Warning: This article contains spoilers from The Walking Dead Season 7.
After several weeks and a much-needed break from the action, tonight's episode of The Walking Dead, "Service," saw the series return to Alexandria, catching up Rick as Negan came calling to claim what is now his. As traumatizing as it was to see Negan again after what he did to Glenn and Abraham, the worst thing about this episode is that Rick surrendered the ownership of Alexandria to Negan, marking the first time that Rick Grimes has ever backed down from a fight. It was certainly a momentous occasion and one that means The Walking Dead may never be the same again.
Rick Giving Up His Leadership Marks A Huge Moment For The Show
Anybody who's ever watched The Walking Dead knows that Rick has always been the leader. Maybe it's because he was a sheriff before the apocalypse began, but from the moment he met up with Lori, T-Dog, Dale and the others back in the first season, Rick assumed control and became the group leader. Although we've lost many of the original characters since then, the group has taken in many more people that they met along the way including folks from Hershel's farm, Woodbury and the prison.
Even with the constant supply of newcomers, Rick always remained the man in charge. Although he had huge support from Glenn, Daryl and Carol over the years, it's always been Rick to make the final decisions.
In the past when Rick's leadership was threatened, he became more determined to protect his own and take back what is rightfully his. He refused to give up the prison to the Governor and, although many fan-favorite characters lost their lives, with the help of his friends Rick defeated the tyrant. However, things are different this time. Negan literally broke Rick by murdering his friends in such a gruesome manner — and by threatening Carl, Negan proved the seriousness of the situation. That's not something that you can just get over.
Moreover, Rick accepted early on that Negan is in charge, so all that was really left to do was to inform the people of his "retirement." Rick addressing the masses means that this game-changing decision is now final. It was Michonne and Carl who struggled with this new world order.
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A New Chapter For 'The Walking Dead' Is Beginning
Negan's reign as group leader is not only an adustment for the people of Alexandria but it's an adjustment for the viewers too — the showrunners have told us that Negan will be around for a long time, so it appears that Negan has become a fully fledged main character of The Walking Dead universe. Moreover, Jeffrey Dean Morgan even scored a coveted place in the series' opening credits, which some of the longtime cast members still haven't mastered. This only confirms that Negan is a solid part of the show going forward.
As viewers, we may not like Negan or even emotionally connect with him, but the character has become a vital part of the show — some would say that he is as important as Rick and judging from the current predicament the Alexandrians find themselves in; I would agree with that statement. Furthermore, last week's episode featured scenes of Negan without the accompaniment of regular Walking Dead characters — the fact that he had his own screen time solidifies his importance to the Walking Dead narrative.
Negan taking over Alexandria means that he is our leader too; the evil tyrant is now literally running the show. Negan's image and likeness has been used on much of the show's promotional pictures for Season 7, and it's becoming clear why: Negan is in charge now and no matter how we feel about it, there's nothing we can do. Rick willingly passed the torch to Negan because he knows what he's capable of — that makes him unstoppable.
The Walking Dead may have been on the air for six years now, but the show is entering into a brand new era with Negan now in control of everything and everyone. Rick is no longer the leader of the group — or the show for that matter — and this means that we have no idea what to expect from now on. Everything has changed. Carol and Morgan may be the Alexandrians only hope of salvation, but just so we are clear, Negan isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The heinous character is in charge and that thought alone is enough to make us afraid of what he will do next.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC. Are you glad that Negan is taking control? Tell me in the comment section below.