The Walking Dead: "Here's Not Here" (Season 6, Episode 4)

Flabbergasted

This is why I watch this show. Every so often it produces some truly great television. Tonight it did so as a fable about mercy and the precious nature of life, right smack in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Go figure.

It's a simple setup, an episode in a bottle. It felt like one of those old Twilight Zone episodes where two people talk a lot. It worked, too, in the same ambling way.

When Rick last saw Morgan in Georgia, Morgan was a crazy man killing anything that crossed his path. Making the world around him clear. It was a cruel joke since Morgan's vision was a pitiful, tangled mess, anything but clear. Now he's some kind of Zen master in Alexandria. How did that happen anyway?

We start with Morgan back in Georgia where he's setting traps for Walkers before ritualistically burning their bodies. As always, there's a splendidly horrific visual when a not quite dead Walker emerges like a mobile torch from the pyre. In a less splendid visual, Morgan kills two men as well, stabbing one in the throat with a spear and strangling the other. It looks like they were hunting him. It also looks like maybe Morgan would have done the same even if they weren't.

He's an animal. Feral. I suppose seeing your son killed by your Walker wife could do that to a person.

Visuals again. His crossover into a different world is symbolized by a singularly beautiful meadow he traverses, its shadows muted exquisitely soft around the edges. It's so beautiful it even stops him in place for a moment. Maybe he's remembering that life was like that once. even though it wasn't ever. Couldn't have been. Not if it left him like this.

On the other side of that meadow he runs into a man named Eastland. Tries to kill him, too, only to wind up in a cell in the man's house.

"What's your name?" Eastland asks.

"Kill me," Morgan begs.

"That's a stupid name. You should change it."

The episode is pretty much two guys talking to each other. Eastland thinks Morgan is a mess because life is a circle, one that keeps bringing you back over and over to the moment that broke you. The metaphor is Akido, which Eastland practices every day. It's all about redirecting your opponent's energy, redirecting your own thoughts. Redirecting yourself.

Two good actors with lots of good material. As they circle each other, Eastland's secret is slowly revealed--how he was broken. What he did and how he found his way back. It all becomes truly "clear" when Eastland sacrifices his life for Morgan--you can only break the circle when you understand why every life is precious. You protect everyone because that's how you protect yourself.

It's the only way you'll ever die in peace. Which is the only worthwhile way to die.

They made Morgan's pacifism seem a little silly two episodes ago. But not anymore. I bought it hook, line and sinker tonight.

What a lovely little zombie story. I won't even spoil it by reciting all the myriad door/gate references reinforcing one another throughout, although the last one is truly brilliant. It's Rick's desperate, tormented voice off screen in the present shouting "Open the gate!"

He's not clear. Few of us are.

And we all need that gate opened.

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