The Walking Dead: What Works, Who’s Worth Saving and What Needs To Happen

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With the Season 6, Part 2 premiere coming, conflicted yet somehow loyal The Walking Dead fans Nicole and William randomly talk about characters past and present that have shaped the series to this point.

William: Are we happy with how well adjusted Carl is? Shouldn’t he be a lot more…”Sasha in in a ditch with dead zombies” by now?

Nicole: Carl got hit with the zombie apocalypse at the exact right age: old enough to be able to run, hide, and recognize danger, but young enough to be able to adapt. He doesn’t miss cell phones or his girlfriend or most of the things that the adults desperately miss (like security) BECAUSE HE NEVER HAD THEM IN THE BEFORE WORLD. He grew up with death as a malevolent uncle. Obviously he doesn’t like the walkers and would prefer life as it was, but to him, what does that mean? We saw his sister be born/mother die (surrounded by zombies). We saw his first kiss (surrounded by zombies). We saw him form a bond with his psuedo aunt/step-mother Michonne (surrounded by zombies). For him, they are a part of the landscape.

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Perhaps the difference between him and Lizzie is that he didn’t lose EVERYTHING. He had his mom (and a surrogate dad), then his mom and dad, then his dad and sister, then his dad, sister, and tribe. Andrea’s “you’re lucky” speech delivered to Lori in the kitchen of the farmhouse as Beth attempts suicide is maybe more accurately addressed to Carl.

Beth underscores this. She’s slightly older, can’t adjust as well as the losses pile up, and ultimately becomes draped in a sadness and resignation that she can’t shake off.

William: Something in me doesn’t want Carl to be THIS balanced though. Like, Carl is a mildly adjusted boy who HAPPENS to be well equipped for the apocalypse. Even if this is all he’s known, wouldn’t we get some diminishing returns on how human he is? Wouldn’t the kid who mercy killed his mom be offering up to kill other people’s parents anytime they cause them trouble? I guess it’s for the better though. Carl, mostly by his existence in season 2, was one of the shows most annoying characters, so they “fixed” that, I suppose. I just feel like he’s heavily medicated at this point, which is impossible because Walking Dead only cares about mental health if they can show someone losing their shit at the wrong time or medication if it’s a plot point that that can be carried around in a container like a video game quest.

Nicole: For me, the link between adapted and balanced is thick. Carl isn’t well-balanced, but he does seem to have reasonable expectations about what he can expect from his life. Perhaps because he was so annoying, his pivotal moments are drawn out as has been the case with other characters. After the prison, he almost kills his father (and instead eats a metric shit ton of pudding and kinda gloats about it).[quote_right]Maybe because he’s been surrounded by death so much, he wants to keep people alive. Even when he shouldn’t. (Because I would’ve killed that kid.)[/quote_right]

Carl, at this point, seems to have been on both ends of the spectrum: wanting to kill and forced to garden with his dad and not wanting to kill and forced to with his mom. He’s might be the anti-Carol when it comes to killing: he hid in a tree with Enid, he [will fill in later], and he chose not to kill Enid’s bitter ex, Ron when Ron confronted him with a gun in the garage. Maybe because he’s been surrounded by death so much, he wants to keep people alive. Even when he shouldn’t. (Because I would’ve killed that kid.)

In recent seasons, Carl seems to have become almost optimistic. And this from the kid who was shot in the chest, killed his mom, thought his sister was dead for a season, was imprisoned by cannibals, and was almost raped by a roving almost-biker gang (and watched his father beat a man to death with his bare hands.)

Carl is the embodiment of laughing at a funeral. Our somberness ain’t resurrecting anyone so let’s live to the best of our ability because death is coming for us all.

William: So Carol fascinates me. This ties a lot into your motherhood column, but I think beyond her becoming a fan favorite for being a badass, the decision to take her character that way was a bold one. If she were the grand protector of life, especially with younger people, having lost her daughter the way she did, I don’t think anyone bats an eye. But for her to go the other way has been pretty bold. Now, her version of preserving life is removing threats to life.

