A Look at The Walking Dead #164: “A Fallen House”

Rick and Negan become friends? Maybe. Let’s jump into “A Fallen House.”

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This issue fascinated me for a variety of reasons.  We’re still in the middle of dealing with the roamer herd making its way through Alexandria, Rick and Negan get a chance to bond in the strangest of ways, and Carl is slowly growing into more of a leader with the Hilltop residents, among other reasons.

For now, and I could be wrong, it looks like the survivors will be able to thin out the herd in no time at all.  Not in “No Way Out” speed, but judging from how quickly Andrea and the others are working, they’re able to draw away the herd in massive chunks.  It could be enough to draw out the residents, in addition to Rick and Negan, so they can help further cut down the roamer herd.

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So I’m guessing either the Hilltop residents covered a lot of distance or it doesn’t take that long to get from there to Alexandria, because Maggie and company arrive in no time at all. Good because this draws Maggie into the fray and towards a possible confrontation with Negan, but also puts Carl in a leadership role in Maggie’s absence, which I’ll touch on again later.

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The bulk of issue #164 revolves around Rick and Negan stick in one of the Alexandria buildings while they’re surrounded by the roamer herd.  This could’ve gone down two ways: one is that they’re at each other’s throats because of all the shit Negan has put everyone through, or the two could have the smallest semblance of a conversation while they wait out the danger around them.

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We get the latter.  Part of that is because there’s no way in hell that Negan will shut the fuck up, especially when he’s stuck with Rick Grimes of all people.  He’s saved Rick’s life twice now and since he’s trapped with him, the least they could do is attempt to talk.  It helps that Negan has seen the fear in residents when they fled for their lives, versus him and Rick, who ran, but managed to remain calm.

Of course, Rick has no reason to indulge Negan.  As he says, if there was a point when he and Negan could have been friends, that time has passed.  Even at this point, I imagine it’s hard to forgive Negan for killing Glenn, among other things, but he’s proven his worth to Rick, Andrea, and the others, and after saving Rick’s life, the least the two could do is talk.

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And talk they do.  Here I was thinking Rick would name a specific kill or moment where his life changed- something like Lori’s death, Carol’s suicide, or Carl almost getting raped, for example- but no, it’s something much more tragic.

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As strange as this sounds, Rick and Negan are more alike than we realized.  Rick admits that the worst thing he did was just survive when other people who should have lived ended up dying.  For all the suffering Rick has seen, it’s changed the man he is today, but now we see he carries this guilt, as if he also should’ve died like the others.

Was it fate that did those people in or were they just weak?  Who knows?  Either way, we see just how much Negan hates weakness in people.  As we learned during his introduction, he gets off on people fighting against him.  Spencer was a coward who tried to work with Negan while screwing over Rick.  Rick was willing to comply with the Saviors’ demands, but he still despised Negan and let him know it.

Some people are just not equipped to handle this new world, and Negan knows that.  He’s seen his share of cowards lose their lives because they lacked the will to live or just knew how to find trouble.  In Negan’s twisted way, it becomes easier to kill people who he believed would get themselves killed anyway.  This isn’t an excuse for what he did to Glenn, but I get Negan’s perspective, especially after seeing what he’s been through.

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I don’t know if this was an intentional move on Robert Kirkman’s part, but this issue and Negan baring his soul to Rick are both given more weight through “Here’s Negan” and watching him grow increasingly frustrated with the people he ran into getting themselves bitten or killed.  You can read and enjoy this without reading “Here’s Negan,” yes, but I think looking at it helps you understand Negan’s case.

There, we saw him leave his wife to rot and it’s eaten away at him ever since.  Unlike his recently departed bat, Negan never got to give his wife a proper burial.  And should he live through all of this, I’d be curious to see if he would ever return to the hospital to see if there’s anything left of his wife to bury.

To veer off-topic for a bit and put on my speculation hat, I’m curious how the Saviors came to be.  We know how much Negan hates cowardly people, so how did he come to convince a large group of people, some of whom couldn’t have been as brave as others, to follow him?  That’s more a discussion for “Here’s Negan,” but with Negan talking about how he hates spineless people, I’d like to know more about the beginning of the Saviors.

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For now, though, I’m excited to see Rick and Negan working together.  With the folks outside able to thin out the numbers, this should give the two an opportunity to either escape or at least kill a few roamers and make their way through Alexandria.  But with Rick having lost his cane and Negan still able to do…well, anything, there’s no telling what could happen.

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Anyway, the rest of the issue deals with the groups on the outside still drawing away as many roamers as possible, but there are some character moments.  We get Eugene and Heath talking about how being outside the walls makes them feel complete.  It keeps them busy.

This is what the residents of the Alexandria Safe Zone lacked before Rick and company arrived.  They grew complacent because of their supposed safety within their walls.  Not that Heath or Eugene are weak.  Not at all.  But I like how dealing with this herd and being in the middle of this unpredictable sea of the dead gives them value. As the two admit, it’s fucked up, but I love it all the same.

And again, this is what the Alexandria residents would have benefited from if they didn’t close themselves off from the world.  Rick and company are battle-ready and more than willing to step into danger because they’ve lived and survived that lifestyle for so long while they’ve been on the move.  As was the case when they first arrived in Alexandria, taking a step back would make them soft.

Plus, we see how much Eugene specifically has learned not just from working with Rick, but dealing with roamers so much that he can pick up on subtle details that will help him lead away the roamers that he sees as simple creatures.

This is such a short scene and I didn’t expect to talk about it as much as I did, but that’s how much it stuck with me.

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Meanwhile, we have Dwight, Laura, Andrea, Magna, Yumiko, and the others also leading away the herd through noise, and it’s great that they’re making such good progress, but hopefully they don’t get surrounded, as Laura feared.

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Now back to Carl.  He’s rallying the Hilltop folks to fight against the dead now that the herd is thinning.  I don’t know if this the best idea since Maggie did tell him to stay behind.  She said get ready to move if it gets unsafe, but the situation looks like it’s getting better unless the herd heads his way.

But the good thing is that this shows Carl’s continual growth into a position of authority. Though far from the oldest person here, he’s assuming the role of leader and convincing the Hilltop people to help finish off what remains of the herd.  Through this, I can see more Hilltop folks warming to Carl not just because he’s Rick Grimes’ son, but because of his determination and leadership.  Hopefully he’s not leading some folks to their deaths.

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No, that honor might fall to Sherry.  I’m not sure if this plan has been thought out that well, but what do the Saviors expect will happen when they enter Alexandria?  Rick and the others will be too tired to fight?  Hell no.  If anything, they’d be more than willing to indulge the Saviors again.

In addition, just how many Saviors are left, anyway?  I imagine there’s still a sizable number at the Sanctuary, but Sherry doesn’t have a lot of people with her at the moment. Between Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom, the other communities eclipse them by a wide margin and Rick is already anticipating an attack from them.

Not to mention the Saviors would still have to contend with the roamers as well.  It sounds like a suicide mission, but hey, maybe the Saviors can squeeze out a victory.

Either way, “A Fallen House” is a good issue with its biggest strength being the conversation between Rick and Negan as the two realize, that for how different we may think they are, they’re more similar than we realize.  The herd is beginning to thin out, so here’s hoping the survivors can stamp out the Whisperers’ plan before it gets worse.

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