Welcome to the Morgan Flashback episode! Thankfully, it’s all in color. Back to somewhere between Season 3 and 4…Morgan has moved on from the “CLEAR” residency and is surviving in the wilderness alone. We witness him take out walkers, make camps, and even build a Savior-esque perimeter of spears around his camp. You can tell it’s a flashback because we also see him KILL two strangers who were chasing him. This isn’t the Batman moral-abiding Alexandrian Morgan we know! Later, he gets resourceful and uses walker guts to paint phrases like “pointless acts” and “Here’s not here” on trees and rocks. It’s not pointless, Morgan! We’ve all seen castaway…it’s ok to paint things in blood when you’re devastatingly alone (I’m surprised he didn’t cut the Wolves’ heads off and use them as puppets).
Eventually, Morgan stumbles upon a cabin in the woods and tries to steal the goat outside of it. The cabin owner yells out for him to not harm his goat. Morgan shoots at him and misses. After ignoring the man’s warnings some more, the man knocks Morgan out with a staff. Morgan wakes up in a makeshift jail cell inside the cabin with a plate of breakfast next to him. He yells at the cabin owner, Eastman, to kill him, but is handed the book “The Art of Peace” instead. Throughout his stay, Morgan observes Eastman kill walkers, train with his stick, and even cook.
Eastman reveals he used to work as a forensic psychiatrist with a specialization in prisoner behavior. Morgan explains HIS job is to clear (kill) anything that gets near him (not really a job but OK). Despite Morgan’s insane threats to kill him, Eastman explains his “no killing” motto and reveals Morgan’s cell door has been open this whole time. Morgan, who seems no different than a caged animal, lunges at Eastman to only be pinned down by his Mr. Miyagi moves. Defeated, Morgan retreats to his cell while Eastman laments about a kid’s drawing that was damaged in their scuffle.
Later, Morgan discovers the Aikido creed that Eastman follows in the Peace book. It states, “We try to completely avoid killing, even the most evil person.” (It also teaches you to redirect someone’s ass). Suddenly, the unattended goat outside is under attack and Morgan does the first human thing of the episode and saves him. He also chooses to follow Eastman’s habit and bury the walker and protract it’s driver’s license. Eastman takes their driver’s license and adds it to a box of others. To reward him for his sudden behavioral turnaround, Eastman gifts Morgan his own fighting stick. Cue the training montage (but surprisingly not Eye of the Tiger): Morgan’s reading! He’s practicing his stick! He’s eating WITH Eastman.
Now that they’ve established a relationship, Eastman summons the courage to tell Morgan a tragic story about an evil prisoner named Crighton Dallas Walton he used to work on. The prisoner, who knew Eastman could see through his BS, attacked and almost killed him. Eastman held his own but decided NOT to kill him. Knowing Eastman would try to keep him in prison for the rest of his life, Walton broke out of prison and immediately killed Eastman’s wife, daughter, and son. He surrendered to the police that night and revealed the only reason he wanted to break out was to destroy Eastman’s life. Eastman explains he built the cell in his cabin to bring Walton there and watch him starve to death. BUT…he claims he didn’t because, as he says, “ALL life is precious.”
Morgan, now showing Eastman HIS former life, takes him to the camp he used to live and reveals he ALSO lost his wife and son. Suddenly, the man Morgan strangled earlier in the episode (now a walker) almost bites Morgan when Eastman saves him and gets bit instead. Morgan attacks Eastman when he suggests they leave but Eastman once again has the upper hand. Morgan begs for death for the 17,000th time while Eastman prepares to bury the walker.
After scaring (but NOT killing) strangers he met in the woods, Morgan returns to the cabin to find Tabitha the goat being eaten by a walker (TABITHA NOOOOOO)! Eastman, who’s devastated, admits he DID take Walton who killed his family into the cell and DID let him starve to death. He offers Morgan his place when he’s gone and admits he’s “ready.” He gives Morgan his lucky rabbit foot and wishes him luck. Later, Morgan journeys away from the cabin and past Eastman’s grave. On the trail, he sees the Terminus sign and heads toward it.
NOW: Morgan has been telling this story to Alpha Wolf, who he captured in 602. The Wolf tells him about his bite wound and that he plans to kill everyone in Alexandria. Morgan leaves him and locks the door. Suddenly, he hears (sounds like Rick) yell in the distance, “Open the gate!”
SO, after losing his wife and son Morgan had nothing to live for other than insanely ‘clearing’ areas of people. What he really needed to clear was his conscience, and that’s what Eastman did for him. Every hero must meet a mentor that teaches them something and sends them on a different path. Morgan learned from Eastman and ultimately embodies him. Now, Morgan is clear.