The Walking Dead spent a long time teasing the return of Morgan Jones. Not many characters get to come back on the series unless they're in the form of a zombie, but it always felt possible that he could show up out of nowhere to reunite with Rick. He finally did in the Season 5 finale, but as it turns out, he was originally intended to return in a more regular role much earlier. Showrunner Scott Gimple had this to say about the original plan to bring Lennie James back as Morgan:
At the end of 416, Rick would say, 'They're screwing with the wrong people,' and a gentleman would come out of the shadows of the train car and he would say, 'Yeah, they are.' And that would be Lennie, as Morgan. And it looked like it almost could have happened.
I have to say, I love Scott Gimple's description of Morgan as a "gentleman" stepping out of the shadows. I immediately think of a zombie apocalypse survivor wearing a monocle and a smoking jacket, and that's just a fun image. Would it have undercut the tension of Rick and Co. being captured by cannibals? Sure. But it would have been funny.
More seriously, the reveal that Morgan almost turned up in the Season 4 finale rather than the Season 5 finale paints an interesting picture of what could have happened. Viewers already knew that Glenn and Co. would probably turn up in the train car and reunite with Rick in the worst possible circumstances. Morgan emerging from the shadows could have been a major shocker to raise the stakes. As it happens, there was a very simple reason why Morgan's grand return to the world of the zombie apocalypse didn't happen in Season 4. Scott Gimple went on in his audio commentary for the Season 6 DVDs (via EW) to explain that Lennie James just wasn't available at the time.
Season 4 was ending in 2014, which happened to be shortly after Lennie James' AMC series Low Winter Sun was cancelled. The timing could have been perfect...if only Lennie James hadn't already committed to another project. He had signed on to star in British series Critical and would not be available for another AMC series. Critical was cancelled after only fifteen episodes, which was unfortunate for fans of that show but great for Walking Dead fans who had been missing Morgan, who could now return.
Morgan appeared a couple of times in Season 5 before coming to Daryl's rescue in the finale and showing up in Alexandria in time to see Rick execute a man. He spent Season 6 as a foil to both Rick and Carol, and it looks like he might have a key role in Season 7 as Alexandria's first contact with the Kingdom. It could have worked if Morgan had joined the crew in the end of Season 4; but it definitely worked that he didn't appear until the end of Season 5.
The Walking Dead returns to the airwaves on Sunday, October 23 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. Check out our breakdown of what we know so far about The Walking Dead Season 7, and take a look at our fall TV premiere schedule to see what else you'll be able to watch in the near future.