"Bury Me Here" was a frustrating episode of The Walking Dead. Everything you could have expected to happen happened pretty much exactly as you would have expected. Most notably, Benjamin (Logan Miller) died to get King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride) off the sidelines and into the fight.
Benjamin's whole arc was telegraphed from the moment he appeared back in the episode that introduced the Kingdom. He was never really a character, just a plot device to be deployed when other characters needed something to make them change. In "The Well," Ezekiel told Morgan he was a special boy who needed to be protected, which obviously meant he was going to die. We know the rules of the show. Morgan was tasked with teaching him how to use the staff, which meant Morgan was going to grow close to him since the kid reminded him of the son he lost, and so his death would affect Morgan, too. When he told Ezekiel that he thought the Kingdom should join Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and fight the Saviors and Ezekiel didn't listen to him, we knew his death was going to inspire Ezekiel to join the fight. Carol looked at him affectionately when he found her in the woods one time, so his death was going to affect her, too.
In this episode, there were hasty, heavy-handed details about how he was raising his little brother and starting to date a girl. There was even a scene that set up how Carol is going to blame herself for his death. He asked her to show him how to be as badass as she is. He said he could miss the Savior food drop-off where he eventually met his demise to train with her, and she told him to go on the drop. So in her fragile, self-flagellating state, his death is going to weigh on her, especially since he died on her kitchen table.
Benjamin is a textbook example of why "show don't tell" is a rule for writers. He had no character development and no personality beyond being nice, I guess. It was like since the writers knew he was going to die and knew that we knew he was going to die, they didn't bother to try to make us care about him. We were just told that he was important and beloved by all these characters and expected to accept that. But really, he served no purpose but to die. He was basically a glorified extra. I don't even know if I can place any blame on Logan Miller for a charisma-free performance, because he had nothing to work with.
Worst of all, almost nothing about his death was surprising. There was exactly one surprise in this episode, and that was Richard's (Karl Makinen) collaboration with Gavin the reasonable, all-business Savior (Jayson Warner Smith) on putting the fear of God into Ezekiel — which now that I think about it, I'm not sure how that was supposed to work. Richard told Gavin that he was willing to give his life to make Ezekiel take providing for the Saviors more seriously? Seems like a low-stakes thing to die over, even for The Walking Dead, and Gavin seems smart enough to have been like "what?" But anyway, when Jared the smug stick-stealing Savior (Joshua Mikel) shot Benjamin instead of Richard and Gavin got mad, my interest was piqued.
Some of it was good, though. We knew the return of Morgan the fighter was coming, but it was still satisfying to see it happen after two seasons of ineffective nonviolence. Morgan's peacenik philosophy was obviously never going to work in the brutal reality The Walking Dead has established, and now we're going to see exactly how it doesn't work and its effect on Morgan. Morgan is going to be more interesting now that he's acting against his nature. Like Tupac, Morgan ain't a killer, but don't push him. Richard made that mistake and paid the ultimate price. And that episode-closing shot of him sharpening his staff was both exciting and sad.
The fragility of his mental state is going to the big question about Morgan going forward. Is he going to revert to the feral creature of Season 3's "Clear," or will he take Richard's place in leading the Kingdom's army against the Saviors?
When Ezekiel's delivery party found the "bury me here" grave, Ezekiel gave a little speech.
"This world drives one mad," he said. "People have lived through every kind of misery. Tyrants, genocide, systems of quiet hate, while others enjoy freedom on the same piece of land. Yet this, how we must exist now, it is mere luck we're not all insane."
He was talking generally, but he could have been talking about Morgan. And what Benjamin said in response to this — "The world does drive people crazy now, but you made us another world" — is something Morgan might believe enough to want to protect. Morgan came very, very close to the brink in this episode, hallucinating the people he's lost and howling into the void as he killed walkers on the road. But later in the episode, Carol was able to reign him in and keep him from going off the reservation, literally and figuratively. The difference between the Morgan of "Clear" and Morgan now is that he has Carol and Ezekiel.
It's great to see Carol putting her spurs back on, too. Morgan finally told her what happened to Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), and she didn't retreat back into her cabin to stare into the fire and cry. She went to the Kingdom and told Ezekiel she was moving in, because there's work to be done.
The Kingdom is in. The last pieces of the puzzle are Hilltop, which should fall into place pretty easily if they can get Gregory (Xander Berkeley) out of the way, and Oceanside, which will be a little more difficult, and then the army to fight the Saviors will be assembled.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.