We Are The Walking Dead
So much of The Walking Dead TV show is about the thin line that separates humans from monsters, whether those monsters are the flesh-eating walkers or a possibly worse foe, the other humans who have allowed their humanity to slip away. Which of these terrible fates is worse?
Throughout the course of the show we’ve seen unapologetic bigots, violent creeps, two-faced despots, and a wide variety of broken people: those who allowed hopelessness to reign supreme, succumbed to their delusions, or gave in to the desire for misplaced revenge. There is always a price for killing another human, whether that price is the being killed, ostracized, or simply having to bear the burden of leaving a trail of so many dead bodies.
In a world with no law enforcement, who makes the laws? Who decides what is right or wrong and what punishment will be meted out accordingly? And what if those leaders fail us or worse, destroy us? What do we do then?
The inevitable clash between Rick’s group and Negan’s Saviors was hastened by a rock and a hard place situation, but it’s clear that at some point Negan would have found his way to Alexandria and forced Rick and the others there to do whatever he wanted. It seems that if Negan didn’t kill Glenn and Abraham, he would have killed other people instead.
What’s worse is that when Carol and Morgan find Ezekiel and the Kingdom, we find out that they, too, are under Negan’s thumb, just like the folks at the Hilltop. All over, there are human survivors living in their little bubbles and refusing to stand up to Negan lest they be killed or tortured. We’ve seen how Negan tortures people when we see what he does to Daryl. It’s horrific.
Perhaps the most frightening thing about Negan isn’t that he seems to be a murderous, vengeful sociopath, but that he demands obeisance, forcing his followers to kneel before him and even more disturbing, making them relinquish themselves. This is classic abusive behavior: belittling someone and stripping them of their identity, pushing them into reacting and then punishing them for it, in a kind of twisted gaslighting. And the cycle continues.
His followers mete out abuse under Negan’s orders; they are just as bad as he is, The Walking Dead’s version of the kapo. Dwight tells Daryl that if he just says “I am Negan” then things will get better for him, but he refuses. We learn how Dwight was “turned” to Negan’s side through brutal methods, which he then enacts upon others. He threatens an escapee with the torture of his friends back at the Saviors’ camp if he doesn’t comply. So the escapee complies and gets shot in the back for it, turned into a walker outside the gates of the camp.
In this week’s episode, “Service,” we finally get to see how Rick is dealing with the new reality of Negan as leader. This is not the Rick we have come to admire over the last six seasons. He seems angry and resentful, yes, but still broken.
Michonne calls him out on his willingness to just give up and give himself over to Negan’s rules of law. “Everything we have, we’ve had we had to fight for,” she spits out. These words carry weight, coming from a black woman who no doubt saw her own share of suffering before the walker apocalypse. Yet Rick pleads with her that “this is the way we live now.” Her face registers empathy, but also sadness that he seems to want to give Negan a chance after all he’s done to them already.
There are no laws in the world of The Walking Dead except for the laws of humanity. Negan has violated these and turned the human survivors of the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and Alexandria into his own horde of undead, brainless servants. We’ve all heard the expression, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” but it’s chillingly accurate here. Let’s hope things change, and soon.