The Walking Dead episode Clear is one of my favorite of the entire series. It shows how broken a human psyche can become after you lose the people who mean the most to you in life. Lennie James is brilliant in his portrayal of a man who has lost everything and whose mind could not take the loss. Here’s not here, tonight’s episode, is about Morgan’s redemption. The story of how a broken man can claw is way from the brink of madness and learn to live again.
Morgan is surviving. He is surviving by killing everything and anything he comes in contact with. We witness his brutal and methodical killing of every walker he spots. He hunts and stalks them, he draws them out to try and eradicate anything which can threaten his existence. Walkers are not the only threat to Morgan. We soon see him brutally murder two people who look to be following him. It can be argued these individuals are looking to hurt Morgan, and he is justified in protecting himself. It is the shocking contrast of who Morgan is presently which is presented. He kills without thinking, without hesitation, and in the most brutal way possible. This has become his survival mechanism. He is no longer a rational human. He is just as deadly and feral as the walkers he hunts.
How can an individual this far removed from sanity be redeemed? Without a catalyst Morgan would have continued to live this life until someone or something killed him. He has accepted this eventuality and looks forward to it. This is evident with his first encounter with Eastman. He wants Eastman to kill him, shouting it repeatedly and to no avail. Morgan ran into the only person who values life above anything else. Eastman slowly starts to build a relationship and report with Morgan. His statement not to hurt the goat the first night tipped me off that the door to the cell wasn’t locked. This is another example of how broken Morgan is. Deep down he thinks he should be caged. He doesn’t even try the door, which any rational person would, even if that is an irrational response to be putting in a cage. Eastman finally tells him the door is open and gives him the choice to leave or stay. Morgan chooses to fight and loses. This is the closest we see Eastman to killing Morgan when he breaks the painting on the wall. We find out later why, in a beautiful piece of storytelling.
Morgan puts himself back in the cage and slams the door. Eastman opens it to reiterate the fact Morgan is a human and can still be saved. It’s the goat, Tabitha, which starts Morgan slow climb out of madness. He leaves his cell and saves her from Walkers. Animals are helpless and showing Morgan’s willingness to help save something which cannot protect itself illustrates he wants to regain some of his humanity. This is the beginning of Morgan’s path to believing all life, no matter how despicable, is precious. Eastman starting to teach Morgan the tenants of Aikido slowly brings him back to the land of the living. Eastman has his own demons and we slowly learn he is a true master of redirecting hard questions he doesn’t want to answer.
The revelations of Eastman’s story and how he became a recluse living in the woods was brilliant. To know he lost his wife and daughter to a sociopath before the fall of the world is crucial. He lost and regained his sanity during a different time and environment. Eastman’s beliefs don’t hold up for the current world, but it’s the only thing which is preventing him from falling into madness. This is what he gives to Morgan. A world view and philosophy Morgan can cling too. If Morgan begins to kill again he will lose all he was worked to gain. This philosophy has to work for Morgan, or he will lose his sanity. The fact he almost loses his mind when Eastman gets bit helps reinforce that he has to hold onto this view to maintain his composure.
The sequence of Eastman getting bitten was a wonderful piece of storytelling. Eastman forces him to confront the death of his Son and Wife and then makes him do forms of Aikido. He then makes the offhand comment that Morgan will hold a baby again. It is just a thrown in comment, but has significant weight if you look at the season premier. When Morgan holds Judith there is a look that comes over him. He is remembering Eastman’s words, and just with his facial expressions Lennie James is able to convey a deep moment without us realizing why. To be introduced to this moment during this episode is storytelling at its finest.
While I would have preferred to continue the current story and find out what happened to Glen from last week. This story needed to be told, and it was done in brilliant fashion. The performances by Lennie James and John Carroll Lynch are fantastic and possibly Emmy worthy. This episode is now up with my favorites. Watching this episode back to back with Clear will make for one fantastic story arc for Morgan’s character. While some may still not like Morgan’s decisions to not kill the wolves, it at least makes since for his character. These decisions are based on how he must live his life. It’s not the best decision for the current world, but for him to survive and keep his humanity it’s the one he has to make.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Do you understand why Morgan is keeping the wolf alive? Do you think he should? I understand, but don’t necessarily agree with it. He should at least tell others. Comment and let me know.