The Walking Dead treats us to 90-minutes of high-intensity drama and action in the sixth season’s third episode, #603 “Here’s Not Here.”
The episode starts with a title card that says “NOW.” We see just Morgan’s face, talking to what we assume is the Wolf that Morgan nocked out at the end of episode 602. “You said you wanted everything that I have,” Morgan says. “Every last bit. Well here it is. Every. Last. Bit.”
Then a new title card flashes that says, “THEN.” We flash back to Morgan in season three, when he was pretty crazy. He’s alone in his little apartment where Rick and Michonne and Carl found him. He’s talking to himself, to the walls, getting more and more escalated. “You know you were supposed to! You had the gun, you had the knife! You know you were supposed to!” We see the episode’s title, “Here’s Not Here” painted on the walls, along with other words, such as “Not clear.” Then a lamp breaks on the floor and the room is slowly engulfed in flames.
Later, Morgan is in the woods with an assault rifle. He runs through about a half-dozen walkers and dispatches them all with the butt of the gun. We then see him dragging the bodies into a pile and lighting them on fire. Another walker is attracted by the fire but he quickly does away with it. Then another. Then one bursts through the fire and attacks him while still burning, in a very Friday the 13th moment. Morgan dispatches it quickly, too. The next morning, Morgan dispatches a few more walkers, cooks breakfast, and we see that he’s spray painted the word “Clear” on a large rock.
As Morgan is exploring the woods, we see that a couple of men are following him. He sneaks up on them and as they run past, and puts his staff through the throat of the first one, and then chokes out the second one, repeating, “You don’t. You don’t!” Then we see him with another body bonfire at night. The next morning, we see he’s made a protective wall of spikes and skewered a few walkers on them. We also see that he’s painting things on rocks and trees like, “Clear,” and “Here’s not here.” Eventually, he finds a clearing and starts repeating, “You know what it is,” before he starts swinging his staff at nothing. We see that his staff is more of a spear, with a very sharp point at one end.
Then he hears a goat bleating. Following the noise, he comes across a cabin in the woods. (What could go wrong at a cabin in the woods?) As he approaches the goat, a man’s voice says “Can you step away from the goat? I still need her. I still haven’t figured out how to make cheese.” Morgan fires at a man in the distance, and the man implores him to put down the gun so they can talk. Morgan is paranoid and continues trying to find the man and get into the cabin. Suddenly, he is knocked out by a staff blow to the head.
Morgan wakes up in a cell inside the cabin with a tray of food next to him. The man enters and says, “What’s your name?” “Kill me,” Morgan answers. “Well, that’s a stupid name. You should change it,” the man replies. Morgan starts chanting, “Kill me,” over and over again. The man introduces himself as Eastman. He throws a book into the cell called The Art of Peace. Then he hears his goat bleating and goes outside, where a walker is approaching. He quickly dispatches it with his staff. Later that day, Eatsman brings the goat inside. Morgan is sitting on the floor of the cell, eating a tomato and muttering to himself.
The next day, Morgan sees Eastman practicing with his staff outside. He watches Eastman dispatch another walker with his staff and drag the body off. Eastman returns and begins talking. He tells Morgan that he was a forensic psychologist. His job was to interview state prisoners to see if they were going to commit crimes again if they were released. He asks Morgan what he does. “I clear,” Morgan replies. When asked what that means, Morgan explains that he kills anything that gets near him, people, walkers, etc. “Why?” Eastman asks. “Because that’s why I’m still here,” Morgan replies. “Well, that’s the biggest load of horse shit I ever heard,” Eastman replies.
Eastman tells Morgan that he has PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He tells him that he can choose a different path. He sees that Morgan has a wedding ring and deduces that Morgan had a family. When he realizes that Morgan witnessed their deaths, he explains that Morgan is stuck in the moment when he lost them, and he keeps seeing it over and over again in his mind. He explains how Morgan keeps walking out a door in his mind trying to get away from it, but every time he goes through the door, it leads him right back to that moment. Eastman tells him that people aren’t designed to kill. He tells him that he’s “interviewed over 825 people who have done terrible things. I’ve only met one evil person.”
