Over more than 100 episodes, we've watched The Walking Dead's main group of characters — led by Rick, Daryl and Maggie — fight tooth and nail just to survive against both the undead and the living who've sprouted up in the remains. Our heroes long tried to maintain the moral high ground, but in the past few seasons we've seen them make questionable decisions that would've gone against their past ethics.
Now, the war against Negan and the Saviors has truly sent Rick's group into a moral spiral. In taking up arms and fighting back against the tyrant, the (former?) heroes are killing nearly everyone they see in order to prevent word of their rebellion from spreading to Negan's headquarters.
This isn't true for all of the main characters. In the third and fourth episodes, Carol and other Kingdom members keep Saviors as prisoners rather than killing them off, attempting to convert these villains.
But most of Rick's group would rather kill than spare. While Rick himself tried to keep an enemy alive — they'd previously met in Atlanta shortly after Rick awoke from his coma — Daryl kills the man and shows no remorse, despite also having known him in Season 1.
The last couple of episodes even saw Daryl and other members of the rebellion deviate from Rick's plans and take the fight to the Saviors with pure brutality. This week's episode saw Michonne and Rosita discovering a couple of Saviors outside of the compound; Rosita confronts one of them with an RPG. He taunts her that she would never actually use it, but she pulls the trigger, blowing him to smithereens.
Though this was a slightly comedic moment — for being so over-the-top compared to the show's regular knives and crowbars — the death carried a heavy implication: definitive proof our protagonists are no longer feeling a moral obligation towards the diminishing human population. The Savior was still a person who had the potential to see the wrong in his actions and become a better person later down the road; the same could be said for a lot of the Saviors that our protagonists have killed. Is it really no longer worth trying to appeal to their shared humanity?
Despite his violent tendencies and god complex, Negan has shown a moral code of some kind. But Rick and his allies have simply resorted to a policy of kill first, regret it later.
Morgan's transformation from a pacifist to a merciless, trigger-happy soldier is especially shocking, as he was the show's moral center for a couple seasons. He's now ready to drop any Savior for being unnecessary or even just annoying, such as the prisoner who attempted to play mind games during their trip back to the Hilltop.
Though our protagonists have certainly suffered enough losses to warrant a desire for revenge against the Saviors, they've always worked towards holding themselves to a higher standard in how they conduct themselves. This season has seen them take a much more violent approach to their enemies, exemplified by last night's explosive murder. Will The Walking Dead ever be able to walk it back?
Do you think Rick's group is going too far, or are their actions justified? Sound off in the comments below!