One of the hottest topics in season five of AMC‘s The Walking Dead was the return of Morgan Jones (Leenie James). There’s all kinds of speculation about what he is doing and why. Morgan has been a fan favorite character since the premiere episode and his return in season three was not a happy one. Along comes season five and bam! There’s Morgan, looking like some apocalyptic bad-ass. Did anyone one else get that The Book of Eli feeling when he showed up on-screen? What’s Morgan up to?
Before this season the last time we saw Morgan was in Season Three’s episode Clear, written by Scott Gimple, the current show runner. Morgan, while physically well, wasn’t in very good mental shape as you can see in the picture below.
MTV interviewed Leenie James shortly after the episode aired and he explained where Morgan was mentally in the episode and what the chances were that we might see Morgan again:
MTV: Throughout the episode, Morgan keeps talking about having to “clear.” That’s the title of the episode as well. Can you explain what “clearing” meant to you and to Morgan?
James: He’s a man who’s grieving, a man who feels he’s being punished, and a man who on one level wishes he was dead. But he’s not dead. I think at that point, some people with death wishes, they take huge risks. For Morgan, his risk, the only justification he can find in the crazy world he finds himself in — his wife is gone, and his son is gone, and the only thing he can find to justify that is he must be here for a purpose. And his purpose is to wipe out as many of the walkers as he possibly can, to wipe out everybody. That’s all that’s left for him. That’s the road he’s on. He’s a man on a mission; he’s a man with no name. The only thing he can achieve, and the only sense he can make of not killing his wife and only doing it after she’d bitten his son, is that somewhere, the Gods, the universe, something is saying, “Your job here is to kill.” That’s what he means. It’s his job to “clear.”
MTV: Does that speak to why he didn’t go off with Rick in the end? That he’s already on a mission, and what Rick is offering will distract him from his purpose?
James: Yeah. And I think in a very strange way, what Rick is offering seems like normalcy in this crazy, crazy world of “The Walking Dead.” He can’t handle anything structured and organized. He can’t handle being around too many people. To a certain extent, he has no control over who and why he might kill. In a way, for me, his not going is an act of strange friendship with Rick. “I can’t go with you because I don’t know what might trigger the next ‘clearing’ I have to do.”
MTV: Of course, Morgan’s still alive at the end of the episode, so the door is open for another appearance.
James: If they want me, if they offer something as juicy as what was offered on this particular episode, then I’d seriously consider [returning]. I enjoy my time on “Walking Dead.” There are very few shows, almost no shows out there like it. I’ve really liked my time in Atlanta and my time working with Andy Lincoln. If all of those things match up again, then why not? But I have no idea if I’m in their thoughts or if it’s even a possibility at this point.
Then when season five premiered we were treated to the bonus scene below at the end of the episode:
The Internet took quick notice and fans went nuts with speculation. One very important clue was found by paying close attention to the Terminus sign that Rick writes over with that unmistakably red Georgia clay.
Look at the growth above compared to the picture below when Morgan passes the same sign. That is at least a month, if not more of growth.
That puts Morgan behind Rick’s group in time, a substantial amount of time, at least a month, but probably three months considering the growth. Let’s take a moment to look at how Morgan moves through this apocalyptic world. He has almost complete body and face cover that includes eye protection goggles, knee pads and heavy boots.
*Remember that back in season three Morgan was wearing body armor, that was the only thing that saved him when Carl shot him in the chest. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was wearing something similar underneath that jacket now.
He’s also carrying an assault style weapon which he carries in an upside down slung position on his back. While it is not as fast as carrying it in your hands, it can be brought around to a firing position fairly fast with practice. What that shows is that Morgan isn’t taking an aggressive stance against what might be out there, but taking it as he finds it.
I’ll get back to that thought after the video below. He also has a pack with a machete, A riot gear helmet, much like the ones Rick’s group found at the prison:
Does this mean that Morgan went to the prison after he worked through his grief and anguish at the loss of his son? Rick did tell him that he was welcome at the prison. We might find out when Morgan finally catches up with Rick’s group. Not because Morgan is following them, more that he is just following signs that point in the direction of people. It is more likely that Morgan went to the prison to find Rick, found it destroyed and thought Rick was dead.
Then Morgan, just like everyone else that left after the prison was attacked, found signs pointing toward Terminus. Those other Terminus signs lead him to find the Terminus sign Rick wrote on. Once he knew that was not a safe place to go to, he followed the carved signs in the trees nearby that indicated that someone went in that direction.
