‘The Walking Dead’: Carol’s Back. How Gone Is Morgan? (RECAP)

Lennie James TWD
Gene Page/AMC
Lennie James as Morgan Jones

Spoiler Alert: This recap contains major plot points from The Walking Dead: “Bury Me Here.”

For those of us struggling with the outright silliness of some recent Walking Dead episodes, “Bury Me Here” proved both a welcome emotional wallop and a reminder that when Kirkman and company are firing on all cylinders, few are better at crafting an extraordinary hour of television.

This one is about what we’ve been working toward all season—the idea that this particular rodeo is far too rugged and an interpretation of good guys and bad far too complex for any cowboy (or cowgirl) to try to wear a white hat and skip the gun fight. And there’s little room for Lone Rangers. Ones who expect to ride happily into the sunset, anyway.

“Bury Me Here” returned us to the Kingdom, where Ezekiel and company learned that their homegrown means of keeping the Saviors at bay will soon be wiped out by weevils—news that was delivered by a glorious Kingdomite named Nabila (more about her later). Still, they are able to meet this week’s request for a dozen cantaloupes. Really? Twelve melons and nothing more? Fortuitous, given the weevil situation, but how’s about a couple dozen cukes for Eugene’s pickle supply to make the trip worth while? But we know this — playing by the rules isn’t just a big part of Gavin’s game. It is the game.

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Carol, meanwhile, is having nightmares that wake her up whimpering. Her gut tells her that all is not right—enough so that she heads back through the Kingdom gates in search of Morgan. (Red sky in the morning. Carol, take warning.) Time in self-imposed solitary has dulled neither her ingenuity nor her ability to take out some walkers. Using a “One Way” sign that could not possibly be more meaningful, she wipes out a small herd, much to Ben’s amazement. Curiously, she leaves one undead un-dispatched, but it will serve a purpose later.

Finding Morgan alone in his room, she begins the inquisition: Why did Jesus bring Daryl and everyone else to the Kingdom? If what Daryl told her is true and the Alexandrians truly have the upper hand, why is the Kingdom still dealing with the Saviors? And the $64,000 question—is everyone in Alexandria OK? Or did Daryl tell her a fib?

Morgan will not be the bearer of bad news. He tells Carol that he kept his promise to her about keeping her confidence—Daryl didn’t find her because of him. But Daryl did find her—and what was said between them is just that. Between them. He’ll accompany her to Alexandria—she shouldn’t go alone—but the rest is a discussion that must be had there. He says they can leave for Alexandria right this minute, if that is what she wants. If it is, she doesn’t want him for company. Ben either. As we’ll find out soon enough, her refusal to let him skip the Savior drop and learn some things at the knee of his chosen mentor is going to be a game-changer for everyone involved. And not in a good way.

On the way back, she sees that the un-dispatched walker is now sporting a considerable head wound. It was dealt by a clearly troubled Richard, who is working away on a solo project behind a building lined on the outside with a row of shopping carts. He’s digging and his shovel hits a child’s backpack that reads “Katy”. It clearly means something to him, and we can pretty much guess what.

Here’s the part where delightful Nabila gets to deliver the bad news about the crops—and the best line of the episode, if not the whole seventh season: “Here’s the beautiful thing, your majesty,” she tells Ezekiel about the crop damage. But we know her words mean so much more. “You can tear it out and cut it down. You can burn it and throw it all away. But, if you want…it can all grow back.” Crops. Faith. Broken hearts. Wounded souls. Civility. Civilization.

Then Shiva growls, and Nabila gets the second best line of the season: “OK…I think I just pissed myself.” Heh.

Ben’s turn to stop by Morgan’s. Time to go make the drop, but before they do, he comes bearing a couple gifts. The first is Eastman’s book; Ben’s returning it. It made an impression. Especially this part: “To injure an opponent is to injure oneself.” Here’s the thing about that: You get injured either way. The other gift is a painting. He found it in an abandoned restaurant and a girl he knows fixed it up. Never mind which girl; they’re late for the drop. And they’re about to get even later.

Morgan and Richard watch Ben say goodbye to little brother Henry. Richard says the older boy is too young to have to serve as a dad. He was a dad, himself, once. Perfect timing. Perfect life. Morgan too? Morgan, too. They both recognize it ended well for neither without having to say so. Then Richard apologizes for the tension between them. But the thing is this: “I think you’re wrong about killing. About how things can last with the Saviors. I think you’re a good man — but the day is coming when you can’t be that good. When that happens, don’t beat yourself up about it.”

TWD RIchard Morgan

Karl Makinen as Richard, Lennie James as Morgan

Time to meet the Saviors. The trip is quickly interrupted by a roadblock made up of the same carts we saw lined up where Richard was digging. And the line of carts actually forms an arrow. The arrow points to a grave. The grave is marked with a sign. It says “Bury Me Here.” Uh, Richard?

But he feigns ignorance, warning everyone to raise their guns and scouting the area for an enemy he knows isn’t there. There’s method to this madness and it will not go the way he planned, other than the very end. For now, the group observes the grave and Ezekiel waxes philosophical about how fortunate they are to be sane in this crazy, crazy world. Ben speaks up to give credit where it’s due: “It isn’t luck, your majesty. The world does drive people crazy now. But you made us another world.”

