Monday, November 16, 2015

Preparedness Review of The Walking Dead Episode 604: Here's Not Here


Episode 604:  Here's Not Here


Eastman:  That's the thing, Morgan.  Here's not here.

Synopsis: The Walking Dead takes a big detour into a super-sized flashback that tells Morgan's backstory.  The story begins with Morgan still at his compound in the town where he and Rick met, and he is ranting maniacally to himself. He accidentally burns down his abode, and ends up in a patch of woods, killing walkers and burning them.  He also kills any humans he comes across.  He finds a cabin owned by a man named Eastman one day, and is knocked out when he tries to kill the man.  Gradually, Eastman, who is a counselor, nurses him back to good mental health, but a final breakdown results in Eastman getting bitten and infected.   Morgan decides to leave and find Rick.   It was an essential piece to the character's story, but is told in an hour and a half and feels a little indulgent on the part of the writers.  Lenny James (Morgan) and John Carrol Lynch (Eastman) are very talented actors, but it all seems just a little bit overwrought.  Less is more.

He has to clear.
The episode opens with Morgan recounting his journey to the Wolf he captured in Alexandria's makeshift prison.   The action flashes back to King County, Georgia, where Morgan is ranting to himself in his makeshift safe house last seen in Season Three's Clear.  He topples a kerosene lantern, burning his house down.   He relocates to a makeshift camp in the woods, and clears the walkers in the immediate vicinity by killing and burning them.   He erects sharpened wooden stakes around the area to keep out the walkers while he is sleeping, and uses walker blood to scrawl messages on the boulders strewn about the forest floor.  One day in the woods, he finds himself pursued by a pair of men, who he ambushes and kills in cold blood.  His actions, give him pause, but he continues on his path of action.  It's as if he wants to change, but doesn't know the way out of the way he is now.

He is drawn deeper into the woods by the sound of a bleating goat, and finds a remote cabin that looks inhabited.  A man's voice calls out to him, asking him to leave the goat alone.  Morgan fires blindly then attempts to gain entry to the cabin, but is knocked unconscious.   He awakens in a cell with metal bars inside the cabin.   The man who has captured him introduces himself as Eastman, and Morgan pleads with him to kill him.  Instead, Eastman tosses him a book, The Art of Peace.  He feeds Morgan, and keeps him in the cell until slowly, Morgan begins to return to sanity.  

That's some appreciation there, Morgan.
You see, Eastman was a forensic psychiatrist in the old world, and his job was to examine people who had committed heinous crimes for their rehabilitation potential.   He sees something in Morgan that gives him hope.  Eastman runs outside to kill a walker with his staff, and drags the body into the woods.  Days pass.  Morgan still talks to himself, but he is intrigued by the martial arts practice outside.    Eastman finally tells him the cell door is unlocked, and he is welcome to crash on the couch.  Morgan attacks him, breaking a piece of drywall with a child's drawing hanging on the wall.  Eastman grabs the artwork and leaves the house.  Morgan returns to his cell voluntarily, knowing he is not yet ready to walk through the door.

Eastman explains that due to the nature of his work, he turned to Aikido, a Japanese martial art, for peace and solitude that eluded him.  He received a flyer on Aikido the day after his daughter gave him a rabbit's foot for luck, and he claims it gave him peace.

The next day, Eastman asks Morgan to watch over Tabitha, the goat, while he takes care of some things.  Some walkers attack her, and Morgan, with no other choice, handles the situation.  Eastman thanks him, but tells him he has to repair the fence he has broken, and shows him what he does with the bodies.  Each one gets a proper burial and wooden cross.  He uses their identification to make the signs.   

It's a buck and a quarter quarter staff.
Morgan is given his own staff, and the two practice Aikido together.  It's all so very zen, but there is something Eastman is hiding.  He tells Morgan that one of the prisoners he interviewed, Crighton Dallas Wilton, who he recognized as a true psychopath.  Wilton snapped and tried to kill him, and Eastman fought him off with Aikido.   Eastman recommended he be turned down for parole, and Wilton escaped long enough to go to Eastman's house and kill his whole family, then turned himself in.  The cell in the cabin was for Wilton, as Eastman had formulated a plan to kidnap the kill from a work detail and watch him starve to death in the cage.   When Morgan asks if he follows though, Eastman replies "I have come to believe that all life is precious."  Morgan tells him he is good at deflecting his Aikido opponents and the conversation.

