Thursday, November 14, 2013

Going Clear Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry


What does the character of Morgan Jones (Lennie James) represent? When we first meet him in season one at the beginning of Rick’s journey, they are very much in the same boat; Morgan is struggling to survive with his young son, Duane. They have barricaded themselves in an abandoned house with a few weapons but not much else. During a chance encounter in Rick’s old neighborhood, Morgan saves Rick from a walker. Morgan appears to be a grounded survivor in the face of great adversity.
Are Morgan's written rants a rational response to tragedy?

By season three, however, he seems to have lost his grip on reality. He’s encamped in an empty building that he’s fortified with ingenious booby traps to keep out walkers and other unwelcome, human visitors. After recognizing Rick, Morgan claims that he’s going “clear.” He has stopped caring about life by accepting death—his own and that of his family—and given up all hope of returning from the very dark hole in which he finds himself. His wife, Jenny, was bitten early on. She in turn later attacked Duane during a food run.
Morgan blames himself for his son’s death because he had previous opportunities to kill his wife but could not bring himself to do it. Being clear means never having to say you’re sorry (with apologies to Love Story). Morgan never again wants to assume responsibility for anything but his own safety. When Rick begs him to return to the prison with him to “heal,” he steadfastly refuses, asserting that their reunion simply reinforces his need to be clear. Morgan has refused to care about any one else again; being clear apparently means having a clear conscience through inactive indifference. He begs Rick to kill him, thereby absolving him of all earthly responsibility.
In this sense, then, Carol is clear when Rick exiles her. She only has herself to take care of. She’s devoid of empathy and compassion. She does not care that she senselessly killed Karen and David at the start of the swine flu outbreak; she believes, in fact, that she did the right thing with the information she had at the time. She maintains that she killed two innocents to protect the rest of the camp from infection. Would Morgan have acted as Carol did in a similar situation? He could not kill his wife. Would he do it now if given the chance? Probably not. Morgan labels himself “weak.” He’s acknowledging that he does not have what it takes to survive in this new world. His solution is to isolate himself from others, armed only to defend himself. Unlike the Governor, he’s not interested in hurting others. Unlike Carol, Morgan does not believe that the end justifies the means.
Going clear, then, is a lesser form of opting out. Opting out is a running euphemism for suicide in the series. The goal of going clear, unlike suicide, is not death but survival. Carol abandons her former, weaker self to go clear, but she takes it one step further by maliciously killing Karen and David. She forsakes the memory of her reanimated daughter Sophia, coldly dismissing it as “someone else’s slideshow.” Morgan, conversely, deeply mourns his pre-apocalyptic life. The walls of his hideout are covered with written expressions of his confused grief. Duane’s death and his wife’s zombification continue to haunt him. These events have paralyzed him, whereas Carol has moved on like a cold automaton.
Producers have hinted that Morgan will be back for season four; "opting out" is not an option!

My other observation about going clear is that it may be a manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The human race has undergone a holocaust. It is unknown how many unaffected individuals remain. Survivors are few and far between. Living in relative isolation is the norm.  Morgan’s situation is not unusual this way. What is unusual is his conscious decision to live completely alone.
Michonne is another character who, with the exception of the chained, armless guardian walkers she keeps, survives alone. It wasn’t until she saved Andrea’s life in the forest following the devastation at Hershel’s farm that she forged a post-apocalyptic relationship with another human. Michonne, however, has not holed up in a tangible fortress of her own making; instead, she has built invisible walls around her psyche in order to emotionally protect herself. These walls are starting to crumble as she allies herself closer with Rick’s group at the prison. She chose to join him after her run-ins with the Governor. Call this self-preservation or a genuine desire to reconnect with human beings, the outcome is the same; she’s no longer a lone wolf.
Morgan’s written rants would indicate a system that makes sense only in his own mind. He could be dismissed as insane, but I think it’s more likely that this is how he has responded to the apocalypse. In his writing, he attempts to process unimaginable, irrational events in order to make them more rational. Going clear could be an attempt to wipe the slate clean of past horrors. It would be interesting to examine how PTSD has affected different WD characters.

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