WASHINGTON, March 14, 2017 — “True Budo [Japanese martial arts] is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in nature.”
So wrote Marihei Ueshiba, author of “The Art of Peace.”
It’s a philosophical tome on Aikido that Morgan Jones (Lennie James) puts aside, along with his Jo (martial-arts staff), before using his bare hands to murder John (Karl Makinen), a knight of The Kingdom.
Seven seasons into AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and it seems the diminishing stable of zombie-fighting characters are getting over their quaint notions of finding a safe and tranquil patch of earth to call their own.
In this world, nothing is free. And the price of survival is paid in blood.
Having lost his wife, and eventually his son Duane, Morgan goes quite insane. When Rick and his band of survivors encounter Morgan in season 3, he nearly kills them all.
By season 6, Morgan’s meanderings eventually brings him to a remote cabin in the woods. That’s where he meets Eastman (John Carroll Lynch).
Eastman tells Morgan, “I’m a forensic psychiatrist. The state employed me to determine if certain people who did very bad things would do them again if they were released from prison. That was my job… What did you do or what do you do now?”
“I clear,” says Morgan.
“What the hell does that mean?” asks Eastman.
The cracked Morgan replies, “Walkers, people anything that gets anywhere near me, I kill them. I clear.”
Eastman tries to level Morgan’s fevered temperament by giving him a small, yellow book to peruse, “The Art of Peace.”
As a bonus, Eastman teaches Morgan how to properly use the Jo, or staff, as a tool of self-defense. However, Eastman tells Morgan something that sets his new friend on the path to mental tranquility:
“All life is precious.”
A strange sentiment at a time when the undead outnumber the living and roving bands of living sociopaths kill, rape and pillage with impunity.
And this brings us to the major predicament facing Rick and his followers as season seven nears its end.
That quandary’s name is Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
Rick has come back from a very dark place, having witnessed Negan’s deft application of the barbwire-coiled baseball bat he calls Lucile that he used to crush the skulls of Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) and Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) at the season’s premier.
Rick has discovered, the hard way, that the sanctuary of Alexandria is not the “safe zone” he originally thought. He also learns that the dark-souled living pose a far greater threat to him and his extended family than the mindless, animated cadavers stumbling through the countryside in search of living flesh.
It’s while Rick is attempting to convince King Ezekiel of The Kingdom to join a military alliance to crush Negan and his gang The Saviors that the king turns to Morgan for advice.
Morgan, irritatingly, advises King Ezekiel to avoid war with The Saviors, saying the price of such an endeavor will bring needless death to both sides.
Rick, like a sizable number of the viewing audience no doubt, grimaces in frustration.
But in last Sunday’s episode 13, Morgan drops the pretense of assigning preciousness to all life for the sake of revenge, killing the man (John) responsible for triggering as series of events leading to the death of his young, son-like friend.
Morgan has gone to the dark side. And it’s about time.
We see him is sharpening the end of his Jo to a lethal point. A wooden staff, at long last, to give the blood-soaked Lucile some much needed competition.
“The Walking Dead” airs Sunday nights on AMC.