and what drives his vow not to kill.
This episode focused entirely on Morgan, in fact not a single main cast member aside from him was present. Book-ended by two present day scenes, a full sixty odd minutes was dedicated to retelling his journey up until the Wolves invasion of Alexandria. Some may have rolled their eyes as this installments contents became apparent, not getting to see the resolution of Glen’s supposed death would I am sure of bugged many. This wasn’t an episode that needed to happen plot wise, but it was an episode that was essential to understand what has become one of the shows most interesting and important characters.
We picked up this week with the man himself at a time when things couldn’t have been worse. Morgan isn’t a special case, his trauma, his misery, isn’t unique in this world, but that of course makes no difference to him and it certainly doesn’t to us. The Morgan we see here bashing walkers to death in the woods, wiping out the infected in the areas he wanders, is a man when and fully on the edge, his grief all consuming. This Morgan was still at this point willing to kill people, which we witnessed in particularly brutal fashion.
So how did he go from this savage lifestyle to what we have seen in the previous three episodes? Well it turned out Morgan had a helping hand, a sensei if you will. Now, this wasn’t — thankfully — as dumb as it sounds. What we were treated to in the meat and heart of this episode was an emotional journey of the soul, of repairing the damage inflicted on a man beat down and broken by circumstance.
Morgan, soon after killing two men in the forest, stumbled upon a secluded cabin where he came to be kidnapped and caged by a man named Eastman, a man that turned out to be far more fascinating than his appearance suggested. Trapped inside this cabin, Morgan was left to watch this man go about his days, days that involved cooking, defending his property, and practicing Aikido — a form of martial art that he utilizes to great affect with a wooden staff… it didn’t take long to figure out where this was leading.
After a scuffle or two and the odd argument, Morgan submitted to his new host and started to accept his kindness and insight. The healing could begin. What Morgan didn’t know, and what took him a while to realise, was that in Eastman he had found a friend, he had found a unique individual with a unique set of skills that could help transform him into a person, into man that could be somewhat comfortable with the hand that he has been dealt.
So this is where things got all karate kid like, including some beautifully shot scenes of the two training, of Morgan learning how to use his now infamous tool of destruction, and it was really quite touching. Eastman explained to him and to us how his own vow to preserve life came to be, and it was a devastating story. Eastman’s family weren’t taken by the apocalypse; they perished before the dead had ever risen. They were all murdered by a psychopath who would probably fit in quite well post outbreak. Eastman took his revenge, like any man might, but this act didn’t take his soul in the process. This traumatic event — in stark contrast to Morgan — swung him the other way, choosing never to take a life of any kind thereafter. His story and the message that came with it was impossible not to be affected by, especially for someone as fragile and malleable as Morgan.
So eventually we wound up seeing Morgan become the man as we know him now, his motives for not killing a little clearer. This new outlook on life, this all encompassing discipline, acting as a crutch, as a method of therapy to keep back the hatred and the madness inside. Morgan needed (and still does) these tools, this philosophy, to stay true to who he is, without them he may very well lose himself again. This was effectively demonstrated while telling Eastman about his own deceased loved ones. With the anger quickly returning during his account, Eastman quickly instructed him to perform Aikido drills to calm himself. When seen from this prospective, this way of life starts to become far more understandable. It’s a mindset that we often look down upon as naive and dangerous but for Morgan… well its borderline paramount. So I found myself wanting to get on board with everything being discussed and taught here, it’s all great in principle, and I appreciate the sentiment from my very safe and cosy prospective, but we all know that there will come a time where extreme measures will have to be taken. But that’s for another day.
Of course this being THE WALKING DEAD, nothing good ever lasts forever, eventually this world bites you in the ass and unfortunately this is what happened here. Zombies acted like zombies do and Morgan’s still fragile state caused an accident to occur that ultimately lead to Eastman’s death. It was always safe to assume that Eastman would be a one episode character but through fantastic writing and an equally touching performance by John Carroll Lynch, his passing landed with a tremendous impact.
Ultimately this recount of events ended up with Morgan leaving the cabin, the woods and the deceased Eastman with a knew motive in life, new ideals and more importantly leaving as a complete person again, as someone capable of functioning, capable of contributing to whatever society he may become a part of. The episode itself rounded off with a return to the present, and a reveal as to who Morgan was recanting his tale to. It turned out Morgan didn’t kill that Wolf at the end of episode two, that man is now his prisoner and we are left to wonder how Morgan will deal with this heinous individual who by all accounts deserves to die. The question presented is will Morgan be able to do for this man what Eastman did for him? I’m not so sure but it will be fascinating to see how he deals with the situation.
This was unequivocally a beautiful episode, one that I wouldn’t necessarily be compelled by on paper, but in its execution worked wonderfully. And let’s not forget the music, oh how glorious it was. This episodes score really sealed off ‘Here’s Not Here’ in all the right ways. The bittersweet melody played throughout said all that needed to be said about Morgan and Eastman, it was really quite immaculate. My biggest take away from the episode however was how it forced us to look retroactively at recent events. Looking back now at Morgan’s reluctance to kill in ‘JSS’ I can’t help but appreciate his efforts when before they puzzled and infuriated me. Context is everything and we certainly have it now. Part of me wants Morgan to succeed in his quest for peace, but part of me knows this world won’t let him. After all this is a world that brought great men like Rick down to its level. Whatever happens, success or failure, I can’t wait to find out what’s next and to see if this premium level of quality can be sustained for at least another week.