Insignificant Significant: Morgan Grimes
by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)
It’s been a while since I’ve written about our favorite slacker nerd-turned-hero, so I thought we could delve back in to it. In the Saving Sarah series of posts, I wrote about Chuck Bartowski as the soteriological hero. Basically, that means that Chuck is a hero that saves the world on an ontological level. He not only saves the world from material dangers, but saves the people around him by making them whole. In Chuck vs. the One Ring, I tried to draw a correlation between Chuck and Frodo, and the carrying of the Intersect and the One Ring. Now, let’s talk about another facet of this particular Hero’s Journey. Let’s talk about the insignificant significants. Let’s talk about Morgan and Sam.
As much a part of the Hero’s Journey as the Call to Adventure or the Descent into the Underworld, the hero must have the faithful companion; the one to stick close through thick and thin. The hero must have a sidekick, but not merely a sidekick to fight crimes with. I’m not talking about Robin here. The sidekick here is also an ontological sidekick. By his presence, his words, his actions, he helps the hero become. Frodo had his dear Sam, and Chuck, Chuck has his Morgan. It’s not always an easy relationship, but there is no hero without it. Let’s look at some of the similarities.
”I think you should know he’s always been supportive of our fake relationship, and he’s never found it remotely unbelievable that a guy like me could be dating…ahem…you know…you.”
– Chuck, “Chuck vs. the First Date”
There is great significance in this line. Even before trials and tribulations that come with the Intersect or the One Ring, there is a love and devotion here that is critical to the heroic development of both Chuck Bartowski and Frodo Baggins. Sam knows without material evidence that Frodo can carry the Ring. Oh sure, he knows it’s dangerous, he fears it will most likely end in disaster for his friend and master, but he knows Frodo is the hero, even if he is afraid for Frodo’s life. Likewise, Morgan has always known that Chuck was meant for something greater than working at the Buy More. Morgan has believed that Chuck could change the world, and he, Morgan, will be right beside him when he does it.
Morgan certainly begins the story as the more slacker of the two. He doesn’t have Sam’s industry, love of work, or common sense. But then, Morgan is not a hobbit. But that really isn’t important for the comparison here. What is important is that, like Sam, Morgan knows that Chuck is different, special, heroic. He constantly encourages Chuck. Early on, we are told by those outside the friendship (i.e. Big Mike) that Morgan will drag Chuck down, keep him from accomplishing anything significant, but that is not the case. Even the first season Morgan, who, I think we can all agree, is just about useless, doesn’t drag Chuck down in an ontological sense, but rather continually affirms who Chuck is. He is faithful to Chuck’s personhood. Faithful Sam. Faithful Morgan.
”You know what we need here? A Thanksgiving miracle. Chuck and Sarah are gonna walk through that door as happy as can be, and everything’s gonna be fine.”
– Morgan Grimes, “Chuck vs. the Gravitron”
But this faithfulness to the hero is not the only similarity between Sam and Morgan. There is a prophetic optimism to both of them as well. What I mean by this is that both tend to see the positive outcomes that await the hero. And I don’t mean here that they’re always looking on the bright side of life. They know the positive outcome. It is a certainty, if they can stay true to the course set before them. Whenever Frodo slides into a melancholic stupor, Sam is there to remind him of home. He’s there to remind Frodo that they just might make it back home after all. He brings to mind images of peace, of the world being saved and set right. He’s there to tell Frodo that Frodo will indeed come back after his metaphorical descent into the Underworld in the Hero’s Journey. All will be well.
It is the same with Morgan. Morgan tells Chuck that he, Chuck, is meant for greatness. He tells Ellie that Chuck and Sarah will walk through the door. In “Chuck vs. the Beard,” when Chuck finally comes clean with Morgan about being a spy, about the Intersect, and all of it, Morgan reminds him of Sarah. He tells Chuck that there are some things Chuck cannot possibly hide. He forces Chuck to speak the truth, to recognize his love for Sarah, to go after her, to fight for her, win her, and save her. This prophetic optimism is nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in the final episode. Casey and Ellie have told Chuck that Sarah is gone. Even Sarah tells him that though she believes they were in love, got married, and the whole bit, that she just doesn’t feel it anymore.
So Casey leaves to find Verbanski. Awesome and Ellie move to Chicago. Jeff and Lester leave to tour Germany and be adored by men and women. The one who doesn’t leave is the one who would never leave: Morgan. And again, showing the prophetic optimism, Morgan helps Chuck to see where Sarah is, not with a map, not with super-spy tech. He simply tells Chuck that in Chuck’s heart, he knows where Sarah is. Not only that, but Morgan is the progenitor of the magical kiss theory. Just as Sam was right that they would see the Shire again, so Morgan is right about the kiss, not necessarily that there will be an instantaneous remembrance of Chuck and Sarah’s love, but that the kiss will put things right. It will be the healing. And he’s right.
“Come, Mr. Frodo!” he cried. “I can’t carry it [the ring] for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go.”
– “The Return of the King”
The last facet to compare with Morgan and Sam is the carrying of the Ring, or rather, the Ring Bearer. As the Ring is analogous, though not strictly so, to the Intersect, so it is analogous that the sidekick carry the burden for the hero for a little bit. Yes, the circumstances are different. But what is the same is that each one, Morgan and Sam, carry their friend’s burden, and it is unnatural. It is not the task of Morgan or Sam to carry the burden. They serve a different purpose: they carry the hero.
When Frodo is incapacitated, the Ring falls to Sam and he carries it. When Chuck is incapacitated via Decker’s jack-holery and the theft of the Intersect, a faulty version falls to Morgan. Sam saves the Ring from discovery and recovery by the forces of Mordor by secretly carrying it, thus saving Frodo’s life. Morgan intercepts the faulty Intersect meant for Chuck, and thus saves Chuck’s life and memories. So, each one in turn experiences what the hero does. Each one goes through their own fall, their own descent into the underworld. And each ultimately relinquishes the burden.
But more important than Sam or Morgan carrying the Ring or the Intersect, is what they do for the real Ring/Intersect bearers. During the whole time of his carrying the Ring, Frodo sinks deeper and deeper into its influence. He is physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. So, what does Sam do? Sam picks up his master and friend, and carries him, helping Frodo to fulfill his role. So too does Morgan carry Chuck. Throughout the entirety of the series, Chuck bears the Intersect, all of that information, all of that responsibility, and all of that power.
Morgan carries it for a time, sure, but he is far more effective, far more of who he is when Chuck has the Intersect and Morgan carries him. Morgan carries Chuck by his faith in his friend, by his unwavering loyalty, and his continual quiet (or not so quiet) presence in Chuck’s life. Morgan’s very existence and participation in the life of Chuck Bartowski enables Chuck to become the hero and save Sarah, Casey, and the whole world. No, Morgan is not the hero. He carries the hero.
No one is perfect. No one begins completely whole, not even the hero. In terms of story and myth, Morgan and Sam are not the heroes. They are the insignificant significants. They are the pillars the heroes must lean upon. They live to make it possible for the hero to be the hero, and they become heroic in the process. Sometimes, in the glory of getting the girl, or saving the world, these unsung can be forgotten. There are these people in our own lives, yours and mine, that sustain us with their presence and encouragement. They carry us when we can go no further. They tell us we will see home again. They reveal the truth of things to us, and will never leave us. In truth, these` are the Significants.