In tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The Damned,” Morales (Juan Gabriel Pareja) makes his return to the series, appearing for the first time since the fifth episode of the first season.
“Your name is Morales,” Rick says to a man holding a gun to his head at the end of the episode. “We were together in Atlanta.” However, Morales lets Rick know that a lot has changed since Atlanta, namely that Morales is now a Savior and that they are no longer on the same side.
Recall, however, that Morales and Rick were once friends. Morales is introduced to the series in the series’ second episode, “Guts,” when Rick is trapped inside of a tank in downtown Atlanta. A group led by Glenn, Andrea, T. Dog, and Morales rescues Rick, and Rick quickly repays the favor by saving the rest of them from Merle Dixon. “Well Officer Friendly from up the road aways, welcome to the big city,” Morales says to Rick, after he handcuffs Merle to a drainpipe.
A few notes about that second episode, for those who haven’t revisited earlier episodes of The Walking Dead: The direction was better then (Michelle MacLaren, a veteran of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad directed the episode); the series used to have the occasional one-liner (thanks, Frank Darabont), and they called the zombies “geeks” instead of “walkers.” Those walkers were also slightly more intelligent, stronger, less lumbering, and could at least attempt to climb a ladder. Also, Merle was much, much more racist than I remembered. Oh, and I’d completely forgotten that Rick used the zombie guts trick for the first time in that episode: Rick and Glenn escaped a horde of zombies by covering themselves in zombie guts to disguise their smell. It was also a really fun episode that saw Glenn show off his driving skills. I miss Glenn. I also miss really fun episodes of The Walking Dead.
Anyway, Rick saved Morales’ life in “Guts,” and helped him get back to his family at the refugee center, which is where Rick was reunited with his own family. For the next three episodes, Morales is more or less just another face in a large crowd of survivors, hardly any of which are still alive today (save for Rick, Carl, Daryl and Carol). After Andrea’s sister Amy is bitten by a walker and dies in the fifth episode of the series, “Wildfire,” Rick and his crew decide to go to the CDC to see if they have found a cure. That’s when Morales and his family (a wife and two kids) decide to split, telling Rick that they’re going to Birmingham to be “with their people.”
It appears that Morales didn’t make it that far. What we don’t know is whether his wife and children survived. It seems unlikely if he is a Savior, although if his wife is alive, she could be one of Negan’s many wives.
Anyway, until Morales resurfaced in this week’s episode, that is the extent of what we know about him. Although, interestingly, Juan Gabriel Pareja played another character named Morales in Frank Darabont’s The Mist. Pareja has been bouncing around in other television roles since The Walking Dead (including an arc on the great Amazon series Goliath), and he’s also had quite the physical transformation since his last appearance on the zombie drama.