Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of The Walking Dead! Proceed with caution, survivors. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode, “Bury Me Here”, we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.
What it is about Carol and Morgan that makes them the two most consistently interesting characters on The Walking Dead? Melissa McBride and Lennie James’ performances and chemistry are consistently excellent, of course, and the show’s writers have been inspired to deliver material worthy of their talents time and again. But in many ways their characters are emblematic of the series at its best. Because when it’s at its best, it’s at its most existential. And there’s no one as existential as the widow Peletier and the Aikido master. Few characters have lost so much, and none have been so adept at rebuilding themselves. Which is something everyone, even those of us who haven’t lived through a zombie apocalypse, strive to do to at least some extent on a daily basis.
Maybe that’s why Morgan and Carol complement each other so wonderfully. Their connection goes beyond the narrow boundaries of friendship or love, striking a fundamental bedrock. If the philosophical foundation to our universe is one of order and chaos, or peace and suffering, of madness and rationality, its quintessential embodiment can be found in these two warriors, who can’t deny the reflection they see when they look at each other.
“Bury Me Here” explores this reflection as few other episodes have, illustrating once more how easily their different perspectives can reverse. That the lives of an innocent–Benjamin–and a guilty but tortured survivor–Richard–serve as the triggering mechanism for this reversal, gives it a weight we haven’t seen before. The best stories are never really about characters; they’re about souls, and for all the anguish The Walking Dead has depicted, the mere fact that people like Morgan and Carol exist, have ever existed, can make it as hopeful an experience as any other on TV. When an episode like “Bury Me Here” is so well-crafted as to accommodate both their perspectives, it makes up for any amount of misery porn that’s preceded it.
This week’s episode is doubly impressive for how it also makes Benjamin and Richard believable, sympathetic figures; which is no mean feat in the case of the latter. We’ve heard part of Richard’s story before, but “Bury Me Here” excels at giving palpable visual representation to his torment, with iconography as simple as a child’s backpack and an empty grave.
Ezekiel shines too, justifying, amidst the bloodshed, his royal title. Khary Payton‘s face conveys the king’s steady, gradual realization of the price he must pay for the peace his Kingdom has long enjoyed. His reaction isn’t one of horror, just the sad acceptance that any wise ruler must bear at a time of war. That he can still find it in himself to counsel Carol, showing her the necessity of planting new crops (both spiritual and physical), more than justifies the faith his people have placed in him.
The Walking Dead‘s reputation is all too often built on which of the show’s characters will be the next to die. But “Bury Me Here”, despite its title, reinforces its true strength–making us care about those who have lived.
— “Bury Me Here” is so confident in its storytelling it not only clocks in at a slim (for this season) forty-seven minutes, it offers perhaps the shortest teaser scene in Walking Dead history. One that’s revealed as a flash-forward, hinging on a single accursed cantaloupe.
— There’s no greater example of Ezekiel’s wisdom than in his letting Jerry keep his cobbler. Would that all monarchs were so benevolent.
— “Day’s coming when you can’t be that good. When that happens, don’t beat yourself up about it.”
— There’s an abundant use of fade-in/fade-out in “Bury Me Here”, but none of it feels gratuitous. Instead, it captures the mental state of its protagonists, each of which is teetering on their own personal seesaw of justice.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).