Ironically, there aren’t many people on the show that have killed more than she has. That being said, do you think Carol still has paternal instincts? If everyone was in a safe situation, could she ever be a straight up “momma Carol” again? She does take care of Judith a lot, but won’t hesitate to find someone to keep her if a killing needs to be done.

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Nicole: My mom, being a savage, has often said, “these people better be glad I found Jesus.” Carol is the exact opposite: These Wolves better be scared that walkers found me/Sophia. We can’t discuss the current incarnation of Carol without remembering that Carol is a domestic abuse survivor. She did not escape to a women’s shelter or get counseling. Her abusive bag’o’dicks husband died. She didn’t leave him. That may seem like a minor point, but I think it’s a direct cause of/link to who she is now. When Sophia was alive, too, she wasn’t a badass. She was a mom. Still scared, still quiet and timid, still submissive. When Sophia died she was finally free (this is not, btw, a freedom I would wish on any parent) to be herself.

That the victim of abuse comes to define themselves on the abuser’s terms, often using the language of the abuser (ugly, unworthy, nobody else would want you) is vital. Carol, unencumbered, had to define herself in an environment that did not reward submission or timidity. Se became the badass she needed when bag’o’dick was alive. She became a savior (just years too late to save herself). So, yes, I think she still has maternal instincts, but there are so many ways to be a mother. In some ways, I believe that she is mothering herself. And the group.

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In Alexandria, when she is in mid-Mystique level subterfuge wearing housewife like a new cardigan, she is mothering. We know that she still has the Donna Reed casserole skills – she can draw upon the person she was, but now, when she interacts with Sam she is the mother she wishes she was to Sophia, one that might keep him alive through tough love.

Ugh. The look at the flower scene (my favorite scene and maybe episode) illustrates this as well. Mothers can’t just post the curated pics of FB, they gotta wipe shit off people, too. And its the shit thing that keeps us alive.

William: If you solved the zombie apocalypse, and Alexandria is being rebuilt in a society that resembles ours now, do you want Carol (and for that matter Rick and like) in that world? Have they earned it? Absolutely? Are they currently right? I think so. Do they get to stay in the Walker-less world though?

Nicole: That’s a hard question that in some implicates the way we as a country currently treat veterans and by extension their communities. So we know Rick is a walking trauma. He’s never had a moment to process anything that’s happened. Usually when cops get shot, aren’t they mandated some therapy? Dude never even got that. So in an ideal world, Morgan doesn’t let the only psych major within 250 miles sacrifice himself and Rick, Michonne, Sasha, Carol, et al can get some much needed therapy in between shifts on the wall. Because they’ll never be civilians again. Michonne and Carl have the best chance at adjusting to a post-survival mode world, but even they (after the Wolf attack/wall collapse) might be hard pressed to “relax.”

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So yes they earned it, but since I’m a cynic I say they won’t get it. At best (& this is what I’d want if I was mayor of new Alexandria), they get land on the outskirts of town and room to keep to themselves; thy get consulted with on matters of security; they get called in to sit by death beds because if we’re all already infected, whose putting the newly turned down?; they get respect and they eat grief and death for the rest of their lives. Except Carl. Who would end up being a bridge, if he survives that long.

[quote_left]Glenn would’ve been at the top of my list, but you know what, I’ve lost him once already and while him being a father in this universe is a big deal, he feels much less consequential to me because AMC wanted to be too cute with his predicament.[/quote_left]William: I was thinking about the people that have died on the Walking Dead and it dawned on me that Shane actually would be perfect for Rick’s Alexandria. Granted, the flowchart probably doesn’t work: Killing Shane was probably the catalyst for Rick realizing that a democracy was not the way to survive, the Lori issue would’ve just escalated and if they didn’t die on the farm, then that kind of dissension would’ve tore the prison apart.

But ironically, with no love triangle present, an iron fist necessary and experienced killers in demand, Shane would be perfect for the current threat. Would there be an alpha male power struggle with Rick? Probably. But he’d be a much better supporting survivor than Morgan. Anybody else you miss among the dead? You know, in addition to Black men served up as sacrificial lambs?

