WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for “Bury Me Here,” tonight’s episode of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which as of publication hasn’t yet aired on the West Coast, as well as the Image Comics series.
I stopped caring about whether or not Morgan kills anyone on “The Walking Dead” a long time ago. Although he’s one of the show’s most interesting and complex characters, his central moral dilemma grows old simply because it’s one we’ve seen experienced by so many people on “The Walking Dead” throughout its history. To kill or not to kill? To be humane or give into our darkest impulses? Just about everyone on the show has struggled with these questions at some point.
Still, “Bury Me Here” manages to be the second half of this season’s strongest episode, and not just because Morgan does in fact break his only rule by the time the credits roll. On its own, that action would be par for the course. No, what’s truly fascinating is that his decision seems based on hidden strategy as much as raw emotion.
First, some details on how it happens. Richard, forever trying to ignite a war between The Saviors and The Kingdom, concocts a plan to get Jared (Joshua Mikel, continuing to strike the perfect balance between levity, petulance, and sociopathy) to end his life. His hope is that it will finally convince Ezekiel to make a move against Negan and his people. Richard’s game plan is ultimately an act of stoking the already tense flames between the two groups. First, he ensures that The Kingdom is late to their tribute to The Saviors. Next, he discards one of the melons they’re delivering so that their supply comes up short.
Everything goes according to plan, all the way to the moment where Jared aims his pistol at Richard’s forehead out of anger. Then, perhaps sensing that Richard is seeking suicide by cop, he has a last-minute change of heart and instead shoots Morgan’s teenage protege, Benjamin. Despite The Kingdom bringing the boy promptly to Carol’s for guerrilla medical attention, he ends up succumbing to his wounds.
Richard eventually confesses everything to Morgan, who discovers that Richard has even dug a grave for himself (thus giving the episode its title). Naturally, Morgan struggles with accepting Richard’s actions, almost plunging into the fugue state he was in following Duane’s death. It’s telling that, when remembering Benjamin, he keeps accidentally referring to him by his dead son’s name.
Then, at the next exchange with The Saviors, he snaps, striking Richard’s head against the pavement and choking the life out of him. Afterwards he reveals to everyone — Saviors and The Kingdom alike — that Richard was somewhat responsible for Benjamin’s death.
And here’s where things get interesting. While there’s no denying that Morgan’s relapse into murder springs from his outright fury and Richard, his final words to The Saviors seem veiled. As he tells them, his killing of Richard is also to prove that The Kingdom still respects their situation of paying tribute to Negan’s dictatorship. It’s an act of placation, a way of telling them that everything’s alright. But Morgan’s suddenly measured tone hints that this is part of his own plan. I could be wrong of course, but is Morgan simply trying to fool The Saviors? Is he making sure that when The Kingdom does decide to attack (after some convincing), there will be an element of surprise?
Even if that’s not the case, the fact that there can be multiple motivations in Morgan’s drastic measure is a testament to the power of the episode and Lennie James’ nuanced, understated performance. “Bury Me Here” takes the overdone “Walking Dead” conceit of to kill or not to kill and makes it interesting again. Morgan’s got a new notch on his boa staff, and if his final demeanor is of any indication, there will probably be many more by the time this season ends. Bring it on.
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