Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead, "Bury Me Here," found Morgan (Lennie James) coming to terms with the fact that violence is going to be necessary to cast off the yoke of tyranny Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors have placed on Alexandria and the surrounding communities. It's a hard realization for Morgan, who has preferred nonlethal means of conflict resolution since being trained in philosophy and aikido by his late teacher, Eastman (John Carroll Lynch).
After losing his son Duane (and before meeting Eastman), Morgan turned into a psychotic, indiscriminate killer. By the time he rejoined Rick (Andrew Lincoln), he had changed into a peaceable warrior. But the events of "Bury Me Here" made him realize that he has to kill again. Unfortunately, having to kill again is going to take a lot out of him, and it may cause him to break down and revert back to the beast he became before he was reigned back in. And he knows it.
TVGuide.com talked to Lennie James about what this means for Morgan going forward.
TVGuide.com: The big question is does this mean that Morgan has admitted that his way of looking at the world doesn't work?
Lennie James: Obviously I'm going to argue no. That is not what it means. I think at times what Morgan has been saying has been understood in a slightly askew way. His philosophy is that all life is precious. And should you take a life, you should be aware of how precious that life is that you've taken. You shouldn't take it willy-nilly. You shouldn't treat the living as you treat the dead. When Rick and the group when they came to the Kingdom, the King (Khary Payton) said to Morgan "what say you?" and Morgan said, "if we can find another way, we should try and find another way."
That's what he's always said. And yes, he's taken a life in quite a brutal way, but I think he's aware of the life he's taken, and he's aware of what it means to have taken that life and what he thinks could happen on the other side of it. So has he done something that he wished he didn't have to and probably wishes he hadn't done? Absolutely. But his philosophy, that we should meet people with an open hand instead of a fist, I think he still believes that.
It's more that it's time... That's what they said at the end, "it's time to fight."
You're absolutely right. Now it is time to fight. If they're seeing a change in Morgan, it's that he's come to the realization that if he is going to find some peace, and return to a time and place where he doesn't have to kill, he may have to go to war to win that peace.
What did he mean when he was talking to Carol (Melissa McBride) and he said, "I'm gonna kill 'em, one by one, out there, somewhere else?"
He is going to do what he does. Morgan has navigated this zombie apocalypse, this virus that he been released amongst us, for most of the time solo. He's been a single person walking through this world. Outside of the time he spent with his son and sometime that he talks about Season 3, in "Clear," where he said that there were other people who joined him in order to wipe out all of the walkers, but he couldn't do it with them. He's been pretty much a solo warrior.
And when he comes to Carol, he's basically coming to her to say goodbye, because he's getting back on that road. And until she talks him out of it, his war was going to start right there. He was going to walk down the road and he was going to keep walking and if he came across people, he would want to know whether they were Saviors or from some other group and if they were Saviors he was going to kill them.
How close is he to reverting to the wilderness Morgan that we saw in "Clear?"
I'm not sure he knows, and for me, Lennie, playing Morgan, I think that's the reason why he looks behind himself a couple of times in the episode, like at the end as he's sharpening the stick. I think that's exactly what he's looking for. He's checking to see how close the wilderness Morgan is to catching up to him. And I think that's partially why his intent is to start walking forward until Carol stops him.
I got chills a little bit right now, imagining your past following you like that.
That's one of the images that was present for me when we were doing this episode. It's partly what he's screaming about when he's in the street. I don't think it's just about him losing his mind. I think it's partly out of frustration because he knows what's about to well up in him. He's angry that he's been put back in that situation. He's furious because he knows what this is going to do to him and he might not be strong enough to hold it back.
Will people back in Alexandria and in the Kingdom trust him to follow through on his willingness to fight now?
I don't know, but I do think that if he has anybody on his side at this particular moment in time — and he probably doesn't have many — I think his saving grace is that he probably has Carol on his side and he may well have the King. And those are two powerful allies. But I do think that part of the reason why Carol says to him, you be here and let me do a bit of the walking first, and then she goes directly to the King and says "it's time," is on one level to protect Morgan and to, now that we're all aware that it's inevitable, to somehow keep him onside and try and save him, not least from himself.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.