*SPOILERS AHEAD … AND A CHASM OF MORAL RELATIVITY BIG ENOUGH TO DRIVE A TRUCK THROUGH*
Moral relativity, thou are king in the apocalypse!
That’s hardly a surprise with The Walking Dead, pretty much from episode one, making it clear that the collapse of civilisation might, or might not, depending on where you sit on the whole issue of humanity is essentially a self-serving disaster waiting to happen, hasten the end of morality as an prevailing arbiter in the affairs of men and women.
We’ve watched as Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln), and Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh) and Rick, and pretty much everyone and Rick – seeing a pattern here? – have argued back and forth about whether the soul of humanity, assuming we had one in the first place, is permanently and irrevocably stained.
The narrative thread always came down firmly on the idea that a survivor had to do what a survivor had to do, and that while philosophical discussions were nice, they were, in the end, surplus to requirements in the apocalypse.
As great moral discussions go, it’s never been terribly sophisticated nor sustained, but it wasn’t until this double set of episodes, most particularly “Something They Need, that it became evident how fast and loose the writers of The Walking Dead have been playing with humanity’s sense of its civilised self.
In short the episode, which followed last week’s episode in which Gregory (Xander Berkeley) underscored how much of a spineless, compliant political weasel he is and Hilltop, the community he lackadaisically rules, prepared itself to fight Negan (eventually), and Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) dashed rather foolishly into battle, a suicidal mission with the sole aim of trying to kill Negan, unveiled how little difference there is between Rick and the Big Bads that beset he and his groups with monotonous regularity.
Yes, yes I know Rick is supposed to be the great shining knight of goodness and virtue, the protagonist who will face off the living and undead hordes trying to bring down humanity once and for all, but let’s face it, he’s about as cleancut as a toxic waste dump in the middle of summer.
You only have to look at the way he recklessly gallivanted off to kill dozens of Negan’s people simply to get some food from the morally questionable leadership of Hilltop (who, ahem, toyed with actually killing Maggie (Lauren Cohen) this week) and without so much as a chat with his inner Jean Paul Sartre, to see how little regard Rick has for the rule of law, for morality and a whole host of other niggling better angels of our nature concerns.
He really is little different from Negan, who actually ended up looking somewhat decent this week but only because he stopped one of his motley band of opportunistic bullies from raping, yes raping Sasha.
Turns out the man who will happily, and I mean damn near giddily, club peoples’ heads to bloody pulp in a midnight theatre of the macabre, or happily toss his hard-to-come-by doctor into a roaring furnace on one man’s dubious say-so, has a smattering of a moral code.
In Sasha’s case. that’s a good thing but all this sorry scene in the narrative underscored is that The Walking Dead itself has little to no moral compass, despite positioning itself as some sort of thinking person’s take on the apocalypse.
What it really has is a thirst for violence and extreme moral relativity, dressed in the occasional high-minded speech; in the end though there is little difference, bar degrees between Rick and Negan.
Take the Alexandrians’ raid on Oceanside, the community headed by Natania (Deborah May) which has suffered greatly under Negan’s brutal marauding and which has gone to understandably intense lengths to keep their location and existence a well-guarded secret.
Without so much as by your leave – to be fair Tara sauntered in and tried to ask Natania to join them on their quest to banish Negan once and for all – Rick, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Michonne (Danai Gurira) and a number of others exploded bombs outside the community, herded the residents into a group where they were held at gunpoint and then proceeded to take their guns.
All their guns.
Anyone remember someone else doing that once? Someone who also cited their unassailable right to do so?
It was a classic play from the Negan handbook and renders Rick’s crusade to rid the world of another Big Bad, one he succeeded in riling up thank you very much, extraordinarily morally suspect.
Sure Negan is a grade A sociopath, a man who delights in terrorising, killing and oppressing, and true Rick is not, but the line dividing them is perilously faint and thin, and frankly the raid underlined how little there is to champion in the quest by the Alexandrians, Hilltop-ians and Kingdomites to get rid of Negan.
Is it necessary? Sure? Is it morally justified? Not really. Will the world really be better off with people like Rick in charge? You have to wonder.
The thing is “Something They Need” was actually a taut, well-constructed and articulated episode that contained some beautifully powerful interactions between characters like Sasha and Eugene (Josh McDermitt), and unnerving realpolitik between Gregory and Maggie, but at its core it was rotten to the moral core.
Of course the finale will be predicated on the basis of good versus evil, and to a rubbery extent that’s true, but overall, there is little difference between the two groups, leaving you wondering how The Walking Dead can sustain itself going forward when the protagonists and antagonists are virtually indistinguishable.
- At last we have a showdown! Another one! The latest in a long line of showdowns! Where Rick will once again beat a Big Bad by virtue of his innate goodness … Hahahahahahaha … Or something. It all goes down in next week’s episode and season 7 finale “The First Day of the rest of Your Life” …