In a previous post, I outlined how cremation is represented as counter to civilized mourning and remembrance. Furthermore, for Morgan, it is a personal form of ritual ‘cleansing’ – both of the infected dead but also of the mind, in the troubling yet powerful episode in The Walking Dead Season 6: Here’s Not Here.
This is juxtaposed against Eastman’s attempt to perform respectful burial for the undead he has to kill. For Eastman, all life is precious, but it is clear that he performs a logical extension of this, so that all death is precious too. Even when bit, he attempts to dig a grave for the zombie that bit him!
His cemetery is one created and designed by himself. It is in a clearing, arranged in regularly order and therefore chronologically spreads westwards. It stretches from the earliest grave he has to create: for the serial killer who slayed his wife and child before the zombie apocalypse, and whom he captured and starved to death, through the many ‘walkers’ whom he has despatched over the intervening months and years. Each grave is marked in a uniform fashion, an upright wooden post and a cross-piece with the name (if known) incised. If the individual’s name was not known to Eastman, he carves ‘Jane Doe’ or ‘John Doe’ as in a morgue.
At the end of the episode, Eastman’s grave joins his own cemetery. By inhuming Eastman, Morgan thus articulates via his respectful treatment of Eastman’s body and its commemoration a palpable shift from his perfunctory treatment of cadavers by fire. In so doing, he takes on Eastman’s philosophy and practice in equal measure: all life is precious.
Simultaneously, Morgan ‘closes’ the burial site with his respectful treatment of Eastman. The cemetery therefore, in the context of the episode, and the unburnt treatment of the dead, is considered the hallmark of culture despite the collapse of all that constitutes civilization. In The Walkign Dead, those who are loved are buried, those who are unloved are burned.
Meanwhile, the cemetery becomes Eastman’s in death as in life, as he joins as the last occupant. From the killer of his family to his own body, Eastman’s cemetery marks the beginning and the end of his journey and his personal experiment in civilization when civilization has collapsed.
When Morgan leaves, he walks past the cemetery… leaving it behind, but taking it with him…