It’s a shocker that Lennie James’s Morgan Jones will be the character who bridges The Walking Dead and its companion series, Fear the Walking Dead. When AMC revealed last week it would announce the crossover character on Sunday’s Talking Dead, most fans seemed convinced Michael Cudlitz’s Abraham Ford would be the person going back in time to tie these two apocalyptic worlds together. And that would have been a fine, fine choice.
On the other hand, there is no better character and actor in The Walking Dead universe than Morgan and Lennie James, and this addition to FTWD means it’s likely that show is only going to get better in its fourth season. The Fear cast already includes Kim Dickens, new regulars Garret Dillahunt and Jenna Elfman, and, possibly, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Colman Domingo, Ruben Blades, and the great Season 3 add, Ray McKinnon. And we say “possibly” because FTWD ended its third season — the season when it got really good — with so many cliffhangers that it’s impossible to know who will be back, where they’ll be back to if they’re alive, and what time period we’ll see them in. (Deadwood fans, how delicious is the prospect of Dickens, Dillahunt, and McKinnon reunited for another drama series?) That was already exciting for a show that finally found its footing in Season 3 and will launch Season 4 with new showrunners and more involvement by TWD showrunner Scott Gimple. A Lennie James performance only strengthens whatever project he’s in, and this one should be no exception.
The James transfer does raise a lot of questions, however, and the announcement on Talking Dead offered few answers. Here’s what we know so far, along with some of our best guesses on what Morgan Jones’s new home could mean for everyone in The Walking Dead TV universe.
FACT: Lennie James has already filmed his final scenes for The Walking Dead (for now, anyway). The show wrapped production on Season 8 just before Thanksgiving, and James confirmed on Talking Dead that he’d already bid farewell to his Atlanta cast- and crewmates last week.
FACT: Fear Season 4 is filming, at least partly, in Austin, Texas, and James begins his role as a series regular on Fear today, Nov. 27. In fact, AMC is live-streaming his first day on set on Twitter at 4 p.m. ET.
And here’s where the fun begins, with the (complicated) speculation:
• Does Morgan die on The Walking Dead? James said goodbye to his TWD castmates, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s left the show permanently. Morgan Jones was in the pilot episode of TWD, only to be MIA until Season 3’s classic “Clear” and then not seen again until the Season 5 premiere, before reuniting with his old pal Rick Grimes in the Season 5 finale and becoming a regular part of the action in Season 6. When you think about how complicated Morgan’s timeline is on TWD, and how his presence has influenced the storylines and characters, it makes sense that he’s the one to tie the whole TWD TV universe together.
• Maybe Morgan doesn’t die on the original series; maybe his fate is left up in the air at the end of Season 8. Given Morgan’s ongoing struggle with the morality and humanity (or lack there of) required to live and keep your loved ones alive in the apocalypse, maybe he decides to go off on his own, something he’s done in the past.
“Even though Morgan is going to be featured on Fear, he still has a lot of story left on The Walking Dead,” Gimple said in a statement that Chris Hardwick read during Talking Dead. Does that mean a lot of story left on TWD this season? Or in the future beyond Season 8?
• This is where things get tricky: timelines. Based on TWD creator Robert Kirkman’s estimates, Fear is generally believed to take place around the time of TWD Season 2. If that’s accurate — and again, this is all a little fuzzy without specific timelines — it likely means Morgan’ joining Fear at the time it ended in the Season 3 finale would have happened sometime after the events of TWD’s “Clear.” Which means after “Clear,” Morgan would have traveled to California or Mexico to be involved with the Fear universe.
But if that were true, he would also have had to travel back east to be in the mix for the action of TWD Season 5 and onward. That’s a lot of traveling in the apocalypse, when road-tripping isn’t as simple as filling up the gas tank and grabbing weird energy drinks and Hostess snack cakes at 7-Eleven. And if he had gone to the other coast, had experiences, and then traveled back and resumed his unstable, “clearing” practices, that almost certainly would have been something he would have shared with Eastman at his cabin in Season 6’s “Here’s Not Here,” which covers Morgan’s life between “Clear” and the Season 5 premiere, when he went looking for Rick. Yet he mentioned nothing of the kind to Eastman. So…
• Maybe Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 begins with a time jump? Maybe it leaps forward in time to catch up with the current timeline of TWD, which would mean Morgan might leave Alexandria and the Kingdom for some reason and go to Texas, where FTWD is likely set in Season 4. Maybe he decides he can no longer deal with life in the general area where he lost both his wife and son. Maybe he’s too conflicted with Rick and company’s actions in building their new world via the war with Negan and the Saviors, and decides his sanity is dependent on a serious change of scenery. Maybe after the war with the Saviors and in the course of plotting their new world, Rick and his cohorts ask Morgan to expand that world by traveling to another part of the country to set up another community. That would be the natural progression in rebuilding the world in a bigger sense, right?
Also from Gimple’s statement on Sunday’s Talking Dead: “Morgan’s arc on The Walking Dead Season 8 positioned him for the story on Fear. It was also important to see Fear’s world and characters through new yet familiar eyes.”
• Maybe that helicopter Rick saw in “The Big Scary U” plays some role in Morgan’s getting from Virginia to Texas?
• If Morgan is alive at the end of Season 8 of The Walking Dead, and the timeline of Fear the Walking Dead catches up to TWD, does that mean there’s an opening for an even wider crossover between the two series? Again, if a new world is being built, it would only make sense that expansion would take place.
And does that mean there could then be even further communities we meet, i.e., additional companion series? Rosita and Eugene have both spent time in Texas; that’s where Rosita, Eugene, and Abraham met each other. Rosita might be looking for a change of scenery herself at the end of Season 8, and, assuming Eugene survives till then — and we really hope the Mulleted One survives — he might be better off in Texas than trying to make up with Rick and his (former?) friends in Alexandria.
It’s not a crazy idea; may we remind you Dick Wolf currently has three series on the air that cover connected communities within one city?
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
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