As with any post I write about The Walking Dead, this will contain spoilers!
If you haven’t seen the episode from March 27, 2016, then skip this for your own good. (But come back later once you’ve seen it.)
Once again, this is not a recap of The Walking Dead. I’m using the show to point out both their successes and failures in storytelling and how we can learn by example to become better writers.
Last night’s episode leaves us concerned for the well being of our band of anti-heroes, but I want to focus specifically on Morgan. He is a character type that is pretty important in the world of storytelling; a character with strong beliefs that differ from those of the protagonists and therefore causes conflict. Morgan’s beliefs aren’t just causing conflict within the group, but also bringing conflict to the group externally.
Let’s talk about Morgan’s cycle of thinking that he shares with Rick.
Leaves the Wolf Leader alive in the forest > Capture the Wolf Leader and hold him prisoner. > The Wolf needs medical attention, Denise gets brought in to help. > Carol discovers what’s going on and argues with Morgan > The Wolf kidnaps Denise > Wolf and Denise get surrounded by walkers and he rescues her from becoming a light snack.
This proves to Morgan that the process Eastman used on him will work on others. If he’d only had more time, The Wolf could have changed of heart . This is a solidifying moment for Morgan and his perspective on the situation.
Let’s look at this with different eyes.
Morgan doesn’t stop to consider that if he never captured the Wolf, then Denise never would have been kidnapped. She could could have been hiding in her clinic during the attack. He doesn’t consider that leaving the Wolf alive may have lead to the attack of Wolves on Alexandria. If the leader was killed it could have changed the whole Wolf pack structure, and they may never have found Aaron’s satchel from the car trap, or the plan would have been different to begin with.
Without the leader, it was very possible that truck which smashed into the tower, thus setting off the horn, would never have attracted the walkers to Alexandria instead of marching safely away.
The attacks on Alexandria are not the only thing that can be tied to the Wolf Leader being left alive. His way of thinking has changed Carol’s perspective as well, making her doubt her morality and choices. This, in turn, has brought on even more conflict and danger to the group. The story is stronger because of Morgan’s choices. It’s far more complex than merely being attacked by outsiders, because it effects the characters internally.
Show vs. Tell (Again)
The Walking Dead received some flak for that glimpse of Morgan’s life with Eastman. It seemed rather pointless at the time, but I believe it’s because it wasn’t what everyone expected. There was this idea that Morgan the Wise and Heroic was out there somewhere being awesome. Instead, we got to hear the tale of a deranged man being brought level by the pacifist cheese maker.
That episode was important. What if he spent five minutes explaining to Rick that he met a guy with a goat and now he doesn’t kill people. Would you believe it as strongly? Would you understand the relationship between Morgan and Eastman and why it was powerful?
Now think about Carol. Between the walker attack and the day she bakes beet cookies, time passes. I think it’s a few weeks, but hard to say because it was glossed over. She leaves a cookie for Sam, our only hint that she is in grief over losing yet another kid.
When she starts freaking out about killing people, did you believe it or were you confused? (I’d ask you to raise your hands but… well… internet.) We went from Carol vocally championing the “kill or be killed” agenda to Morgan’s “I’m sure everyone is a nice person deep down” philosophy.
Let’s go through my thought process: “What’s wrong with Carol? Why is Carol acting this way? She’s… starting to believe what Morgan said? What? When did this happen?”
If you’ve read my other posts I bet you already know what I’m going to say. Show vs. Tell. Morgan’s episode was weird and felt out of place when it happened, but the reality is the character development is far more powerful to see it than to be told it happened. It’s hard to move from Carol the Warrior to Carol the Pacifist without the steps in between. Of course, Melissa McBride is a fantastic actress and does a fabulous job with the character change. It is because of her acting that makes this change at all believable.
On a Final Note
I want to talk about Rick and his character development. In his conversation with Morgan he says if the illness at the prison happened now, and Carol did what had been done before, he would agree her actions were necessary. He would not banish her. Those people needed to be killed; they needed to be burned to halt the spread of disease.
It’s easy to think about it and be horrified. If you get sick, you’re a threat to the whole community. We don’t have the resources to cure you and ultimately everyone, therefore; you’re done.
We’ve traveled a long way from the days of the prison. Back then, there was still hope for a return to what once was, but now I think Rick sees a hope for something entirely different. The past is gone, nothing will ever be the same. We’ve walked the road with Rick and Company and we’ve watched him transform from attempting to cling to old values and slowly relinquish them for the realities they face. It’s easy to say Rick is becoming a villain, but is he really? He is playing by different rules in a very dangerous game.
Tune in next week for the finale episode.
Is Daryl dead or just injured?
Who will be going up to bat? (I’m evil.)
Will Carol come to her senses and save the day yet again?
Are we actually going to get to find out the truth about Negan or will they make us wait until Season 7?
Hopefully these questions are answered or it will be a long summer!