How many of us, every Sunday night at 9pm, are glued to the screen to watch AMC’s The Walking Dead (announcer voice)? We’ve all become honorary “Survivors” as Officer Rick Grimes ‘s people have been so affectionately called, spending six and a half seasons fighting the undead. Along the way, we too have lost friends, loved ones and slaughtered our enemies. For this, The Walking Dead is inarguably one of the greatest shows of all time due to the writers ability to provoke audiences and force us to adopt the emotions of leading character Rick Grimes & Co.
Flashback to a dark bathroom. Shane, Rick’s former best friend and daughter’s biological father–let’s just be honest–is seen shaving his head. This was the episode that the audience watched Shane transform into a monster, killing a man by forcing zombies to eat said man. Although it was to save Rick’s son, Carl, it pulled at the audience’s ethos. The murderous act was for a good cause, but at what cost? ‘Where is our humanity’ is a question the writers beg us to ask ourselves almost weekly as we watch the Survivors make decisions that would put the average person in a bind.
As we saw Rick in the beginning, he didn’t know what was going on. He woke up and the world was literally over. So him being thrown into a position of de facto leadership, took a little bit of getting used to, to say the least. We see Rick go from an unsure leader, to somewhat steadfast yet more governed by compassion and morals as he begged Shane not to open the barn door, to a more stoic person in the time after Shane’s death, to the anything goes and fiercely protective leader circa the Governor’s era. In each of those instances we connected to how Rick and the gang felt in terms of what needed to be done and how to go about doing it. Example. We didn’t want Shane to open that barn door at that time. We understood the desire to hold on to loved ones. We empathized with that pain of loss and uncertainty and for someone to take it away, was inhumane. The writer’s even guilt tripped us when the missing and very dead Sophia did a Walker walk out the barn. But at the end they all had to die. Every single Walker. Even precious Sophia. Looking back, we are now more Shane in that moment in regards to the present day situation. In the past, we all lamented as Rick put a bullet in Sophia’s reanimated body. But now, we cannot wait for someone to do the honor of putting someone out of their misery before they come back to “life.” Anything can be an enemy of the threat is large enough and needs to be eradicated immediately.
The writers do this thing where we all somehow agree with and share a sense of justice. What Rick says is right, is right and what he says is wrong, we fiercely rally behind. If someone has to die, they have to die. If he allows them to live we might grimace, but what Rick says goes. Right now the general consensus is that you do what you need to do to survive while staying true and loyal to your people. The one code we could never violate is sticking by our people. Before, justice was “Hey, maybe we can survive together if we just talk it out,” as evidenced in Rick’s heartfelt conversation with the Governor outside the prison—but we see where that got Herschel’s head. I believe the entire Governor’s arc is what made Rick distrust humanity and change his stance on how to handle outsiders. From the Guv’nor, to the Hunters and soon Negan, you see the denigration and the decay of Rick’s trust in human beings. As evidenced, the Alexandrians get the brunt of Rick’s disdain. And there we are,right behind Officer Grimes pumping our fists and cocking out shotguns, and upset the Alexandrians do not see the world as Rick does. That they do not see the world as we do.
I knew we had crossed the line into savagery when no one empathized with Father Gabriel as he watched the Ricksters slaughter the now helpless and defenseless Hunters in the church. We loved it. It was the most satisfying win we experienced. Those savages that ate good old Bob and his infamous “TAINTED MEAT” deserved to die horrible gruesome deaths for what they had done. Gabriel, who hadn’t been through what the Survivors had been through, saw this and was disgusted to the point he felt they were horrible, deplorable people. And to be honest, the old us would not have been too far from that mode of thinking.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take the example of Morgan. And before you continue reading, please leave your personal feelings about Morgan right here. Now, Morgan is now who he is because he could never kill his wife who had become the zombie who knew where she lived and how to turn the door knob. This in turn led to her eventually killing her son because he too couldn’t muster up the strength to see past his mothers decaying skin and see her as the zombified corpse that she had become. Now stop. Isn’t this a real thing? Aren’t these real feelings and sentiments. Often times we say “man if I was living at this time I would survive. I have what it takes. I would be savage” but no one was born a Rick. We were all Morgan at some point. We all had to deal with the world being what it is right now. And we all came to terms with it at different paces. So would you have been able to put a bullet in your mother a month after the world ended? Or would you have succumbed to real feelings and suffered the consequences? Would you have ever even been a Survivor? This leads into my theory. And if you don’t want any spoilers, you can stop reading here.
… Ok let’s continue.
We see how savage (and rightfully so) the team is. And we think Rick is in total control. Well Negan is coming to shake up everything you once thought was … Was anything. In the comic book Negan is responsible for many of the Survivors’ deaths, including Glen, and quite brutally. And while I don’t think Negan will kill Glen, I think his character will be just as vicious and that no one will be safe from his wrath. But another thing to note is that after the war with Negan and the Saviors, Rick takes the Saviors as his own people and hold Negan as prisoner, sentenced to life in a holding cell. Yea, you read that right. After he bashes Glen’s head in with a spiked baseball hat, after he steals and plunders the Alexandrians in exchange for protection from zombies, after he tortures Rick’s people for months, Rick decides that now is the time to move back civility and keeps Negan locked away in jail, much to everyone’s displeasure, including Negan. But what will cause this change of heart? The writers have shown an interesting dynamic between Rick and Morgan and how their philosophies of the world have grown and now differ. Starting from their reuniting, we can see things aren’t going to be the same between the two old friends., It is evident that they cannot coexist. I think Negan will kill Morgan the same way he kills Glen in the graphic novel. This carnage will make Rick realize it is time for a change in their manner of handling justice and who is handed down what sentence. But what do I know. I just do whatever Rick says.
I say all that to say this. One of the best things about the show is the writers’ ability to take you through the human psyche as the world around you burns. It’s interesting to see who people become, and who you would become. The writers put you right next to the Survivors as you grow and develop right alongside them. It makes you question not just what you would do in the situation, but would you be able to even do it? We’ve been Rick, we’ve been Shane, we’ve been Gabriel, we’ve been Carol, we’ve been Tyreese, we’ve been the Alexandrians we’ve been Sasha and we’ve been Morgan. That is what makes the truly great. Because no matter who you are or relate to, you are a Survivor.
Written By the Bearded One