The Walking Dead: Here’s Not Here
I don’t know about you, but I get very wary any time The Walking Dead runs more than sixty minutes. The typical episode is heavily padded to meet the usual runtime. So any time the show runs long, you know you’re facing a lot of filler. Here’s Not Here gives the audience an hour and a half of Morgan’s backstory. In theory, this should be interesting. Morgan is a fan favorite character. But in execution, the show delivered ninety minutes with absolutely no new story. Everything that was revealed about Morgan’s transformation from crazy dude to Jedi knight, we pretty much knew already.
The episode is bookended with scenes of Morgan telling his tale to someone. We find out at the end, that Morgan has a member of the Wolves locked in his basement. Despite the fact that his prisoner has very calmly told Morgan that he will kill everyone in town including the children and the fact that he has a terminal zombie bite, Morgan refuses to kill him. Let me repeat that the guy is going to die no matter what. Even if he wasn’t a lunatic plotting to kill the town’s children, this guy has a terminal disease that will kill him in a matter of days anyway. What’s the point of trying to rehabilitate him? There is none. Morgan is just terminally stupid.
Most of the episode’s runtime is devoted to flashbacks showing us exactly how Morgan got that way. We pick up following the events of the season three episode Clear. Morgan is a dangerous crazy person who kills zombies and humans indiscriminately. We see him kill two humans who might be father and son. Surprisingly given Morgan’s extraordinary precautions, he does not take steps to prevent his victims from coming back as zombies whom he will have to kill all over again. Why on earth would he do such a thing? Because the plot demands it.
Crazy Morgan comes across a cabin. The sole resident of the cabin asks Morgan to drop his weapon and come in for some falafel. When Morgan rejects the invitation to vegetarian lunch, he is easily disarmed and incapacitated by the cabin’s owner, a pacifist named Eastman. Get it? Eastman. He practices Eastern philosophy and is also strong in the force.
We then spend about an hour with Morgan and Eastman. The zen master places Morgan in a cage. Morgan asks Eastman to kill him, but the gentle man feeds him instead. Morgan plans his escape but apparently never once tries to push open the door. It is later revealed that the door was never locked to begin with! At one point, Eastman accuses Morgan of saying a bunch of horse shit, but nothing Morgan said compared to that steaming pile.
This is what passes for “deep” on The Walking Dead. Morgan has made himself a prisoner, but he could have left at any time. In fact, even after it is revealed that the cell isn’t locked, Morgan opts to continue living in his cage rather than bunking on Eastman’s couch. Eventually, Morgan begins reading a book which Eastman has placed in his cell. The Art of Peace does the trick. Morgan emerges from his self-imposed prison so Eastman can Mr. Miyagi him.
I want to take a moment just to talk about the passage of time. Time is always problematic on The Walking Dead. So, no surprise that the timing of Morgan’s training is a bit of a stretch. The show goes to great lengths to obscure how much time has passed since the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. But generally, it seems to be about two years. We know that at least nine months had passed by the time Judith was born in the prison.
Morgan’s story happens some time after the events of the episode Clear which was set when Rick was looking for weapons to prepare for an assault by the Governor. So I think we can pretty safely assume that at least one year had passed. This was pretty late in the show’s third season. We next see Morgan on Rick’s trail in the season five premiere as Rick and the gang escape from Terminus. How much time could have possibly passed between the Governor’s first assault on the prison and the escape from Terminus? Maybe six months? Surely not enough time to master akido.
As I’m watching the extra-long episode play out a series of kung fu cliches, my mind begins to wander. I know something has to happen to Eastman because the dude isn’t around any more. It wouldn’t make sense for Morgan to leave his peaceful sanctuary if his mentor was still among the living. So I’m just counting down till Eastman’s passing. Which comes along while Morgan and his teacher are burying zombies.
This Eastman fellow was really something. Not only did he find time to bury zombies, he was also an akido master, a gardener, a cook, a philosopher and he had taken up cheese-making. In the midst of a zombie apocalypse, Eastman is flourishing. He gets more done before noon than I do all day.
But the episode needs him dead, so he dies stupidly as often happens on The Walking Dead. When a zombie approaches, Eastman tells Morgan its his turn to deal with it. But wouldn’t you know it? Against all odds (these are seriously long odds we’re talking about) the zombie is one of the two people Morgan killed in his crazy days. Morgan freezes and Eastman has to intervene. We have seen Eastman dispatch quite a few zombies with about as much effort as swatting a fly. But this one gets him because of reasons.
Over the course of the episode, Eastman confesses his sins. He was once like Morgan. In his pre-apocalypse days, he was evaluating an inmate who was pure evil. When the inmate realized that Eastman recognized him for what he was, he attacked him. Later, he escaped just to kill Eastman’s family. Afterwards, he turned himself in. So Eastman set about getting revenge. He had the cell built in his cabin, scooped up the man who killed his family and then let him starve to death. The act brought him no peace, so he prepared to turn himself in for his crimes. But by then there was no one to turn himself in to.
The story establishes parallels between Morgan and his mentor. But mostly, it serves to run down the clock.
The episode ends in the present with the reveal that Morgan has been telling his story to a member of the Wolves. As he walks into town, he hear signs of commotion which seems to promise that maybe something will happen next week. But I wouldn’t get my hopes up on that one.