A Sashurai’s Review: The Walking Dead – Season 6×04 (Nobility is rare in the heart of hell)

TWD 6x04

SUMMARY

Morgan tells the wolves prisoner about his rehabilitation after his left his last home. Within a lengthy flashback, we find out how Morgan began to find the peace he had been exhibiting since his reunion with Rick and the others. He encountered a man in the wilderness who took him in and eventually taught him all the techniques and philosophies he himself learned. After an unfortunate accident, Morgan departs and soon discovers Rick’s trail leading to Terminus. In the present, the prisoner still vows to kill Morgan and everyone in Alexandria if he doesn’t die first.

INITIAL THOUGHTS

In a time when zombie stories are about facing the grit of the apocalypse and turning into a survivalist by any means necessary, it’s refreshing to see the other side to that coin. What’s interesting is that until now I wasn’t too concerned with needing a long back-story to sum up Morgan’s change of pace. It could easily have been mentioned through a quick monologue, but I’m also glad they showed us the details because now that Tyreese is gone, we don’t have anyone that’s trying to preserve the quality of life by refusing to kill. In the end, we know that kind of thinking in this apocalypse never ends well, but for now we have a strong character with new resolve and a will to carry about a deeper message. It’s easy to spot all the mistakes, but there’s also hope that maybe Morgan can make a difference even if it’s one person at a time.

RECAP

Morgan tells presumably the wolves prisoner what led to his change toward a peaceful existence which began after he unknowingly set fire to his last home where Rick left had left him. Morgan goes into the forest and decimates all walkers he encounters. He also kills a pair of men who attempted to follow him. Afterward, he finds a lone house in the wilderness and is captured by Eastman, the owner, who carries a kind but firm heart. He keeps Morgan in a cell but feeds him and attempts to learn from him. He eventually lets Morgan leave but is attacked by Morgan only to be put down again. Morgan relents and begins his healing process by listening to Eastman and leaning about Aikido. Over time, the two become colleagues and help bury walkers they kill crossing their path. Eastman tells him about a psychotic prisoner who he helped keep in jail and how that prisoner broke out and killed his wife and children. Eastman later captured the prisoner and let him starve to death in the very cell Morgan had been previously in. During a supplies check in Morgan’s last place, they encounter a walker who was the last person Morgan killed. He attempts to face it but hesitates as Eastman steps in and is bitten. Morgan is upset but later finds the peace he was looking for after helping a young couple escape a walker. Morgan finds Eastman who prepares him on his journey. After Eastman is put to death, (We don’t know officially who pulled the trigger) Morgan sets on his path which will lead back to Rick. In the present, the wolves prisoner shows Morgan an injury he sustained during the massacre but promises to kill everyone in town if he doesn’t die. Morgan leaves and locks the doors presumably questioning whether the prisoner can be truly helped or not.

THE GOOD

As I mentioned earlier, there’s a novel concept in letting a show like this breathe from time to time between surrealistic acts of ultra-violence. There’s nothing wrong with these kinds of flashbacks as long as they’re telling good stories and this I felt had a strong premise. While Eastman, his past, and eventual demise is really no different from dozens of other tragedies we’ve witnessed on this show, what makes this unique is the effect he had on Morgan which took a while to tell. From beginning to end, there was a sadness that Morgan couldn’t get behind which Eastman recognized and helped sustain a better way. I liked the master and student engagement especially coming from a guy who really doesn’t look the part, but plays it very well.

It’s small, but I’m glad they didn’t show Eastman dying. It’s important to understand, how he died is irrelevant whether it was suicide or whether Morgan pulled the trigger himself. What’s important is the guiding light Morgan became and the teachings he’s taking with him. Morgan may still struggle with his choices in the future because he’s dealing with Rick and his survivalist crew, but for now, he understands what he needs to do and has the ray of hope in his eyes, something that’s lacking in almost every character on the show that’s only used to death and despair.

THE BAD

This needs to be stated more than any flaw on the episode itself, but not addressing for absolute certainty what happened to Glenn is I think the wrong choice this week. Once we were about 20 minutes in I knew this flashback was going to be for the long haul and Glenn’s true fate wouldn’t be revealed till the following week. I don’t like that choice, but we have to deal with it and move forward. Here’s to another week of speculating.

It’s a small gripe but Morgan’s overzealous commands to “kill me” seemed strange considering how easy it is for some people to take their own lives, like Nicholas did the week prior. Whether that absolves him from the responsibility because of fear or even a disdain for taking one’s own life, I just thought he could have forced the situation if he really wanted to die. The example that Eastman was always merciful and helpful was already made early enough, I didn’t need a plethora of “kill me’s” scattered throughout the episode.

FAVORITE MOMENT

When Morgan began repeating the staff form he learned. It’s very left field for a show like this, but that was something I think helped ground this show in some ways. For every 10 or 100 crazy killers, survival groups, and manic depressants in this world, there’s still at least one guy who holds onto peace and tranquility and isn’t a complete nutbar. Morgan can hold onto that title, but it will be very hard while being with Rick and company.

CHARACTER MVP

You’d think Morgan, because he had the most change, but we already knew the result here and I think Eastman being that teacher and that instrument for his peace is what made him the MVP tonight. He was a great rolemodel and had good stories to tell while trying to remain civilized and cordial. He never cracked, or at least he never went so far that he didn’t come back from it and more than anything he was influential. It’s hard in a world like this to take on the beliefs of another person and make them your own.

ENDING THOUGHTS

I actually felt really bad for that couple that Morgan saved. There’s no way they survived much longer, but it’s nice to be hopeful. Morgan didn’t need that can, he should have given it back.

In reference to Aikido being the focal point for Eastman’s philosophy. I find it interesting how once, a culture created and maintained the art for many generations and here in the apocalyptic future, only a small measure of it is maintained through the western civilization. What we teach is never 100% of the original version because of how we interpret and retain information. By the time it’s taught through another ten generations in the zombie world, what does it become then?

While Eastman’s villain was an easy metaphor to explain the world of wicked people, will any of them really compare to the one coming, Negan? Would Morgan see him as a man who could be turned if captured?

This flashback was important for Morgan to really solidify his importance on the show, but so many characters who are brought to the center have been taken out just as fast, like Beth, Tyreese, Andrea, and even Hershel to an extent. It’s difficult to get attached to Morgan even now because even if he’s found peace for himself, that doesn’t mean he’s bulletproof because he doesn’t fit Rick’s paradigm with how survival works. It’ll be tough to watch, but I’m not expecting Morgan to be super long term. Maybe he’ll get beyond season 6, but it’s hard to say how long after he’ll be able to keep to these new ways.

OVERALL SCORE

8 out of 10. Well written, well directed, well paced. It was all around an excellent flashback that brought in a minor character who ended up turning Morgan’s life around when we didn’t necessarily need to know the specifics on it. Eastman didn’t encounter the kinds of horrors that Rick has, but losing one’s family is terrible enough. He still held onto his beliefs and was able to pass them along to a new person. Sometimes that’s all we can expect and even ask for this day and age is to be remembered for good things. If Morgan can do the same to another, maybe it will be enough. Not giving us Glenn’s fate for certainty was a mistake, but prolonging answers isn’t new for the TWD team, so we’ll just have to wait it out as usual. Thanks for reading.

No more words

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