ALL THE METAPHORS! Here’s Not Here, The Walking Dead
Holy existential crisis, Batman! This is your brain on PTSD. And yet, you don’t have to go through war or the apocalypse in order to empathize with Morgan’s state of mind. In this fourth episode of season 6 of The Walking Dead we see Morgan melt down only to be reforged into something stronger.
Morgan stumbled across a cabin in the woods, occupied by a disembodied voice that tries to reason with him to put his rifle down. After ample warning, the voice materializes as a man with a staff named Eastman who promptly knocks Morgan the fuck out. He wakes up inside what looks like a jail cell inside the cabin’s living room.
Eastman feeds Morgan, tells him that he was a forensic psychologist who helped rehabilitate even the most evil of people. All the while Morgan sits in the cell in silence unless he’s screaming for Eastman to kill him. It seems Morgan has been there for a few days and Eastman has tried to pry his past out of him, asking him why he feels the need to kill everything he sees. Eastman explains that his predicament is being in this room of horror in his mind where he watched his wife and son die, and he sees a door to leave that room, but when he goes through that door to escape the horror, he finds it leads right back to that room, over and over again. Who hasn’t felt that relentless, seemingly inescapable anguish? Eastman tells him he can choose another door, throws him a copy of The Art of Peace. Before turning in for the night, Eastman brings his goat, Tabitha, up and pens her on the other side of the living room. He asks Morgan to not hurt her.
Why would he do that if Morgan is locked in a cell? Because that door isn’t locked. Morgan never even tried to open it or he would have found it unlocked days ago. Just like the way Morgan hasn’t left the torture room of his mind. Morgan even goes so far as to break off the zipper pull of his sweater and use it to pry apart the wood and bars of the cell covering the window so he can escape, all of which is far more trouble than just opening that door. Even after Eastman tells him the door is unlocked, that he threw the key in the river long ago, Morgan chooses to stay in the cell. Eastman told him he could stay in the cell or on the couch and he walked back into that cell and slammed the door. Eastman opened it.
Morgan isn’t ready to leave the comfort of the horror room of his mind. Eastman repeatedly shows him that there is an opening. But you can’t force someone to come out, you can only give them the tools to walk out on their own. And it is a slow and painstaking process. Eastman teaches him Akido, a martial art that teaches how to understand the rhythm and intent of an opponent to find the best position and timing to use a counter-technique. That right there is a way to handle life in general. Through the teachings of the martial art, Aikido, and The Art of Peace, Eastman shows Morgan how to free himself from that horror room in his mind. But it is always his choice to stay in there or go. This is no magic cure-all. This is proved when Morgan freezes in the face of a walker, and Eastman steps in to save him, getting bit in the process. Morgan immediately reverts back to screaming at Eastman to kill him. After all he has learned and unlearned in his time in that cabin, he still felt it was easier to just give in and die and be done with all of it. And maybe that is the easiest choice, but easy doesn’t mean best. And it is a choice. Morgan had to choose to live and he struggled to climb back up that cliff of doubt and terror.
Eastman is no stranger to that choice. A former patient of his charmed his way out of prison only to kill Eastman’s wife, daughter and son. Eastman’s answer to that pain was to wait for him to charm his way back out of prison, kidnap him, and take him up to this cabin in the woods where he built a cell in the living room. He locked the murderer of his family in that cell and starved him to death. And it was no quick process; it took 47 days. In the end, Eastman felt no peace at that man’s death. He explains that humans are not built to kill. We have no fangs or claws, we have feelings, and those feelings make us connected. People don’t come back from war with PTSD because we’re so unaffected by killing. All life is precious. But he killed your family! All life is precious. Eastman even treats the walkers with dignity. After impaling their skulls, he drags them off to a makeshift cemetery and buries them, complete with personalized wooden grave markers from IDs he keeps in a tin. Even the body of his family’s murderer. It’s so easy to discount these walkers as the people they once were, especially when they’re trying to kill you. And Eastman doesn’t hesitate to take down a walker, but he honors the reality that they were once human beings and deserve to be remembered as such.
It is with this choice of a new perspective that Morgan heads off down the train tracks after helping Eastman shuffle off this mortal coil. Eastman told Morgan that he could stay at that cabin as long as he wanted, that the water and electricity would be plentiful, but that he shouldn’t stay there. That’s not living. Life should be lived with people, that people are the core to everything. You don’t live by hiding yourself away in some safe little cove, or by shunning life and people and things that might hurt you. Even when the world has ended, you have to get out there and live. You can’t let yourself die inside. People want to laugh about emotions and inner well being and tell you to suck it up and deal with it, or that your feelings aren’t even real, and are meaningless and effect nothing. Well, tell Morgan that. Tell Eastman that. People want to deny that we are emotional, feeling beings because they figure that somehow makes us weak. Not dealing with his feelings is what turned Morgan into a laser-focused, unthinking, unfeeling killing machine. How well did that benefit the world? What advantage did that give him? Yeah, he stayed alive, but for what purpose? Staying alive simply for the sake of staying alive isn’t living. Just like holing yourself away in your house where you think it’s safe isn’t living. You don’t have to be experiencing the apocalypse to take these same lessons away from this episode.
Yeah, yeah, we all want to know what the hell is going on with Glenn and Rick and Daryl, and people were up in arms over this episode and how it sucked and was pointless. That’s where me and my philosophy degree come in to open up your unenlightened mind.
Here’s Not Here.
The prison you’ve locked yourself up in inside your mind is not where you’re really at.
Here’s Not Here.
You can escape the hell you feel you are in, but you have to choose it, and choose every painful, difficult step, and keep choosing it forever.
Here’s Not Here.
You have to want it, and I think that’s where Morgan might fail with the Wolf he has hidden away at Alexandria. That guy doesn’t want it. Hopefully Morgan can help Rick and the gang from slipping over that edge he fell off. Rick is breaking while Carol is hardening: two different reactions to the same situation.
Here’s Not Here.