Following the gruesome return of The Walking Dead on Sunday, we witnessed our once-mighty leader be reduced to a quivering mess at the hands of Negan. In what is considered one of the most controversial season premieres yet, I take a brief look at the evolution of Rick Grimes’ character.
Looking back over the seasons, we’ve witnessed a fresh-faced Sheriff’s deputy evolve into an imposing, unwavering, protector of people.
Having encountered increasingly impossible odds, Rick has overcome them season by season, forging new alliances and taking down adversaries along the way; nothing had fully met his match until Negan – the Governor seems like a mildly irritable tyrant in comparison.
In season one, Rick is clearly painted as the protagonist; that is not to say that he completely dominates the storyline itself. Arguably, he never has.
The Walking Dead has a remarkable way of dedicating time to each of the main characters’ storylines; this undoubtedly contributes to its huge success, if a little tedious at times.
As a character, Rick seems to attract followers, nurture them – in his own stubborn way – and hold them together until all hell breaks loose, naturally.
In retrospect, it’s quite the journey he has been on: since waking from his coma and having to immediately adapt to the newly post-apocalyptic world, Rick has fought his way back to his family, befriended Herschel Greene (a feat in it self), taken over a prison, assimilated to pseudo-normal life in Woodbury and later escaped its confines.
That’s not to mention almost becoming lunch at Terminus and the long-awaited, discovery and conservation of Alexandria, to name a few.
Ultimately, Rick did not achieve all of these things on his own; like each individual character in the show, he is a mere cog within the machine, but a rather crucial one at that.
As easy as it is for the audience of The Walking Dead to sit in the comfort of their homes shouting at their screens thinking they know better (guilty), the reality of the world that Greg Nicotero and co. create is one that very few of us would survive for very long in, without prior planning, that is.
While some of Rick’s actions have been questionable, particularly during his tyrannous stage (see below), he is a character that has endured, if nothing else, and to this point he still survives.
That in itself, in the midst of their world where the very tendrils of morality are becoming extinct, is an achievement.
‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’ (S7E1) begun by tearing down the character that the show has placed on a well-placed pedestal from day one.
Following on from season six’s prolonged build-up to his introduction, Negan brutally humiliated and brutalised Rick’s group both physically and psychologically within a matter of minutes.
To witness a protagonist utterly broken, on his knees and absolutely powerless is incredibly uncomfortable to watch.
Narrative conventions encourage us to expect them to prevail, by their very nature. Watching the glee on Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s face as he toys with Rick, breaking down every last piece of fight left in him is a credit to the actors for providing such immersive TV.
Following such a strong episode, I personally can’t wait to see how he (hopefully) recovers and how the rest of the characters knit together to form an inevitable resistance against The Walking Dead‘s new antagonist.
“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” — William Faulkner
The Walking Dead Episode 2 Preview:
Thanks for reading, survivors.