The Walking Dead #129 pushed Carl’s arc forward and gave us another look at Rick’s growth as a leader, but also his desire for stability and rigidity.
Things have noticeably slowed down since the events of “All Out War,” and while some may consider this new storyline as moving too slowly, I personally don’t have a problem with it. For me, a slower paced storyline can work if it’s building to something great.
One of the series’ main focuses has been the ethical and rational decisions behind murdering in a post-apocalyptic world. We see this play out with Rick’s decision to leave Negan alive as opposed to killing him. Had this been early on in the series, I’m positive that Rick would have killed Negan. But now that society is beginning to rebuild itself, as far as Rick is concerned, there’s no need to kill Negan. He kept him alive to prove that the people of Alexandria and beyond are better than him and the Saviors.
Rick doesn’t give into Negan’s taunts because he feels that he’s already won, based on how civilization has progressed. Rick’s being a bit too idealistic, something Andrea warned him about earlier. In both the comic book and television series, we’ve seen Cynical Rick and Optimistic Rick. Here, Rick’s optimism may get the better of him, because keeping Negan alive will only come back to bite him in the ass. Morally, would it have been right for Rick to kill Negan? Possibly, but had he done that, Rick would think he’s no better than Negan. He wants to prove that there’s a better way. Despite all of the terrible things that Negan has done, Rick won’t kill him because he’d be showing that he can stoop just as low.
That’s not to say Rick isn’t prone to violence anymore. Sure, he’s out of practice, but attacking Benjamin proved that he can still kick ass when necessary. Everyone has worked hard to secure the stable life they’ve built for themselves. There have been less roamer attacks because people have taken care of them, ahead of time. When even a few appear, someone screwed up on the job, and no slip-ups can be afforded when it comes to dealing with roamers.
Not strange at all is that Carl doesn’t flinch through all of this. He’s used to seeing his father behave this way. He knows that Rick does it because society is reforming itself. In Rick’s mind, sometimes you have to knock a few people around to make a point, especially when it comes to the well-being of his son.
Though Carl got to say his goodbyes to Andrea, Anna and the like, this issue allowed him and Rick to spend some time together. Most of this involved Rick goading Carl into talking about his “girlfriend,” Anna, but it’s probably one of the most human conversations they’ve had in a long time. That, coupled Carl telling Andrea that he never expected to have enough things to fill two Duffel bags, is an example of characters beginning to have what feel like normal talks instead of fearing for their lives.
So Negan’s not the only one in the jail? Surprise to me, but then, we’ve only seen Negan, so it’s not too far off to think that everyone in Alexandria is a saint. However, Negan has said before that Rick should have killed him. Now that Magna and the others have found him, he can spin whatever B.S. tale just to get them on his side. From the beginning, Magna’s crew hasn’t fully trusted Rick. This wasn’t out of spite. It’s because the people of Alexandria haven’t been completely open about everything. Again, in this world, putting everything out in the open can be disastrous when it can be used against you.
So Carl is moving on up to the Hilltop and Negan may be on the verge of walking out of his cell. Things are getting very interesting.