Warning: Comic Book And Television Spoilers Ahead
As we head toward the second half of The Walking Dead‘s 5th season, Rick Grimes’ group has lost well more than a dozen close friends and family members. Beth Greene was the latest, but she won’t be the last. That’s the world that these characters live in — one of danger, death, and fear — but after a time, there has to be something more than this cycle of torture.
How many times can the characters on The Walking Dead collapse, pulled down by the weight of their sorrow and tears? How long until both they and we grow numb to the constant onslaught of pain?
It’s been the equivalent of one full season since the group was forced from their prison home. In that time they have wandered toward a mirage and faced the savage truth of an unraveled society. This journey has changed them, some more than others.
It’s actually been fascinating to watch Rick transform, his actions often capable of instigating a debate in viewers now that he is no longer a boy scout. Now that his choices are no longer black or white. Rick isn’t hungry for bloodshed so much as he just seems to like the finality that it brings now. No more discussion, no gnawing conscience urging him to give people a second chance. Like he gave Randall in season 2. The question is, is Rick really too far gone?
Apparently that’s a question that a lot of the characters on the show will be asked this season, according to showrunner Scott Gimple, and fans of the Walking Dead comic book know that an answer is coming. The thing is, no one on the outside of the show knows how close or far away we are to it.
In the comics, at a point that is similar to where we are now in the TV series, Rick and Abraham met a man named Aaron in issue #67 shortly after Eugene had revealed himself to be a fraud. Aaron was a scout from a camp in Alexandria, Virginia who had been watching Rick’s group to see if they would be a good fit.
At the time, Rick seemed weary of Aaron and his promises of stability after all they had been through in Woodbury with the Governor, but Michonne delivered a stirring speech that pushed the group to follow Aaron to Alexandria.
That speech is echoed in tone, but not words, in the trailer for the second half of this season.
We know that we will soon see Aaron on the show. Or, at least, we’re pretty sure. On the mid-season finale of The Talking Dead, Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman said that the show would introduce “a very prominent gay character from the comics,” so the assumption is that he was talking about Aaron, who is gay.
The question is, what will inspire Rick and his group to keep moving from Georgia toward Washington now that they know that Eugene is full of sh*t? As you can hear in the above video, Michonne says that they’re only “100 miles away.”
If the second half of The Walking Dead‘s fifth season does end-up in the Alexandria Safe-Zone, there are a number of other familiar characters from the comic that may make an appearance too.
Eric, for one, is Aaron’s partner on the road and his boyfriend. It’s Eric’s job to keep Aaron safe when he’s out scouting for new survivors to bring to the Safe-Zone. In the book, Aaron and Eric travel with Rick’s group to Washington D.C. before they see a distress flare. Rick insists that he accompany Aaron and Abraham to investigate. While in the city, they come upon Heath and Scott, whose leg is badly hurt. They also meet up with Tobin and his crew of armed roughnecks. Abraham will eventually team up with them to help expand the walls of the community.
Heath is, essentially, the Safe-Zone community’s Glenn, in that he knows the city inside and out and is able to get supplies with relative ease. He is incredibly close with Scott.
Aaron, Eric, and Heath all go on to become key characters in the story, but it’s doubtful that the show will push far enough toward the events that elevate that trio over the course of these next eight episodes. There will be plenty of time for that.
In the early days following the arrival of Rick’s group, many community residents seemed suspicious of the newcomers. Despite this, Rick’s group did their best to fit in while also re-introducing themselves to something that resembles the civilization that they once knew. Unsurprisingly, it is Rick who has the most trouble adjusting, working in secret to undermine some of the community’s rules and the directives of Monroe, a former congressman and the community leader.
Douglas Monroe isn’t a big bad. He runs the community with a velvet wrapped iron fist, but he’s really just a man who is composed more of fear than malice at his core. Monroe welcomes Rick and his group with open arms, partially because he respects their ability to survive beyond the wall. Monroe is a house cat in a world that needs you to be a little bit feral, and eventually, he comes to realize that.
Monroe is also the kind of man that season 2 Rick would have looked up to. They would have had a lot in common, but it’s clear that their paths diverged.
Pete Anderson is a town resident who seems friendly at first, but eventually he and Rick come to blows in a prelude to a tragedy that forever alters the Alexandria Safe-Zone.
Despite the spoiler alert up-top, I’ve tried to keep a tight rein on the big reveals, but I feel compelled to mention Rick’s break from reality when he confronts Pete, a wife-beater and child-beater whose actions lead to thoughts of Lori and Judith, who in the comic, is also dead.
Obviously, on the show, Judith is alive and well and I don’t expect that to change. But Rick is really no less broken on the show than he is in the comics. Maybe a little calmer, but no less broken. His actions with the Terminus hunters and with Bob Lamson hint at that.
We’ve seen a lot of bad people on the show and in the comic who thought they were doing the right thing for themselves and for their people. They’re certain of it, and yet, they are wrong. Rick Grimes hasn’t crossed the river toward that transformation just yet, but he’s dipped a toe and he’s lingered along the water’s edge. Because of that and all that Rick has seen and done, it’s easy to see him suffering through a bout of mental whiplash when the group arrives in Alexandria. It wasn’t too long ago that Rick tore a man’s throat out with his teeth, and now he’s a clean-cut constable in a town that resembles a ’50s sitcom when you compare it to what exists beyond that wall — both in walker and human form.
Pushing Rick’s potential for madness aside, it will be interesting to both readers of the comic and viewers of the show to see the way that characters like Tyrese, Sasha, Tara, Carol, Daryl, and Noah adapt and are applied to a story that originally had them as either dead or non-existent. I’m also curious to see how Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple modify Carl’s stories to ones that are a little bit more adult because of the vast age difference between the comic book character and the TV show version, and how they will fill the gap left by the absence of Andrea and Sophia, who are both crucial characters in Alexandria.
All of these tidbits about the possible direction of the second half of season 5 lose their value if the show moves away from its comic book blueprint (as they have before), but there really is no escaping the lengthy Alexandria story (and the “All Out War” that will follow it with the oft-mentioned Negan), and these characters are running out of road.
It’s time to give them something to fight for besides their next glimpse of daylight. It’s time to shake things up and reset their collective humanity before it runs out entirely. Alexandria is where it can all come together before it falls apart.