I love The Walking Dead. Truly, I do, but dear God, if this season taught me anything, it’s that Rick is a horrible leader and I was right to hate him. At this point, I don’t know why anyone would ever like his character. There have been a few other characters I absolutely disliked—Lori and Shane come to mind—but the biggest difference between them and Rick is that Rick is the main character, which means he’s going to be on the show until it ends. He will never go away. He will never not be the leader. He will never stop taking away screen time from better characters.
It also hasn’t helped that despite all the other characters dealing with some really unfortunate deaths, one of which was unnecessarily brutal, the entire season finale, “Conquer”—which was an hour and a half long, instead of just an hour like all the other episodes—was mostly a Rick Grimes appreciation episode.
This second half of the season, our characters made it to the Alexandria Safe Zone, where they met a community of people who survived the apocalypse and have been living in relative peace this whole time. As our main characters attempt to fit in, they discover some not-so-pleasant things about Alexandria. When walkers are about and someone is injured, instead of saving them, the Alexandrians survive by leaving their comrades to die. This mindset leads to Noah’s death, and from what I hear, his death was possibly the most gruesome on the show to date. I didn’t actually watch that scene and instead fast-forwarded through it, but I’m quite certain I saw a walker rip his face off. It was unnecessary. It was especially unnecessary considering that Noah is the third Black character to die this season.
Also in Alexandria, the town surgeon, Pete, turns out to be a horrific domestic abuser who beats his wife. Carol figures out what’s going on, and being a former victim of domestic abuse, doesn’t take too kindly to what Pete’s doing. She tells Rick about the abuse, and he goes to confront Pete’s wife, Jessie, over what’s happening, and the two of them have a conversation that demonstrates what a horrible person Rick is. First, Jessie asks Rick why he cares, because when a woman is being abused, the important thing in the situation is Rick’s feeling. She also asks him if he would help anyone else in her situation, to which Rick actually responds “no”. To start, Rick only cares about her because the second half of the season has been building up a relationship between him and Jessie, but as Rick is supposed to be the hero of the story who keeps people alive and does the right thing, I find his answer even more disgusting. He pretty much says that he wouldn’t help someone who needed help unless he also wants to fuck them.
Pete comes home while Rick and Jessie are talking, and eventually Pete and Rick get into a fight. After they’re broken up by the townspeople, Rick goes on a tangent that shows just how far he’s lost touch with his own humanity. Thankfully Michonne knocks him out, and the finale more or less ends up being about all the Atlanta survivors trying to convince the Alexandria survivors what a great amazing person Rick is and how he keeps people alive so they don’t exile him.
And to all that, I say, no; Rick doesn’t keep anyone alive. Characters have been dying all over the place, and a lot of that has been because of Rick’s incredibly poor decisions. As the leader of the group, he has made some shit choices. From how he handled Hershel’s walker-filled barn in the second season, to how he handled to the prison in the third and fourth seasons, Rick has proven himself to be a horrible leader. He’s also proven himself to be a horrible person who has lost his ability to trust. He tortured Randall in the second season, and almost handed Michonne over to the Governor in the third—which also went to show how manipulative he is. After deciding to not go through with the Governor’s plans, he confided his problem to Merle, the one person in the entire group who would more than willing do it for him behind everybody’s backs. If Merle had succeeded, the Governor would have been able to happily torture Michonne while Rick could claim no accountability.
And then, this season, after meeting Aaron, who told our survivors about Alexandria and brought them food and water when they needed it, Rick attacked him. He knocked Aaron out, went through his things, and planned to kill him. It is one thing to be cautious, considering all the horrible things he and the others have gone through, but it is entirely something else to be cruel. As far as I’m concerned, Rick is now a far less competent Governor. At this point in time I like Nicholas, the Alexandria resident coward who’s responsible for Noah’s death and almost killing Glenn as well, better than I like Rick, because hey, at least the show isn’t trying to convince me that Nicholas is a decent person.
There were so many other things going on this episode that deserved much more screen time than Rick. Father Gabriel’s guilt over letting his congregation die and his suicide attempts this episode come to mind. He tries to goad Sasha, another character who’s potentially suicidal into killing him and is only saved by Maggie. The three of them then have a prayer session. That moment was very powerful and so many things were happening: victim-blaming, self-loathing, religious doubt and confusion, attempted murder, attempted suicide, then ultimately forgiveness and coming together. Glenn and Nicholas also go through something similar this episode. Nicholas realizes what a horrible weak person he is, and Glenn comes to terms with his own humanity. This doesn’t make me dislike Nicholas any less than I already did, but at the very least it was a good scene to watch, and it developed both characters.
But what I loved most about this finale was Carol. Carol has proven herself over and over again, and this episode she gets a go at Pete for what he did. She threatens him into helping Tara, who was horrifically injured a few episodes ago, but she also does it while maintaining her cover as a lowly housewife who can’t look out for herself. She bakes Pete some food in order to get close enough to him, before pulling out a knife and threatening him. It was great to see a domestic abuser brought low by someone who used to be victimized. When Carol was done, she forced him to keep the food she baked, and told him on her way out, “I want my dish back. Clean, when you’re done.”
And Carol really had all the good lines this episode. When Rick confides in her that he doesn’t want to be a liar, after episodes of planning ways to forcefully take over Alexandria, Carol says, “You said you don’t want to take this place and you don’t want to lie? Oh, Sunshine, you don’t get both.” Carol is amazing.
Our episode unfortunately ends by annoying coincidental events to prove to us that Rick is indeed the best choice of leader and has been in the right the whole time. Rick tells the people of Alexandria that he had been planning to kill some of them to keep the rest of them safe—which is not a good defense at all—but that he’s not going to do that now. Then he kills Pete to keep everyone safe.
As I’ve said in previous reviews, I love just about everyone but Rick. Even Abraham’s character is growing on me. I don’t know why Rick is the leader when Michonne, Daryl, Abraham, or Carol would all make better candidates. Now that The Walking Dead has reintroduced Morgan, the moral compass character, maybe Rick will get better in the next season. Of course, Morgan is also Black, so I’m not sure how much longer he’s going to live.