(Spoiler alert.) Okay, let’s talk about The Walking Dead. After some contemplation, I’m rooting for Negan.
Considering that TWD occurs in a post-apocalyptic universe, Negan’s modus operandi has fostered the closest thing to the reconstruction of civilization that we’ve seen. Though his methods seem harsh, the “post-apocalyptic” characteristic of this world warrants a lot of consideration. If the survivors are starting from ground zero after the destruction of what we currently know as “civilization,” there are many profound questions at hand. Perhaps the biggest is, “Where do we go from here?”
Negan has named his group “Saviors” because “we save.” This is one part propaganda and one part truth. The truth is that Negan could not have built his enclave without valuing lives. These lives take on the purpose of growing and maintaining the Saviors. In turn, the purview of the Saviors—at least before Rick and his group came along—retained a level of stability that allowed the vestiges of pre-apocalyptic culture to survive.
The Saviors society is a meritocracy in which status matters and is rewarded with luxuries that we tend to take for granted, such as medicine, beds, liquor, and music. There is a behavior code; and, though a hot iron to the face is an ultra-violent form of punishment, I can’t help but believe that extreme measures are warranted to maintain stability during such a troubled time. Living with the possibility of acquiring dwightface still seems much better than perpetually wandering aimlessly while dodging cannibalistic corpses and starving.
Negan has begun to define a post-apocalyptic diplomacy. The relationships with the Kingdom, Hilltop, and Scavengers tip in the Saviors’ favor. But: Is he a bully, or is he paving the way for nations to form mutually beneficial relationships? Is there a difference? He does not appear to prevent the other groups from recruiting other members and growing. Ultimately, Negan’s use of fear is distasteful. But without demonstrating a sense of the value of life, he most likely would have met his demise long ago at the hands of those he tried to lead.
Enter Rick and his Alexandria gang. We are predisposed to like them. They have dragged us along on some intense, emotional adventures. Their latest ad hock colonization project, Alexandria, has many creature comforts, including old-timey buildings and nice landscaping. We would want to live there in this zombie-filled post-apocalyptic hell universe.
However, Rick is an aggressor, despite the available opportunity to cooperate with the Saviors. He lacks the foresight and wisdom to understand Negan’s tilt toward civilization. His own self-righteousness has blinded him to the size and scope of the Saviors’ significance. After his group mass-murdered the civilian population of a Saviors outpost, and understanding what he did, Rick barbarically doubled down on his aggression.
Were you sad to see Glenn bludgeoned? Thank Rick. Who can Glenn’s baby thank for his future fatherless upbringing? Rick. Why is the tiger dead? Rick.
Rick’s small-scale warfare against Negan equates, population-percentage-wise, to the genocide of an otherwise growing civilization. Negan—creepy, sarcastic, charasmatic Negan—is rightfully angry. He acknowledges a few times how Rick has savaged his would-be nation in a morally questionable way. He’s right; and I now view The Walking Dead through the filter of, “I am Negan.”