I gave this a 84. The highest I have ever rated a Walking Dead Episode. I think I have watched at least four times. I loved this episode a lot.
A bold move devoting an hour and a half to it as well; totally unexpected story delivery tactics; beautifully shot; great characterization; nicely blocked and serenely located.
Summary: (This is a long one on the screen and a bit of a summary).
(Note Steven Yeun's name has been deleted from the credits. If Episode three gave you any doubts
about whether Glen Rhee is alive or not that should put those to rest.)
We take in a deep drink of Morgan's journey through his healing process as he unveils his story to the Wolf we thought he killed in Episode Two; introduced to Morgan in the very first Season Six episode.
We see Morgan back in Rick's old hometown descending into madness to the point where he knocks over a lantern in his blind rage and sets his booby trap lair ablaze.
Then he's in the woods clearing; setting up pointed stick ramparts; killing walkers and predacious humans. We see the words 'Here's not here' (Nothing has permanence anymore to Morgan; he's homeless in his mind as well as bereft of any permanent dwelling.) He cannot break the *clear* cycle in his mind. Humans lead to walkers and walkers must be cleared; therefore everyone must be cleared. However all this does is feed his trauma over the loss of his wife Jenny and his son Duane to her and perpetuate his compulsive behavior.
Then he happens upon a serene setting in a beautiful wild flower field (showered in shining shafts of sunlight) that leads him to a series of cabins where he meets his eventual mentor; Eastman.
After trying to shoot Eastman after happening upon his goat; he is literally imprisoned; fed; and demands Eastman kill him which he ignores. Morgan finds out Eastman is a Forensic Psychiatrist; and learns the hard way he knows Aikido (I heard John Caroll Lynch had to learn Aikido and how to use a Bo Staff in just five days.)
27 minutes into the show Eastman psychoanalyzes Morgan; tells him he has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and his *clearing* isn't going to clear his mind (it's bullshit) so it was senseless to keep doing it because humans weren't meant to do that. Morgan may have become troubled however Eastman doesn't think he is truly an evil man. He's only met one evil man out of hundreds in his line of work he visited at prisons (more on that later).
He even tells Morgan the cage he has been in has been unlocked for a while (a nod also to his mental state and a way to get out) and tells him he can stay or leave and those are his only two options and Eastman won't allow Morgan to kill him. The cell represents Morgan's psyche with dealing with what happened with Jenny and Duane; he could leave the incident at any time, however he always chooses violence which brings him back to the incident.
Morgan leaves the cage and again resorts to violence trying to goad Eastman into killing him to end his suffering, however Eastman subdues him. He almost ends Morgan's life for breaking a tile on the wall that obviously has some very sentimental meaning, however it is after all just a tile (More on that later.)
Given the chance to live amongst Eastman or leave; Morgan choose the cage; reliving his trauma with his family's demise because that's all he has known.
Eastman wants to go on a trip (he doesn't seem to know where specifically) he goes out to scavenge things (for their trip); asking Morgan to watch his goat. Morgan leaves his cage to save the goat and kills some walkers; burying the bodies like Eastman does. Eastman goes as far as to dig out the IDs and give the walkers named crosses; respect
for the dead means respect for himself. He is a man of dignity; culture; level headed and of gentleness.
Morgan is learning from this man to break his destructive behavior and live again and have respect for himself and for life.
Morgan fixes a fence he broke saving the goat and is rewarded with his own Bo Staff and trains with Eastman. Eastman's words become Morgan's words; 'make up for past wrongs; accept what we were; to accept everyone; to protect everyone and in doing that protecting yourself; to create peace'.
This leads to the Gorilla in the room; Morgan asks why Eastman has a cell in his living room.
A sad story is revealed about Eastman losing his entire family to Creighton Dallas Wilton; a true psychopath; the one true evil man Eastman ever met. Eastman built the cell with the intent to bring Creighton there to starve him to death, however he had come to know all life was precious.
Morgan taps into Eastman's incredible ability to redirect his anger. Eastman teaches Morgan how to redirect with Aikido.
When Morgan tries to practice using his staff against a walker he's thrown off guard by recognizing the walker as a man he strangled to death a few days earlier. He almost dies and Eastman steps and pushes him away getting bitten in the process which snaps Morgan into a relapse. Eastman kicks his ass again taking away the body to bury; telling Morgan that here's not here (meaning I suppose that he's not dead yet and he's going to live his life until it ends at his home not there.)
