Okay, so Negan’s supposed freedom at the end of the previous issue was an effective cliffhanger.
Now, with issue #141: “Opportunity,” we get to see just what he did. Or rather, what he could have done.
One of the main themes I picked up on this issue was the message of choice: they aren’t easy to make, as many of us know. And even then, it’s sometimes hard to gauge whether we made a good or bad choice until long after we’ve made it. The Walking Dead is very big on morality and the consequences that come with killing both the living and dead, but, as this issue showed, the series also deals with the consequences of not killing because, as Rick believes, there is a better way.
But before jumping into the confrontation, we get to catch up with Dwight and what he’s been up to with The Saviors. First off, despite the obvious friction between The Saviors and everyone else, Dwight has a level of respect for Rick, as he refers to him as Mister Grimes instead of just Rick. However, we see that Dwight doesn’t believe he’s cut out for the leadership role. It’s interesting since Dwight was the one who wanted The Saviors to follow him after Negan’s fall, but now that he’s had a chance to lead, he’s having a change of heart.
It’s understandable. I’m sure that many of us would like to be leaders, but we don’t fully understand the amount of work, responsibility, and tough decisions that come with the duty. This is what has made Rick so qualified to lead because he can make those tough decisions. But Dwight is at the point where he even wants Rick to pick the new leader. Rick, of course, won’t do that and I can’t blame him. Dwight had to know what he was getting into when he took over Negan’s role. Maybe it was a spur of the moment decision, but being a leader isn’t easy.
I actually would like to have seen more of The Saviors’ community after the time-skip. We don’t know much about them compared to the folks at either the Hilltop or the Alexandria Safe Zone, so it would have been a good opportunity not just for character development, but maybe also see what led Dwight to his decision. Hopefully we get to see the election, or at least the results.
We also briefly get some advancement with Eugene and Rosita’s subplot with Rosita announcing to everyone that she’s pregnant. It’s not much, and we learn that something is still nagging at Eugene, but it’s something.
Now onto the confrontation itself. Let’s be frank: Negan is still one foul-mouthed motherfucker, but damn it if I don’t get attached to every line of dialogue that he’s given and it makes me wonder how the show will handle him. But anyway, despite being imprisoned, Negan still wields a great amount of power not because of what he did in the past, but what he can do, but doesn’t. He’s more willing to bide his time compared to The Governor and isn’t above trying to bring others down to his level.
I really enjoyed the confrontation between Rick and Negan. The two are so different, yet Negan believes that Rick can be as murderous and bloodthirsty as he is. As we see here, though, both have occasions where they won’t act on violent decisions. This, I think, makes Negan’s freedom even more terrifying because there’s so much that he could have done but, against every natural instinct, he chose not to.
It’s a good way to get inside Rick’s head and Kirkman’s move here goes against our expectations because we’d expect Negan to seek some sort of revenge against the people that imprisoned him. And yet Negan did nothing, all in the name of gaining Rick’s trust. It’s insane for Negan to think that just because he behaved himself when he could have gone on a rampage that Rick would suddenly trust him. The fact that Negan chose to do nothing and gave out a laundry list of what he could have done, to me, shows that he may be biding his time. Olivia’s mistake gave him an opening, but he decided to wait. For now.
And it is a bit funny that Negan is genuinely upset when Rick doesn’t agree to trust him at all. Rick has every reason to still hold Negan there for as long as possible. Yet Negan is able to get under Rick’s skin by implying that Rick only kept him alive because of some sense of self-righteousness. Is Rick really deluding himself into thinking that there is a better way or could he be as mad as Negan or The Governor? Negan taunts Rick as the savior who can fix everything and spared the life of a man who has caused him so much harm. As much as Rick might want to kill Negan, once he does, he’d go against his principles and contradict the society he’s trying to help rebuild.
Sure, this may just be an excuse for Rick to avoid being a murderer and just getting an execution out of the way, and Andrea knows this, but Rick is looking at the bigger picture. He told Maggie that he doesn’t like being worshipped as a hero with a reputation, but the fact is that people do look up to him as a leader. It wasn’t his decision to make, but he’s in this role because he’s proven he has what it takes to be a competent leader: he won’t just do what’s expected of him, but go beyond that. He wants to show that a society that abides by a moral code can work.
Even though walkers may not be as big a threat as they were before, people still have the potential to be violent and just kill without reason or when it’s convenient. Rick won’t allow himself to be that kind of man because without any type of order, society will collapse.
And I’ll be damned if Robert Kirkman didn’t give us one hell of a transition to The Hilltop. We knew this was coming, but I personally didn’t think it would be so sudden. If there was ever anything that highlighted the leadership differences between Rick and Maggie, here it is. Maggie is that leader willing to execute someone she sees as a threat. The circumstances are a bit different: Gregory not only tried to turn the Hilltop population against her, he tried to poison her and almost succeeded.
It’s such a massive tone shift from Rick’s optimism to Gregory’s dying face and bulging eyes, made all the more creepy thanks to Stefano Gaudiano and Charlie Adlard’s art. We don’t get to see what led up to this and whether anyone in the area objected- notice some folks aren’t even looking at Gregory’s lifeless body- but I think this works as a positive because it makes the reveal of Gregory’s hanging much more sudden. This is sure to cause a shakeup throughout all communities once or if word spreads. This, coupled with Carl still traveling with The Whisperers, will bring Rick all sorts of headaches.
And with the arc ending soon, I’m going to enjoy this.