Yes, yes, I’m a fan of The Walking Dead. If gore is one of those things you (as a believer) are lead to stay away from, please don’t go out and watch The Walking Dead just because I’ve mentioned it on my blog, and I also know the various arguments presented for Christians not to watch such things in the first place, let’s just skip ahead to the part where I disagree with blanket restrictions on watching TV shows (though I do think there are some movies, books, shows, etc.. that have no redeeming qualities, I don’t think The Walking Dead (TWD) is one of them for me).
So, this is an episode review and it is written solely for one reason… I can find no other reviews close to my thoughts on this episode and I had to ask myself why, and then blog about it. I think I have the answer… it’s because many out there on the ‘net writing reviews are not Christian, nor do they have a degree in psychology, nor have they taught college philosophy courses, nor studied comparative religions. In short, I found this particular episode one of the best TWD episodes ever for many and layered reasons and I’m not seeing others “get it” in quite the way I expected. This review is going to proceed as if you, dear reader, have seen TWD on a fairly regular basis and have seen the latest eppy Here’s Not Here. So, if you are not a fan you can stop reading without any guilt.
SPOILERS for all past episodes ahead, you’ve been warned.
If you are a watcher, you realize that Glenn’s “death cliffhanger” was the previous episode, and there is a certain group of fans out there in TWD fandom whose heads were exploding because Glenn was not directly in this episode. We still don’t know if he is alive or dead, or is now zombieGlenn, and that is apparently an unacceptable situation for many fans to be put in. There are indeed several reviews praising the episode but hating the timing of it. Here’s what they are missing: that’s one of the points of this episode. The powers that be wanted you to go through a car wreck… not for sadistic reasons, but for effect. They had everyone hurtling 80 miles an hour down the road, only to come to a dead stop with a seemingly out of place episode all about good ol’ crazy Morgan-gone-Zen.
One thing I thought everyone agreed on (Rick spelled it out for the group and the audience blatantly in an episode) is that “The Walking Dead” does not refer to the zombies, but rather to the humans having to live in, and adapt to, this new world. The humans going through Hell on Earth are indeed the walking dead, and most of the characters we have come to know and love are suffering from PTSD. The two characters in the latest episode, Morgan and Eastman, are the two characters picked to showcase the roller coaster that all the characters worth anything on TWD are on. This show was not “just about Morgan” nor was it just about his backstory. Morgan is the character chosen to carry the psychological and philosophical revelations for the whole audience. Glenn was in the show. Rick was in the show. Carol was in the show, etc… etc… They were all represented, one just has to look for them.
This eppy raised deep philosophical and practical questions that have been around for thousands of years. Our religions debate them, our fellow humans struggle with them, and to be truly human I hope we’ve all at least pondered them at some point in our lives. Are you a pacifist? If yes, are there times when your pacifism is actually morally reprehensible? If no, when is killing ok? Is killing animals ok? How about people? Only when necessary? Are you for or against the death penalty? Under what circumstances? Can humans be forgiven? Can they be redeemed? Is there such a thing as evil? What is PTSD? How is it cured? Is it possible to be mindful during a zombie attack? And on and on… how can someone watch such an eppy and not be philosophically geeked out?
Let’s look at the character “Eastman.” East-man. He was used to show what the eastern philosophies may look like in this world of TWD. I’ve seen people mocking the Way of Peace online (the book Eastman leans on for his own philosophy and the book Morgan uses to help return to sanity, and yes, the book is real), in essence arguing that some of the most ancient practices and philosophies “are like so stoopid, no, man, like really reallllly dumb, Carol should just off Morgan, cuz stoopid.” We’ve ran into humans in the show that have given up their compassion and humanity and we’ve seen how they’ve turned out (Termites anyone? How ’bout those Wolves?) Did literally the whole internet miss that Carol was having this very revelation in the previous episode? How ’bout Glenn’s treatment and forgiveness of the despised Nicholas? How ’bout Rick’s descent into darkness?
In Eastman and Morgan we have two characters that are not cowards, are not stoopid, are not naive, and yet decide to not kill a fellow human unless absolutely necessary. We also have these characters showing us a different side of nature (again, a central theme in eastern philosophy); we are used to the beautiful environment of Georgia turning into a enemy at the worst of times, and a forgotten background the rest of the time. In this eppy we have the environment reintroduced as a thing of beauty and life. It’s all about balance and this season is centered (pun intended) on that theme. Eastern philosophy captures that perfectly. Life/death, black/white, good/evil, male/female, love/hate, active/passive, bravery/cowardice… and that is just scratching the surface.
This episode had it all; the themes of man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self, and I just happen to think the powers that be did a wonderful job presenting those themes in a way that was trying to force the audience to stop and think, which again is why we were slammed to a stop with Glenn’s cliffy. This eppy was to help us see that there are other ways of dying, and there are other ways of becoming a walker, rather than just in the literal sense. The fact that many on the net are howling in anguish and are now spitting on Morgan, but holding Carol up as the perfect human are proving that this was a much-needed episode. I have no idea how it will all turn out. Perhaps the writers are all nihilists. Perhaps they are all naturalists/materialists. Perhaps they will paint a picture of the world I’ll disagree with, but man, Here’s Not Here was surely one of the writing highlights of the show that put forth that humans have a choice to become animals, or to rise above. As a Christian this episode was everything I had wished for Gabriel’s character, but, I’ll take it in eastern guise if I have to.