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The Tragic History Of Morgan Jones In The Walking Dead

"The Walking Dead" franchise is full of gnarled, undead flesh and horrific monsters — some even of the living variety. But it's also full of some of the best-developed, most endearing characters in the world of horror. 

From super-BFFs Carol and Darryl to June and John Dorie's romance for the ages, fans have been drawn in again and again by the compelling relationships these characters form as they struggle to create meaning in a world where everything they know has been reduced to chaos. Many of the most powerful stories in that universe revolve around a character so compelling he is able to bridge the worlds between "The Walking Dead" and its sister series "Fear the Walking Dead."

Brought to life by British actor Lennie James, Morgan Jones represents the survivors' struggle to hold onto their humanity in a world where horror is the new normal. Although no one in "The Walking Dead" universe gets it easy, Morgan's story is one of the most heartbreaking in the series. Hang onto your bo staff; here's a breakdown of the tragic tale of Morgan Jones.

He lost his family

When the Wildfire Virus was released, it ripped through populations all over the globe, with a nearly 100 percent mortality rate. Few who managed to survive the extinction-level event would do so with loved ones by their side — and sadly, the ambulatory post-mortem nature of the plague would often leave survivors with no chance to properly bury or mourn their dead. Like nearly everyone else he would meet in the ensuing years, Morgan lost his family early on in the outbreak, and the tragic loss would prove a defining moment for his character development.

By the time Rick first encounters Morgan and his son, the pair has already lost the family's matriarch. Like so many other families across Georgia, the Joneses heed the emergency broadcast and travel to the Atlanta safe-zone. On the way there, things get hairy, and the trio find themselves holed up inside the King County home where Rick would eventually be nursed back to health by Morgan until Jenny is bitten (as seen in the episode "Days Gone Bye"). When the grieving Morgan can't bring himself to put his Walker wife down, he sticks around. His own failure to shoot Jenny ultimately leads to his son Duane's death after the boy encounters his zombie mom ("Clear").

He suffered from severe PTSD

In "The Walking Dead" universe, there's more than enough trauma to go around. But some folks have a more difficult time than others, as evidenced by Hershel Greene and the Governor's Walker hoarding habits. Morgan ends up becoming one of the most emotionally even characters in the "Dead" universe, but only after recovering from some severe mental health issues that nearly sabotaged his ability to function around other people.

For survivors in the post-Wildfire world, there is no respite to stop and process all of the trauma that's befallen them. For Morgan, getting left alone with all of that trauma would prove toxic. Shortly after parting ways with Rick and losing his wife and son, Morgan found himself overwhelmed and overcome by everything that not only had happened, but was continuing to go on around him. When Rick, Carl, and Michonne encounter him while out on a scouting mission, it's clear that Morgan has gone off the deep end ("Clear").

While it's not uncommon for survivors to stockpile ammo and surround their space with medieval fortifications ripped straight from a dieselpunk fantasy, Morgan's booby traps are the first indicator that his paranoia is keyed up beyond any rational point. Inside his apartment, Rick finds the walls scrawled in the chaotic thoughts of an unwell survivor. After their second parting of the ways, Morgan becomes obsessed with the idea of "clearing" everything he crosses paths with — living or undead.

His PTSD got his friend Eastman killed

Fortunately for both the good people of Alexandria (and later, Alicia Clark's crew), Morgan is able to move on and find relative peace despite his mental health issues — not to mention, the whole downfall of society and constant zombie threat. 

None of this would have been possible if not for his relationship with former forensic psychiatrist and aikido master Eastman. Morgan first encounters Eastman (played by John Carroll Lynch) while traveling on his own after parting ways with the Grimeses in "Clear." They cross paths when Morgan stumbles onto Eastman's property, where he lives a fairly bucolic existence in a remote cabin with only his goat, Tabitha, and a Walker graveyard for company.

