Remembering The Walking Dead episode 312: The return of Morgan Jones

Morgan - The Walking Dead - AMC
Morgan - The Walking Dead - AMC /

The Walking Dead episode titled “Clear” re-introduced a key character in the show’s first episode, and his craziness may have re-gathered Rick’s sanity.

By this point in the Walking Dead’s 3rd season, Rick had been tested a lot. It not only tested his resolve, but his very sanity. In addition to dealing with undead hordes, he’s had to deal with The Governor, the death of his own wife, limited supplies and constant pressure to lead. He even had to kill his best friend, Shane.

That’s a lot to handle, even for a sturdy fellow like Rick Grimes. In “Clear,” all of these dynamics come into play, albeit as subtext, as he faces a new foe: The man who first saved his life.

Morgan and Rick: Crazy with Despair

In many ways, Morgan could be Rick’s psychological twin. While the two have some different circumstances, everything about Morgan suggests a breakdown. Like Rick, Morgan can barely trust anyone anymore. Of course, Morgan is slightly more paranoid and borderline schizo than Rick — but not by much.

Rick pointing a gun at Morgan's head - The Walking Dead - AMC
Rick pointing a gun at Morgan’s head – The Walking Dead – AMC /

Recall that not long ago in season 3, Rick had been talking to his dead wife on the non-working prison phone. It’s not a far cry from Morgan’s crazy writings all over town.

With both characters, the drive to be sane probably makes them crazier. They want to live in a world where their families could not have died, and where the dead do not stalk the earth looking for human flesh. They both attempt to live by strict ethics, but have them constantly challenged and diminished.

Unlike Rick, though, Morgan has faced the turmoil almost completely alone. Rick still has some family (including a new daughter), and a group to protect, and who could protect him. While he’s slow to trust someone like Michonne, this episode illustrates the importance of such characters under such dramatic circumstances. They can not only keep us safer, but saner. Here’s the thing, too: In a walker-infested world, any sane person would become less sane.

What’s great about Morgan’s town are the booby traps all over, and how they act as (1) a practical means of defeating zombies, and (2) as a symbol of the man’s paranoid desperation. He cannot live in this world without setting traps everywhere, and without mentally mapping out where everything is. However, in the process of mapping everything out, he has included maddening details of his mental collapse in the town’s notes. It’s one of the best, brightest aspects of this episode!

Carl and Michonne - The Walking Dead - AMC
Carl and Michonne – The Walking Dead – AMC /

Michonne and Carl’s Little Quest

As Rick stays to talk to Morgan, Carl and Michonne go out to get supplies for baby Judith. It’s a fairly important scene for both characters, as it shows Carl as someone who’s learning to trust again. Even though he just shot Morgan, this little adventure shows that Carl hasn’t totally become a violent person. In his mind, shooting Morgan was all about self-defense, and who’s to say he’s wrong?

Of course, to cling to normalcy, Carl actually risks his own life to locate a known photo of his mother — someone he also had to kill, lest she kills him or his newborn sister. In a way, then, Carl is very similar to Rick and Morgan, only a little saner (possibly because he’s only a kid). Also like his father, he is learning to trust Michonne specifically, after previously expressing doubts.

Rick and Morgan: Coming To Terms With Stuff and Things

After Morgan awakens and tries to kill Rick with a knife, it’s apparent that everyone is a potential threat. Still, it also becomes apparent that threats can still be averted, and sanity reapplied. As Morgan gathers himself and apologizes for his craziness, the two discuss all that they had lost, including contact with each other. It’s a very realistic glimpse into how tragedy can disconnect us from those we love, or at least respect. Rick stayed out of a sense of loyalty, and duty. It wasn’t just to ask Morgan for some weapons (though that was important, too).

Still, as the two talk, one also gets the sense that loyalty is increasingly a thing of the past. How can you be loyal to loved ones when, if they die, they can quickly come back and tear you apart? This attitude is perfectly captured by their rejection of the hitchhiker. One gets the feeling that wasn’t simply due to distrust, but also due to casual dismissal. It’s as if they’re saying, “Hey, our group is already too full of potential losses, so you’re on your own, buddy.” It’s not just for their safety, but their sanity. They simply were not prepared for a new person.

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It’s a dramatic circumstance, sure, but everyone faces the danger of having their lives torn apart. When Morgan came back to the Walking Dead, it was quite a powerful thing, and helped prepare viewers for the insanity around the corner.

How about you?  Were you prepared for this episode and the re-emergence of Morgan?  Let us know in the comments!