In a break from the prison vs Woodbury shenanigans, Rick, Carl and Michonne go in search of guns. What they find instead is Morgan, the man who helped Rick when he woke up from his coma way back in the first episode.
As soon as I realised they were back in Rick’s old police station, I was expecting Lennie James’ Morgan to turn up, so the identity of the man on the roof was immediately clear. That doesn’t mean that seeing what Morgan has become isn’t a surprise. His warnings to the humans scribbled all over the streets were unsettling (and blackly funny – ‘Not shitting you’ was a particularly good one), and his zombie traps were inspired. But they were clearly not the actions of a man who still had a firm grip on his marbles.
Lennie James gave a sterling performance, deep grief and bitterness peeking through the derangement. Morgan telling Rick off for not turning his radio on was one of the most powerful and affecting scenes in three series of The Walking Dead, and it brought out the best in Andrew Lincoln too. Rick healed before our eyes, forced into sanity by Morgan’s ravings, and realising just how far he’s moved away from caring about other human beings. By the end Rick helps Morgan find some measure of peace, and he certainly finds some of his own.
This episode is all about the characters reconnecting with the humanity that’s been missing for the last few episodes. We see them abandon a lone survivor (twice) without batting an eyelid at the start of the episode, but by the end all three have evolved. Carl and Michonne have a nice subplot in which Carl tries to liberate a photo of him and his parents from a walker-infested bar so that Judith can grow up knowing what their mother looks like.
This subplot provides the action of the episode, with Michonne using rats in cages as a diversion for the walkers while they sneak inside. The escaped rat running round a corner towards them was a great ‘oh, shit’ moment, as it was immediately followed by a hoard of zombies. But the action was really just a side-effect of the real point of the subplot, as it allowed Carl and Michonne to start acting like real human beings. We’re reminded that blank-faced killer Carl is still just a kid who misses his mum, and Michonne gets to show off the blunt compassion that we haven’t seen since she was nursing Andrea back at the start of the series.
It was a great episode for Danai Gurira, who had more dialogue in one episode that she’s had all series. Michonne got to display a sense of humour (and a taste for tacky cat ornaments) as she finally stopped scowling and started to defrost. It doesn’t make her any less of a bad-ass, but it certainly makes her more likeable. By the end, after Carl vouches for her, Rick and Michonne have a beautifully played moment of honesty, as she confesses that she used to talk to her dead boyfriend. It ends with Rick cracking a deadpan joke, and suddenly I feel like I’m watching a show about real people, not cut-outs waiting for their turn to get eaten.
Of course, they’re not completely humanised. On the way home, they find the mangled body of the survivor who they abandoned earlier on – and they steal his backpack. Well, there is a zombie apocalypse on. You can’t expect everyone to go around emoting all the time.
This was a powerful, very well written episode, which bodes well seeing as the writer was next year’s new showrunner, Scott Gimple. It answered some questions that had been bugging me (like when exactly Rick had started trusting Michonne) and brought Rick back on track just as his burgeoning insanity was beginning to grate. Quiet, simple and focused without having to rely on shock deaths for drama, this is possibly the best episode the show has ever produced.