Like Morgan, Eastman has experienced some serious trauma, although most of his took place before the apocalypse when an offender he helped get convicted escaped and murdered his family. In revenge, Eastman holds the man captive in a makeshift cell until he eventually dies of starvation. He would use the same cell to detain Morgan after the damaged man stumbles onto his property and takes a shot at him — although as Morgan would eventually learn, he was never actually locked inside. The two form a strong friendship during their time together as Eastman helps him emotionally heal. Unfortunately, healing can be a recursive process, and Morgan's trauma resurfaces at an inopportune time, forcing Eastman to save him but getting him bitten in the process ("He's Not Here").

His protégé died

Among the many close relationships Morgan forges during his time in the Kingdom, one of the most important is his connection with Benjamin, the older brother of Carol and Ezekiel's adoptive son, Henry. 

After Benjamin finds himself struggling on the community's feral pig hunt, Ezekiel encourages Morgan to train him, and the pair end up forging a strong bond through their time together ("The Well"). Although Benjamin trains hard and proves capable in his aikido skills, he's still green enough to lack discretion when the group gets into a heated exchange with Jared and the Saviors' crew in "New Best Friends." After Morgan strikes out at Jared, Benjamin jumps in, ultimately sending Jared to the ground. Because the Saviors tend to not let things go, the interaction creates a beef that ultimately comes back to haunt the young Benjamin.

Later on, during what should have been a fairly routine supply drop, the Saviors claim to be short a cantaloupe. In line with Negan's unforgiving rule, Gavin gives Jared the order to teach them a lesson by killing Richard. But Jared, apparently still sore from his last encounter with Jared's staff, decides to go off-script, instead shooting Benjamin in the femoral artery — a shot that would prove fatal ("Bury Me Here"). Of the many losses Morgan experiences during the show's run, this had to be one of the most gutting.

He abandoned the Way of Peace

For survivors like Morgan Jones, constantly putting down Walkers is numbing enough without all the ongoing fighting between living human factions. It makes sense that anyone weary of this constant death-on-death would be eager to embrace an alternate path —like one laid out in Morgan's book "The Art of Peace," a gift from his friend Eastman. 

A collection of the teachings of aikido master Morihei Ueshiba, "The Art of Peace" is a philosophical approach that's as applicable to interpersonal and business interactions as it is to combat, with its emphasis on finding nonviolent resolutions to conflict. Morgan eventually comes to espouse the aikido commitment scrawled in the book's cover to "completely avoid killing, even the most evil person." But it's a commitment he isn't able to maintain amid the war with the Saviors. At one point he tells Benjamin, "Sometimes we change our minds," a message influenced by Ezekiel's belief that a realist "adjusts his path accordingly" ("The Well").

Although Morgan is forced to adjust his own footing while saving Carol from an attacker, he still believes in the path of nonviolence, urging Rick to find a peaceful path forward with the Saviors ("Hearts Still Beating," "Rock in the Road"). He eventually abandons the peaceful path altogether to fight Negan's crew. Although Morgan gives up killing again after leaving the Kingdom, his dramatic beheading of the bounty hunter signifies yet another footing adjustment ("The End is the Beginning").

He had to leave Virginia

Morgan's struggle to find his place in the post-apocalypse is a constant one, as reflected in the oft-repeated phrase "I lose people, I lose myself." Amid his struggle to remain true to Eastman's pacifistic ways as Rick's war with the Saviors rage, it makes sense that Morgan would find the ways of the new world wearing thin. Things eventually reach a breaking point after the war with the Saviors, when Morgan's unchecked aggression causes him to go after people who aren't a threat. After exiling himself for a time in the Heaps, Morgan eventually decides to leave the allied communities, setting out on his own across the country despite his friends' efforts to convince him otherwise ("Wrath").

But for a good-hearted, erstwhile pacifistic spirit like Morgan, shedding all connections to live a lonely life is an impossibility. It's not long before he encounters Al, Nick, and Alicia's crew, ultimately becoming every bit as connected to them as he was to the Virginia communities. Although his life with the Texans would end up drawing him into even more conflict than he faced while living among the Kingdom crew, Morgan would succeed in sowing his peaceful message among their people. With the altruistic leanings of folks like Althea, Sarah, Wendell, and June, he would end up helping many more ("What's Your Story," "Here to Help").

