The Walking Dead 6×04 ‘Here’s Not Here’: An act of creation

The Walking Dead 6x04 Cover

It’s a story we’ve heard a million times. The troubled student is unsure what to do with his life, aimlessly wandering through the world. The master finds him, sees his potential, trains him in his ways. And then the master dies, forcing the student to put his skills to the test, using them to navigate the world with a newfound sense of purpose. It’s a formulaic story, but it’s one that calls upon our own inability to find purpose in our lives, as well as our desire for somebody to give us purpose. We want so badly to be taken care of, for somebody who has confidence and purpose to deliver that to us. And we want that because the world doesn’t ever give us purpose; even if someone comes around and mentors us, we still have to find ways to transform their message into something that is our own.

The Walking Dead 6x04-1

Source: AMC

That being said, The Walking Dead doesn’t get nearly enough credit. These four weeks are some of the best episodes that the show has put out yet, and considering how most seasons of televisions have god-awful sixth seasons (Dexter, How I Met Your Mother, OZ, etc), it’s nothing short of miraculous how good The Walking Dead is right now. The Walking Dead is also a show that takes a ridiculous amount of storytelling risks. Right after a very controversial episode, instead of resolving the issue at hand, Gimple instead writes a 90-minute flashback episode entirely dedicated to a returning character: Morgan. It’s a bold move for a showrunner that has been full of them over the course of his run, and it has the potential to end disastrously.

The Walking Dead 6x04-2

Source: AMC

But it doesn’t end disastrously. In fact, “Here’s Not Here” is easily one of the show’s best episodes, if not its best. It’s certainly the first episode other than the pilot to put the extended runtime to good use, filling its extra half-an-hour to capacity with one of the most poignant and powerful stories the show has ever done. And the reason for that poignancy comes from the way that it counterbalances the show’s nihilism. I mentioned last week that The Walking Dead has the capacity to dive into misery porn, where the show simply becomes mean and awful for the sake of shock, and last week’s “Thank You” threatened to dip over the line into misery porn. But “Here’s Not Here” certainly helps to bring the previous episode back from the edge, as it reminds us of the humanity still left in a broken world, that every person has the ability to come back from the edge if the right support is in place.

The Walking Dead 6x04-3

Source: AMC

“Here’s Not Here” takes Morgan, a character we knew last from Season 3’s “Clear” (another remarkable episode written by Gimple), and shows us how he came back from the brink of insanity. He wanders through the woods, haunted by his dead wife and child, obsessed with clearing zombies and setting up traps for them. He does this until he comes across a cabin, where a man named Eastman knocks him out and places him into a jail cell within the cabin. Eastman works as Morgan’s master, a man who teaches him that life is precious and should be preserved, how looking at life in that fashion will bring purpose to his own. This wouldn’t work unless Eastman is presented in a compelling light, which is achieved through a backstory that is revealed in small chunks, providing us with just enough detail throughout the episode to both keep the audience intrigued and to give the audience new perspectives on the story. Before the zombie outbreak, Eastman worked as a forensic psychologist until his wife and children were murdered by a killer who disliked him. Before finally committing to a life of nonviolence, Eastman slowly murdered the killer, starving him to death in the cage in his cabin. This story works because giving Eastman a past of great violence makes his nonviolence seem like more of an achievement, validating his role as master by making his accomplishments really mean something. It also validates Eastman’s understanding of peace, as slowly killing his family’s murderer gives him the understanding that murder never brings peace, only trauma and further paranoia.

The Walking Dead 6x04-4

Source: AMC

What makes the episode really work is how Morgan’s transformation is a complete antithesis to what the show has communicated thus far. The Walking Dead is largely about how the new status quo murders who people were, transforming them into something that can exist in the new world. “Here’s Not Here” offers up the thesis that it’s possible to exist as peaceful in a world without law, that having the ability to kill and not killing is actively making the decision to be peaceful. For people like Gabriel who can’t kill, not killing doesn’t mean much. But for somebody like Morgan who has come back from the edge of insanity, who has committed murder over and over, it’s means a lot to be able to remain peaceful in a world where peace is a liability. This also helps his juxtaposition to Rick, who is looking worse and worse as his master plan continues to fall apart.

The Walking Dead needs episodes like “Here’s Not Here” to balance the nihilism, to remind us that love and compassion exist in a world governed by the desire to survive. Surviving means more than just existing, it means living for something, whether that something be a cause or a person or an idea. It means remembering that even the worst people have something precious within them, that even a goat can have value. And even though there are those that would reject Morgan’s beliefs, those that push away compassion for the comfort of violence, that doesn’t invalidate his effort. Because violence and distance is cowardice, not making yourself vulnerable to pain and suffering. Giving value to life is an act of creation, something that can be taken away. And the only way for any remnants of the world to survive is to create.

