After last week’s shocking episode, you didn’t really think we’d find out what happens to Rick or Glenn this week, did you? Of course not, and things don’t look promising for next week either. Instead, we get a 90-minute episode devoted to telling what happened to Morgan between the last time we saw him a few seasons back and when he joined the group at Alexandria.
The episode begins with a title card that reads “Now.” Morgan looks directly into the camera and addresses someone, whom he promises to tell “every last bit” about his story. We then jump back in time to a Morgan who spends his days killing everything that comes across his path… not just Walkers, but human beings as well. When he’s done killing, Morgan burns the bodies and uses the blood to write messages on rocks, including the word “Clear” – signaling to others (or maybe just to himself) that he’s deposed of all human life – living or undead – in that area.
During his travels, Morgan comes across a pair of cabins in the woods. Whomever lives there has a pet goat, and Morgan can hear the guy yelling at him to drop his weapon. Morgan has no intention of doing that and prepares to kill the person as soon as he can find him. Instead, however, the man gets the jump on Morgan and knocks him out from behind.
When Morgan awakes, he finds himself disarmed and inside a small cell in one of the cabins. The man has left him a blanket and pillow as well as a plate of food. He introduces himself as Eastman (John Carroll Lynch) and he shows nothing but kindness to Morgan, despite Morgan’s continual begging to be killed. Eastman reveals that he was once a forensic psychologist in Atlanta and that he’s found peace through the practice of Aikido. He even gives Morgan a book titled ‘The Art of Peace’ to read, but Morgan refuses to pick it up. Eastman tells him that Morgan is suffering from PTSD, and that it’s possible for him to get better.
One day, Eastman reveals that Morgan’s cell door is unlocked. In fact, it’s never been locked. But he warns Morgan that he has only two choices: stay there or leave. He’s won’t allow Morgan to kill him or his pet goat. Morgan leaves his cell and rushes Eastman, but Eastman quickly gets the advantage, leading Morgan to once again beg that Eastman kill him. When that doesn’t happen, Morgan retreats back inside his cell.
Eventually, Morgan starts to settle down and begins to train with and learn Aikido from Eastman, who even gives Morgan the staff we’ve seen him with in prior episodes. It’s around this time that we learn what really happened to Eastman’s family. He once interviewed a criminal named Creighton Dallas Wilton, who seemed charming to everyone else around him, but whom Eastman had pegged as a sociopath. Wilton could tell that Eastman knew about the evil behind his eyes, so he escaped from prison, tracked down Eastman’s family and killed his wife, daughter and son. Afterwards, Wilton calmly turned himself over to the authorities. Eastman tells Morgan of how he planned to capture Wilton, throw him in that cell (which he had built for this specific person) and watch him starve to death. But he also adds how he came to realize that all life was valuable.
In order to collect supplies for a trip Eastman wants to take, the two men go to the area where Morgan had burned Walkers earlier in the episode. When a stray Walker approaches, Eastman tells Morgan he can dispose of this one. However, Morgan freezes when he recognizes that it’s one of the young men he strangled to death. Eastman has to jump in to save Morgan, but gets bitten in the process. Eastman and Morgan argue again, and after another scuffle, Morgan once again begs Eastman to kill him.
After spending some time apart, Morgan returns to the cabin only to find that a Walker has killed Eastman’s pet goat. He finds Eastman out back digging a grave for a dead Walker (Eastman tries to identify and bury all the Walkers he’s killed) and notices a gravesite for Creighton Dallas Wilton. Eastman confesses to Morgan that he captured Wilton and let him starve to death in that cell.
Knowing that he’s going to die and turn from his Walker bite, Eastman gives a lucky rabbit foot to Morgan (which we learned earlier in the episode belonged to his daughter) and says his goodbyes. Viewers see Morgan packing up and leaving the cabin… walking by Eastman’s grave on his way out. After saving a young couple from a Walker in the woods (and getting a can of chicken noodle soup as a gift in return), Morgan makes his way to railroad tracks where he sees a sign directing him to Terminus.
The episode then jumps back to present day, where we learn that Morgan has been telling this story to the Wolf he ran into during the Alexandria battle. He was hoping his story would help change the Wolf’s mind about the way he’s been acting, but the Wolf tells Morgan that if he gets out of there, he’s going to kill as many people in the community as he can. Morgan doesn’t kill the Wolf, but instead locks him in the house where’s he’s at, which is almost certainly a decision that Morgan will come to regret in a later episode this season.
After three weeks of virtually non-stop action on ‘The Walking Dead’, it was nice to see an episode that’s a little more character-centric and one where we finally find out why Morgan is a pacifist. About my only real complaint with this week’s episode is that it’s a bit padded. It runs for 90 minutes, but I’m not sure the story justifies it. This one probably could have been trimmed to an hour (or whatever each episode’s running time is sans commercials) and still would have been just as good.