In season three, before the Governor invaded the prison, Rick posed a choice to the group. “We can stay and we can fight, or we can go,” he said. They chose to fight. Since then, similar choices have been made countless times. Violence wins out. A standoff in a hospital leads to a shootout and Beth’s death. The Terminus group is slaughtered in a church. Rick’s group, in need of provisions, decides to infiltrate a Saviors outpost and kill everyone in it. Carol and Maggie escape imprisonment, leaving no survivors behind. The list goes on. Whatever message the writers of this series intend to convey about human nature, it’s not exactly a positive one.
This is why Morgan was reintroduced last season with a new pacifist philosophy. He became the antithesis for the group and all of the decisions they made. Unfortunately, this also made him a one-note, unrealistic character who quickly became infuriating to watch. He stood on one end of the show’s moral spectrum, while Rick and others stood on the other end. As time went on, Morgan loosened and adjusted his beliefs to fit the reality of what was happening around him. This culminated in him killing the savior who shot Carol in last season’s finale. The writers have certainly turned Morgan into a more compelling character as of late, and this week’s episode, titled “Bury Me Here”, might be his best since “Clear”.
Given The Walking Dead’s history of violence, I sort of rolled my eyes a few weeks back at King Ezekiel’s choice to retain peace with the Saviors. That’s not to say the decision wasn’t in line with the character, or didn’t make sense at the time. It’s just that we know it’s not going to last. Violence is inevitable in this universe, and “Bury Me Here” explores that long-running theme. It does so first through Carol, who’s seen leaving her home and returning to the Kingdom for the first time since her self-imposed isolation. Following her recent conversation with Daryl, she has no choice but to re-enter the world and find out what is really going on. She originally left because of violence. It had taken its toll on her, and she didn’t want to put herself through it anymore. However, she also understands that violence is necessary in order to protect the ones you love. So she decided to escape it and go off on her own. But the world still carried on, and the people she loves had to fight for themselves. For a while, ignorance was bliss. But she sensed that Daryl was withholding information during his visit, and in this episode she discovers the truth. Glenn and Abraham are dead, and she wasn’t there to protect them. Knowing this information, she now has to fight.
Even though it was apparent things would break down between the Kingdom in Saviors, this episode makes it happen in clever, unexpected ways. Morgan killing Richard is chilling because of its shock value, but also because of the weight it carries for Morgan as a character. This is not a reactive killing like the one from last season, but a calculated move. It’s one Morgan thinks about for at least a day. He does it in front of the Saviors, which is an ironic plea for non-violence. In order to set the record straight and maintain peace, Morgan strangles an unarmed man to death. The previous day, Richard tells him a personal story reminiscent of Morgan’s own past. He lost his wife, and later his child. Richard always blamed himself for it, even up to his final day, and could forgive himself for his inaction. Morgan’s pacifism began, in part, as a way to cope with the death of his son, Duane. It was a chance for him to regain control over a world that constantly tears people down. As Benjamin recites from the book Morgan gave to him, “to injure an opponent is to injure yourself.” Violence takes its toll on everyone, and Carol and Morgan understand that more than most.