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The Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 4, “Here’s Not Here”

The Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 4, “Here’s Not Here”

The Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 4, “Here’s Not Here”
Written by Scott M. Gimple
Directed by Stephen Williams
Airs Sundays at 9pm (ET) on AMC

I understand what the producers wanted with this episode, in that they stop the entire momentum of the first few installments in order to soothe viewers into a calmer, more complex storyline, but “Here’s Not Here” is definitely this season’s “Slabtown.” I’m sure I speak for many when I say that I wanted to see how Morgan came back from clearing, how he learned to fight with a stick, and become such a Zen warrior, but not now. Not right this minute. In the end, I couldn’t help but feel like the producers were just treading water and painfully drawing out the bigger questions.

What is happening outside of Alexandria? What’s going on inside Alexandria? Give us something. You can’t play these games, producers. You can’t drop a bombshell, leave it unresolved for two weeks, and then completely sidetrack us. It feels cheap, manipulative, and incredibly frustrating.

I want to see how Morgan became Morgan 2.0, but right now that’s not really what’s weighing down on the audience. And as expected, Lennie James explained on The Talking Dead that all the episodes were shot out of sequence. So really, “Here’s Not Here” is a purposely standalone episode with no real strands connecting to the current welfare of our characters, and boy, does it feel that way.

It’s painfully obvious this episode was shot entirely out of sequence from the major arc currently steamrolling down season six, and even to this longtime apologist of the show, it doesn’t feel like writers are giving viewers a breather, but blatantly stretching out the big question that fans are clawing to find out the answer to. In season five we wanted to know what happened to Beth, but not it if meant completely detracting from the bigger arc at hand. “Slabtown” destroyed season five’s momentum, and “Here’s Not Here” almost accomplishes that with season six.

And I wanted to see how Morgan transformed; maybe this episode should have been used as a pre-mid-season finale episode. That said, “Here’s Not Here” is still remarkable. It’s finely directed, beautifully paced, and really puts on display the talent of Lennie James. Even with non-canon characters, the show casts brilliant performers, and John Carroll Lynch is a dynamo as an unlikely savior named Eastman who manages to take the primal beast of Morgan and transform him into a stick-wielding warrior who can better serve what’s left of the world.

I’m thankful the writers don’t give viewers the obvious with Morgan’s ally. Eastman is kind of frumpy, balding, and not someone you’d ever expect to see out the end of the world and thrive. “Here’s Not Here” catches Morgan as he travels from his safe haven looking for walkers to clear. He eventually stumbles upon a cabin in the woods virtually untouched and is taken down by the mysterious Eastman. Eastman is a charming and very warm man who cages Morgan at first, but then begins to dig deep down into Morgan’s mental state, to help him finally come to terms with the death of Duane and Jenny, as well as perhaps forgive himself for what he couldn’t do.

Eastman reveals himself to be a flawed hero filled with a very dark past whose non-violent philosophy becomes Morgan’s own way of life. He teaches him that everything comes full circle, and Morgan literally finds that out the hard way in the finale. The dynamic between Lynch and James is excellent as they keep the episode afloat and from stumbling into being completely irrelevant filler. Morgan didn’t just pick up stick fighting, and we watch as Morgan eventually learns to admire Eastman and his way of living and finds a purpose that can inspire him to keep moving forward. Lynch’s Eastman becomes Morgan’s psychiatrist, best friend, ally, and virtual sensei, teaching him aikido and stick fighting, all of which garners a sense of importance within Eastman’s life.

What Morgan tries to do is use the aikido and stick fighting as a means of building that circle that can grant him some luck and good fortune down the road. Eastman lives by the credo of life being an ever-moving circle that eventually intersects within itself, and there are instances explained by Eastman that prove that idea, as well as the finale, in where Morgan’s act of cruelty comes back to destroy the only good thing he has left in his life. And when Morgan does finally move on, he sees the sign to Terminus that eventually leads him to the church and to Rick’s map to Washington. And as we saw last season, his “all life is precious” credo causes him to help Daryl, all events leading him right back to Alexandria.

I like Morgan’s ideals and can understand that he feels he owes it to Eastman to continue his philosophy that all life is precious, but the fact remains that you just can’t not kill in this new world. And I think Morgan leaving the Wolf in the interrogation room is going to have a horrible consequence that will likely spark the end of Morgan, or the beginning of a huge rift within the town. “Here’s Not Here” is bold enough to only feature two primary characters in what is essentially an ensemble series now, but it works well.

John Carroll Lynch steals just about every movie or TV show he performs in and as Eastman, he’s just one of the many memorable original inventions of the series. “Here’s Not Here” is assuredly a top-notch episode with resonant existential themes and a fascinating origin story for Morgan’s new way of pressing forward. I just wish we’d seen this apparent filler much later on, after we were almost done with the arc of the first half of the season. Be wary, producers: There’s only so much jerking around fans can take before they drop a series altogether.