He couldn't save Martha

Along their journeys, the two sets of survivors from "The Walking Dead" and "Fear the Walking Dead" encounter some deeply troubled people. But one of Morgan's most haunting encounters is his fated communication with Martha, whose post-apocalyptic trauma has sent her completely off the deep end. 

After losing her husband in a particularly grisly car accident involving a guard rail ("MM 54"), the grieving widow is left alone to slowly go insane ("...I Lose Myself"). Her inability to get help after her husband's injury causes her to become delusional, turning on anyone who crosses her path with a request for help.

Martha begins targeting the truckers and their supply drops, coming into radio contact with Morgan when he accidentally gets himself transported in the back of a semi truck ("Weak"). After learning about Morgan from watching Al's tapes, she warns him that helping others will make him weak ("Blackjack"). When Morgan finds her suffering from a gunshot wound, he tries to help, but she refuses his antibiotics. She ultimately reveals the truth — she was bitten, but not until after putting antifreeze in the gas station water his friends all drank ("...I Lose Myself"). Although he wasn't able to help her, Morgan's encounter with Martha does help him come to an important conclusion that directs his path forward: People become like her because they don't have anyone to help them.

He survived a plane crash

Airplanes might be the safest way to travel, but airborne vehicles don't seem to have a great track record in the post-apocalypse. Still, that doesn't stop Morgan and his pals from trying to use one on a rescue mission – even if that rescue mission is a hoax perpetrated by Logan to lure them away from their denim factory ("Here to Help"). When the plane's engine fails, they end up crashing. John later credits Al's piloting skills for saving their lives, telling her, "It coulda gone a lot worse if you hadn't done what you did, Al."

While it's a fairly controlled crash, some of their crew is badly injured, particularly Luciana, who is impaled by a post. To make matters worse, they soon realize they've landed in a particularly dangerous area — an irradiated zone where Walkers are tied up by their own intestines. Despite all they've been through, Morgan's crew remains committed to helping Logan right up until he fully reveals his ruse. Fortunately for Grace and everyone else they end up helping, it doesn't dissuade them from continuing to be the good guys in the future.

Virginia shot him

Like everyone else, Morgan meets a steady stream of terrible people during his post-apocalyptic adventures. There's pre-redemption Negan and the Saviors, Logan, Martha, and doomsday cult leader Teddy, just to name a few. But one of the most formidable villains he encounters is mayor-from-hell Virginia. 

The redheaded leader of the Pioneers, Ginny rules over several communities by forcibly absorbing everyone and everything she deems useful. Her modus operandi brings Ginny into direct conflict with Morgan's group, as they're using an oil field to refine gasoline to transport supplies and help those who need it.

When Morgan and his crew find themselves surrounded by Walkers, a desperate Morgan decides the only way to save them is by calling Virginia. Despite his pleas, she refuses to keep them together but ultimately agrees to come get them. After separating him from Grace and his friends, Ginny tells him she has to protect the future. Telling him, "I just resent your face so much," she shoots him in the chest, leaving him to bleed out when she realizes she doesn't have the ammo to finish the job. She comes to regret her decision not to stick around long enough to ensure his death, as Morgan took out her bounty hunter and takes her captive, ultimately leading to her death at the hands (of June ("The End is the Beginning," "Things Left to Do").

He was left on his own

It's bad enough to get shot under normal circumstances, let alone in the zombie apocalypse. But in Morgan's case, it's something of a worst-case scenario. Not only is he shot, but it occurs moments after all his friends are separated and sent packing to completely different communities hundreds of miles apart. Since one of his friends is the apocalyptic answer to a doctor, it sure would have been handy to have her around while dealing with a gaping gunshot wound to the chest.

