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At the top of the episode, I wrote in my notebook “The kid is going to die.” It’s not that I wanted Benjamin to bite it, but after six and a half years watching The Walking Dead, I think we all knew he wasn’t long for the world. Especially when there was talk about a mystery girl in his life. Oh, and once we got that reminder that he’s all but raising his little brother. I could spend the next hundred words complaining about the show’s predictability in this regard, but I think I’ll just assume we all know by now what I would have to say and I’ll instead focus on all of the good things about this episode (and there were many).
Lennie James is so good. He’s just wonderful. Any episode that is Morgan-centric always turns out to be one of the finer episodes within a season and so much of that comes down to how great James is at showing us every beat and struggle within Morgan’s psyche. When the show takes time to build complex and layered characters (see Daryl and Carol for the show’s other two shining examples), the writing staff can do some really great work. It’s when the series opts to rely on violence or tortured inaction as the defining character trait of a character that things don’t work. Every moment we’ve spent with Morgan over the life of the series led to this episode. We all knew that as soon as Morgan left Carol’s cottage following Benjamin’s death he was a broken man once more.
In Morgan’s acceptance of pacifism, I suspect most of the audience (myself included) forgot just how broken he once was back during “Clear.” His time spent with Eastman taught him more than just how to fight with a staff. It taught him how to recover from his fractured mind. To overcome the pain of Duane’s death and move forward with his life. To see his breakdown in this episode, well, it was a stark reminder of how far Morgan can still fall. Killing Richard was earned, but it was also a sign that this new Morgan isn’t going to just be a killer and hunter of Saviors. No, this Morgan could also fall victim to the demons still lurking within him. While Richard was telling his personal sob story, all I could think was that stories like that no longer matter in this world- a world where everyone still living has been broken by something, yet still moves on and keeps living. But as Morgan’s breakdown showed, while some people can manage to move forward without completely falling apart, everyone has a trigger that can make them shatter once again.
While it was fairly clear that, at some point, Morgan was going to be the one who spilled the beans to Carol about the current state of Alexandria, I didn’t expect it to happen the way it did. And I certainly didn’t expect Carol to take it as calmly as she did. Sure, she’s set to become Ezekiel’s general in the upcoming fight (a role she will excel at on every level, I’m certain), but I was happy to see that she didn’t opt to go off half-cocked (which is more than I can say for Rosita and Sasha, but that will be a tale for next week, I’m sure). I’m still disappointed that the series opted to neuter Carol for so long, but if the result is a character who can lead with strength and a clear conscience, well, I’ll take what I can get. Either way, I’m happy she’s going to be back in position to make a real difference. Break’s over, Carol. What’s next?
— You know who’s a pretty interesting character? Gavin, the head of Negan’s Kingdom brigade. Sure, he probably should have killed the henchman who killed Benjamin, but I suspect Gavin might eventually defect to Team Rick at some point in the future. He seems pretty level-headed, which means he will likely be in favor of jumping to the victors.
— I really can’t say I’ll miss Richard, although Karl Makinen did a solid job with the character. He suffered from one of the show’s mortal sins (as in it will get you killed by the writers without fail): He failed to effectively lead. On top of that, his constant indecisiveness took a character that had the potential to be one of the better new additions to the series and muddled him until it was clear he was on the chopping block.
— Just think of how excited Rick is going to be when he finds out Carol is back in the militia game. It will certainly make his job a heck of a lot easier to have another strong lieutenant.