On October 22, the war for humanity begins as “The Walking Dead” kicks off its eighth season. After watching the trailer, a lot of questions rattled my mind about the future of this show. Will the Alexandrians win the war against Negan and the Saviors? Will the other colonies continue to fight alongside Alexandria? Or will this be the end of Rick Grimes?
Seeing Rick as an old man in a hospital bed harkened back to the very start of the series. Through his strength and courage, Rick has been able to surmount seemingly impossible odds and navigate his people through obstacles that hindered their abilities of survival.
The term “survival” has taken on different meanings as the series progressed. In Seasons One and Two, there’re just a handful of menacing humans that Rick’s group faces, including Shane Walsh who turned on Rick at the end of Season Two. The main problem early on in the series were the walkers. However, once The Governor is introduced in Season Three, the walkers weren’t the only problem that Rick’s group has to deal with.
The first major human antagonist, the Governor is a character built on taking revenge on Rick’s group for destroying his Woodbury town. He slowly loses his sanity by going from a respectful and reasonable leader to a tyrannical and deadly menace who lets his power go to his head. Although I am not a fan of The Governor, I do think that his character serves as a good stepping stone to show just how ruthless the antagonists in this series can be. Negan, who is introduced later, is by far the most psychotic and violent individual of the series. He ruthlessly killed some of the series’ most beloved characters and makes the Governor look like a dull knife.
Although the villains in The Walking Dead have developed tremendously, the transformation of the shows hero, Rick Grimes, has been extraordinarily frustrating. From the beginning of the series, it’s never been clear as to why Rick was chosen to be the leader. Before the zombie outbreak, he was a sheriff in Atlanta, which makes him equipped to fight off anything or anyone who tries to hurt humanity. Running across Glenn and his group and managing to help them escape the city of Atlanta and get them back to their base camp safely, Rick certainly proves himself worthy of leadership early on.
Although Rick is looked up to by his group, establishing himself as the group’s de facto leader comes with various flaws. When it comes to making unanimous decisions, Rick prefers his group to go along with whatever he thinks is best instead of asking for their opinion on the matter. In Season Two, he thinks it’s best to keep searching for Carol’s daughter Sophia instead of moving on, only to realize that it was to no avail in the end.
Rick’s selfish mistakes at times has led to the crumbling of his authority and the demise of some of his group members. In Season Two, Shane challenges his authority after believing that he was going to find Sophia. In Season Seven, Spencer Monroe blames Rick for the deaths of his family members and tries to convince Negan not to trust him. However, the biggest mistake he made was letting two major group members die at the hands of Negan. This created trauma amongst his other group members who have looked up to him since the beginning. Laying on top of his RV in the middle of a herd of walkers, Rick loses his sanity as he realizes that he is no longer the leader he thought he was.
With the tragic death of Lori in Season Three, Rick’s sanity starts to fade and only gets worse into Seasons Four and Five. His relationships with those close to him become enormously hindered that even his own son Carl starts to lose faith in him. Rick becomes so far removed from himself that in Season Five, Episode 16, he stands on the brink of exile for starting a fight in the middle of the Alexandria community. However, at the end of that same episode, Rick’s leadership returns and he becomes someone the Alexandrians can trust when he avenges the death of Deanna’s husband by killing Pete.
I believe that Rick is a family man and goes far beyond to ensure the safety of Carl and his daughter Judith. When Carl is attacked at Hershel’s farm and in Alexandria, Rick drops everything and manages to save his life by getting him to safety. Whenever Rick goes out to search for supplies, he always makes sure that Judith is looked after either by Carl or another group member. I also believe that he considers his group members part of his family because he never rests until he reunites with them. The only instance where Rick has to betray someone close occurs at the end of Season Two when he has to kill Shane for the safety of his group.
When it comes to fighting against antagonists, Rick is the type of character who shows no mercy to those who try to hurt him and his group. Although he lets Negan and the Saviors get away in the Season Seven finale, it makes him a stronger hero because he is able to inspire the Alexandrians, the people of the Hilltop Colony, and the people of the Kingdom to drive them out and ultimately reclaim Alexandria. It also shows how prepared and well-equipped Rick is for the challenges ahead.
As I arrived at the end of the series, I thought back to the hospital bed scene in the Season 8 trailer and wondered what would happen if Rick dies? Who would lead his people at that point? If Carl steps up and becomes the leader, I believe he would posses the qualities of his father. Carl shows an enormous amount of strength especially in Season 2 when he gets shot and in Season 6 when he loses his eye. His motivation to go far and beyond to protect the people he loves shows that he can be counted on in times of need. Carl’s relationship with Enid could grow over the next few seasons. I just hope that it doesn’t have to end as abruptly as Rick and Lori’s or Glenn and Maggie’s.
With the approach of Season Eight, I hope that Rick continues to be the courageous leader he has been over the past seven seasons. I am expecting intense battles between Rick’s army and Negan and his Saviors. I would also like to see Carl continue to emulate the qualities of his father so that he may one day be a leader of people. In terms of the structure of Season Eight, I would prefer if each episode stuck to one plot rather than devoting three or four episodes to multiple characters. By having a more concise plot, the show would keep me on my toes and eager to watch each week’s episode. If you are still sleeping and haven’t put on the The Walking Dead yet, give it a try. It’s a show that will make you want to binge watch eight seasons in one night.