Eventually, Eastman reveals that the cell door is open, and it always was. “I’m not gonna hold you anymore. I can’t stop you. Go, clear. Or stay and crash on the couch, and we’ll try to find you another way.” Morgan approaches him slightly menacingly. “You stay or you go. Those are your choices. I will not allow you to kill me,” Eastman says. Morgan opens the door and walks out, then rushes Eastman.
They get into a fight, and Eastman pretty much kicks Morgan’s ass, turning his energy against him and continually evading him and getting the upper hand. During the fight, Morgan slams Eastman into a piece of child’s artwork on ceramic a similar material that’s on the wall and it falls and breaks in half. Eventually, he gets on top of Morgan and starts to choke him to subdue him. Morgan gives up and once agains says, “Kill me.” Eastman releases his grip. When Eastman sees the broken artwork, his temper flares and he holds his staff at Morgan’s head, then eventually relaxes. “I gave you two choices,” he says, “the door or the couch.” Morgan walks back into the cell and slams the door. Eastman picks up the artwork and walks into the other room.
Later, Eastman tells Morgan about his daughter, and how she found him in the garage one day crying after a long day of interviewing terrible people. She gave him a rabbit’s foot that she had won at the school carnival that day and told him it would bring him luck. The next day, he found a flyer for Aikido and started studying it. That’s how he beat Morgan, he reveals, with Aikido.
The next day, while Eastman is out, Morgan looks in the book about peace and sees a handwritten note in the front matter: “Aikido means not to kill. In Aikido, we try to completely avoid killing, even the most evil person.” He then hears Tabitha bleating and ignores it. He hears walkers snarling and ignores it. Eventually, the bleating gets louder and he rushes outside to find two walkers approaching Tabitha. He dispatches the first one, and ends up tussling with the second one. He appears to be about to give up when he hears Tabitha bleating and it snaps him into focus. He then quickly gains the upper hand and kills the second walker.
Morgan drags the body away from the cabin when he spots something and alters his path. He comes across a makeshift graveyard with dozens of burial sites. He digs a grave, and eventually Eastman shows up. He thanks Morgan for saving Tabitha. Then he goes through the walker’s clothes so he can get their IDs and starts to carve wooden placards with their names on them.
Back at the cabin, Eastman says, “A and B. A, you broke my fence and laid waste to a perfectly good tomato plant. You gotta fix it. B, follow me.” He leads Morgan to his shed, where he holds up what looks like a wooden stake with a sharp point. “Fixed your spear,” he says to Morgan, then picks up what used to be Morgan’s staff. He’s removed the pointed end and has carved it into the staff we know and love today.
Things then go into a montage, where we see Morgan training with Eastman and the staff, learning how to use it and learning Aikido. In voice over, we hear them discussing the tenets of Aikido. “It’s about redirecting. Evading. And actually caring about the welfare of your opponent.” “So you have to care about yourself.” “You have to believe that your life is precious. That all life is precious.”
At dinner, Morgan asks Eastman why he has a cell in his cabin. Eastman tells him the story of Crighton Dallas Wilton, the one truly evil man he interviewed in prison. Wilton was an extremely charming and disarming psychopath who had everyone fooled, but Eastman saw through his act and knew that he was just saying what people wanted to hear. One day while interviewing him, Wilton realized that Eastman knew he wasn’t really reformed, and struck him in the face and started choking him. Eastman pulls out the rabbits foot and reveals that it was Aikido that saved him. He then explains that Wilton did eventually escape from prison. He went to Eastman’s house and killed his wife, son and daughter. “He walked down the street to the police station, covered in their blood, and surrendered. He said the only reason he broke out was to destroy my life. A year passed, and he was still working those plots, by the roads out by 85. I built that cell with the full intention of bringing Crighton Dallas Wilton here, putting him beihd those bars, and watching him starve to death.”
“And did you?” Morgan asks. “I have come to believe that all life is precious,” Eastman answers. “Even for a man like that? Who did that to you, to your family?” Morgan asks. “I have come to believe that all life is precious,” Eastman repeats, “That’s why we’re having oatmeal burgers.” “You’re good at it,” Morgan says, “Redirecting.” He isn’t talking about Aikido.
