[Minor spoilers for The Walking Dead ahead]
After some seven years away from AMC’s The Walking Dead, jaws hit the floor when long-lost Morales returned in the second episode of Season 8. However, now appearing as one of Negan’s Saviors – and left pointing a gun at Rick – can the loveable family man still be brought back to the side of good, or is it all too late?
For those who don’t remember, actor Juan Gabriel Pareja had a relatively short stint back in Season 1 of the zombie romp. Appearing in just four episodes, the patriarch of the Morales family was known only by his surname and soon took his family off to look for relatives in Alabama. This was when Frank Darabont was running The Walking Dead, so it’s unknown if Morales was ever meant to return, but current showrunner Scott Gimple gave Morales a surprise cameo in Season 8’s “The Damned.”
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The long-awaited Rick and Morales reunion was less than welcome, and the two ended up in a dangerous face-off as the credits rolled. However, speaking to Insider, Pareja teased that Morales may not be the Savior supporter he first seems:
“I had a conversation with [showrunner Scott M.] Gimple before shooting, and I was trying to deal with this way that Morales was being brought back, as a villain. Scott [was] kind of like, ‘No,’ [and] helped guide me through that, and not necessarily as a villain, but from his own point of view, it’s just what he had to do to survive. It’s just not as clear cut. You always have to make the case for your character, and not necessarily write them off as villains, but just people who are doing what they have to do to survive.”
It certainly sounds like Morales isn’t the bloodthirsty villain that many are painting him out to be, and also bear in mind that prior to Rick and Morales crossing paths again, the de facto lead of the show had just brutally murdered a father protecting his baby. There is clearly an essence of that family man still in there, and Rick could use it to his advantage. If Morales is still holding onto those roots at the Atlanta camp, he could be an easy target for Rick to recruit to his cause.
The show has already put a clever game of chess into play right underneath Negan’s nose. With Dwight as Rick’s official man on the inside and big questions still hanging over Eugene’s intentions, Morales could be another mole to undermine Negan’s power trip. Fans can rest assured that the showdown at the Savior compound won’t be the end for either Rick or Morales, and while the distant future of the show might be a Rick-free zone, Andrew Lincoln isn’t going anywhere. Elsewhere, it is ridiculous to think that Gimple wouldn’t bring back Morales unless he has something special planned, so we can assume that the two will have to come to some sort of agreement.
No one is saying that Negan is a hero of The Walking Dead, but as Season 8 continues and “The Damned” showed us, the line between who is good and who is bad is definitely becoming a morally grey area. As for Morales, Pareja promises that fans will get to know more about him and where the Morales family has been for the past seven seasons, but only time will tell how much he has been brainwashed by that bat-swinging maniac.