The Walking Dead 604: ‘Here’s Not Here’ explores Morgan’s transformation

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for AMC
Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for AMC /

Most Walking Dead episodes are about how a group can survive attacks, either by people or reanimated corpses (walkers). However, episode 604 gives us a somewhat different slant. Sure, there are still walkers here and there, but it’s really about Morgan, who tells Owen about his past. Basically, he’s trying to convince Owen — who belongs to a violent, invasive gang called “the Wolves — to change his ways and walk a more peaceful path.

Granted, it’s never directly said Morgan hopes to give Owen a place among Alexandria’s population. Still, Morgan talks about his own dark days where he was also mentally unbalanced and even a murderer. To heighten the animal nature of his mentality in the flashback, we see him mostly outdoors, antagonizing or even killing anyone who strays into his territory. In fact, it almost seems Morgan refuses to leave his beloved woods, which embody his one and only goal: Survival. This is not a man who knows why he must survive, as he has lost everything. Still, he does so as an animating purpose.

Why Morgan became the new voice of reason for The Walking Dead

Being alive, Morgan still goes out looking for supplies, or maybe for trouble. This is when he crosses paths with Eastman — who, luckily, is not a maniac. Or, rather, he is no longer a maniac. As the episode unfolds and we learn more about Eastman, we see that he also has a very dark tale to tell, yet he feels he has now found his own redemptive path. So, in a way, Morgan is continuing a unique tradition by relaying this story to Owen. In that sense, “Here’s Not Here” is much more of a storytelling episode than many others had been before it.

Yes, The Walking Dead has always been character-driven, and all of these characters have stories, but this time it’s based more purely around themes of tradition and philosophy. Previously, these elements were typically hinted at by characters like Dale or Hershel — great characters in their own ways, but there wasn’t quite this level of focus on their own mental, philosophical, maybe even spiritual developments.

Here we really get a deep dive into what transformed Morgan into a peaceful-but-not-naïve man who actually developed a philosophy to prevent further mania. In other words, this episode is highly respectful of the healing powers of philosophy, which definitely means it’s not just a throwaway blip on some zombie show’s radar.

How other themes tie into “Here’s Not Here”

Being such an in-depth episode, it’s only fitting to examine what other themes from The Walking Dead tie into this one. Much of this can be done through implication. Had other characters been more like Owen from the start, how much human drama could have been avoided? At the same time, let’s not forget even Owen had some very twisted moments, stemming from a madman murdering his own family.

Morgan recounts how he was shaped by losing his family also, and his experience with Owen shaped him into a peacemaker. However, what if someone who lost everything has no one to show them the way? What if maniacs and cruel people accumulate power and never have others tell them, “No, that’s too far”? We end up with oppressive rulers, conquerors, tribal fighting, social division, and other ugly things such as the slave trade.

People might be captured and thrown into a pit, tortured, forced to live like animals, sometimes as revenge in the name of justice (which is what even Owen was guilty of). How can we pull back from all of that? Philosophy.

So what is Morgan’s philosophy?

This episode doesn’t provide Morgan’s philosophy as a blueprint, but it does appear to be some loose-fitting variety of pacifism linked to Aikido and a book called “The Art of Peace.” Obviously, Morgan is still capable of defending himself, but he does so in a controlled way, without the intent of killing or significantly harming an attacker. The question is, Would this philosophy have kept Rick’s group alive? After all, can life-threatening invaders (including walkers) be successfully buried under a philosophy, even if it seems to have solid foundations?

What we can say (by season 6 in the series) is this: Morgan discovered the message partly from its transformative results, and he presumably hasn’t needed to kill a man. Also, he has apparently successfully escaped dangers while still abiding by “The Art of Peace.” So it probably isn’t a total failure, at least in The Walking Dead universe. In fact, it seems Rick and Carol could have used such guidance as well, rather than regularly reminding threats that they can be as vicious as any walker.

Strength and peace

To me, the real strength of Morgan’s borrowed philosophy is that it conveys a peaceful disposition without making one look week. It’s a style of fighting that basically commands respect, at least if done right. Obviously, it’s also honorable if people feel they can turn their backs on Morgan without getting stabbed. By this point in the 6th season, the ever-strategic Rick probably thinks that Morgan is too useful to let die. However, he’d probably be keener citing the man’s expertise with a bō staff than his near-pacifist philosophy.

Although Morgan reluctantly agreed to come to Eastman’s understanding, it was a fruitful exchange for a safe passage from the man’s personal abyss. When dealing with undead flesh-eaters, do we really need extra demons to conquer?

What are your thoughts on this classic episode of The Walking Dead? How much did Morgan change the direction of the show? Let us know in the comments!

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