The world of The Walking Dead is always full of surprises. The television adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel has been a hit for AMC, as evident by the recent milestone of 100 episodes.
With season eight in full swing, the show is focused on a world-building arc. As the main characters have learned to combat the obvious dangers of the zombie apocalypse, their focus is now on building a life free from fear and oppression by the show’s main antagonistic group, The Saviors.
Season eight’s second episode, “The Damned,” featured one of the most surprising returns of the entire series. At the end of the episode, Rick encounters Morales – a character fans haven’t seen in The Walking Dead since all the way back in the first season.
This wasn’t the first time a character has returned after a lengthy absence. Merle Dixon, who was portrayed by Michael Rooker, made his debut in season one and didn’t pop back up until season three. Given this was a character created exclusively for the show, the surprise was all the more impactful when he finally returned.
Morgan, who is portrayed by Lennie James, made his debut in the show’s very first episode. He helped enlighten Rick (and the show’s viewers) about the state of the world, catching them up to speed on the scope of the undead plague. After making a brief appearance in season three, Morgan gained a recurring role in season five before becoming a part of the main cast once more in season six.
As for Morales, he’s a character that had some fans scratching their heads. His time in the show was brief, as he departed before the season-one finale. When Rick and the group elected to head to the Center for Disease Control, Morales and his family chose to stay back in Atlanta. Given that the original season only had six episodes, Morales’ screen-time was severely limited.
His shocking return may provide a great point of comparison for just how far the show, and its main character, have come. When Morales left the show, Rick was a different man. He vowed to leave no one behind, and never kill the living. Now Morales is aligned with The Saviors, and it remains to be seen whether his new opinion of his old acquaintance can be swayed.
Over the past season or so, the show has brought into question the morality of the main characters’ decisions. With a new group that matches and even exceeds the brutal tactics the survivors have used to make it this far, showrunners have been posing a curious question – are the show’s main characters really the good guys?
The showrunners have faced backlash for the slower pace the series has taken on. Kirkman had said this is necessary, though, as it illustrates how The Saviors function and why they’re such a threat. Further pushing the question of morality, showrunners have even suggested that audiences may have considered The Saviors as the heroes, rather than the villains, if the show was focused on them from the start.
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