Let's be real: The Walking Dead can be a very frustrating show thanks to its moments of brilliance interrupted by moments of the opposite. Sometimes it perfectly encapsulates the tension, drama and difficult decisions of life in the zombie apocalypse. But at other times -- many, many other times -- it's people yelling at each other, more conversations about how hard life is or how things are different now or how they're the same, or total lunatics terrorizing people for no good reason.
Another source of frustration comes from the characters, whether they've suddenly decided they can kill their sister because they'll come back, or they are badass war machines but then can't hear a walker sneak up behind them, or they grow out their hair. But none have been as genuinely frustrating as Morgan (Lennie James).
Why? This is why!
1. Morgan's fragile no-kill policy does not fit in with the zombie apocalypse
This has been the big one, folks. Remember when Morgan up and decided he wasn't going to kill anymore, despite the fact that was in a living hellhole of a nightmare full of zombies and marauding bandits who would kill anyone without thinking about it? Despite getting a good reason for Morgan's change of heart -- the meditative Morgan-centric episode "Here's Not Here" with Zen master Eastman -- Morgan's pacifism is ideologically at odds with everything the show is telling us. And frankly, it's flat-out dumb. You HAVE to be willing to kill in this world or you're mincemeat, and one in their right mind thinks otherwise.
The Walking Dead occasionally dips into "rebuilding moral society" mode every once in a while, but it is predominantly about doing the horrible things you have to do to ensure your survival and the survival of your friends. Morgan's no-kill philosophy shrugs that off and weakens the show as a whole by trying to present an alternative that we all know won't work and hasn't once been proven to be the better method. Look, I don't want to kill either, but if a maniac with a barbed-wire baseball bat is headed my way, I'm dropping my broomstick and picking up a gun.
The good news is that now it looks like Morgan is dropping the philosophy after Ben's death. The bad news is that he may be headed back to the "crazy who ate my peanut butter bar" Morgan days of the Season 3 classic "Clear." Sigh.
2. Lennie James is the show's best actor* and he's not used to his potential
James is so good that he elevates the material that Morgan gets. But James could be used so much better than just the guy who doesn't want to kill, but when he has to kill goes NUTS.
Don't mistake Morgan's struggle with killing as complexity; it's actually pretty either/or and leaves James with two modes -- "Don't mess with me because I don't want to kill!" or "Oh lord, I'm going to kill." Killing Richard in this week's episode may have been a shock, but we missed the mental anguish of Morgan's fight with the truth in the moment. He learned the truth that Richard set up Ezekiel to be short with the Saviors well after Ben died, and then flipped a switch later. It was that easy, apparently, which robbed us of James' acting skills.
* With apologies to Melissa McBride as Carol, who is right up there with him.
If Morgan is going to spend most of his time with his no-kill policy (which, again, looks like it's on the outs), it should be tested around the rest of the main cast. And no, I don't mean in the tiresome conversations he had with Carol with regard to the Wolves, I mean out in the thick of things where his opposing philosophy can be tested with action.
Instead, Morgan has been frequently on the fringes or absent completely, and in Season 7 has been holed up in The Kingdom mostly on his own (with brief interactions with Carol and Daryl, who both left him). Part of his isolation in the past came from James' schedule, but what was the reason for it in Season 7? Morgan has too much potential to have him not mix it up with the main gang.
4. He's potentially the best character in a show that struggles with characters
As I've said a few times above, Morgan's potential to be a great television character is probably the highest of everyone on the show. That's frustrating in a show like this. With James' talent, Morgan's tragic backstory, his fragile mental state and his ability to spur confrontation and compassion, Morgan is the type of lead character the show needs to give more time to.
Because The Walking Dead's ensemble cast is so large and the writers are more interested in spreading things out among the roster (and are in no hurry to speed things up), instead of a fully fleshed-out Morgan we get a simplified version of him. Morgan could carry a show on his own if he was given the time, so if you're thinking of writing your own fanfic spin-off, start with him.
The good news is that "Bury Me Here" may have turned the page on Morgan, and the new "kill em all" Morgan looking to pick a fight with the Saviors is exactly what Rick's group -- and the show -- needs. It doesn't excuse Morgan's past, but it does give us hope for the future. C'mon Morgan, don't let us down.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.