When it comes to The Walking Dead, much of the story is told from the point of view of Rick Grimes. The series depicts his struggles as he navigates the post-apocalypse with a ragtag band of survivors who've managed to connect along the way. And throughout all these connections being made, the main group has had to do some rather morally questionable things in the spirit of survival. Rick's group isn't alone in this regard; most of #TheWalkingDead living cast have been shown in equally questionable positions. However, while Rick's group has got their hands dirty, they continue to be portrayed as heroes to some extent.
Regardless of how humanitarian their intentions, Rick's gang still values their lives over that of others. We saw this perspective applied in Rick's approach to getting rid of the Saviors the first time. He decided on preemptively attacking their outpost in the dead of night, massacring everyone inside.
In lieu of that somewhat deranged approach to dealing with a conflict, one could argue that Rick's group are also among the villains of The Walking Dead, despite being portrayed as our heroes. Of course, that conclusion is up for debate, since almost every character on the series has at one point committed some act of violence and savagery.
Bear in mind that these individuals live in a world where the black and white has become gray, which makes it difficult to determine if there are any heroes or villains left in their world. With each new obstacle a threat to those who remain alive, the extents to which the characters will go makes their actions seem reasonable. Although, there comes a point when necessity to survive turns into wanton destruction.
So Are All The Characters On The Walking Dead Villains Of Some Sort?
Daryl Dixon's murder of Fat Joey at the Saviors compound is a prime example. Daryl could have easily knocked Joey out and left with an arsenal and whatever else he needed, but he decided on bashing Joey's head in and taking a motorcycle. This shows how even the most heroic of characters can devolve into savagery. Logic doesn't come to mind; revenge appears to be the motivator in characters we once thought could do no harm.
In light of Daryl's metamorphosis, here's a breakdown of where each character stands on the hero/villain scale, starting with the most controversial of heroes first.
1. Rick Grimes
From the get-go, Rick has been an all-around good guy. He's put his own life on the line for complete strangers and even gifted supplies to others when he could have easily hoarded them for himself. In the end, Rick always seems to do the right thing — for the most part. We do need to account for his hasty strategies when it comes to handling potential conflicts.
Rick's plan of preemptively murdering the Saviors was little more than a no-holds-barred massacre of strangers. And we still don't know who was in the outpost that Rick wiped out, though there's been a suggestion of captives from the Oceanside community having been kept there. This could mean that Rick is directly responsible for killing the remaining men of Oceanside.
Regardless of who those people were, Rick led his group into the compound and murdered people in their sleep, which to me is a sign of a hero gone bad. Will Rick devolve into a villain similar to Negan? Or will he be redeemed, with his latest strategies proving much more philanthropic?
Despite savagely beating Glenn and Abraham to death with a baseball bat, Negan still has some redeeming qualities. He's not as quick on the draw as Rick and is able to maintain control over his subordinates, whereas Rick has difficulty staying in control, even with a gun in hand. #Negan has even spared lives when he could have easily taken them.
The Season 7 premiere was a good example, wherein Negan decided to spare most of Rick's group. Negan did have his own motives in mind, but the reality is he could have killed everyone. This display of mercy might make Negan seem like he has some altruistic intentions, but he's also used his bat Lucille to bash in the skulls of countless others, including Glenn and Abraham, thus making it easier to label him a villain and not a hero.
As one of the more conflicted characters on The Walking Dead, Tara might be difficult to pin to one category over another. She's had a history of performing courageous actions as well as cowardice.
On the cowardice side, Tara ran and hid during the invasion of the prison in Season 3. She helped the Governor plan out the attack and was ready to open fire on unassuming survivors. The good news is that she didn't end up shooting anyone. Although, Tara did hide when the Governor's militia opened fire on Rick's group at the prison. At any point during that confrontation, she could have put a bullet in the Governor's head, ending the confrontation there and then, and yet she didn't. While she failed to stop the Governor, Tara redeemed herself by helping Glenn escape from the prison when she could have easily left him to die.
We also can't fail to mention that Tara chose a more charitable approach to keeping the Oceanside community a secret. She did wind up telling Rick about the community, but in the end the confrontation between Rick's group and Oceanside concluded without any bloodshed because Tara chose the right course of action. And that in itself should earn Tara a spot on the heroes list.
Because in truth, initial expectations of Oceanside and Alexandria colliding seemed like both communities would suffer casualties. But because Tara conceived a plan to get what her group needed from Oceanside without killing anyone, she essentially saved the lives of both communities.
Another multifaceted character, Dwight has had a complex arc on The Walking Dead. Starting off as an individual bent on survival who then turned into a manipulated goon doing Negan's dirty work, Dwight is now the inside man working on taking Negan down. So it's fair to say Dwight is a complicated person. And while that doesn't excuse him of his past transgressions, putting a stop to Negan is definitely a step in the right direction.
Dwight putting his life on the line to stop Negan shows a sense of resolve most of us didn't expect this character to exhibit. We'll still have to wait and see how Dwight follows through with his partial defection when The Walking Dead returns for Season 8 to determine which side of the divide he falls on.
