by Thom Yee
6×04: “Here’s Not Here”
It was clear from the moment that Morgan showed back up in our television-viewing lives to save Daryl and Aaron from that zombie-horde trap in last season’s finale that he’d been through a lot since the last time we saw him. The character had gone from crazy, bitter, vengeful, and barely there after the death of his son at the hands of the zombified wife he had, till that point, been unable to put down, to some sort of staff-wielding, peace-loving Zen master, spouting lines like, “all life is precious”. At the time it was a breath of fresh air, not only for the character, but for this continually downtrodden show that we’ve been watching for the past five years, but that was before seeing things like the Wolves attack on Alexandria and how every one of the people that Morgan left alive tended to come back and hurt or kill (or at least try to hurt or kill) our heroes.
Watching last night’s “Here’s Not Here” in some ways recalled the bad old days of season three Walking Dead when the writers were still more intent on forcing characters into their intended themes rather than allowing those characters to reach those themes organically. I consider almost everything pre-season four to be merely “okay-good” rather than the “good, occasionally great” of more recent seasons, but going back to season three’s “Clear” — the last time we saw Morgan, holed up in that building, dressed in makeshift assault gear, and clearing out any walkers he came across — I have to give the writer of that old episode a bit more credit than I did the first time I saw it, at least now that we actually care about Morgan. The Morgan that we see at the beginning of “Here’s Not Here” hews remarkably closely to the one we left in “Clear”, having headed further along the path of psychopathy he was headed down, clearing anyone and anything in his path like a feral dog, although one who usually has the presence of mind to burn the bodies in an almost ritualistic fashion.
This week we learn the origin of present-day, “you don’t have to kill people” Morgan, and really, the episode, though illustrative, was pretty much what should be expected in so far as “lost, wayward protagonist” type meets “wise, centred mentor” type stories. If there’s a label I would apply to “Here’s Not Here”, it would be workmanlike. That’s not necessarily a failing, but, especially for a ninety-minute broadcast episode (i.e., 65 minutes of episode, 25 minutes of commercials), it’s almost remarkable how unremarkable this episode was in many ways. There are some interesting details, but other than thinking about how horrible that goat cheese probably tasted, there isn’t a lot to “Here’s Not Here” in terms of significant events.
The episode does bring to mind, however, how important it is to find the right actors for these types of parts and to find the right direction for them. Last year, Tyreese, a similarly pacifist character, died in an episode that really tested my patience, mostly because of its direction, but also in large part because of what a trying ordeal it had become to have a character around who’s constantly letting enemies live only for that decision to backfire on the group later. That description should sound familiar as it’s a trait that Tyreese and Morgan share, but in the case of Morgan, he remains one of my favourite characters, and that comes down to Lennie James’ portrayal of the character and how his pacifistic traits come more from a respect for life rather than a refusal to accept the need for death. As is said in this episode and several times before, all life is precious. When someone like Morgan says it, I believe it, and it’s a hopeful note that rings true and is needed in a show like this, backfires and all.
In the comicbook, Morgan ultimately winds up being one of the more pointless characters, and it kind of feels like, alongside Hershel, a lot of additional work is being done with the character because comicbook writer/creator Robert Kirkman realized that he underwrote both of them in that other medium. Here on the TV show he will no doubt wind up being one of the more impactful characters on the series whether or not he’s cut down soon or survives until the end, and that’s a good thing. Morgan is a balancing force for a show that might otherwise be going down a path that’s a little darker than most of us would feel like following, but even though an episode like “Here’s Not Here is important as an origin story for the character, it’s too bad that it’s more an episode you need to hear about rather than one you actually need to see.
The Walking Dead — “Here’s Not Here” final score
Items of Note
- I don’t know if there’s stronger evidence against the thought that all life is precious than having to eat oatmeal burgers.
- For someone practiced in redirecting energy, it really feels like Eastman should’ve been able to save Morgan from that zombie and avoid getting bit.
- So that one wolf is still alive. For such a small part, that actor’s pretty lucky he’s gotten (and will continue) to appear in so many episodes.
- Wolves member kept alive and imprisoned by Morgan = shades of comicbook Rick and Negan?
- Having not written the name ‘Hershel’ for a while, I was reminded of how much I appreciate that the writers chose the simplest ways to spell most names. There’s no extra ‘c’ in Hershel or ‘s’ in Michonne or ‘r’ on Daryl or anything like that.