The Walking Dead – Rick the Failed Leader?

Alternate title?  I have missed Carol so much.

As I watch the prison survivors body count build, I am torn on who I think Rick Grimes is supposed to be.  Is he a failed leader, or is he a man who was a brilliant leader for his time, before time literally and figuratively passed him by?   Rick’s focus has remained consistent, he is intent on doing what made him a seemingly brilliant cop – keeping the community together.  The problem is that most others around him, outside of his tiny group, seems to be focused on individual survival.

Rick had moments when he had to make tough and ugly decisions (like killing Zombified Sophia, killing Shane, and leaving a hitchhiker stranded on the side of the road – only to pick up that same, now dead, hitchhiker’s bag on the way back to the prison in case it contained anything useful).  That was the episode that nearly caused me to hang up my viewer’s badge and find some other way to spend my Sunday evenings.  It was cruel, it was harsh, and Rick left a man alone on the road to die – using the safety of others as his excuse for leaving a survivor behind.  At the same time, he stopped from killing the Governor long before the fall of the prison when it was clear that the Governor was a sociopath who would not give up on trying to destroy the safe haven the prison had become for the survivors.

The group that depended on his guidance, his expertise as a person who saved lives daily before the fall of civilization, is now scattered in the wind.  They are alone and afraid, and waiting for their own ends to come, in whatever form it takes -though they are not giving up willingly.  These first two episodes, and Rick’s possibly failed leadership makes me wonder:

Is the grand lesson of this series that we are doomed and that what happens here is meant to be part of our evolution?  Are we so uniquely self-interested that even as we approach the end, we care more about ourselves than rebuilding a society and banding together against those things that would destroy us?  What would make survivors serve a man, such as the governor, who makes no bones about killing other humans instead bringing them in to kill off the zombie ranks?

Whatever the answers, I realize know that I missed Carol, terribly. She understood that sometimes, as uncomfortable as it is, changes have to happen.  Towards the end, Carol became a unique mix of compassion and realism.  She became the realist Rick seemed to refuse to become.  While Rick periodically retreated into dream worlds that allowed him to avoid the difficulty of his new life, Carol embraced it and made no apologies for it.  We saw that with Michionne as well.  She also understood the need for a cross between compassion and realism, and the uselessness of  looking back.  Both women know that this mix of tough and caring are the only things that will save them all in this new world.

Is Rick a failed leader?  I don’t think so.  I think he’s a great leader, but one meant for a different place and time.  Watching the prison survivors move on without him, I can’t imagine that he could become a leader again.  They no longer need him, and sadly learned that the hard way.  Rick could eventually become the new New Dale, New Hershel, New… but then again, being the moral center of the survivor family hasn’t worked out well for anyone, has it?

Abraham? WELCOME! You’re sorely needed.

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