Rick Grimes isn't only the main of The Walking Dead's lead characters, but he's also the principal POV of the series. We've learned to understand his perspective and even agree with him; but, in just one season, we've seen Rick go from an arrogant and seemingly fearless leader, to a calculated and patient one — all because of Negan.
Rick's journey and his myriad of experiences aside, Negan is probably the one human being that's made Rick reassess his situation through a deep sense of loss and humility; and that's done a trick on Rick. As the Survivor's March To War comes to a close, it'd be nice to understand who this new #RickGrimes is — and the role he'll play in the war to come.
Rick Grimes' Leadership Skills
Throughout The Walking Dead's seven seasons — and over 160 comic books — Rick has changed and adapted more times than any person would under normal circumstances. He was alone in the zombie apocalypse, then he wasn't; he was married, then he thought himself a widower, he got his wife and son back, only to lose his wife all over again. He's been the go-to person, the leader, the dictator, the farmer, the single parent, the pseudo leader, the de facto leader, and the failed leader.
You'd think that being a leader is what Rick aspires to but, as the most recent episode has shown, Rick's not up to it anymore — not after Negan nearly cost him his son and his newly-found partner. In his conversation with Michonne about the future, Rick was clear about not wanting to lead by himself. If she leads with him, fine; but Rick doesn't want to go solo anymore. He's happy with #Michonne and he's able to foresee a future where they can simply be together as a family — not an army.
Negan Broadened Rick's Horizons
Think back to Ricktatorship times when Rick was not only glad to assume the mantle of leader, but he was also quite bullish about it. Rick's stubbornness and his inability to see things from others' perspectives led him to make some fatal mistakes — losing Hershel, for instance.
Last season too, he armed his people to the teeth and arrogantly walked into Negan's outpost, wrongly assuming he had the upper hand. #Negan and his Saviors taught Rick some humility then, but it wasn't quite enough. Now, thanks to Negan's killing of Abe and Glenn, Rick's finally seen the bigger picture. The world will continue to turn with or without Rick — but the weight of losing people close to him can be a hard burden for Rick to bear at times.
Negan Taught Rick How To Compromise
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During the Governor's reign, Rick saw the Governor as the cruel and dangerous man he was, but still wasn't willing to negotiate. The Governor had asked for Michonne, in exchange for letting the survivors have the prison, but Rick refused to deliver — and also missed the grand opportunity to kill the Governor at the meeting Andrea set up.
Rick didn't want to taint his hands and his conscience, and instead, Herschel ended up becoming the sacrificial lamb. After that, the idea of "doing whatever it takes to survive" seemed to fill Rick with purpose, and yet more sacrifices had to be made for Rick to see the bigger picture. In the latest episode of The Walking Dead, Rick delivers on the guns he'd promised Jadis in exchange for the Scavengers' help against Negan, but Jadis still wasn't pleased. Old Rick would have felt like his leadership was in question — and would have created havoc at the Junkyard, probably losing more of his people — but new Rick stepped up and simply renegotiated.
Negan Taught Rick The Cost Of War
In the war that's to come, Rick will lose people — he may even die himself — but he's made peace with it. Rick now realizes that this battle isn't about himself or the ones he loves; it's about the future, for all those who live to see it. Rick's prepared to give his life or suffer the losses of his friends so that, in the end, all the Survivors may have a future worth living.
Before Negan, Rick was quick to put his own first. Remember when Rick and co. were taken to Alexandria and in their first night, there he was cooing to take the place over for 'his people'? In a sense, Negan taught Rick the lesson #Morgan has been trying to teach everyone for a while now: every life is precious.
More on #TheWalkingDead:
- Playing The Dumpster Trick: 'The Walking Dead' Just Gave Us Another Fake-Out Death, But Did It Work?
- 5 Jaw-Dropping Moments From 'The Walking Dead' Season 7, Episode 12, 'Say Yes'
- Life After Negan: Could A Richonne Leadership Actually Happen In 'The Walking Dead'?
Just like a relationship, Negan has changed him Rick ways he may never fully comprehend. In the course of a single season, Rick's learned more about collectiveness, sacrifice, humility and true leadership than in the six seasons prior. I, for one, never understood why Rick spared Negan's life in the comics, but maybe this is why; Rick saw that he had been going about things the wrong way. Through his cruelties, Negan taught Rick a new path. It's still unclear whether the show will mimic the comics — and keep Negan locked up instead of killing him — but maybe, for Rick, keeping Negan imprisoned is his way of saying thanks.
Do you think Rick should keep Negan in prison or just kill him outright? Sound off in the comment section.