The Walking Dead showrunner on the 'tragedy' of Morgan
SPOILER ALERT: Read only if you have already watched Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Bury Me Here.”
Sorry, Eastman. All that “every life is precious” mumbo-jumbo you fed Morgan when you had him in your cabin cell? Well, your pupil basically just spent hours sharpening his stick so he could stab it right the face. That’s right: Morgan is back to his killing ways, and not just in an I-have-to-do-it-to-protect-Carol sort of way.
This time, Morgan straight-up murdered duplicitous Kingdom fighter Richard after Richard’s plan to steal a cantaloupe to get himself killed and thereby force Ezekiel into action went awry when the Saviors shot and killed Benjamin instead. Uncovering the ruse, Morgan confronted Richard with his words, and then later with his stick and his hands — choking the life out of his former ally before then using Richard’s words to force the Saviors into a false sense of security so he could then later kill them all “one by one.” (Hey, if you’re going to start killing, may as well not half-ass it!)
We spoke to showrunner Scott M. Gimple — who also wrote this episode — to get his take on Morgan’s big moment, as well as what the aftershocks mean for Carol. (Also make sure to read our episode Q&A with the man who plays Morgan, Lennie James.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, you’re the Morgan guy, and have written all the big Morgan episodes going all the way back to “Clear.” Is it because you wrote “Clear” that you feel like, okay, I should see this guy through? I can’t imagine it’s coincidence that it’s worked out that way.
SCOTT M. GIMPLE: It’s kind of funny. I mean, I loved writing “Clear,” and I loved the pilot of this show and the start of Morgan’s story. And I guess I do wind up writing the episodes. With Morgan’s return, I had to do a lot of work. I had to schedule basically everything that happened in season 6, I had to figure out before the start of season 5. And that even probably led me toward thinking about the future. I think about all of the characters a great deal, but for whatever reason, I’ve been like a season ahead on Morgan for a while. So it just winds up that I get these stories that are stuck in my head for so long that I just want to do them. It’s been very satisfying.
This episode, in particular, was in the middle of a great deal of chaos. People were telling me that it was not a good idea for me to write an episode near the end of the season, which may or may not have been true. It was a lot of really late nights and stolen hours, but it’s definitely on the spectrum of fan fiction where I’m doing it just to do it because I love doing it.
The big question is: What makes Morgan kill Richard? Is it anger or madness — because we see him having visions of the past — or fulfilling Richard’s plan to lull the Saviors into a sense of complacency, or all of the above?
I would say it’s bits of all of that, except for madness. Madness is not part of it. I would hate to tell the audience what it is. The audience is always right, but in my mind, it’s anger, and it is fulfilling Richard’s plan for him, but it was driven by anger.
So what’s the next step for him? We see him taking down a bunch of zombies with anger, not mercy. He says he’s going to kill, we see him sharpening that stick at the very end. Where’s he at now and what does it mean going forward?
I would just take the imagery and what he says. He says he’s going to kill them one by one and we see him sharpening that stick, which is very tragic for that character in a lot of ways. I don’t know if everybody will look at it that way either. Some people might think it’s not a tragedy at all, but for a person who’s found peace through peace, who had that stick that was sharpened and he was walking through the woods with it occasionally killing people and to be freed of that, now to be right back in that position — I think that’s tragedy.
I agree, but it will be interesting to see what other people think because some may say, “Yeah, about damn time! Morgan’s a badass again!”
I mean, they needed him now more than ever, but he’s already paying the cost. It’s already hurting him and I think that’s just so sad for that character. I think Lennie’s performance, at the end of the scene after the Saviors have left and he killed Ezekiel and he just killed Richard, and when he gets Benjamin’s name wrong and he stumbles over Duane — you know, that’s a line that I would certainly worry about. It’s pretty direct, and then when I saw how he played it, I was blown away.
Your opinion: good move or bad move to tell Carol what really happened?
I think that’s on the tragic scale. I don’t think that’s him being sweet or nice, but I think it’s him sort of looking at the world as a dark and brutal place and telling the truth to someone who’s asking for the dark and brutal truth. It feels like there’s almost a little hostility to it, and yet Carol extends something to him that’s kind of what Ezekiel said to her: “You can go, we can all go, or you don’t have to go.” It gives him that place, which is not pretty. He’s still isolating himself, but it’s not him going off in the woods and being completely away forever. I love their relationship and how their lives have turned and I don’t think that’s the end of their relationship, but to see that turn from the very first episode you saw them in the Kingdom in episode 2, it was satisfying to see that. It was satisfying to do that. It was something we got excited about.
And Carol is all-in now, right?
She is, and she has to be. There is no choice for her, and that’s something that Daryl knew — that as soon as he said to her what really happened she would be put into action, and that’s why he didn’t say anything. And I think Morgan said it because he wants her in action because he wants these people gone. He wants these people to pay, and he knows that Carol is not to be trifled with.
For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.