The next day, Eastman is discussing a trip with Morgan and saying they need some supplies. Morgan tells him he might know where they can find some of the things they need. They end up back where Morgan was at the beginning of the episode, in the circle of stakes with the painted rocks. Eastman asks Morgan who he lost, and Morgan is visibly upset when talking about his wife and son. Eastman instructs Morgan to practice his Aikido forms. “Not here,” Morgan says sternly, but Eastman insists. Morgan runs through his aikido moves with the staff, and Eastman tells him, “You will hold a baby again.”
A walker appears, and Eastman tells Morgan it’s all his. Morgan goes to dispatch it with his staff but realizes it’s the young man he choked to death at the start of the episode. He freezes, and at the last moment, before the walker can bite him, Eastman runs up and shoves him out of the way. He quickly dispatches the walker, but it’s too late; he’s been bitten. They get into an argument, and Morgan attacks Eastman with his staff. They fight, but Eastman once again gets the upper hand and knocks Morgan’s legs out from under him. Morgan yells for Eastman to kill him, but Eastman refuses. He begins to drag the walker off to bury it, and Morgan says to him, “I told you not here!” “Eastman replies, “Well, that’s the thing. Here’s not here.” He then loads the walker into their wagon and walks away.
Morgan slips back into crazy mode. We see him sharpening sticks into spears and stalking walkers in the woods. He dispatches a walker and then comes across a young couple in the woods, who are clearly terrified of him. The woman offers him some food and a bullet when he threatens them. She thanks him when he lets them leave. We see the humanity return to Morgan’s eyes. Morgan runs back to where his aikido staff is and retrieves it, then heads back to the cabin, where he finds a walker gorging on Tabitha. He quickly kills it, and carts Tabitha out to the graveyard, where Eastman is burying the walker from earlier.
Morgan takes over the digging duties from Eastman so he can rest. As he’s digging, he notices a grave marker: Crighton Dallas Wilton. Eastman sees Morgan looking at it and tells him what happened. “Well like I said, they let him work the plots at 85, even after what he did. They let him because he was so damn charming. I got him in my car quick, and brought him back here. If they’d have caught me, it’d have been okay. It’d have been better. But I got him here and they didn’t know where to look. I put him in that cell, and I let him starve to death. It took 47 days. And then I was gone. I was where you were. And I wasn’t trying to open up the door anymore, either. What I did to him, it didn’t give me any peace. I found my peace when I decided never to kill again. To never kill anything again.” He then explains that he went back to Atlanta to turn himself in, and that’s when he found out the world had ended.
Back at the cabin, Eastman explains about the artwork. His daughter had drawn it on the wall of their house and thought he’d get mad, but he’d just put a frame around it instead. “I walked through 30 miles of the dead for a piece of drywall. Scariest thing I ever did. Best thing I ever did.” He then tells Morgan that he can stay here at the cabin, but he shouldn’t. “You stay here, you’ll be alone. Everything is about people. Everything in this life that’s worth a damn.” He then tells Morgan he’s ready and that he has a gun outside. As they’re walking outside, he stops and gives Morgan his rabbit’s foot. “Hope it’s lucky for you, too, whatever you decide.” “I’ve decided,” Morgan replies.
The next morning, we see Morgan outside practicing his Aikido forms. Then we see him leaving the cabin and setting out on his way. Eventually, he comes to a sign near some railroad tracks. He smiles and sets off on the tracks. As the camera pulls back, we see that the sign is one of the maps to Terminus.
NOW: We are back with Morgan in the present. He tells the captive Wolf, “So that’s it. Every last bit.” The Wolf says, “You think it can work out like that for me?” “Yes,” Morgan replies, “I think it can.” The Wolf then reveals that he’s been injured and was hoping there might be some medicine in Alexandria. “But that was before you people won,” he says. “So I know I’m probably going to die. But if I don’t, I am going to have to kill you, Morgan. I am going to have to kill every person here, every one of them. The children, too. Just like your friend Eastman’s children. Those are the rules. That’s my code.” Morgan stands up, then turns and walks out of the abandoned house. He locks the door behind him and stands outside for a moment, pondering. Then suddenly, we hear Rick’s voice from afar. “Open the gate! Open the gate!” Morgan runs off to help.
Fade to black.