So what did you think of “Here’s Not Here?” Was it a worthwhile departure from the present storyline? Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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  • Gui

    It was a beautiful episode, this. Morgan’s transformation is definitely a meaningful one, and you can see how that’ll be important in the long run. Right now, he’s trying to change that wolf, but at the same time the question remains: Would those words get through to everyone? I’m pretty sure Morgan sees his past self in the woods, the same one we saw in Clear and early in this episode. He only didn’t kill Rick because Carl shot him and then Rick got through to him for a short while. But he dipped right back into that violence.
    So while I don’t think his words will get through to that wolf (and even if they did, it doesn’t seem he has long), I think they’ll be immensely needed for the rest of the group. Specially the ones like Rick, Carol and Abraham, who are the ones further into that world of violence. If society is to start getting on its feet again, the decision to be peaceful despite being able to easily kill someone is needed. At the same time, unfortunately, all what Morgan learned is difficult in this world. There needs to be a balance, otherwise you’ll break under the weight of that violence, like Morgan did, like we’re seeing Rick and Carol doing. This episode does give me further hopes that we’re moving towards the reestablishment of civilization, towards actually living rather than surviving.

    I think I can see why they decided to put this episode right here. Not only does it set up a mindset that’ll clearly be important as this “megaherd” arc goes on, but you do need a break from this. Based on the promo for next week and Rick yelling “open the gates!”, next episode won’t exactly give us much breathing room. I have the feeling that this intensity will go nonstop until the midseason finale where this arc will likely end, and frankly, having 7 episodes of back to back intensity and huge moments could backfire if there isn’t something slower to let you take it all in. Hope and despair balancing out and whatnot.

    • Michael St. Charles

      Yeah, I really do appreciate the balance between insanity and peaceful meditating. Next episode is looking to be centered around the Alexandrians, and those always seem to sag when they revolve around dialogue. But I don’t know if you saw the promo with Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham, but it looks like more zombie carnage and insanity. Not to mention that the herd arc will definitely resolve itself by the end of the first half of the season, meaning that we’ll get another mid-season finale thick with carnage and violence. I love carnage and violence (if it doesn’t, you know, become misery porn), but peaceful episode’s like Morgan’s really help to balance out the pain and violence with a peaceful message that the other characters need to remember, if only to keep them interesting and conflicted. I’m excited for the back half of this first part of the season! Especially for the Daryl-centric episode.

      • Gui

        Actually, from what I’m aware, that promo with Daryl, Sasha and Abraham is actually for episode 6, seems AMC actually uploaded that one to their channel by mistake. They’ve removed that one now from their channel and put up the correct one. So it’ll be a bit of wait for that.
        Next one, while focused around the Alexandrians, seems to have Jessie and Maggie at the center of things, so that should be interesting if done well. Maggie, specially, I feel that with recent events there’s a lot of potential with her. And with the last few episodes noticeably thinning down the Alexandrians, it should be more focused. I’m definitely excited for the rest of this half season, for all we know Gimple could turn everything around on us. I’m partly expecting a bloody yet hopeful resolution to this arc.

        • Michael St. Charles

          Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard as well. I’m glad they uploaded that one by mistake, as it looks really really good. I’m hopeful.

          And considering how the comics have played out, I’m very nervous that this half-season is going to end on an extremely grim note. Maybe they’ll switch things around a bit, which would be nice, because I’m not a fan of Kirkman’s plotting or, really, his writing at all. I’m hopeful that Gimple will do a good job of ending this particular arc.

  • George Liapes

    I thought it was one of the best the episodes the show has done too! I love how it made Morgan’s actions in “JSS” a lot more understandable than having a simple
    reluctance to kill. It is kinda disappointING that it was placed after such a huge episode (even though I pretty much knew that it wouldn’t resolve Glenn’s cliffhanger after seeing the promo) but that didn’t change the quality of the episode for me.

    Next week seems to be a return to intensity, as from the episode description on AMC, we see the Alexandrians react to the attack in “JSS”, and I can’t wait to see if they step up or crack under the pressure.

    Great review, keep it up!

    • Michael St. Charles

      I’m so nervous that the resolution to the Glenn cliffhanger will go badly, so I’m okay with waiting, haha. I still have faith in Gimple’s ability to make a good story (I mean, look at how fantastic this episode was), so I’m hopeful.

      And thanks, man! I’ll be putting up my Fargo review today (yeah…I’m a little behind), so check that out later today!

  • Nate

    I agree that it was an excellent episode. However, I was a little disappointed that it was an extended episode… and then it only featured one main character. I’m not the biggest Morgan fan, so it was kind of hard for me to watch the episode. I really want to see what happens next.

    • Michael St. Charles

      That’s definitely understandable. If you’re not a huge Morgan fan, then the episode won’t be up your alley for sure. The next one features the aftermath of the Wolves’ attack, so I think you’ll be more invested in that one.