The Walking Dead: Here's Not Here

"I have come to believe that all life is precious."

With the fate of an important and beloved character still unresolved, the last thing I wanted was a ninety-minute standalone episode about another character that didn't address Glenn at all. At least I thought I did. By the end, I was completely invested in what happened to Morgan, and the possibility that it might change the tenor of the ongoing Walking Dead story. It is so interesting how the episode addressed our discussion in the comments on "Thank You" about how no good deed goes unpunished, and that the ultimate message of The Walking Dead has become how only the ruthless can survive.

After the death of his son Duane at the hands of his mother-turned-walker, Morgan succumbed to the madness of violence. Unable to simply kill himself (Lennie James was heartbreaking when he kept saying, "Kill me!") Morgan was compelled to "clear", which wasn't clearing anything. He was killing walkers and people and burning their bodies, in a repetitive frenzy that had continued after the episode "Clear", which I really should have rewatched this week.

So interesting that Morgan needed to write what he was doing on rocks, just as he did on the walls in "Clear". Like the words 'pointless acts'. Killing walkers to survive an attack is one thing, but trying to remove them from existence is never going to happen, and Morgan must have known deep down that there was no logic behind what he was doing. Morgan desperately needed a psychiatrist to treat his PTSD, pretty much like every character in this series. And somehow, that's just what happened.

Eastman was a lovely character. Before the apocalypse, he was a forensic psychiatrist who had to determine if a prisoner was truly rehabilitated before parole. It was his job to evaluate people much like Morgan and see what was really going on with them. Eastman saw the good man submerged within Morgan, and chose to not only help him, but to gift him with the philosophy that had saved Eastman himself from madness.

Eastman wasn't perfect. He still succumbed to the need for revenge in such an interesting and essentially nonviolent way. But he learned that letting Crichton Dallas Wilton starve to death in that cell didn't give him closure. When Eastman decided not to kill anything ever again, to not even eat meat, he found "the art of peace". It opened a door for him, and he gave Morgan the chance to open that same door. I kept thinking, I really, really, really don't want this good man and his goat to die senselessly at the end of this episode. Eastman did die, but it wasn't senseless. Eastman saved Morgan's life, in more ways than one. Eastman made a difference.

In, like, five minutes, I was also invested in the life of Tabitha the goat. Tabitha's existence was pretty much saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, or in this case, cheese. She represented the hope that you can always choose to do something positive with what you're given. I wanted Tabitha to survive, too, but knew that she wouldn't. Interesting that Tabitha did exactly what Morgan did -- she walked out of her prison door. It saved Morgan, but killed Tabitha. I take that to mean that Eastman's philosophy isn't the answer for everyone.

I've been frustrated with Morgan not killing people, but I wasn't thinking about the reason behind it because of course, I didn't know what that reason was. This episode was bookended by the Wolf at the campfire that Morgan didn't kill. Morgan told the Wolf this entire story about how he found peace in not killing, and it didn't make a bit of difference to the Wolf, who still plans to kill everyone for reasons of his own.

And yet, it's a way of life that is being debated here. It was obvious at the beginning of the season that they were setting up Morgan as the anti-Rick. "Here's Not Here" gave us the reason for the change in Morgan, and made me wonder if the nihilism on this show is about to turn a corner. If we get to the end of this season and Morgan hasn't had an effect on Rick and his group, if "The Art of Peace" doesn't have some effect on the story, I'm actually going to feel cheated.

The Glenn debate rages on

Fans have been going nuts with the 'is he or isn't he' thing with Glenn, and we did get one development on the Glenn front: Steven Yeun's name was gone from the opening credits. And yet, in its place was a close-up of Hershel's watch. Come on, producers! They are officially screwing with us, aren't they? How very Joss Whedon of them.

Notes from Talking Dead

This week's guests were Lennie James (Morgan), John Carroll Lynch (Eastman), and Josh Gad (Frozen). Very nice that they brought in both actors for what was essentially a two-character episode. Chris Hardwick said aptly that this episode was like a little bit of brain sorbet. "Here's Not Here" was shot last, out of order, and by that time it had gained an almost mythical status on set.

There was much discussion about what the story meant, the beautiful location where it was shot, and how sweet and cooperative Ruby the goat was. I particularly liked what Lennie James said about how Morgan is like a duck on a lake, all calm above the water, but frantically swimming underneath where you can't see it, because we really don't know if Morgan can hold on to his sanity, or if he'll go over the edge again.

Bits and pieces:

-- I didn't know that "Aikido" meant "not kill". How about that.

-- Was Morgan wearing hockey gear? That's actually smart, protecting your knees from walkers. (Actually, on second viewing, it looked more like riot gear.)

-- One bit I really liked that highlighted the difference between Eastman and the earlier Morgan was that Morgan went for the funeral pyre, but Eastman buried everyone, walkers and people, with a grave marker that had their name -- even Wilton, the man who had killed his family. And that in the end, Morgan buried Eastman with a grave marker of his own.

-- I also liked the 'save the turtles' tee shirt that Eastman was wearing. It felt like direct opposition to what Enid did.

-- The rabbit's foot was a gift from Eastman's daughter that helped Eastman find Aikido.

-- You know that young couple who left Morgan the chicken noodle soup and a bullet? I'm going to imagine them stumbling over Eastman's house and making it their own.

Quotes, and interestingly, all Eastman's:

"Why don't you put the gun down and we'll talk. Have some falafel?"

"The door's open. It's been open all along."

"I have come to believe that all life is precious. That's why we're having oatmeal burgers."

"You're going to hold a baby again."
I loved that. And he did. And it was Judith.

"I walked through thirty miles of the dead for a piece of drywall. Scariest thing I ever did. Best thing I ever did."