While Jadis was recently revealed to be an antagonist on The Walking Dead, her motives remain unclear. We don't know why she decided to go back on her deal with Rick, or even if she intended to betray him. For all we know, Jadis could have been coerced into betraying the Alexandrians after Negan found out they colluded with Rick in his plan to overthrow the Saviors.
Then again, Jadis asserted her place alongside Negan by commanding her troops to fire on the Alexandrians when the Hilltop Colony and the Kingdom showed up to save them in the Season 7 fainale. So it's a pretty safe bet that she's a villain of The Walking Dead. But if, like me, you still have hopes of Jadis redeeming herself, the possibility of her pulling a future double-cross on Negan mustn't be ruled out. If that does occur, there's room for Jadis to become a heroic figure rather than a scoundrel.
Perhaps one of the easiest characters to categorize, Simon has shown little care for anyone but himself as the henchman follows Negan's orders to a T. Some could even say that Simon is responsible for Glenn and Abraham's deaths, since it was his trap that forced Rick and company into the forest where they were surrounded by Negan's men. This predicament adds to the notion of Simon being a true baddie.
Of course, we should be open to the possibility that Simon was coerced into his actions. In which case, he might not be such a bad guy after all. Then again, Simon has made it abundantly clear that he enjoys what he does. So he's probably not hero material.
7. Eugene Porter
To call Eugene a coward is an understatement. After he found comfort and a place for himself within the community built by Negan, he pledged his allegiance to the man who killed his best friend. He even stood alongside Negan as they attempted a takeover of Alexandria.
Eugene had an opportunity to redeem himself during the Season 7 finale, but decided his easy lifestyle was worth staying with Negan's band of murderers for. In doing so, Eugene has essentially joined the antagonist regime on The Walking Dead, becoming a villain of sorts himself by pledging his loyalty to Negan. However, in Eugene's defense, he may be biding his time until an ideal opportunity to put an end to Negan arises.
Now, Eugene probably doesn't have the stones to execute Negan himself, but he may be looking for a way to get the apparent Big Bad alone, kill him, and leave the compound. Then again, Eugene seems to be using his status in Negan's hierarchy to enjoy all the perks it has to offer. So the comfortable lifestyle might be worth his former friends trying to kill him now that "he is Negan."
The crazy leader of the Oceanside community has only been seen on two occasions, but those two appearances were enough to determine that she's lost her sense of right and wrong. Despite suffering tragic losses at the hands of Negan's men, it's no excuse for the methods Natania is using to keep her people safe, including an attempt to execute Tara.
There's also the matter of Natania almost inciting a war between Alexandria and Oceanside by firing on them when a truce had been called. Luckily, more level heads prevailed and Natania was relieved of her position in light of a new truce between the two communities. Although, we shouldn't expect Natania to take her defeat lying down. Be prepared for the former Oceanside leader to make her presence known, with even more malevolence in her purpose.
9. Daryl Dixon
By all accounts, #DarylDixon has been depicted as one of the most benevolent characters on The Walking Dead. He always seems to be on the front lines, risking his life for the greater good. Keep in mind that Daryl's ledger is not without its fair share of red in it.
On more than one occasion he's killed to keep his friends safe. He usually only resorts to murder when someone is threatening his safety, but lately he's been taking a more brutalist approach to dealing with potential adversaries, much like Rick. We saw a particular change come over Daryl after he was taken captive by Negan's men, resulting in Daryl venting his frustrations on Fat Joey before escaping from the compound. That in itself has us questioning whether Daryl still has any good left in him. If he's willing to kill an unassuming individual in cold blood, is he any different from the sociopaths he's trying to get rid of?
Carol is one of the more morally compromised characters on The Walking Dead, seeing as how she killed Karen and David in cold blood back in Season 4. The murders were committed to protect the prison's remaining occupants, but that act showed a dark side to Carol that she may fully embrace someday. Then again, Carol's recent actions in Season 7 showed that she has remorse for every living person she's killed. Carrying around that notebook with numbers and initials representing the murders she's committed/deaths she's responsible for weighs heavily on Carol psyche, despite her tough exterior.
We should also mention that on several occasions Carol has risked her life to save her friends. This willingness to aid others outweighs her drastic course of action in other situations, making it difficult to determine whether Carol is a villainous or heroic character.
The former leader of the Hilltop Colony is probably a little easier to categorize, since Gregory has proven that he has no backbone. Being the first to jump ship when Maggie proposed that Hilltop go to war with the Saviors seems to brand Gregory a traitor. And if he's willing to turn his back on the people who once stood proudly at his side, who knows what else he is capable of, or not as it were. However, in Gregory's defense, he's just trying to survive.
He may have abandoned the Hilltop to save his own skin, but who wouldn't? He thinks Negan's band of Saviors have a better chance of surviving the apocalypse, so Gregory has decided to leave Hilltop to join their faction. No one can blame Gregory for wanting to live, but there's probably a different course of action he could've taken — one that didn't require he betray his followers or defect to a group of murderous scavengers.
