Walking Dead Season 6’s third episode ends on some big cliffhangers: Is Glenn dead or alive? What’s up with Rick’s hand? How will he escape from an RV surrounded by zombies? What’s with Daryl leaving, taking a nap off-screen, and coming back with nothing changed? Episode 4, Here’s Not Here, leaves these plots hanging and warps us back in time as Morgan tells us what he had been up to and how he learned to love zen in between his appearance back in Season 3 and his return to the show at the end of Season 5. It’s frustratingly placed, but this is a good episode.
We get to see Morgan at his lowest, shortly after the events of Season 3 Episode 12, Clear, as he rampages around his fortress of solitude and accidentally burns it down. Muttering, alone, and lost, he ends up in the woods, setting up traps and spikes to keep zombies out (it’s very effective and absurd that the city of Alexandria doesn’t try it.) Using a spear, he blindly attacks and kills both the living and the undead, driven by a death-wish born out of guilt over his dead wife and son.
Eventually he meets the person who changes his life: A goat, Tabitha. She’s happily grazing in front of a cabin when Morgan decides it’s either meat or cheese time. His hunger runs afoul of the goat’s owner, Eastman, a psychologist in the old world who has turned to aikido and zen meditation to find his inner peace in a world gone mad. Morgan attacks him, gets clowned, and gets tossed into a creepy jail cell inside of Eastman’s cabin (its existence is thankfully, and horrifically, explained late in the episode.)
Throughout the remainder of the episode, Morgan struggles with his inner trauma and uncontrollable violence as Eastman works to coax him back to sanity. The two develop a bond, and Morgan learns he was never really locked up; the door was always open, he just had to make a choice to walk out. Closed/open door/self-made prison stuff is all over this episode. It’s a super blunt metaphor, but that’s to be expected. Once they’re buddies, Eastman cuts the sharp end off of Morgan’s spear and teaches him to fight non-lethally using it as a staff.
I enjoyed watching Morgan and Eastman bond and felt that their relationship, and Morgan’s healing, developed very genuinely. It was nice to have a very quiet episode after three non-stop action shows of varying quality. We see Morgan treating violence as a form of addiction and the problems his cold-turkey withdrawal brings him, and in this we learn not just about this one traumatic issue but about Morgan’s addictive personality overall. When we see him later in Alexandria with his absolute insistence on peace and sparing even monstrous killers, we learn that taking things way too far, whether it’s violence or peace, has become Morgan’s nature.
When I first saw Morgan using a staff at the end of Season 5, I joked that he’d become a Ninja Turtle. I wasn’t expecting this to actually be a joke in an episode, but here we are: Eastman is presumably named for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman, and he fights like Donatello while speaking like Master Splinter. He wears a turtle on his shirt and has turtle wall ornaments. Like a good Ninja Turtle, Eastman wears a piece of clothing (a hat) with a big “E” on it so we remember which one he is. The Wise Turtle Man guides Morgan back to reality but sadly cannot share a pizza with him. This almost makes up for the horrible fate we see befall a turtle in Episode 2.
Here’s Not Here is one of the better episodes this season and features some nice landscape shots (and some unfortunately ugly focus filters to show us when Morgan’s in Rage Mode.) It’s a very different episode from the three that precede it, and as such it’s a bit of a shock. And again, it’s probably not the best placement for this episode, since it cuts off major cliffhangers that viewers will really want answers to. In spite of that, this is a nice a standalone piece that doesn’t move the story forward, but sometimes that can work.