Submitted by Corodon Fuller
We’re finally back to where The Walking Dead left off this past March. Can our survivors live as part of a sane society again, or have they been “out there” too long? The balance of power in Alexandria has swung in Rick’s favor, but is that a good thing, for them or for him? Season 5 left more questions open than it closed. Instead of trying to tie the show up in a neat bow, I want to talk about where it’s going—specifically, how the story is about to hinge on a character who’s only been a bit player so far. Morgan’s reappearance is going to force the survivors to face who they’ve become in a way the Alexandrians never could.
Morgan shows up in Alexandria just in time to witness the climax of the season finale. He barely recognizes Rick, who’s covered in blood and in the middle of executing a man. The irony cuts deep here. Rick may have returned to his clean-shaven Season-1 look, but psychologically he’s never been farther from his first-season self. Rick’s group has watched him develop into who he is now, but Morgan hasn’t. Because of that, Morgan may be the only person who can really appreciate how much Rick has changed.
It’s not just that Morgan brings a new perspective. His experiences hold up a mirror to Rick’s. “Conquer” may only be the third episode that gave Morgan more than a few seconds of screen time, but those episodes are glimpses of a dramatic journey into insanity and out of it again. Morgan has always been a step ahead of Rick in terms of character evolution, and he might still be.
Rick and Morgan both started out as good men out to protect their sons. When Rick met Morgan for a second time, in Season 3’s “Clear,” they were both reeling from loss: Rick had lost Laurie and Morgan had lost his son, Duane. Rick was holding it together at that point but Morgan had lost it completely: he was ranting, suicidal, and ready to kill Rick and Carl for their guns and supplies. At the time, the warning seemed obvious. Rick was on the edge, and only Carl and Judith’s survival separated him from the same irredeemable madness.
Two seasons later, that can’t have been the whole story. Rick kept his children alive, but he hasn’t held on to his sanity. He lost something else that broke him—and looking back, Morgan had lost the same thing: basic faith in humanity, the ability to trust. The people of Terminus stripped that from Rick by promising sanctuary and preying on the people who came looking for it. Morgan’s lowest point also came after he was promised safety and then betrayed—by Rick.
It seemed like even the writers forgot about this sometimes, but when Rick and Morgan parted ways Rick promised to keep in touch by walkie talkie. The idea was that Morgan and Duane would be able to follow him once he’d found safety. But Rick kept moving, and Morgan never heard from him. Morgan believed Rick had abandoned him, and he throws the betrayal in Rick’s face on their second meeting: “You said that you would turn on your radio every day at dawn and you were not there!” If he had been able to move on—if he had known where to go—Duane probably wouldn’t have been eaten by his reanimated mother.
But the Morgan we met in “Conquer” isn’t the broken man we met in “Clear,” or even the earnest survivor we met in “Days Gone Bye.” He seems to have found peace. He puts himself in danger to rescue strangers and even looks out for the safety of the two Wolves who try to kill him. In spite of that, he’s a more than competent survivor—he made the journey from Atlanta to Alexandria alone. According to Rick, Morgan should be impossible.
Instead, Morgan should give Rick hope: if he could come back, maybe Rick can too. Two seasons ago, Rick saved Morgan from his own violent despair. The next season should be Morgan’s chance to return the favor.