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Posted at 2:28 PM ET, 11/15/2010

'The Walking Dead': Why, Rick Grimes? Why?

By Jen Chaney

Caution: spoilers ahead (and in the video above):

We're three episodes into "The Walking Dead" and already Rick Grimes is making the kind of maddeningly selfless decisions that, back when "Lost" was on the air, sometimes made us want to bonk Jack Shephard over the head with his backpack.

His behavior in last night's episode, "Tell It to the Frogs," made for a great conversation-starter. In fact, I'm sure that many AMC viewers are currently having in-depth discussions about race relations, man's responsibility to his fellow man and how uncool it is when zombies have the audacity to snack on deer that -- hello? -- a hillbilly hunter just killed not five minutes ago. That said, the way Grimes handled a key decision during last night's zombie-pocalypse hour also drove me a little mad.

For the rest of my rant regarding Grimes and his pesky, inconvenient conscience, continue reading. But do so knowing that, as noted above, there will be spoilers.

After making it his mission to find his wife and son and fending off an untold number of flesh-eaters -- including some who attempted to storm a military tank and others who apparently thought it was Black Friday at a certain downtown Atlanta department store -- Grimes finally, by sheer, unbelievable luck, found his wife Lori and son Carl.

Naturally, the reunion was emotional. Grimes tearily hugged his son. He made sweet love to his wife. Then the next morning, he did what any of us would do after many days of battling zombies, attempting to recuperate from a coma and pining to see his family again: he announced that he needs to go all the way back to Atlanta to save a racist he handcuffed to a roof. Oh, and also to find a bag he misplaced that contains an important walkie talkie.

I mean, really, Rick Grimes? Really? Did anyone else watch this plot development and hear that familiar phrase, "We have to go back," ringing in their ears?

I understand the nagging feeling one gets when one leaves a person on a rooftop in the middle of a city inhabited by slackjawed beings hungry for brains. We've all been there. But at least carve out a little more quality time with your son. Tucking him in for one crummy night isn't quite enough.

Granted, Lori pretty much gave her permission for this return journey. She knows her husband and knows he won't be able to let go of his guilt -- again, so Jack Shephard -- so she made the decision easy for him. But shouldn't he insist on staying? Doesn't Rick realize how insanely fortunate he was to find his way back to his loved ones? Most people take far longer than three episodes to make that kind of progress. Why does he think the zombie-slaying gods -- who are the most awesome kind of gods, by the way -- will smile on him again?

Since "The Walking Dead" has already been renewed for a second season, it's fair to assume Rick will survive the next round of "Fight the Zombies or, If Necessary, Spread Guts All Over Yourself." (And before you go off on one of those understandable, "Well, if you read the comic you would know that..." tirades, please allow me to note that I am not assuming the TV show will precisely replicate the source material's storylines.) But that doesn't mean it makes sense to take the risk. I mean, Rick doesn't realize he's living in a work of televised fiction in which it's highly unlikely he will face death anytime soon.

I suppose I should start accepting that our deputy sheriff is the kind of guy who's probably going to do this a lot: miraculously survive one situation, then immediately put himself in harm's way again to help others. Which is admirable, but may be ill-advised when the key individuals receiving the help have names like Merle and Daryl and, in Daryl's case, will not hesitate to throw a pile of dead squirrels at you.

By Jen Chaney  | November 15, 2010; 2:28 PM ET
Categories:  TV  | Tags:  Walking Dead  
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Comments

First of all, why not have comments open to everyone, with a sophisticated CAPTCHA? You will get much more response this way then forcing people to register.

GREAT reviews by the way. REALLY funny and well written.

Rick is NOT Jack. I loved Lost but Jack was too two dimensional. Jack does not grow much and change much, whereas as society collapses completely, Rick's morality collapses with it.

Well, if you read the comic you would know that...**SPOILERS****SPOILERS****SPOILERS to end**

(This is about Rick's morality, not his mortality.)

...he shots Dexter in the head who is threatening his authority. (prison)

...he beats a serial killer nearly to death. (prison)

...he accuses Tyreese of being the cause of Carol's suicide and they get in a huge fight. (prison) (Issue 23) He then loses his leadership position with the community. (Issue 24).

...He orders several hostages killed then burnt. (hunters)

...He invades someone's home and beats the hell out of an unarmed man. (Alexandria safe zone, 70's issue)

Anything else morally repulse Rick does for those who have read the comic book?

The best two contrasting quotes of the entire series is from Rick:

"...some people...it was like a switch went off...one minute they were good people...then this whole things started and poof...they're monsters. Thing is, I don't think that's an entirely bad thing."

"You and me--our switches flipped, we're doing whatever it takes to survive and to help those around us to survive. The people without the switch--those who weren't able to go from law-abiding citizens to stone-cold killers...those are the ones shambling around out there--trying to eat us."

"We do what we have to do, it doesn't matter if we can live with ourselves...as long as we live." [Issue 58]

Later:

"[Dale] resisted things that I deemed necessary. He wouldn't allow himself to be completely changed by his surroundings."

"I though that made him weak, but maybe I was wrong."

"Maybe he was strong to resist those urges, maybe he was stronger than any of us to hold on to his humanity and refuse to let it go." [Issue 66]

Carl

Carl is worse, he killed Shane, and later he kills a little boy who killed his own bother to make him into a zombie. Carl seems genuinely evil, or at the least extremely mentally disturbed.

I speculate that Kirkman (the author) will eventually have the series about Carl. Kirkman says repeatedly that no survivor is safe, but Carl and bad ass Michonne are.

Now about Rick's mortality [sorry couldn't help it :)]

Kirkman said that no person is safe in this comic book series:

"Also, I don't think I ever said the book would end if Rick died. It could easily continue after his death." [Issue 37, page 25, "Letter Hacks"]

"[Rick Grimes will] die, sooner or later—and I can pretty much promise that he will die before the end of the series. Unless I change my mind." [Robert Kirkman: A Walking Dead Update, Newsarama, Steve Ekstrom, (14 January 2009)]

Posted by: tbai | November 15, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Am I wrong, or is this the first ongoing TV series set in a zombie apokolips world? There's no telling how long it will last, which could be why one man has already lost his hand and another has beaten senseless a wife beater, both of which happen to Rick much later in the series. They are among the most powerful moments of the comic, and if the show lasts this episode will be remembered as brilliant foreshadowing by those new to The Walking Dead. As for Rick's morality, he's a cop and for him the Apokolips happened literally yesterday. He still doesn't know how far he's willing to go to survive and condemning a man, be he racist scum or the father and son who can't get rid of their dead mother, isn't making the list yet.

Posted by: thetrellan | November 15, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me, I meant the first series in the U.S. set in a zombie apokolips world. I know of at least one out of Europe.

Posted by: thetrellan | November 15, 2010 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Thetrellan,

Yes, this is the first zombie series. There was a pilot for the boring Babylon Fields for CBS, but CBS decided not to pick it up.

Abroad in England there was the miniseries "Dead Set" which was quite good.

In English it is spelled "Apocalypse"

I agree with your comments about Rick.

Posted by: tbai | November 16, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

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