The Walking Dead: No More Room For Mercy

Lennie James as Morgan Jones, The Walking Dead --
Lennie James as Morgan Jones, The Walking Dead -- /

“You don’t have to kill people!”– Morgan

“Of course we do!”– Carol

Is there room for mercy anymore in the zombie apocalypse?

It’s a serious question. With all the lawlessness and brutality you see in The Walking Dead (In this season alone), one has to wonder whether or not you can have mercy for people anymore. If someone threatens you or your group, can you let them go? Can you FORGIVE THEM?

By all indications in this past Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, “JSS”, it seems the answer was a resounding “No“. On at least two separate occasions, when members of the group attempt to give mercy to members of The Wolves, their mercy is repaid with either violence or the threat of future violence.

First, we have Carl: After saving a rather ungrateful Ron from a member of The Wolves by shooting said Wolf in the leg, the attacker begs Carl not to kill him. Carl briefly hesitates as he approaches the assailant, giving him the opportunity to try to pry the rifle from Carl’s hands. He’s only stopped when Carl pumps a couple of bullets into his chest.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones, The Walking Dead --
Lennie James as Morgan Jones, The Walking Dead — /

Next, we have Morgan, who is attempting to adhere to the strict policy of not killing people he seems to have adopted as part of his recovery from insanity, despite the fact the community is under a very savage attack. For most of the episode, after incapacitating Wolves, Morgan attempts to restrain them.

Later, after encountering one of the Wolves he met in last season’s finale, he warns him and his cohorts that the Alexandrians are armed with guns and willing to use them. He warns them to leave, telling them that “If you keep choosing this life, you will die.” 

After Morgan fights off them off, the blond Wolf finds a gun in the hand of a dead Alexandrian and takes it with him before Morgan can catch up to him and retrieve it. As Morgan closes the gate behind the few fleeing Wolves, he is visibly angry with himself for letting them escape with a gun and the knowledge the Alexandrians have more, weapons and intel they lacked before the attack.

For Morgan, this really culminates near the end of the episode, when he is confronted with the first Wolf he met. The presumed leader of the raid, he attempts to kill Morgan inside the storehouse. As the two fight inside the living room, the Wolf, realizing Morgan is holding back, asks him “You can’t do it, can you?” before lunging at him.

After incapacitating him and repelling his attempts to get back to his feet, Morgan, clearly attempting to contain his rage, looks down on his attacker and apologizes, before landing a heavy blow; while not stated outright, one is certainly left with the impression that Morgan killed him, believing he had no other alternative.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC, The Walking Dead
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC, The Walking Dead /

On the other side of the coin we have Carol. After killing a cloaked Wolf named Aphid, she steals his jacket and mask and begins to cut her way through The Wolves.

First, she eliminates the axe-wielding Wolf, before he could even begin to fight Morgan. Morgan protests, telling Carol she doesn’t need to kill them, to which she replies “Of course we do!”.

After this, she and Morgan devise a strategy to reach Olivia’s storehouse and give guns to the rest of the group and repel the assault. As they reach the house, they spot a Wolf attempting to kill Father Gabriel; while Morgan insists they help, Carol tells Morgan to leave Gabriel to his fate, which Morgan ignores. After Morgan ties up the attacker, the Wolf attempts to warn him and Gabriel that people “…don’t belong here anymore.”,  but, before he can finish, he is promptly executed by Carol, who then hands the men pistols to help fight The Wolves off.

Carol. The Walking Dead - AMC
Carol. The Walking Dead – AMC /

In several instances, Carol rather callously kills off Wolves she comes across. First, she blows away two Wolves who mistake her for Aphid, she kills another who chases her into the storehouse, then turns and kills a second who followed her inside, after he briefly put up his hands in surrender, then vainly attempted to flee, getting shot in the back for his trouble.

If a message could be gleaned from this episode, it was that mercy can’t be given. We saw at least two occasions where doing so backfired, putting either the person themselves or the entire group in possible jeopardy. What’s unusual is that this seems to be the complete opposite of the season premiere episode, “First Time Again”.

In that episode, we saw acts of mercy by Rick, Glenn, and Maggie be rewarded in some fashion. We see Nicholas starting to become a productive member of the group and trying to make up for his previous failures, even saving Heath from a walker at the tractor store, we see Father Gabriel attempting to make amends as well (Albeit unsuccessfully), Tara recovering successfully from her injuries (Which would have been impossible had Maggie not stopped Abraham from killing Eugene for his deceit in the previous season), and even Carter, after being spared Rick, becomes crucial in the plan to rid Alexandria of the quarry walkers, even if he dies in the process of executing the plan.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC, The Walking Dead
Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC, The Walking Dead /

Which brings us full-circle, back to where we started: Is there room anymore for mercy in the zombie apocalypse? I’m inclined to think that mercy can be given, but, not to those who have clear hostile intent.

Father Gabriel, Nicholas, and Carter, while what they did (Or attempted to do) was wrong, they weren’t motivated by an intent to destroy: Father Gabriel, as he began to explain to Carl in this episode, was not really speaking about the group when he denounced them to Deanna, but rather, speaking about himself, out of guilt for failing his congregation, Nicholas and Carter, while they attempted to kill members of the group, were acting out of an overwhelming fear, as shown in “First Time Again”, neither of them were inherently bad people, they simply made bad choices, and when given a second chance, tried to make amends.

With The Wolves, however, their intent was simply to slaughter everyone they came across, under their misguided belief that “People don’t belong here anymore”. When given a second chance, they took those chances to attack again.

It seems that, in a brutal and insane world, mercy can’t be given to the brutal or the insane.

If you liked this, and would like more of my incite into surviving the zombie apocalypse, check out my book, The Rules: A Guide To Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse!  You can also find on Kindle here and on iTunes here.

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