Have you ever had to do something that would make you look weak? Maybe you had other options, but the option where you end up looking feeble was just the most tolerable. Most of us don’t like to look weak, but sometimes this is just the least-worst option.
When I was in Jr. High this seemed to happen all of the time. Do you remember gym class when the teacher would announce that you were going to play dodgeball? This was one of those scenarios when weakness was always the best option. When I was in seventh grade, the worst day of my life would be when we had to play the ninth graders at dodgeball. Usually it meant pain – a lot of pain! If you got hit hard enough by one of those red rubber balls, it could actually leave a mark. We called that mark the “Spalding tattoo” and it was not a badge of honor, it was a badge of shame.
So most of the 7th graders would just choose the path of weakness. Usually, we would just lob balls at the opposing team so they would catch them, affording us the sweet release of “being out” for the rest of the game. This meant that we could just sit on the sidelines for the duration of the match and watch everybody else destroy each other with inflated red rubber. But every once in a while they wouldn’t let us off so easy, and they would refuse to catch our lobbed balls. Then the key was to try and get out by throwing our bodies in front of the slowest ball possible. This was definitely the weak option, and believe me, it was always worth it. The object of the game was simply to survive with the least amount of pain. The loss of honor was just something we would have to deal with.
Of course I had friends who seemed to have no fear, and they would just take the pain in order to avoid being called weak. They were also the ones who would catch the ball as it was flying directly at your head at what seemed like super-sonic speeds. Weakness, just wasn’t an option for them, and sitting on the sidelines was completely unacceptable. Of course, later in life, these were the ones who would go into careers where they would run into burning buildings to save people. They are the heroes, and we all know some of them.
My guess is that Rick was one of these guys. He was the kid who didn’t see weakness as an option, and he would fight no matter what the odds. But in tonight’s episode, Rick would be confronted by an unlikely person on the nature of weakness in the zombie apocalypse.
Tonight’s bottle episode of TWD takes place far from the war between the prison and Woodbury. The whole story happens while Michonne, Carl and Rick are on a supply run back to the old neighborhood where the Grimes used to live. These are the only characters in the episode besides “backpack guy” and Morgan, who has been missing since season one. But “backpack guy” is only in two scenes, fully demonstrating how callous our people have become when they refuse to pick him up.
The last time we saw Morgan was in season one. He was Rick’s neighbor who was afraid to shoot his wife who had died and turned into a walker. Rick had left Morgan and his son with a walkie talkie that he was supposed to listen to at the same time every day so that they could later join up. Rick did in fact broadcast on the walkie talkie every day until they were far out of range. Tonight we find out that Morgan never even turned it on until Rick had stopped broadcasting.
When we see Morgan, he seems to have gone completely crazy and set up a fortress surrounded by booby traps, alarms and barricades. I say crazy because he just fires on everyone who comes near him and apparently steals their weapons after he kills them. When Carl gets the best of him and shoots him with a 9mm round right to the bullet proof vest, Rick gets a chance to try and make sense of the situation.
Morgan’s room is full of weapons and graffiti that say all kinds of strange stuff. Super fans might have a field day pausing the scene to see if some of Morgan’s scribblings give us any clues as to what has happened to him. We also see the word “clear” written everywhere. It is only at the end of the episode that we find out what it means. Apparently, in the past, Morgan’s wife ended up killing his son, something that may have been prevented if he had only shot her. Understandably, this made him a little crazy and he decided to just “clear” everyone – human or walker.
As Morgan and Rick are catching up, Morgan says something very telling.
Morgan: Hey, your boy, is he dead?
Morgan: No? He will be. See, ’cause people like you, the good people, they always die. And the bad people do, too. But the weak people, the people like me… we have inherited the earth.
Morgan definitely sees Rick as good. He has probably also, by this time, met bad people like the governor. (He mentions something about people wearing other people’s faces, possibly an allusion to some notable baddies in the comic) In addition, he knows that Rick isn’t taking all of these weapons just to kill walkers. Morgan correctly assumes that they must be involved in some war with other humans.
So Morgan believes that he is weak and that he has “inherited the earth” because he is not involved in any of these big fights between the various human groups. In his “weakness” he just “clears” and doesn’t take any sides in any conflict. He is essentially, sitting on the sidelines while everyone else is killing each other.
Morgan is alluding to a very important passage in the scriptures when he says this. The passage is at the beginning of the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:5. Here Jesus says “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (NIV). This is part of what we call the beatitudes, a series of eight sayings that describe attributes that make one a true member of the kingdom.
However, notice that Jesus doesn’t say “weak”, like Morgan does. Morgan seems to think that being weak and not taking sides is ultimately what makes one powerful. Jesus is not saying that here. The Greek word for meek here is praeis, which most commonly is used to mean humility towards God or others. In most cases it means that one has the right or ability to do something, but they refrain from doing it in order to serve others. In my view, it is actually a word of power, not weakness. Think ‘power in control.’
In actuality, the Christian view of power is almost the opposite of what Morgan is talking about here. While Morgan feels that he has power in not taking sides and killing indiscriminately, Jesus means that true power comes from a place of humility. The power that comes from meekness, is actually the power that comes from restraint. Without spoiling too much about the future of the show (this episode aired over three years and three seasons before I wrote this) this will be a lesson that will actually become important to Morgan the next time we see him. Perhaps he needs to pay attention to one of the other eight beatitudes about “peacemakers”.
SEASON 3, EPISODE 12 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1) Why do you think that Rick just drives by “backpack guy” and doesn’t he pick him up?
2) Was this the right decision from a practical perspective? Should they risk the possibility that it is a trick in order to recruit others to help them fight the governor?
3) Have Rick, Carl and Michonne lost some of their humanity by now?
4) What do you think the word “clear”, that Morgan has spray-painted everywhere means?
5) Does the word refer to more than disposing of people and walkers? Could it have something to do with Morgan’s conscience?
6) Morgan thinks that he has power in his weakness. Do you agree?
7) Is sitting on the sidelines during the zombie apocalypse a viable option? Is Morgan actually sitting on the sidelines, or is he participating?
8) Are there times that you should just take the pain in life just to serve others? If so, when?
9) When Jesus says that the meek are “blessed” another translation of that word could be fulfilled. Are there times in life that you can see meekness creating fulfillment? If so, when?
10) How do you see the power that can come from restraint manifesting itself in your life?
Thom McKee Jr. is a husband, father, pastor… and film geek (and brother of Jonathan McKee). Thom lives in Northern California with his wife and two kids.