Eastman decides they should leave to find more people.  He wants to scavenge some supplies, and Morgan leads him back to his camp, where he retrieves the supplies he took from the two dead men.  Sensing that Morgan is having trouble, that this spot represents where he was, Eastman orders him to practice Aikido with him.   A walker approaches, and as Morgan goes to kill it, he realizes it is one of the men he choked to death earlier.   He freezes, and as Eastman is pulling him away the walker bites Morgan's mentor.   Eastman kills the walker, but Morgan, enraged, tells him he shouldn't have interfered and attacks him.  The bigger, more experienced man subdues him, then carts his final body off to the burial ground.  Morgan eventually follows, but runs across a starving young couple.  He lets them live, finally having the breakthrough Eastman was trying to provide:  all life is precious.

Morgan backtracks to the cabin to find Tabitha being devoured by walkers.  He kills them and takes them and Tabitha to the graveyard.   As he is digging graves for Eastman, who is now feverish and weak, he sees a marker for Crighton Dallas Wilton.  Eastman confesses he followed through on his plan, and it took 47 days for the convict to starve to death.  Afterwards, Eastman went back to Atlanta to turn himself in, only to find the world had ended.  The artwork Morgan broke was from a wall on his house where his daughter had used a part of it for a canvas. Eastman cut it out of the wall and brought it all the way back to the cabin to remember her.

He tells Morgan he could stay at the cabin, but he really shouldn't be alone.   Morgan leaves following Eastman's death, and tracks down Rick.

Back in the present, the Wolf asks Morgan if he thinks that could work form him.  Morgan says yes, but the Wolf tells him that he is going to get out and kill everyone.  Morgan, frustrated, leaves him tied up in time to hear someone yelling to open the gate.

Preparedness Discussion

So after the bloody, shocking and all out pace of the first three episodes, after all this time traveling from Georgia to Virginia, after the show seemingly kills off one of the original characters from Atlanta, the beloved Glenn, we ... go back to Georgia?

Sigh.   I love the character of Morgan, as well as the actor who plays him, Lennie James.   He was a main star in another genre series called Jericho, which is one of the initial items which got me interested in prepping and threat assessment.  It was through reading about that show that I learned about a book called Lights Out, about an electromagnetic pulse attack on the United States, that led me to some prepper forums, and to where I am today.  

I also admired the job John Carroll Lynch, who plays Eastman, does in this episode.   He has tons of expository dialogue -- I mean, Shakespearean soliloquy level -- and he handles it effortlessly, delivering it with a sort of affected meh matter-of-fact attitude that feels authentic, like you are at a mid-America diner having coffee and talking about small town politics.   

It pains me to not like this episode.  I wanted to like it.  I know we had to have it to serve the story.   It just seems indulgent to spend an extended episode telling it.  Morgan is a fan favorite, but after the roller coaster of the previous three episodes this kind of pause feels forced.  That's the primary reason for Here's Not Here's rating of only three stars.

Let's get on with the preparedness discussion.   Eastman has a great retreat set up, with solar power, a water source, and stored and grown food.  He is a vegetarian, putting into practice his convictions regarding the sanctity of life.   The only thing it's missing is people.   He is alone, and the solitude is taking its toll, just as it did with Morgan.  Whereas Morgan is haunted by the guilt of his responsibility for his son's death, Eastman has forgiven himself and moved on to the business of survival.   Morgan is the worst possible result of the mental deterioration that occurs when afflicted with long term isolation.   Humans are social creatures, and lone wolf survivalism is simply not an effective strategy.  I might work in the short term, but the shear mountain of tasks that must be accomplished in a survival situation will lead to stress, exhaustion, and mental distress in the long run.   Preparedness is best approached as a group activity with like-minded people.

I like the idea of using something besides a gun to subdue walkers.   Eastman has mastered the art of self defense with a simple wooden staff.   It doesn't need reloading, won't rust, and if you break it, you simply go out into the woods and find another one.  It's also very quiet.  We've seen this before, with Michonne's katana and Daryl's crossbow.  All three require a great deal of practice and skill.   Skills trump gear again.  With proper skill, an ordinary piece of wood becomes a deadly weapon.

Finally, every prepper should look into growing their own food if they can do so.   It can be as simple as container gardening with a few tomato plants in flower pots, but doing something to provide food for yourself will be beneficial.  Learning to garden takes time.  Start small, experiment, and grow what you like.

Preparedness Lessons for Episode 604:

  • Humans are social creatures, and preparedness is a group activity.  Find a group of like-minded, trustworthy people with complimentary skills and work together to make things better for all involved.
  • Investigate ways to practice self-defense without a firearm.  Martial arts, pepper spray, and other defensive weapons are options, if you practice their use.  Always check with local laws regarding possession of such items.  You can't prep in a jail cell.
  • Figure out a food you can grow, and start small with container gardening.   You will be taking responsibility for feeding yourself, and it will feel great!

Next week:  Alexandria endures a siege of the dead, and Maggie reveals something to Aaron.   Oh, and the new doc kisses Tara.

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