Despite becoming a traitor, Gregory hasn't done anything too ethically questionable. Except maybe planning to kill Maggie, which he didn't follow through with. But even an intent to kill proves what kind of person he is.
Another wild card whose actions have made her unpredictable and dangerous to the people around her. Rosita's attempt on Negan's life proved how perilous she is to the people around her; the foolhardy assassination attempt wound up getting Olivia killed. Plus, Rosita's placed the lives in danger of everyone within Alexandria, with her attempt to take out Nega a second time. Her intentions also appear to be single-minded as she only wants to kill Negan to avenge Abraham's death, not to save others, meaning Rosita doesn't appear to have anyone's interests in mind other than her own, which makes her somewhat of a villain.
As one of the more upstanding citizens on The Walking Dead, it's difficult to see Ezekiel as anything but a hero. He's put his life on the line for strangers like Morgan, and more recently the entire community of Alexandria.
Leading the charge to save them from execution proved Ezekiel is an individual with good intent. And one who won't stand idly by while his friends are being slaughtered. Although, Ezekiel has teased us with dealings that aren't transparent, so there may be more to him than meets the eye.
If there is something bubbling under the surface, Ezekiel's heroic actions in Season 7 might have only been one side of who he is overall. With this leader potentially possessing a dark half that we don't yet know about, the prospect of him becoming one of the antagonists shouldn't be dismissed. Especially when Season 8 has set the stage for Ezekiel's people of the Kingdom to be in just as much danger as the Alexandrians.
In that scenario, Ezekiel may decide to turn his back on Alexandria in order to protect his own, perhaps even allying with Negan to prevent his people from being slaughtered.
14. Father Gabriel
While Father Gabriel is also a character with a convoluted past, his recent actions have shown there's more to him than the cowardly scavenger he was depicted as when Rick's group first encountered him. Gabriel got an opportunity to disprove that notion by remaining loyal to Rick, despite being tortured into giving Jadis information on Alexandria. His silence wound up being worth the trouble, with Rick finally welcoming Gabriel into his close-knit group after the conflict was resolved.
This show of loyalty is important to acknowledge because Gabriel no longer sees himself as the loner looking out for only himself. He's found people he wants to fight for, which makes him a hero in some regard. Although, let's not forget, he did allow his congregation to be devoured by walkers when the apocalypse started.
15. Carl Grimes
There's no doubt about Carl Grimes possessing the potential to become a villainous character on The Walking Dead. He's shown that he cares for the wellbeing of others, but that proud aspect of Carl doesn't excuse him from his past transgressions — such as shooting that innocent kid in Season 3 and his vigilante crusade to end Negan's life in Season 7. That said, Carl's willingness to kill shows that he has the potential to end up just as twisted as Negan. Because by all accounts, Negan appears to have had good intentions in establishing the Saviors' community. He just wound up becoming corrupted by the absolute power he gained. Carl could believably fall into a similar position if his shoot first, ask questions later approach isn't dealt with before it gets out of hand.
16. Morgan Jones
Morgan is difficult to see as anything other than a hero. His actions in the most recent two seasons have proven he's trying to help as many people as he can. His work with Ezekiel is evidence of this notion in action. On top of that, Morgan has overcome the crippling mental breakdown he endured after his son died early on in the series. He now appears to be more zen than ever and is trying to pass on that peace of mind to others.
Although, Morgan recently had to break the no-kill vow he made and could now be in danger of reverting back to his previously compromised state of mind. The Season 7 finale even depicted Morgan isolating himself, after Benjamin's death left him reeling. The good news is that he rejoined the Kingdom during that same episode, so he'll likely recover from his grief and continue helping the survivors of Alexandria and the Kingdom.
While Michonne probably has the cleanest hands of anyone on The Walking Dead, some could argue that she's shown a willingness to be cutthroat if it'll keep her family safe. Michonne even said that she'd kill to make sure their group wins the conflict with the Saviors. She took part in the massacre on the Saviors' outpost, so there's evidence to suggest Michonne's dark side will play a part in the ongoing conflicts. It's not too far out of the realm of possibility to see Michonne killing more of the Saviors, despite peaceful solutions being on the table.
As another of the more heroic characters on The Walking Dead, Jesus hasn't done anything to make us think he's in any way a villain. Yet he's no stranger to killing. And with more heroes on the series turning violent before using reasonable approaches, Jesus may also be susceptible to a downfall.
Maggie is arguably the least villainous character on The Walking Dead. She hasn't killed anyone unjustly, nor has she sought revenge over her husband Glenn's death. Yes, Maggie intends to kill Negan, given the opportunity, but she's not on a rampant ride of destruction just to get at him. That said, when the opportunity does arise, a show of Maggie's true character will be if she lets Negan live.
How Do You Rank The Characters Of The Walking Dead?
Aside from these central characters, there is also a large, multidimensional supporting cast on The Walking Dead. Any of them could become a pivotal character on the seasons to come. In which case, where they stand on the hero/villain scale would be of some concern to the longevity of our favorites.
The Walking Dead returns for Season 8 in October, 2017. Where do you think the main characters stand on the hero/villain spectrum? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.