A Look at The Walking Dead #168: “The Road’s End”

And now the healing begins.

Andrea has passed.  Now the communities begin going through the stages of grief while also rebuilding in the aftermath of the roamer herd battle.  Much like #167, this is a pretty slow paced issue that’s mostly focused on the dialogue, and I’m fine with that.  We don’t need to jump right back into action right off the bat, and for a death as big as Andrea’s, Alexandria needs time to process this.

And for a minute, it looks like things will go off without a hitch if even the Saviors are stopping the fighting to lend a hand.  Sure, this peace didn’t last for very long, but for the Saviors to admit that they respected Andrea is noteworthy enough to put the fight on hold. Hey, you may hate your enemies to their core, but you can still respect them.  Until yeah, that peace goes right out the window when John learns that Sherry is dead.

What could have been a confrontational situation that blew up into a skirmish managed to remain as calm as possible since, again, the Saviors are just helping the Alexandria residents out of respect.  They’re not obligated to remain that calm for long.

And since the Saviors aren’t going to be calmed down by someone like Rick or Dwight, of course it’d be Negan to play mediator.  He’s turning a new leaf, but the Saviors still know him as their former leader.  He commands respect while still being as foul mouthed as always.  At the same time, he’s not just trying to kiss the Saviors’ asses and placate them so they don’t kill anyone.

His proposal, when you first read it, makes a hell of a lot of sense: he proposes that the Saviors go back to the way things were when he was in charge.  Even though years have passed since he led, Negan got a lot accomplished during his tenure.  More than that, as he points out, people feared the Saviors.  Nowadays, the Saviors are more a nuisance than an outright threat, especially when they refuse to contribute.

At least under Negan, there was an established system.  One that favored the Saviors, but a system nonetheless.  Dwight was reluctant to lead, and we know what became of Sherry, so the Saviors haven’t had the same kind of leadership that they had in Negan. We know Negan is just bullshitting the Saviors, but he is at least right about the Saviors being a real force under his leadership.

And it’d be one thing if either none or all of the Saviors bought into Negan’s supposed proposition because it would show they still operate under a group mentality, but I like that we saw at least one person take Negan at his word.  Plus, it was Mark and not just a random character.  We saw Negan burn half of Mark’s face as punishment, but here we are, years later, and he’s willing to bend the knee to Negan again?

He believes that the Saviors are stronger under Negan, which might be true, but you’d still be subservient under him.  Sure, Negan gets off on people who fight against him, but this is a changed Negan.  He’s looking for strength, and for Mark to take the knee again is a sign of weakness.  But it was interesting to see him of all people willing to serve Negan again.

Plus, Negan had a real point: Sherry brought on her own death, as much as John and the other Saviors might not want to hear that.  Negan ruled with an iron fist, but he at least ruled and had order.  But Sherry just wanted conflict for the sake of conflict.  Negan could negotiate, but with Sherry, there was no negotiation- it was her way or bust.  Same thing happened when she had her talk with Rick.

But yes, Negan commands much of this issue and he’s as much of a smooth talking motherfucker as he always is when he tells the Saviors, straight up, that they have to help Rick.  They can either go back to the Sanctuary, wait for something bad to happen- and it will- and then ask Rick for help, or they can contribute.  Because even though Rick may detest the Saviors, he’s shown a willingness to work with them.

Plus, in this new world with the communities helping one another, the Saviors need to remain within that network not just if they want to survive, but to rebuild the trust that they’ve no doubt damaged.  In addition, Negan does see a leader in John and hopefully he becomes the kind of leader that Negan envisions instead of another Sherry.  Whether John indeed becomes that leader, we’ll see.

While we don’t get any reaction from some people on the fact that Negan is out and free, we did get Jesus mentioning that he found Gabriel’s body.  Which, yeah, his death sort of went unnoticed by everyone else since they didn’t know about it.  They were too busy dealing with the roamer herd and no one had an eye on Gabriel.  And while it sucks that we’ve lost Gabriel, at least his death is acknowledged.

The issue wraps up nicely with Carl and Lydia checking in on Rick, but Rick’s still processing this.  Dealing with the Saviors and being strong for the community is one thing, but when he’s on his own, Rick is still reeling from Andrea’s death, and it makes sense that when alone, he can let go.  Now, I don’t mean something like blubbering and crying, but just his silence is enough to show how big of a loss this is to him in particular.

That extends to the final image is the issue as well.  Andrea is dead and her spirit lives on, but the lack of her presence still hits Rick so much to the point that he goes out in the cold night to rest on her grave.  Between Kirkman’s writing and Charlie Adlard’s artwork, it’s still great how many emotions can be conveyed here by saying very little.

I enjoyed this issue a lot.  It wasn’t fast paced, but didn’t need to be.  Alexandria, Rick more so than everyone else, is rebuilding and healing in light of Andrea’s death. Sometimes it helps to slow things down a bit, and Negan confronting the Saviors was a good moment for him as he told his former followers to buck up and start contributing for the greater good.

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