“Here’s Not Here” was one of the most beautiful episodes of The Walking Dead,” bar none. It wowed thematically and visually, with a moral compass examining against lush greenery that Walking Dead* doesn’t often take advantage of. However, given the controversial conclusion to last week’s episode, it was poorly timed.
Morgan’s stubborn, pro-life pacifism irked fans the same time Glenn met his end (?) last week. He showed mercy to the Wolves, who immediately made an attempt on Rick’s life and making rock-solid evidence that Morgan doesn’t belong. As Rick put it, compassion gets you killed, and compassion killed Glenn. Morgan being merciful isn’t just ignoring problems, it’s causing them.
A week after the harrowing “Thank You” where we don’t know the fate of Glenn, The Walking Dead followed up with an hour and a half of nothing but Morgan in “Here’s Not Here.” Because we don’t have the answers we want, because Morgan has been a pain in the ass, because we’re impatient, this week’s excellent episode has inspired undeserved hate just because it didn’t give people what they wanted right away. r/TheWalkingDead is really divided over it.
There are a lot of other things in “Here’s Not Here” that inspired rage from the more vocal of Walking Dead fans:
- It was absent of plot. In theory you could skip “Here’s Not Here” and not miss a thing. It ends with Rick approaching the gates (presumably from surviving his helpless situation at the end of “Thank You”). Technically, the episode is a waste of time.
- It’s light on action. The few walker kills were nothing Walking Dead fans aren’t used to. The first thing I think about “Here’s Not Here” is how relaxing it is, even if it still has brutal executions.
- It’s “slow.” It’s not, but if no one is running around in distress then an episode is slow by Walking Dead standards and people get pissed.
I’ll acknowledge that the plot was wack. A focus on character consequently pushes the show’s narrative to the side, and very few shows can do both well at the same time. But without plot, The Walking Dead had the luxury to indulge in Morgan’s transformation from unstable to serene, from a man wrecked with havoc to a man at peace.
It also allowed us to get to know Eastman, Morgan’s Obi-Wan, very well in a relatively short amount of time. As absurd he may is — he’s a vegan forensic psychologist who knows aikido with a solar-powered home and also let a man starve to death — Eastman may be one of the best characters the show has ever produced. He is among the few who you can actually classify as “Good,” with even Rick wavering into the darker nature of himself as of late.
(Side note: Anyone else pick up “Eastman” being a reference to Kevin Eastman, one of the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? It’s no coincidence Eastman wields a bo. Donatello did too.)
However, I refuse to acknowledge the episode’s slow-pacing and light action as detrimental. The last thing The Walking Dead has to be is an action series. The Walking Dead has historically proved it can be a zombie show without excessive action and violence, and it was built on the premise of how people deal when there’s nothing left to deal with. “Here’s Not Here” lived up to Walking Dead’s promises by acting as a character study, letting us understand Morgan and give context to his annoying compassion. With Eastman, it gave us a peek into a world that was just a little bigger before everything collapsed.
And because few people talk about it: The cinematography of “Here’s Not Here” was breathtaking. The greenery was lush and the wide vistas of the lake succeeded in capturing the zen-like serenity. The Walking Dead always had powerful visuals but they’ve always been harsh and ugly. “Here’s Not Here” was the first of The Walking Dead to elegantly capture woodland America.
Smart, compelling storytelling trumps all priorities, and this week’s episode did that. Answers to Glenn are coming. You can’t run a marathon without breathing a little.
Besides, you know he’s dead.