To see Morales, a character from Season 1, pop up in Episode 2 of Season 8 was a surprise. To see him make his exit just one episode later was even more of a shocker. Hands up those of you who thought he’d been brought back to make things more interesting. Well, let’s be fair, he still did that, even if he didn’t hang around.
We first met Morales way back in the early days of the show, when he teamed up — alongside his wife and kids — with Rick and the other early members of the group. He soon parted ways with them, however, to search for more of his family in Birmingham.
We learned in Episode 3, “Monsters”, that Morales lost his family somewhere along the way, and at the same time his mind. Which landed him here, as one of the Saviors, face to face with Rick, a gun pointed at Grimes’s head. As they catch up, and talk about what they’ve become, Daryl steps in and shoots Morales in the head with his crossbow. And that’s that.
But the meeting, exchange and Morales’s subsequent death are set to have a big impact on The Walking Dead — here are some of the ways it affects the show.
It Highlights a Major Shift in Daryl
All those questions we had around Daryl after his incarceration at the hands of Negan have been answered. What effect will his ordeal have on him? Will he lose his softer side? His ability to empathise? When we saw his reaction to Dwight apparently switching allegiance in Season 7 — a character who has personally caused Daryl no end of grief, including meting out his torture while locked up — we thought there might be some mercy still within him. There was a glimpse of a willingness to give Dwight a chance, despite his instinct being to get even.
But since then, he seems to have hardened. In his actions here, and also — crucially — in his reaction to killing Morales, we see that Daryl has become something of a remorseless killing machine. After putting down Morales, Daryl says to Rick: “You good?” before Rick attempts to explain, “That was…”
Daryl jumps in: “I know who it was. It don’t matter. Not one little bit. You find them guns?”
Daryl is dismissive. He has a job to do and won’t question morality. At least until the job is done. During an appearance on The Walking Dead aftershow, Talking Dead, Norman Reedus (who plays Daryl) said, “Anybody that’s in his way right now just has to go. Anything that’s in his way to get back at these people is just an obstacle to be put down.”
He demonstrates this again when he executes Savior Todd in front of a merciful Rick — to Rick’s surprise. Has Daryl now crossed a line?
It Humanises the Saviors
The Saviors are a huge group and that’s partly how they’ve become so deadly. Negan has recruited a whole bunch of people, many of whom are on board — and unfailingly loyal — through fear. Others feel they owe him a debt: he brought them in when they were out of options. Morales is the human face of the vast majority under the rule of dictator Negan.
He tells Rick: “I was in some tow trailer slaving myself to death, waiting to become nothing. And the Saviors, they found me. They thought I was worth a damn. Worth bringing back with them. So, yeah. Yeah, I’m Negan. To make it this far, this long, I had to be. Had to be something, just like you.”
To have his life snuffed out before we’ve had a chance to explore his story more fully, before he’s had a chance to further complicate things for Rick and co., is a shame. But he goes out having given the audience a powerful reminder of the kind of people that Rick’s group and his allies are killing — people like them. Sadly, Morales seems brainwashed to Negan’s way of doing things. While some might say that Rick is no different, and Morales certainly sees no difference between himself and Rick, Rick leads a community-cum-democracy while Negan is a dictator.
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And therein lies the critical difference. If Rick can find a way to take out or effectively undermine Negan and persuade the majority of Saviors that there’s a better way, that would surely lead to the best outcome. And with the show taking steps to humanise these guys, it looks like that could well be a possibility.
It Forces Rick to Reflect on Who He Is
In Episode 1 of Season 8, we saw Rick musing on the concept of mercy. He seemed to come to the conclusion that mercy had prevailed over his wrath. However, we don’t know yet the timeframe of this realisation — was it a flash forward?
Come Episode 3, we see Rick still intent on showing mercy — to Morales, to Todd, to almost every human being who stands in front of him — while others in his group are less willing to extend the same courtesy. But there’s no doubt that Rick has changed a lot during the zombie apocalypse. And facing Morales is a reminder of where he’s come from, and presents him with an opportunity to look at the person he is now.
In Episode 2, he literally had to look at himself in a mirror, and here he is forced to see himself through the eyes of someone who knew him at the beginning.
Andrew Lincoln told Talking Dead that it’s “an important beat for Rick – that sort of recalibrating about who he was.” In his brief reappearance, Morales gives Rick a much-needed wake-up call when he lets him know how he sees him.
“As soon as I saw you, I knew you’d made the same trip as me. From there to here,” says Morales. “Well, I guess we’re not the same guys we used to be, huh? ‘Cos you’re a monster.”
However skewed Morales’s view of Rick may be, we’re betting it’s going to be hugely influential on how Rick conducts himself as Season 8 unfolds.
Catch The Walking Dead Season 8 on Sundays in the US and a day later in the UK.