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.
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