Morgan stays at his old pointed stick rampart home (his here which is not here) and inadvertently saves two humans who give him food and ammo as an act of kindness which snaps him back out of his PTSD cycle and he spares their lives. It appears Eastman got through to him.
He returns to Eastman's house to find the goat being eaten by a zombie while Eastman is dying of the walker fever while burying the walker that bit him. As Eastman reaches his last breathes, Morgan learns Eastman starved Creighton over a period of 47 days. However it didn't give him any satisfaction. Instead it put him where Morgan was until he found peace again by respecting all living things and decided to never kill again. The tile he retrieved from his old home it turns out was made by his daughter that quest nearly killed him. He muses it was one of the most dangerous and stupid things he has done.
Eastman told Morgan he could stay there (after he passed) and live comfortably the rest of his life, however he shouldn't and if he really wanted to heal himself; he should find other people and live amongst them because everything is about people. He gave Morgan his rabbit's foot before he died.
This brings us back to the present and the Wolf reveals he is battling an infection; potentially systemic wide infection and death. This is what drove his group to attack the compound looking for medicine. He tells Morgan if he survives and escapes he will kill them all and that Morgan has to accept him for what he is, a cold blooded killer. Morgan almost takes his life but leaves; locking him in a room in Alexandria.
Once again, Morgan's actions of not killing are endangering the Alexandrians. His philosophy may very soon come into clash with the brutal survivalist mentality of an almost-killed-by-Wolves Rick Grimes. (One which ironically is the same as the Wolves except he is chaotic good.)
* The acting chops of Lenny James and John Carroll Lynch. John's portrayal as Eastman; an Aikido
enabled Forensic psychiatrist is wonderful. Eastman is practical; peaceful; level headed with a an acceptance and respect of the painful past of his family and of death that surrounds him at all times. However he chooses to live and if there were people around him he would chose to live with them. There are things that get him angry, however he knows how to deflect his anger through Aikido.
* Lenny James performed beautifully in this and what a challenge to play a character
in three different psychological phases: Balanced Aikido/Eastman leveled Morgan telling his tale;
PTSD psychotic Morgan (who has twistedly rationalized that everyone has to be cleared; and
a Morgan struggling to embrace a new beginning with relapses.
* I feel I have much deeper sense of Morgan's struggles through time psychologically.
* A clever use of sets at different times to show off Morgan's psyche; the pointed stick ramparted clearing; the cell inside the idyllic cabin setting.
* I loved Eastman's thought process and his thirst for revenge tried to exploit a loophole in Aikido mentality by starving the killer of his family. In the end, his thirst for revenge caused PTSD which doesn't care whether you find a loophole in a way of living, and he suffered as much as Morgan. Aikido helped him redirect and re-embrace an acceptance and respect of all living things which helped him heal himself.
***Fan Boy Comment***
I really love what Lenny James has done with Morgan. The Morgan in the comic books is *nothing* like this Morgan. A nice synergy of all parties involved with the show: Gimple; the other writers and the talents of Lenny James.
* It does lend itself to some of the mentality of seventies martial arts movies; the teacher develops the mind of the student and then dies violently only to leave the student to struggle on and find his/her voice in the world.
* Very little except for how Eastman dies. The guy is supposed to be an Aikido expert with Bo Staff skills. Why didn't he just attack the walker before it lunged at Morgan? The staff has length to push it back right?
* My only fear is something Robin has echoed over the years with the show with other characters.
It's that so many script sides and so much screen time have been put into this story that I cannot help feeling they are trying to build Morgan up to then kill him off later on this season. I hope not...Not yet...I hope Morgan lasts on the show a while.
* Will Rick survive the RV?
* Will the Wolf die from Morgan, another Alexandrian or by natural causes?
* Does Morgan believe the Wolf is truly evil now?
* Will Morgan ever accept that sometimes he may have to kill other humans?
* If Rick ever finds out what Morgan has done will there be a clash of ideologies and of personalities? No doubt in my mind.
* The Wolf has stated if given the opportunity; he will kill again. He has said so and Morgan is playing with fire. If more people die due to his actions of sparing and hiding the Wolf, will that cause Morgan to relapse again?
* If he does relapse will he leave again on his own; potentially to *clear* again?