(Warning: Spoilers for The Walking Dead television series below)
With Season 7 creeping just around the corner, fans are getting more and more anxious as to who Negan killed in the Season 6 finale. There's no doubt that Negan's appearance will change the show as we know it. With Rick Grimes's life about to turn upside down (again), I'm sure we'll see Rick as a completely different person than what we've ever seen — if he survives the Season 7 premiere!
So how much has Rick changed since the first episode of the series? Quite a bit actually. Rick has gone through many trials in his life since the outbreak. Out of everything that he's been through, it takes a lot to go through and process the things that happened in his life since Season 1. Throughout the series, the following events have changed Rick for the good and (unfortunately), the bad:
1. The Outbreak
This one is a given, but after re-watching the first season for the zillionth time, you start to see Rick's transformation begin in the first episode of the series. After waking from a coma just weeks after the initial outbreak, Rick realizes that something terrible has happened in King County. From watching that point up to the scene where he gets inside his house, he begins to break down. This puts a thought into Rick's mind as he knows that he has to step up and become leader. As leader, Rick stands as the voice of reason, stopping people from making any irrational decisions.
"All I am anymore is a man looking for his wife and son. Anybody that gets in the way of that is going to lose."
2. Rick's First Human Kills
After Rick puts down those two men in the barn, it put him a new state of mind. Rick gave these people a chance to walk away. He knew that the men wanted that farm, but that meant his family was on the line. He justifiably killed those men because they did, in fact, draw first. This action sets Rick down a dark path.
Rick knew that his family's life was on the line and knew that if he brought them men back, they probably would have killed them and took the farm anyway. After he kills the two men, this pushed Rick into a new state of mind that would greatly affect him from this point on.
3. Rick Kills Shane
Why couldn't Rick execute Randall as planned? Although Rick tried everything besides killing, he thought for a split second that murder was the answer. When he realized his son was about to watch his dad execute a man, Rick couldn't pull the trigger. He knows that his son can't go down the same path as him.
While Rick couldn't make the decision whether or not to kill Randall, Shane made the final call. After luring Rick into the woods, plotting to murder him, Rick begins to catch on to Shane's plan. Rick knows at this point that Shane is right — Rick can't be the good guy anymore. Rick knows that he had to kill Shane to keep the farm, the group, and his family safe.
Rick has changed even more at this point since he killed the men in the bar. He's become more ruthless, more aggressive and assertive. This leads to the group to abandon its democracy, as Rick doesn't want any of his people to go through what he did.
"This isn't a democracy anymore."
4. Lori's Death
One of the most traumatic events that we've seen Rick go through, this is when the reality of this world begins to set in. This event drove Rick insane because he never got a chance to cope with killing his best friend immediately followed by his wife dying during childbirth. After this, he makes a risky decision to go back into the prison alone and take out all the walkers in the cell block. He isolates himself, he begins to hallucinate, and doesn't see a way out.
At this point I believe Rick doesn't know what to do. We haven't seen Rick cope with any of the deaths since Season 1. For one, Rick and Lori never made amends with each other, though months have passed by. He's pissed off that he never got to make things right with Lori.
5. The Destruction Of The Prison
After learning about the Governor, Rick snaps back to reality, reverting back to "leader" mode. He knows that the group needs him now more than ever and because of this, Rick has changed yet again. He transformed from an indecisive, broken man into a new person. From past experiences, we've seen Rick do very well against threats. He's very good at critical thinking and conflict resolution, so to him the Governor is just another threat.
After a couple battles between Rick and the Governor, Rick believed it's a good idea to set up a council. He does this because he knows he can't make these decisions alone anymore. After the death of Lori, Shane, and the assault on the prison, Rick begins to see Carl taking the same path as him. He doesn't want this for his son, nor his daughter, so he "gives up" the title of leader until the Governor returns to destroy the prison.
You can definitely tell that Rick knew blood was going to be shed at this point. He reverts back to his "good guy" mode to try and empathize with the Governor and to find a solution, rather than his "shoot first, talk later" attitude. After Herschel's death and the presumed death of Rick's daughter, Judith, he and Carl realize that there's nothing left for them.
6. Rick Brutally Kills Joe And His Crew
After Rick recovers from his wounds and his son is essentially pissed off at him, he knows he can't think like the good guy and make peace with everybody. At this point, it just so happens that Rick, Carl, and Michonne come into contact with the Claimers.
The Claimers want revenge because of the person Rick murdered in the bathroom of their house, but they begin to take it too far. As Daryl is getting beaten, and one of the Claimers is attempting to rape Michonne and Carl, Rick's transformation is complete. There's something at this point that clicks in Rick's brain and puts him in survival mode: kill, or be killed.
He tells us in the sixth season that he doesn't take chances anymore and this is why. After the conflicts with Shane, the Governor, and the Claimers, Rick has delved deep into basic human-survival instincts. He proves this out in the Season 5 premiere. At this point, he's done trusting people.
7. Negan And The Saviors
When Rick first heard about the Saviors, his solution is to kill them all — a parallel to the Governor back in Season 4, just before he kills Hershel. The episode where Rick and his group head to one of the Saviors' compound, we know Season 1 Rick wouldn't do this; he would give them a chance. Coming from a person that's watched Rick closely for six years, I believe that Rick is justified by doing what he had done, though it took tragic events to get Rick where he needed to be.
At the end of the Season 6 finale, Rick understands that he's been defeated, scared, humiliated. He understands he isn't walking away without one of his people dying. All he knows at this point, is somebody he loves will get their brain smashed again and again.
"Yeah, you are so gonna regret crossing me in a few minutes." — Negan to Rick
Rick's Trial And Error
Throughout these events, we see that it has helped Rick in a bittersweet way. He lost family, but he also learned not to trust people as much as he used to. By the time they arrived to Alexandria, Rick was ready to kill each and every one of them. Those previous events changed Rick and prepared him for the worst. Take a look at the pattern that influenced Rick's transformation:
- When Rick couldn't kill Randall, Shane died.
- When Rick failed to kill Andrew at the prison, Lori died.
- Rick failed to kill the Governor during their "one-on-one" get together, Andrea and others died such as Hershel and many of the Governor's men.
- When Carol found the group, essentially distracting Rick from Terminus and Glenn talking him out of not going back and killing the rest of the people, Bob died.
In Season 2, Rick thinks that he can still be the "good guy" and still make it. After taking crap from the same people over and over again, he just didn't have it in him to stop them. When the were at the bar in Season 2, Rick changed big time by killing when he needed to help others. This ultimately ended up worse than if he would have just killed all of those men, including Randall. In Season 3 when his wife dies, Rick changes yet again, but at a drastic level — he literally goes insane for a short while. If the Governor wouldn't have come into the picture, I think Rick would never come out of that state.
Rick hit his final transformation at the end of Season 4 with the Claimers. He now kills without remorse, converting to a "kill or be killed" attitude. Even when they escaped Terminus, Rick grabbed the buried bag of guns and wanted to go back and kill them, saying, "They don't get to live."
It'll be interesting to see if and how Rick will change, yet again, during the aftermath of Negan's kill. There's no doubt that it will be very devastating for the group and for the viewers. Rumors are speculating that there is possibly two deaths in the premiere, but that's just a rumor so we'll just have to wait and see.
The Walking Dead Season 7 will return October 23 so check out the trailer below:
Want more Walking Dead awesomeness? The video below highlights the most shocking deaths of the series thus far (including many that were mentioned above):
Let me know what you all think of Rick and his transformation below in the comments.