Viewers and critics often speak of the dynamic evolution of Melissa McBride’s Carol on The Walking Dead from an abuse victim to an unkillable bad ass, but the transformation of Andrew Lincoln’s character, Rick Grimes, is often overlooked. In the beginning, he was a calm, intelligent friend and parent with a strong moral code. It’s that moral code that has taken a beating over the course of six seasons, as survival has taken priority. In six years, Grimes has teetered on the edge of villainy, and he’s even experienced a couple of descents into madness, once after he lost his wife and again when he lost his grip over Alexandria.
A couple of seasons back, Andrew Lincoln even suggested that his character shared personality traits with Gareth and the Hunters, the cannibals from Terminus. What’s interesting about the introduction of Negan, however, is that Rick Grimes is not that far removed from the Jeffrey Dean Morgan character, either. If two characters have survived this long as the leaders of their respective group, they’re obviously going to share some similarities. In this case, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has suggested that Rick and Negan may be two sides of the same coin, only Negan’s moral compass is a little more out of whack.
Here’s Robert Kirkman on Negan, the “atomic bomb” that’s about to be dropped on the series.
“I think the Saviors are dangerously organized,” says Kirkman. “The Wolves were psychotic, the Hunters [the group from Terminus] had a lot of weaknesses. When it comes to the Saviors, and Negan in particular, the way I’ve always thought about this in the comics is this is a group that’s led by a guy who’s had his morality dial a few clicks away from Rick toward the darker aspects of his personality, but is still an intellectual and capable leader who’s kept his group alive against all odds just as long as Rick has. It’s really the best encountering the best. When these two forces come head to head, things are gonna get interesting. This is a much different group than they’ve ever encountered. The Saviors are a group they’re not really prepared for.”
It’s interesting to think of Negan not as the introduction of a full-blown villain, but as a more morally compromised version of Rick, angling to lead and protect his own people. In other words, Negan sounds like Rick after Joe threatened his son. It’ll be interesting to see how Rick reacts if and when Negan messes with Carl.
Look for a Valentine’s Day massacre when The Walking Dead returns on February 14.