The Walking Dead has become one of the most-watched shows in cable history, and much of that is due to the incredible story of main character, Rick Grimes.
Robert Kirkman created Rick, and the entire Walking Dead universe, when he debuted The Walking Dead comic series in 2003. Andrew Lincoln was cast as the character when the show began in 2010, and is now one of the most recognizable stars on the planet.
While fans have become obsessed with the complicated character, many regard him the hero of the show. While he’s the protagonist in the series, and definitely the focal point, can you really call Rick a hero?
Sure, Rick has helped — even saved — the people in his group. He has kept them alive for the last seven seasons, and that’s not an easy feat. However, some of the biggest villains in history — both real and fictional — have had negative impacts on their worlds by trying to do the same things.
To keep an example in house, let’s look at The Governor.
The man was insane, no one would question that, but everything he did was designed to protect his people. At first, it was his daughter. Then, it became the people of Woodbury.
Remember when he and Merle killed all of those soldiers, just in case they wouldn’t go along with his way of thinking? The soldiers had supplies that Woodbury needed, and The Governor deemed his community more important than their lives.
Why is Rick’s handling of the Saviors at the satellite station any different?
Rick believed these men would be a problem for his people, so he decided to massacre an entire group of people. His intentions were good, but for who? They certainly weren’t good for those he killed in the compound.
What about, in season two, when Rick killed two men in a bar? They could have been dangerous — they probably were — but Rick had no basis for this. He didn’t think his people would survive if these two lived a second longer, so he killed them. He even put one a young man through torture, just to try and keep him from telling anyone where the farm was.
You want to keep your people secure, that’s a worthy cause, but there were other ways out of that scenario that didn’t cost anyone their lives. Once again, Rick took things into his own hands, and it didn’t turn out well.
The decision in the bar, and the capture of the boy, was the straw that broke Shane’s sanity. You could also argue that these events led to the death of Dale at the end of season two.
One might say that these actions are a product of the world Rick lives in, and that’s totally true. However, is it necessary to succumb to evil in each and every situation? Did compassion and humility go out the window at some point?
After all, the underlying plot of the entire series revolves around the ability to keep humanity alive, even in the face of the apocalypse. Rick always says he wants humanity to survive, but he doesn’t live it out.
His actions can be labeled as “doing what needs to be done”, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. This show has proven that good men can survive, even without the evils of the world. Look at Hershel and Glenn. Both have died at this point, but because of the decisions of others, like Rick and Daryl.
No one doubts Hershel’s lifestyle, but many might say Glenn did things he wasn’t proud of to keep Maggie alive. That’s true, but look at how Glenn reacted to these choices. There as never a moment when Glenn Rhee didn’t regret his negative impact on others. When he finally killed another man, under Rick’s orders, he was physically sick over what he had to do. When Rick needs to kill, he doesn’t think about it. At least, not anymore.
Another shining example here is King Ezekiel. This man has a thriving community, which exists in the same world as Negan, and he’s made it happen without the bloodhsed. Negan has been terrible for his community, and Ezekiel has proven that he is willing to fight back. The big difference here, is that Ezekiel was willing to feel the situation out. He had to prove that Negan was a villain, and that he could move on him without endagering his people, before he tried anything. This is a lesson Rick could afford to learn. Hopefully, it’s one he’s already learning at this moment.
Throughout the series, Rick had made decisions that ruined the lives of those around him, just to keep his family safe. You may think this is a strength, but it’s a glaring diplomatic weakness. You may need to get your hands dirty to be a leader, but you can’t let that overcome your character.
That’s exactly what happened to The Governor, and it’s the same thing we saw in Rick before Negan showed up.
To top it all off, look what he’s done to Carl. Audiences have watched as the boy has turned into a stone-cold killer throughout the series, mainly because he was told that’s who he had to be. Now, Rick things Carl is taking things too far, but he can’t stop it. Rick taught Carl to be a villain, and he’s finally starting to see the negative outcomes of his actions growing up before his eyes.
Rick is widely considered a hero because he saves the lives of the characters that fans care about. People like Aaron, Carol, and Maggie are alive because of some of Rick’s decisions, so folks decide to love him.
To flip that around, put yourself in the shoes of a different set of characters.
Say the show followed a family, fighting on their own during the zombie apocalypse. This family met another family, and the group was barely surviving. A man named Negan picked them up, and gave them a home. They realized he did evil things, but he protected them nontheless. The men of the two families decided to work as soldiers for Negan, so their wives and children could have better lives. After much training and sacrifice, those two men are stationed in a satellite outpost.
One night, as they sleep, a group brutally murders them in their beds. Defenseless, these men never make it back to their children.
Now ask yourself, who’s the villain?