This episode changed how I'm seeing the series at this late point in the game, and that's saying a lot. Four out of four oatmeal burgers,

Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.


KB said...

I felt the same way when I realized this would be a Morgan centric episode with no resolution on Glenn or Rick from the previous week and yet it was one of my favorite episodes to date. Eastman was wonderful, and I was so sad that both he and Tabitha didn't make it ( animals can't catch a break on this show ever). Lennie James is awesome and I really enjoyed seeing how he made the transition from "Clear" to the man he is now. His pacifist ways were a little frustrating in JSS but make more sense now. I still don't agree with him however when it comes to the Wolves who don't seem either capable or interested in change. Thank you for pointing out that Steven Yuen's name was not in the credits. I completely missed that.

Anonymous said...

Loving the fact that neither "good guys" or "bad guys" survive for long, just the smart ones with minimum blindspots. No point in numbers if one doesn't know how to use them.

sunbunny said...

Yes, it was a good episode, but it was beyond frustrating to sit through 90 minutes of not knowing if a beloved character is alive or dead. I'd already waited a whole week! C'mon, TWD, you know what we want.

Tabitha was obviously going to die because, I mean, that's the show, right? But I am very glad it wasn't Morgan who killed her. I was scared for a minute.

I would LOVE to know what Eastman made of the Governor.

Scott said...

Enjoyed the episode and the great acting, however I believe Morgan, although having gotten past the killing frenzy he was locked in, has now gone to far in the other direction.

How does he possibly reconcile his allowing the 2 wolves from his campsite survive, knowing they were murderers, and knowing that there was no way those 2 wouldn't kill innocent again? Reconcile that allowing them to live to continue their murderous ways, led to the deaths of dozens in Alexandria.

In the days they now live in, you can have compassion, you can try to reach people with the message of not killing for killing's sake. However, as we have already seen, Morgan's apparent act of passivity, has directly led to innocent's deaths, and will continue to do so in the future.

I believe you can act with mercy, act with compassion, yet still do the things you need to do in order to survive yourself, and protect the ones who you are close to. In our real world, bad people can be arrested, locked up, and monitored to help ensure others are no longer harmed by them. In this show's world, that will surely lead to people dying because of one's misguided view that "all life is precious".

The mere fact that Morgan still has the wolf locked up, somehow trying to be the wolf's "Eastman", given the circumstances, is no less mad than Morgan's state when Eastman found him.

Docnaz said...

Although TWD is very hit or miss for me, I loved this episode. It is my favorite so far in the series. I have loved all the Morgan focused episode, but this one was by far the best. It could have been a stand alone movie. And using one of Billie's criteria for a 4 star episode, it made me cry ( even watching a second time) so there's that. This episode has come at a time when I needed it most. I was very recently betrayed. I needed the reminder that all life is precious. Obsessing on revenge poisons your spirit.

One beef I had was the actor who played Eastman identified his character as a psychologist on The Talking Dead, when in TWD he clearly identified himself as a forensic psychiatrist. I wish people would get this straight.

I actually had a preceptor in medical school who was a prison psychiatrist. One day I read in the paper that a former inmate tracked her down at home, tied her and her husband up looking for drugs, set her home on fire and left with her and held her hostage at a motel. Her husband was able to get out safely. She later escaped.

Scott Riggan said...

That was (I'm astonished to be using this word of an episode of TWD) beautiful. And a much-needed counterpoint to the show's relentless nihilism. Although we did lose Tabitha and Eastman, and the world is still ruined ...

One of the things I appreciate about TWD is that the characters usually make choices the way real people would; pacifist Morgan choosing (I think foolishly) to not kill the wolf. Rick - whose experiences have shaped him differently - is no longer willing to risk extending trust to anyone, and will eliminate any perceived threat without much pause. Also foolish.

But to argue which of the two are right is not the point of good storytelling. Their choices reveal who they are. If all of TWD's characters behaved in ways that reflected a single viewpoint that we could all get behind, it wouldn't even be watchable. Let alone interesting.

So while I'm bothered by Rick's callousness, we've seen how he got there. And Morgan's unwillingness to kill will have consequences that he'll have to deal with. I may not like the choices they make, but I appreciate that the writers (mostly) have these characters behave like real people - stupid, honorable, selfish, fearful, kind, cruel, generous.

Logan Cox said...

What a unique episode. I totally agree, it made me look at the show a lot differently. In the previous episodes, especially the three prior to this one, have really made me consider TWD's conflicting themes of ruthlessness versus peacefulness. For awhile, it looked like anyone who opts for the more nonviolent method, while coming off as admirable, are ultimately proven very wrong in the end and that violence is the only option.

This episode and Morgan's interaction with Eastman made me remember what I originally loved about this story. Heroes trying to maintain their purity and goodness in an insane world. Hopefully, Rick will be able to get back in touch with how he was in the beginning of the series. Not completely, of course, but we need some of the old, hopeful, heroic Rick back. He and quite a few of his friends are still drowning in PTSD.

John Carroll Lynch was a welcome surprise. He's an actor with tremendous range; I just saw him on American Horror Story playing the ghost of John Wayne Gacy. And Morgan is now firmly one of my favorite characters.

Marianna said...

Great episode!I don't really have anything to add to the wonderful review and comments that have already been made, except that I was disappointed that the "SAVE THE TERRAPINS" shirt ended up being about a fictional bar instead of turtles.

"But to argue which of the two are right is not the point of good storytelling. Their choices reveal who they are. If all of TWD's characters behaved in ways that reflected a single viewpoint that we could all get behind, it wouldn't even be watchable. Let alone interesting." Well said, Scott Riggan!