TV Review: The Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 15 “East” (USA, 2016)

When Morgan returned to The Walking Dead it was a very welcome addition mostly due to Lennie James’ stunning performance in Season 3’s “Clear”. Throughout this season his presence on the show became more and more divisive as he was used as a vessel for a particular philosophy, the same of which was used to define characters like Dale and Tyreese, often grouped together as the moral compass characters of the show. Morgan was more intense, more thoughtful, and better executed as an embodiment of this philosophy though, his “all life is precious” perspective used to juxtapose against Rick, and most importantly Carol, as The Walking Dead continued to play with the kill-or-be-killed issue in this Walker-infested wasteland and the resulting questions of how far one would go to survive. “Everything gets a return”, another now stock-standard line for Morgan, deals with the complexity of who both we as viewers, and Rick’s group, see as ‘villains’ rather than get to the whole black-white thinking that has fueled Carol’s badassery these past few seasons. It’s a trait that has lost Morgan a fair few fans, but added a very necessary layer to Season 6, and this episode, “East”, deals with that in perhaps the best way they have since Morgan’s exceptional backstory episode, but it wasn’t enough to save this week’s entry from edging back towards average.

Following Morgan and Rick as they talk through their opposing views while looking for Carol was the best thing about “East”, and it felt long overdue, like a conversation we have been waiting for since Morgan showed up at the very end of Season 5, right after Rick just blew Pete’s brains out. The writers have done Morgan an injustice along the way by making him an overly preach-y character – even more so than the actual Priest on the show – but they struck a balance here, highlighting Morgan as a self-aware and reasonable man as he continued to try and convince Rick that all life was precious, even stopping him from shooting a stranger and reminding Rick of the reason Carol has stupidly run away from Alexandria – because she just can’t do the whole killing thing anymore.

This season has also required much suspension of disbelief, as Rick, Daryl, and the others have constantly made some really stupid decisions that are out of character for a group that has seemingly become so much more tactful in the way they deal with threats. By the middle of this episode, Daryl, Rosita, Glenn, Michonne, Rick, Morgan, and Carol had all left Alexandria, an episode after they just found out that Dwight and his crew knew where the community was. That left Abraham, Sasha, Aaron, Maggie, and to a lesser extent Carl, as the only fully capable fighters in Alexandria, an even dumber move than letting your only doctor outside of the gates because she insists.

Daryl’s selfish need for revenge against Dwight had him heading off in full knowledge that someone is going to try and talk some sense into him, and it felt a bit too much to have it be both Glenn and Michonne, obviously setting up something bad to happen to at least one of these three majorly popular characters. Although, the move did result in a nice, touching scene between Glenn and Daryl, in which Glenn tries to convince Daryl to come back, and then references the fact that they have survived together for so long – even before Rick showed up – followed by a saw-it-coming-a-mile-away moment when Dwight and his crew capture Glenn and Michonne.

Morgan sends Rick back to Alexandria because he is determined to find Carol on his own – a noble gesture seeing as he rightfully convinced Rick that the community needs him there now – without the knowledge that one of the Saviours is on his tail. Meanwhile Daryl and Rosita find Glenn and Michonne tied up only to be jumped by Dwight who then proceeds to shoot Daryl in the back; cue blood splatter and credits.

Since everyone lost their damn minds over the ending of the last season of Game of Thrones the are-they-are-aren’t-they death scenes have become to the new major weapon for network television shows to boost ratings. We saw The Walking Dead go viral with this by using Glenn’s apparent death at the end of “Thank You”, the conclusiveness teased out for a few episodes to keep ratings up, and now we’re seeing it with Daryl even though we’re obviously going to find out next week. This inevitable ratings grab runs the risk of becoming too formulaic and makes me think that any major death that may be in next week’s Season 6 finale will take the form of a cliffhanger, and it’s going to be mighty frustrating to see this show go down that route a THIRD time this season.

“East” was unfortunately not up to scratch with episodes of the past few weeks, with the best being “The Same Boat”. Let’s see what they do with the “Finale”. The writers have built up Negan’s introduction long enough but will their desire for satisfying an all-ages fanbase and “going viral” ultimately be The Walking Dead’s undoing?

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights

  • Morgan and Rick together
  • Carol taking out The Saviours with her fake ‘scared’ act
  • Glenn’s speech to Daryl
  • Morgan telling Rick to go back

Lowlights

  • Letting all those fighters leave Alexandria at once
  • Daryl’s fake-out death cliffhanger
  • Rick being THAT confident: “The world’s ours and we know how to take it”.

Stray Thoughts

  • As I’ve said before, Morgan and Carol continue to be the best thing about Season 6 and I think that will continue into Season 7 as maybe Morgan finds Carol and these two find a new community only to return to Alexandria further down the line.
  • A cliffhanger ending for the finale could be substantial enough to undo all the good work The Walking Dead cast have done this season. Seriously, it would be so bad unless it was done in some unique way.
  • Rick’s confidence when he spoke to Michonne seemed like a giant leap in his character, and I’m not sure if that was such a good idea.

Episode MVP:  Morgan

The Walking Dead screens on FX in Australia on Mondays at 1:30pm and then again at 7:30pm.