It isn’t until the mid-season finale that we knew for sure that Morgan had no idea that Rick was still alive. Watch, or re-watch, the scene below and pay special attention to his facial expressions towards the end.
It’s easy to tell that he had no idea that Rick was still alive until he saw that note from Abraham on the map. Morgan will now follow said map that should lead him in the general direction that Rick’s group will be taking. Even though Eugene lied and there is no cure, Noah comes from a walled community that is on the way to Washington. Rick’s group will head in that direction after dealing with the aftermath of Beth’s loss. I’d like to think they’ll do that to help Noah get home, honor Beth’s sacrifice to save Noah, and perhaps find a safer place to live for themselves.
Now let’s get back to a few other things I’ve noticed. We only see Morgan encounter one Walker in the clips so far. The Walker with the broken neck that couldn’t move at the school. Notice how Morgan didn’t immediately go for his gun when he heard the Walker moan. Instead he reached for a knife. Something that would make little to no noise to attract other Walkers.. or other much more dangerous humans. Morgan didn’t hum, whistle or make any noise while he was moving around in the scenes we’ve seen him in this season. He’s learned how to move around safely in this world by being quiet and alert, aware of his surroundings.
He isn’t angry at the Walker, he whispers, “Shhh” and quickly drives his knife into the head to end it. Back in Season Three Morgan would have used an axe, and worked up a healthy sweat beating that Walker to goo. Things have changed for Morgan.
Earlier I discussed how Morgan is moving through the world now. He seems to glide through, he’s quiet, doesn’t disturb the area much except to pick up an item here or there to examine. The most telling actions that Morgan takes in that last clip is what he does at the altar in Father Gabriel’s church.
When Morgan was first introduced in Season One, he says a prayer at a meal with his son and Rick, only after his son reminds him. Morgan had faith, but it was more of an afterthought for him at that point. The next time we see him in Season Three Morgan has lost what little faith he had, along with his mind.
Morgan Jones: Hey, your boy, is he dead?
Rick Grimes: No.
Morgan Jones: No? He will be. See, ’cause people like you, the good people, they always die. And the bad people do, too. But the weak people, the people like me… we have inherited the earth.
Cut to Season Five and Morgan enters Father Gabriel’s church, which was barricaded against Walkers, littered with Walker corpses and blood stained floors. Morgan walks in and approaches the Altar.
He sets the cross upright, and then lays out three items. A Goo Goo Cluster, a bullet, and a rabbit’s foot. There are all kinds of theories out there to explain why he placed those particular items on the altar, and what they represent. Perhaps it is the three things Morgan thinks you need to survive in this world now, food, protection, and luck.
That bullet looks a lot like what Rick would use in his Colt Python. That’s a 357 hollow point from what I can see which would look like this:
Seems like a match to me. Perhaps it is the bullet that Michonne gave Rick in the Clear episode. Rick put it in his shirt pocket and it could have fallen out when he and Morgan fought. Perhaps Morgan found it and kept it as a token of Rick, his last friend in the world.
After Morgan prays for a moment, he smirks to himself, is he acknowledging the absurdity of it all? Praying in a church filled with corpses. Remember his prayer at meal time in Season One?
Father, we thank thee for this food…
We ask you to watch over us in these crazy days.
Was he praying for guidance in these “crazy days”? He certainly had that prayer answered when he turned around and found the map.
The look on his face was perfect. Almost disbelieving at his good luck, or better still, that he actually got an answer to his prayer, one that he never expected.
There is one last thought I would like to leave you with. Although Morgan appears quite sane now, there is no guarantee that he has recovered from his mental lapse entirely. Those that have read the comics know that there are a lot of people who, once broken, never fully recover, and present their own dangers to those around them.
I for one hope that Morgan will be the positive influence that Rick needs to “Go Back.” even though Rick is now a firm believer that you can never go back. I think that Morgan’s return, the semi-sane Morgan that is, will help Rick recapture the humanitarian outlook that Herschel helped him develop. Not that he’ll be a pushover, but that he will be able to work past the “Kill them all and let God sort them out” attitude Rick currently has.
Will we see Morgan catch up to Rick’s group before Season Five ends? I’m not so sure. At best I think we’ll have a few more Morgan scenes and the Morgan/Rick meet-up at the end of the season finale.