I owe my mom a Coke. She swore that Glenn was alive - that he'd survived by crawling under the dumpster, and sure enough, that is what happened. But I am also calling a little bit of bullshit on the staging of this self-saving technique of Glenn's because even the back of the dumpster, in Episode 3, was swarmed with Walkers. So he would have been attacked on all sides. But for now, I'm suspending my disbelief (maybe the dumpster was just the right size that in a centralized location, reaching arms couldn't grab him and the bodies of dispatched Walkers created a bottleneck that others couldn't get through). Because it's just too good to have him back.
Glenn, wonderfully intact (it looks like that blood on his arms and face was Nicholas') and hotter than ever, gets an assist from the mysterious Enid (the title of the episode is her exclamation as she throws him a bottle of water). He asks her about Maggie and she gives him nothing. That leads to a rather reckless pursuit of her. And Glenn getting to exercise his dad skills: “We are not having a conversation about this,” is a phrase that seems to be in every parent's arsenal.
Practicing for fatherhood
Enid's quintessential "You're not my dad!" teenager face
Back in Alexandria, Rick inspects the perimeter and finds Morgan going through his Aikido paces. Rick “asks” for a talk, but so little of what Rick wants is an actual request. Every ask is a demand. Their talk will happen later.
Rick and Carl give weaselly Ron some much-needed gun training. While it's entirely possible to read Carl's advice to Ron as helpful and earnest, the thick layer of adolescent testosterone means that his assistance is seen by Ron as belittling, emasculating. Carl has an advantage on him, and this is threatening, especially to his burgeoning adult masculinity. We see this threat take shape when Ron raids the arsenal for bullets, and follows Carl with his now-loaded gun.
The Talk with Morgan is actually an inquisition by Michonne, Carol and Rick. They ask him about the Wolves that he allowed to escape, that later attacked Rick and foiled Rick's attempt to lead The Herd away. Morgan is open and honest, and the three proceed to berate him for his way of living. Apparently, there is no room in Alexandria for plurality of views. It's Rick's Way or the Highway, with Michonne and Carol as willing deputies. Carol's later conversation with Sam (of the unfortunate bowl-cut) demonstrates the insanity of their circular logic: “The only thing that keeps you from becoming a monster is killing.” Carol's platitude fails to take into account that there is more than one kind of monster in the world.
Back at the kitchen table, Morgan's monologue cuts right to the heart of everything, and right to the journey of every person there:
“I don't know what's 'right' anymore. Cause I did want to kill those men. I seen what they did, what they'd keep doin'. I knew I could end it.
But I also know that people can change. Cause everyone sittin' here has.
All life is precious. And that idea – that idea changed me. It brought me back. And it keeps me livin'.”
This scene is amongst the hardest to watch – to see a man living a difficult, but spiritual, principle being told not only that his choice is wrong, stupid, and naïve, but that he is potentially unwelcome. It's got shades of “love the sinner, hate the sin” in it for me. “All Life Is Precious” is more than just a way of living for Morgan; it is his lifeline, and, to connect the dots, his identity. Carol, Michonne, and Rick take turns swiping at this ridiculous-to-them position, and the underlying message is, "If you keep this up, we're going to have to turn our backs on you." How many queer kids in religious households with anti-gay doctrines have suffered this very ultimatum? Being told that the thing that makes you whole is the thing you have to let go of to stay.
Even more striking in this moment is Morgan's humility (particularly as it is played by Lennie James) – Rick, Carol and Michonne operate with impossible, blind certainty. Morgan admits he does not know what is “right” anymore; he only knows what allows him to remain sane in an insane world. To watch Rick, Michonne and Carol attempt to take that away from him is akin to watching them murder his soul.
After Spencer’s failed attempt at glory, Rick continues his tribalism and toxic masculinity tirade by berating Tara for risking her life to save Spencer’s. Quite simply, she responds to him perfectly:
My thoughts exactly.
But just as the green balloons float up above Alexandria bringing hope, announcing Glenn’s survival, the creaking, cracked bell tower topples over, obliterating the wall protecting Alexandria from The Herd. It is now most assuredly game on for next week. Get ready to grip those armrests.