Nicole: I wouldn’t mind Shane now. I think that once/if Lori made her preference clear (& he stopped being a creepy obsessive ex), that he’d be a good #2 BUT he’s a little too much like Rick to be as useful a second in command as either Darryl or Michonne is. There’s too much overlap between their personalities and styles. It’s why Herschel was a good foil for Rick. I think Milton [?] would be a good addition to the group in that he was a true nuetral who would do what was most advantageous for the group without pesky morals slowing him down. And sometimes you need that.

I want all (most) the black men back, but especially Noah and Tyrese (as a package deal) because I’d like to see how that relationship would have played out.

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I want Bob back, too. One I’d like to see Sasha back. Two, he was a better (though still flawed) moral compass than the preacher. He was optimistic in a world that shits on optimism and that is useful to have. I may be as bad as Rick because I honestly don’t miss that many characters. [shrugs]

William: I’m probably biased in saying that I honestly really care what happens to a about 3-4 people max at this point. There was a time and place where I thought that the best thing for the show would have been for Rick and Carl to die, but I don’t think the show can function without Rick at this point. Glenn would’ve been at the top of my list, but you know what, I’ve lost him once already and while him being a father in this universe is a big deal, he feels much less consequential to me because AMC wanted to be too cute with his predicament. Honestly, I just want Michonne and Sasha to make it at this point. Just about everybody and everything else is negotiable for me. You think both of them survive the next half season?

Nicole: I hope so. My four/five are: Michonne, Sasha, Carol, Rick, and Darryl. I used to care about Glenn and Maggie but I feel basically the same as you. Once you screw with my emotions, you don’t get access to them anymore. That and Maggie changed as a character in ways that I can’t believe. Carol is even iffy at this point because of the mid-season finale. I have little patience for characters acting out of character.

That’s part of the reason that Michonne, Sasha, Darryl, and Rick still have my attention. The evolution of each of them has made sense to me. But I understand that each of these people, with the exception of maybe Rick, is in mortal danger in the end of season 6. They have to up the ante because no one “major” has died in a while. Or at least it feels that way. I mean maybe I’m fatigued from the repeating arc structure. Negan is going to be another end-of-the-level boss. They gotta mix it up for me to stay as invested as I am. We’re getting less character development lately and that means when the inevitable deaths come, they’re less effective – or effecting.

William: Yeah, I would be more excited about Negan, or rather, Negan would be more exciting to me if we didn’t get these boss fights pretty regularly. I know a lot of comic book readers are beholden to his character and welcome seeing him, but to be honest, I got revitalized at the prospect that Rick was skating closer to being the big bad for a while. Any expectations for this season opener? Or rather, is there any possible way Sam (the monsters are downstairs) doesn’t get at least 2 people killed in the first 10 minutes of the episode?

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Nicole: Agreed. I want the big bad to be within the group. Or at least for the arc to be more reflective of internal conflict which would allow for my (re)characterization. It seems like they set up Morgan to be the good to Rick’s evil and then said “naw.”

[quote_right]I mean maybe I’m fatigued from the repeating arc structure. Negan is going to be another end-of-the-level boss. They gotta mix it up for me to stay as invested as I am.[/quote_right]I think Morgan will survive because of that. The writers are keeping that conflict/sub plot in their back pocket. Other characters who I think will die? Sam. Though that may just be wishful thinking. I keep thinking about Judith; she’s strapped to Carl’s chest so if Rick loses one kid, he likely loses both. In terms of character development, that might be the thing Rick needs to push him back into basement of the prison accepting calls from dead people level instability. Perhaps that’s what dealing with Negan requires. That said, Jesse losing her kids might push her to Carol-up and become an asset (and long term group member) because as we know from seasons past: women with children cannot help the group survive. So if I had to guess either Rick or Jesse will be mourning soon.

If it’s Michonne, I don’t even know what I’ll do.

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