Written By: Adam Kalogeros
After spending several long months in a coma, “DON’T OPEN – DEAD INSIDE” are the first words Sheriff Rick Grimes reads before stumbling out of a boarded up hospital and into a world now overrun by the walking dead. Rick does not believe what he sees at first, and I don’t blame him because neither would I, but he soon learns that his life changed in a significant way.
When I started watching AMC’s hit series, “The Walking Dead”, I did not understand the big deal about zombies, even saying to one of my friends, “They’re dead, so what?” I quickly ate those words because I started and finished the first season in the same day. I watched as Rick Grimes tackles the undead challenges and obstacles ahead of him while making close friends and allies along the way. Some of the most notable of Rick’s group include Daryl Dixon, Glenn, Hershel, Dale, Michonne, and Shane just to name a few. Over the past 7 seasons, several character lose their lives to the walkers, as would be expected in a show about zombies; however, as the seasons progress the audience sees more deaths at the hands of humans rather than walkers. For me, personally, this raises the question of whether the walkers in “The Walking Dead” are really the monsters in the show? I don’t think they are, and I believe that the true evil lies inside the humans that are struggling to stay alive among the undead.
This concept can be illustrated through the character formerly known as the Governor. When the audience first lays eyes on the Governor he actually seems like a good guy that runs a pretty clean ship. He is in charge of what appears to be the first of many “Safe Havens,” called Woodbury, for those trying to escape the walkers and live a normal life. The community is extremely well-kept with many features, such as electricity, running water, and walls to keep the dead out. Overall, the Governor is a character that you really, really (no, like, REEEALLY) want to like, but you can also see that there is something he is hiding from his community. I felt as though there was something terribly evil about him and all of my assumptions came true when I laid eyes on his wall of fish-tanked live walker heads. My fears slowly grew as the Governor went from the ideal citizen and leader to a deranged, murderous and power-hungry psychopath (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmJYwMB_BlM).
The Governor tortured and killed people he knew, loved, and cared about like they meant nothing to him, and it almost cost Rick’s group everything when they first encountered each other. The Governor took it to another level the next time the group crosses paths by destroying Rick’s community and beheading one of the show’s most beloved characters, Hershel. While the governor may seem like the be-all-end-all of bad guys, there are still others who are much worse than him. For someone who has watched “The Walking Dead” since the start, I did not think that there was any way for anyone to top the Governor’s evil ways…until I met Negan. And I say that I met Negan because his character literally made that much of a lasting impression on the me as a viewer.
Negan is the leader of a group called the Saviors, who are introduced in season 6 with a story arc that continues into season 7. The group typically dresses in very drab and dark colors, such as black and navy blue, and when any of them are asked who they are, the response is always: “I Am Negan.” Now, for those who have not seen season 7 Negan can best be described as a totally badass and sarcastic asshole that everybody LOVES to hate. He is most famously recognized for his scraggly beard and his signature leather jacket. While Negan may already seem cool, the badassery continues with the introduction of Negan’s partner in crime, Lucille.
Lucille is the main reason why Negan is the worst villain, dead or alive, to come out of the show’s 7 seasons, and this is due to Lucille’s violent nature. You may be asking yourself, “Who is this Lucille girl?,” and you would not be wrong to think that Lucille is human due to her name, but she’s not. Lucille is a Louisville Slugger wrapped up in barbed wire that Negan uses to bash in the skulls of Rick’s friends and family. It was one of, if not the most, gruesome scenes in the show’s history, and it had me looking in horror as two of my favorite characters’ eyes and brains popped out of their heads (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEGSxlL6BMw).
This season, with scenes such as the one I just described above, is really solidifying the notion of human evil surpassing the evil of the walkers. The walkers always pose a great threat to any of the humans that are still alive and trying to survive; however, the walkers are not necessarily evil as they are just trying to survive themselves. Granted, they do need live flesh, or recently deceased flesh, to sustain their health and live to slowly walk another day. What do groups of animals do in the wild when they need food? They hunt. So, in a way, I feel like this is just the walkers’ circle of life, and since they only live to eat they cannot intentionally commit evil. This is regardless of who they formerly were when they were among the living because all the walker’s brains know is food.
The humans, on the other hand, are intentionally committing horrible, heinous actions towards one another and forcing people into submission against their wills. The foundation was laid by the Governor, and I honestly believe that Negan finished building on it to the point that there will be no greater evil than Negan in “The Walking Dead’s” universe. There were several other evil human forces in the time between the Governor and Negan, such as the Wolves and the Terminus cannibals, but they made nowhere near the same impact.
The lines are also blurred at times, leaving the viewer to wonder whether or not Rick’s group is actually the evil one. When entering new communities they often fight and take them by force. During other occasions they play the characters that they feel are needed to fit in and plot against whoever is running the current community. An article titled, ‘“We Are the Walking Dead”: Race, Time, and Survival in Zombie Narrative” (found at rampages.us), writer Gerry Canavan states:
“Over the narrative time that has been depicted in the series Rick has lost his place in society, his home, his best friend, his wife, and finally his grip on sanity; by turns paranoid and murderous, Rick has proven himself willing to do anything, to anyone, in the name of survival for himself and his surviving prepubescent son, Carl.”
Rick proves to be more than questionable on multiple occasions during the show’s 7 seasons, and at times you really do wonder if Rick is finally going to snap and turn to the dark side. The walkers do not have a side to pick as they are merely acting on instinct, but what happens when the humans from both the good and dark sides are killing one another? Are they really that different if they’re both ending other people’s lives? Does this mean that even the people I always thought were the good guys, like Rick, are really the monsters too?
I am really not sure anymore.