*Spoilers for The Walking Dead graphic novels & Season 5*
"Rick is dangerous!" Someone exclaims during the latest promo for The Walking Dead Season 6.
Well, that's really no big news, Rick has gone from diplomatic community leader in Season 1 to the infamous "Ricktatorship" in Season 2; since the prison and facing the Governor he's been rumbling steadily onwards into batshit insanity, and Season 5 was no exception.
The Walking Dead really knows how to pick it's series conclusions eh? Season 5 left us with a community fractured beyond repair: Glen spared Nicholas's life, but at what cost? Both Sasha and Gabriel had their own little mental breakdowns. Daryl and Aaron discovered the gruesome reason for the zombies with W carved on their foreheads. The Wolves are howling nearby, and they've found the photographs of Alexandria. Oh yeah and Pete accidentally killed Reg, prompting Deanna to order Rick to kill him, and Morgan arrives.
Rick is a difficult character to like, and he damn well should be.
He's a powerful character because he's a good man pushed to the absolute limits; to the point where morality ceases to have any bearing on day-to-day life. If Season 1 Rick could see Season 5 Rick he'd be appalled. When Rick pulls his gun during the fight with Pete he starts raving like a lunatic, criticising Deanna's leadership and the overwhelming naivety of the Alexandrians, shocking and scaring everyone and setting a new precent for Halloween costumes.
The thing is, everything he is saying is true. The community of Alexandria is completely fucked. They've been living in a little fantasy bubble the whole time whilst all these horrific things have been happening outside their door, and they regard the survivors as savage interlopers into their neat community. The group has to watch their step or they'll be rejected. The first thing Rick does when they arrive is shave and have a hair cut, cause that wild crazy-man beard isn't going to cut it in Alexandria with those civilised folks. No siree.
Alexandria is a domestic Stepford bubble and, to us viewers who have been on this journey with the survivors, it's far more unsettling a scene than the walkers prowling at their doors. For them and for us, the outside world of kill-or-be-killed has become normality. This is insanity.
The whole dynamic is underscored perfectly by the conversations that the women in the community have with Carol about baking and such whilst she smiles and plays along quite convincingly; she knows the role she has to play to survive here.
But it's all a pipe dream; there is no going back now. There is no CDC, Washington, no Alexandria where they can hide from this. So when Rick flies off the handle we're almost relieved - because we know that he is right.
The Problem With Rick Grimes
The problem is that along the way Rick has lost his sense of self. He can no longer view himself or others objectively and so cannot see just how off the rails he's acting. He's physically unable to look at things from the point of view of the Alexandrians, because he has been broken by all he has seen and all he has lost. We as viewers have that luxury so, whilst we know that he's right at the same time we realise just how close to tipping over the edge he is.
Throughout the series he's always been tough to read - he's come around a bit since the prison but before then, especially on the farm, he would've killed the whole world to protect Lori and Carl, and yet he still ended up losing his wife (and in the comics, his baby daughter too).
Negan (who hasn't been introduced on the show yet) is a brutal warlord who kills others if they do not fall in line with his wishes, but most of what he does is to provide for his group and he protects those who join him. So how long does it take for someone like Rick Grimes to become someone like Negan, or the Governor, or the brutalised inhibitions of Terminus? What will be the straw that breaks him?
How long can Rick's crusade hold up before it ends up costing him everything? In the graphic novels Rick's manic desire to protect his own family causes him to make a rash decision that leads to this happening to Carl:
(And also Jessie and her kid get eaten at this point, but who really cares about them?)
The critical factor of Season 6 now is going to be the divide, not just within Alexandria, but within the group of survivors themselves, as the trailer teases a conflict between Rick and Daryl as well as the power struggle between Rick and Morgan/Deanna.
The Ricktatorship is not solidified, which could actually be a good thing. It might be time for someone else to take the reigns - although if they do it's probably not going to be good news for Rick.
One thing is for certain though; the community is fractured, and it's all going to go to hell in a handbasket very quickly when The Walking Dead returns to our screens next month.