On the latest episode of The Walking Dead, "Something They Need," Rick's group of survivors invaded the Oceanside community for their guns, which Rick needs to fight Negan. The plan didn't cost anyone their lives; in fact, Rick went out of his way to ensure the invasion was bloodless.
And yet, he's now a thief who takes what he wants from others at gunpoint and through "shock and awe" tactics, just like Negan does.
One could say Rick has taken Negan's approach to surviving and applied it to his own situation. In order to stop Negan, is Rick lowering his morality to Negan's level — or are they still two very different men?
Yes, Rick Took The Guns, But He Took No Lives
What's important here is how Rick's approach to Oceanside was different from how he's approached similar situations in the past. For example, Rick's approach to the Saviors' outpost back in Season 6 was foolhardy at best; to think they'd be able to eliminate Negan's regime by simply murdering the residents of one outpost wasn't well-thought-out.
But now, Rick is thinking of a larger picture. He needs allies in the war against Negan, and his bloodless approach worked; he placed the explosives far enough away from Oceanside to avoid injuries, and Tara's gun didn't even have any bullets. While Oceanside didn't appreciate the surprise, the groups parted on decent terms.
When Tara and Rick are walking away with the guns from Oceanside, Tara mentions to Rick that he was right (despite her initial doubts about the plan). They took the guns for a righteous cause and no one had to die in the process.
Most invasions on The Walking Dead end with someone dying, but tonight's episode ended without any bloodshed at all — and that was because of Rick. He's changed from his "shoot first, ask questions later" approach to something more pacifistic, or at least more long-term strategic.
And it was actually Negan who showed Rick how to approach life-or-death situations from another point of view.
During Negan's time on The Walking Dead, he's proven that he utilizes the potential in people — such as Eugene — rather than turning them into corpses. Yes, Negan does that through fear and intimidation, but Rick is learning how to do it through negotiation and alliances. When All-Out War comes, Rick will have plenty of people with plenty of potential on his side.
Rick Proved He's Become A More Capable Leader
Rick understood that the people of Oceanside were more valuable as soldiers in his army. Rather than just killing them all for the guns they had, Rick invited them to join his war against Negan. Rick learned from Tara that Oceanside's residents have lost people to Negan, which gives them even more reason to join him in his crusade.
Whether or not they decide to join Rick has yet to be determined. Still, these changes in Rick show how he's going to lead the Alexandrians to victory, without having to brutally slaughter every last one of the Saviors. We should expect there to be some casualties on both sides, but at least Rick is thinking of how to prevent as many deaths as possible.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC. The Season 7 Finale airs April 2nd.
Do you think Rick has developed into a stronger leader? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.