But Morgan is one tough cookie, and somehow, he manages to make it out of Humbug's Gulch and keep himself alive — even if the Walkers can barely tell. Left without proper medical treatment, Morgan's wound gets so gnarly that even the Walkers seem to turn their undead noses up at his funky flesh. A red-eyed Morgan spends the next several weeks skulking around like Gollum, hanging out in his water tower and evading Virginia's bounty hunter, Emile. It's enough to put anybody in a pretty dark place, and it looks like Morgan has one foot in the grave when he crosses paths with the freshly-bitten Isaac. Isaac helps Morgan with his gunshot wound, and in return, Morgan helps deliver his daughter, ultimately setting him back on the path to saving his friends ("The End is the Beginning").

Grace lost her baby

Pregnant people generally don't fare well in the apocalypse. Although Maggie and baby Hershel managed to stay alive in "The Walking Dead," Maggie's pregnancy played a role in getting her husband killed ("The Day Will Come When You Won't Be"). Lori Grimes had to die to deliver Judith ("Killer Within"), the Whisperer Frances is forced to abandon her child ("Bounty"), and the PADRE community is straight up snatching babies ("Remember What They Took From You"). It's no wonder Sherry and Dwight are nervous about the idea of bringing a child into this dark and twisted world.

But despite all of the horrors lurking around them, Grace and Morgan see her own pregnancy as a sign of hope for things to come. She first learns she's pregnant after mistaking the early signs of pregnancy for radiation sickness. Although her pregnancy progresses and it looks like things will turn out fine, her daughter Athena is stillborn, having absorbed the radiation that might have otherwise killed her mother ("In Dreams"). It's a heartbreaking, devastating loss for both Grace and Morgan, who has come to love Grace and her unborn child deeply and went to great lengths to prepare a safe home in which they could live.

He had to escape a nuclear detonation

The zombie apocalypse is brimming with terrors that go far beyond the obvious Walker-dodging. There's the daily struggle to find food in a world where any residual food stockpiles are increasingly at risk of harboring botulism. There are plenty of folks who have straight up lost their marbles, like the guy who went full Dr. Frankenstein and decided to start turning Walkers into murderous avant garde art projects ("Damage From the Inside"). Then there are the dictators and warlords, which seem to be a dime a dozen no matter what part of the country you happen to be in. But the one thing you probably wouldn't expect to happen is nuclear warfare — that is, unless you're unfortunate enough to cross paths with a psychotic Doomsday cult leader like Teddy.

A mortician-turned-serial killer in the pre-apocalypse, Teddy was the nemesis of cop John Dorie Sr. When the zombie outbreak brings a Teddy jailbreak, he quickly gets back to his old tricks by luring broken people into his Doomsday cult. They manage to get their hands on a grounded submarine's nukes, turning vast swaths of Texas into even more of an apocalyptic wasteland than it already was and sending Morgan, Grace, and Baby Mo ducking for cover. When they improbably survive, they're left in a hellscape where Geiger counters and respirator masks are an unfortunate fact of daily life ("The Beginning").

He was separated from his second family

After everything Morgan has been through, and all the people he's lost or had to leave behind, it's nice to finally see him getting some happiness in his post-post-apocalypse with Grace. 

Morgan starts to have feelings for Grace early in their relationship, something he comes to recognize in "210 Words Per Minute." It's clear that Grace means everything to him, and Morgan is devastated to see such pain after losing her child. As they wait together for Teddy's nukes to hit, she pours out her heart to him, and they finally kiss, confessing their love for each other ("The Beginning"). After he tells her he had imagined life as a husband and father with her, they contemplate ending their lives together. But just as they're about to, they hear Baby Morgan crying outside the sub, carried on the back of her Walker mom with help from the world's best dog.

Although they make it through the nukes, their happiness is short-lived. They're separated by Strand when baby Mo gets sick. Although Morgan manages to get her back when the Tower falls, he ends up separated from Grace during the exodus. Before they can reunite, Madison comes along and snatches baby Mo for PADRE, leaving Morgan stranded without either of his family members once more ("Amina," "Gone").