The past is dead. Fear the Walking Dead returned with the death and rebirth of Morgan Jones (Lennie James), who survived Virginia's (Colby Minifie) attempt on his life only to lose himself by killing the bounty hunter Emile (Demetrius Grosse). No longer bound by a no-kill code, this "morally-gray" Morgan is somewhere in between the bloodthirsty killer driven to "clear" and the Morgan who believed all life is precious. Reaching out to his would-be murderer over walkie talkie at the close of "The End Is the Beginning," Morgan warned Virginia: "Morgan Jones is dead. And you are dealing with somebody else now."
After slaying Emile to protect Isaac (Michael Abbott Jr.) and his pregnant wife Rachel (Brigitte Kali Canales), who hid away in a dried-out valley with the makings of a new safe haven, Morgan adopted Emile's look and ax. If Morgan Jones is dead, who is this new cowboy-styled Morgan?
"Well, that is a complicated question. I think Morgan has had a lot of rebirths since we first met him in the pilot of The Walking Dead," showrunner Ian Goldberg told Entertainment Weekly. "He's been many different somebodies over the course of the apocalypse. He's endured a lot of trauma. And what we saw from him last season was it was probably the most hopeful Morgan that we'd seen. It was about uniting this unlikely family behind this philosophy of helping people out in the world. And they did do a lot of good, but at the end of the day, there was a great deal of loss that happened."
Morgan's caravan rescued many a stranger in need — including the pregnant Grace (Karen David) — but his group of do-gooders was torn apart by Virginia moments before she shot Morgan and left him for dead. Now his friends, among them Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), are under Virginia's control in Pioneer-ruled settlements across the west.
"I think Morgan realized that he had to change. Something in him had to change, and that also plays out with his interaction with Isaac in the episode," Goldberg explained. "Isaac is someone who also felt he had to change. He was someone who had worked for Virginia, and through being inspired by finding Morgan's own videos of helping people in the world, that led to him leaving Virginia and finding the place that Morgan will now try and make a home."
Morgan came to realize that his all-life-is-precious philosophy, handed down by late mentor Eastman (John Carroll Lynch), just "wasn't going to work for him going forward."
"It's not going to be the thing that helps unite everybody. And so, he realized he's got to become somebody different if that's a more morally-gray Morgan, then that's what he's going to be," Goldberg said. "And we're going to see that evolution in action as the season goes on."
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things The Walking Dead Universe. New episodes of Fear the Walking Dead premiere Sundays at 9 pm ET/8c on AMC.