It’s no secret that The Walking Dead is beginning to lose momentum. Seven seasons in and it seems the monolithic survival-horror series keeps tripping over itself more often than not, with inconsistency now a defining trait. Unlike Game of Thrones which takes a vignette approach to it’s larger cast, TWD often features stretched bottle episodes that are overlong and push major characters to the side for weeks. Morgan and Carol have suffered because of this, and even though these are two of the strongest characters on the show, their absence this season has been felt with the lack of quality.
It’s no surprise that every episode featuring Morgan and Carol this season has been a standout from the wishy-washy woes of Alexandria and The Hilltop, bringing life and nuance to The Kingdom along with the unspoken tension between King Ezekiel and Richard, which exploded this week in the brilliant “Bury Me Here”. Sure, heavy-handed broad strokes weighed this episode down but they were a necessary evil because of the very structure TWD has taken on, a structure which forgoes development and hands it to the audience to assume dynamics based on very fragmented – though sometimes clever – writing.
One of these assumptions was the bond between Benjamin and Morgan, which only took on the semblance of a faux father-son dynamic in their few scenes together but, as it turns out, was much more defined than that. In fact, it was so defined that Benjamin’s sad and shocking death this episode was powerful enough to spin Morgan into the depths of insanity, bringing out suppressed issues of Duane’s off-screen death – you know, his actual son whose death gave way to the Morgan we saw back in “Clear”. It’s a stretch given how little we’ve seen of Morgan and Benjamin’s relationship but it’s understandable given the circumstances, and it only works because of how organic Lennie James makes the transition feel, subtly but surely bringing out the kill-or-be-killed survivor within that fans have been begging for since he went all zen on us. The accomplished actor even goes so far as to change the way he speaks so it’s a bit more stunted and broken, like in “Clear”, as if he is distracted from the very words that are coming out of his mouth.
It’s sad to see in a way, bringing TWD back to it’s nihilistic best. Morgan’s road to peace was surely frustrating and impractical at some stages, but it always presented a clever alternative to Rick’s guns-blazing, war-ready rage and kept the legacy alive from characters before him, who have also pushed away from a violent world, such as Dale, Hershel, Tyreese, Glenn and more recently Carol. Now the road loops back to violence and vengeance as by the end of this episode Morgan, Carol and Ezekiel have come around to Richard’s way of thinking and are given the necessary spark to help Rick rid the world of Negan and his reckless group.
The best TWD episodes focus on the little details and bring them all together in the end. Focusing in on a seemingly unimportant melon and then slowly building upon that was the show at it’s most engaging, feeding us little hints but never giving us the full story until everything erupted in violence and the viewers ot an ‘ah ha!’ moment along with Morgan.
That melon proved to be all the difference in the end – the butterfly that flapped it’s wings. Richard realised his plan to kill Carol and frame The Saviours wouldn’t work because Daryl knows what’s up, so instead the understandably desperate (and well acted – huge props to Karl Makinen for his performance this episode) survivor turns saboteur and creates a roadblock while the group are on their way to deliver a certain number of melons to The Saviours. This little distraction gives Richard the chance to steal a melon and hide it under a box (which Morgan happens to kick over after everything is said and done), thereby making sure the whole drop goes to shit and someone is killed. The thing is, Richard expected that to be him – that he will be the one who is killed and his death would inspire Ezekiel to go to war with The Saviours.
It’s noble for Richard to be willing to sacrifice himself in order to show his King the way forward, but foolish for him to believe these reckless group of Saviours would act so predictably; they don’t. Benjamin is shot and eventually bleeds to death, and after Morgan breaks down he discovers that Richard is ultimately the one to blame.
In the episode’s best scene Richard explains to Morgan that someone needed to die in order for it all to happen, and that the only way forward is for them all to regain The Saviours’ trust and lull them into a false sense of security. Cleverly, the writers include this to explain Morgan’s eventual decision to kill Richard in cold blood right in front of The Saviours, thereby giving Richard the sacrifice he wanted and retaining “peace” between the two factions.
Carol learning what actually happened back in Alexandria was a sad moment as well, sold brilliantly by Melissa McBride who continues to be the show’s most valuable asset. Now that her and Morgan have gone through a massive transformation, both together and individually, it’s going to be interesting seeing what they bring to the war against Negan and his men.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
- Acting. From everyone involved; was one of The Walking Dead’s best episodes, from an acting standpoint, in a long time.
- Morgan’s shocking decision to kill Richard
- Richard’s confession to Morgan
- Morgan telling Carol the truth about Alexandria
- They really pushed it with the Benjamin angle, expected us to imagine all this development off-screen between him and Morgan.
- I sure hope Morgan hasn’t gone completely back to his “Clear” days, otherwise he might try and take Negan out by himself and that’s not going to end well.
- I like how King Ezekiel didn’t fully commit to fighting the cause today, somewhat calming Carol down with the knowledge that he knows what needs to be done, but he also knows there is a time and place.
- Even with all we have seen from The Saviours it’s not believable enough that they would be that caught up on just one missing melon, especially when Ezekiel promises to double the drop within the hour.
- I really ignored the significance of “Bury Me Here” even when Richard’s plan was revealed. It was a nice touch having Richard bury his daughter’s backpack there with the hopes that he will be at rest with what he has lost.
The Walking Dead screens in Australia on FX at 1:30pm and 7:30pm on Mondays.