They drive off to deliver the melons. It’s the usual crew of Saviors—weary Gavin, who admits that things have been “unnecessarily tense.” Therefore he is unnecessarily tense. Jared, being Jared and all, doesn’t help matters when he uses Morgan’s staff to knock Jerry upside the head for telling Gavin that interrupting the king is a no-no. In a rare moment of anger, Ben calls it like he sees it—Jared is a ratfaced prick. The insult catches Jared’s attention. It’s never good to catch Jared’s attention. And it’s about to get much, much worse.

The camera cuts to Richard as Gavin goes to examine the offering. The missing melon is noticed, and guns are drawn on both sides. Gavin orders the Kingdomites to surrender theirs, because things are about to get emotional. And guns and emotion are a deadly combination. And only one side of this discussion is entitled to deadly. Gavin is about to make good on his promise that Richard is next in line, but foolishly, he lets Jared do the deed. Problem for involved is, the “rat-faced” remark bumped Ben to the top of Jared’s s–t list. The boy takes the bullet instead. It’s a sickening moment.

To be fair, when Gavin wants everything to go to plan, that’s on his end, as well. He isn’t happy with how this went down, either, because he knew and Jared knew and Richard knew, too — the lesson was for everyone, but the price to pay was Richard’s. We just didn’t know that Richard intended that, too. For his crime, Jared will walk back to the sanctuary and if he doesn’t get a grip, Gavin will kill him himself. But business is business and a deal’s a deal, no matter who’s blood is spilled for the error—the missing melon must be presented tomorrow.

The Kingdomites race Ben to Carol’s for fear he will bleed out before they make the Kingdom (and what will they tell the residents once they are there?). The boy dies anyway, there on Carol’s table. His last words: “It’s OK. To injure the opponent is to injure yourself.” It’s not OK, Ben. Morgan prevents Ben from turning, then, horrified, flees back to where everything started to go so wrong. As he tries to make sense of it, his earlier post-apocalypse life flashes before his eyes — his lost wife, his lost boy, his previous meltdown. Desperately fending off another mental collapse, he kicks a rubber tub. The missing melon is there. And he realizes why.

Morgan finds Richard in his room and presents the evidence of his crime. Richard gives Morgan a variation on the speech he gave Daryl by the stagecoach semi: In order for Ezekiel to do something, for everyone to do something, someone had to die. So he decided to arrange for Gavin to be right, botch the tribute and start a war. Because the last time he did nothing, in his original camp, it cost him his wife and daughter. It wasn’t supposed to go like this. It was supposed to be his life, not Ben’s. But now good must come from the bad. Richard will confess his failure to Ezekiel. They will convince the Saviors that they are duly chastised, recommitted to the cause and then they will join the Alexandrian alliance and end the Saviors once and for all. Richard himself will lead the charge. But here’s the thing, Morgan. If you don’t kill, you may as well kill yourself. He can’t know how well Morgan gets the message.

Back at the exchange site, Morgan recovers his staff and Ben’s, staring hard at Ben’s spilled blood on the pavement. He wonders aloud if Richard confessed like he planned. He already knows the answer. Later, says Richard. Later what, says Ezekiel. Too late now—the Saviors are here. Gavin seems genuinely troubled that Ben is dead and sends Jared away. Then Richard launches Operation Bulls–t. It’s a short-lived mission. He barely gets “We get it …” out when Morgan knocks him to the ground. As everyone—Saviors, King and Kingdomites—looks on in shock, Morgan kills Richard with his bare hands. Never mind why, Gavin. They get it. They’ll be back next week, as promised.

When the Saviors leave, Morgan reveals Richard’s plan to his horrified companions. He wanted to die for the Kingdom. He already tried it once. This time he wanted it to be him — and that is how Benjamin ended up dying. But Morgan says “Duane” instead of Benjamin. His own boy rather than the boy he thought of as his own. Right amount of tragedy—wrong name. Ezekiel looks puzzled. Reeling, Morgan corrects his “error.” And we now know that somehow Morgan failed his own boy, too. A sacrifice gone wrong or maybe the failure to do something.

Morgan refuses to head home with the group; instead he’ll bury his victim in the grave Richard dug himself. Katy’s backpack goes in, too. But there is more business to attend to. At Carol’s. Does she really want to know what happened in Alexandria? She wants to know what happened to him first. Killed Richard; never mind the details. Does she really want to know? Carol knows that not knowing is no longer an option. She hid from the world and the world found her anyway. Because that’s how this world works. No room for Lone Rangers, white hat or otherwise. Sasha and Rosita are likely to discover that soon enough, too — you never just save or sacrifice yourself. It doesn’t work that way.

So now Carol knows. About Glenn and Abraham and Olivia and Spencer. That Jesus brought Rick to the Kingdom because an army is forming, with Rick leading the charge. But Morgan will go it alone. Recalling the words of someone they both know — and perfectly aware that there is no such thing as “alone” anymore, unless you are lying in your grave — she tells him he can “go and not go. Please. Please.” And so her house is now his.

Carol will be at the Kingdom. She will help Ezekiel get ready. She will help the fight. But not today. What they have may all get burned up and torn down, but not today. Today they will plant the beginnings for it to all grow go back. But we already know, with the season finale just a few episodes away, we’re probably going to piss ourselves first.

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The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC