WTWD? | Questions on Season Eight of The Walking Dead: Episode 12
Past and Future Grief
For once it is satisfying that someone has jumped the gun on Rick's plan, especially since that person is Rick himself. Overtaken by fury and provided with an irresistible opportunity to get Negan alone, he chases him off on wheel and foot into a building that is so dilapidated that it appears abandoned before the turn -- a new and fascinating set choice for the show. While Negan and Rick grapple in this haunted house of an almost forgotten past, leaders like Maggie and Georgie suss out plans for a more developed and interconnected future. Is Rick making a necessary correction to past injustices or indulging in his grief by focusing on the past, and is Maggie's choice to trust a stranger and begin focusing on the future wise or foolish at a time like this? What does this episode of contrasts tell us about emotional healing and leadership?
This Is Where You Die
As satisfying as it is to see Rick subjugate Negan, I don't believe his vendetta of impulsive rage is meant to be glorified here. Again the plan has been foiled, and Rick is running on pure adrenaline and unprocessed grief: a combination that could be perfectly deadly for both of them. When Rick runs after him, Rick isn't thinking about the years ahead or even the near future. Right now, all that exists in Rick is killing Negan. While this emotional response is natural, is Rick not completely negating Carl's dying wish?
The structure that Rick lures Negan ever deeper into might have been abandoned before the apocalypse, and if so, it could be a symbol of the things built and rebuilt in this world. Its state of decay and architectural style could suggest this. If this is true, what is the significance of this set choice? When they enter, Negan and Rick are entering their pasts. This is not a safe place. With many rooms and collapsing floors, they wander around as they attempt to find each other and communicate. The cinematic, highly contrasted lighting enhances the drama and disorientation of the scene. They are both literally and figuratively lost as things around them crumble. Negan has become so powerless that he was willing to call this whole war off, and Rick is so blinded by emotions that he ignores this offer completely. Both men are desperate and bent on destruction. Maggie and her new friends, however, are already prepared not just to rebuild, but to revolutionize, which is something Carl was ready for as well.
An Act Of Benevolence
In her first scene with Rosita, Maggie begins discussing the future, and by the end of the episode, she has the blueprint for its very infrastructure in her hands. Rosita expresses her concern to Maggie that everyone's grief will get worse when the war is over and the action has died down. This is the first time we hear characters even planning for the emotional clean-up after the war; they have the end in clear sight it seems. Maggie, Rosita, and all the women running Hilltop maintain a calmness that has left Rick, Negan, and other familiar leaders, but are they still missing something? What will come other than grief in the future? Perhaps Maggie has something to learn from our new characters, Georgie, Midge, and Hilda, each with a kind confidence and sense of empathy that is refreshing (and a relief so far). But, are these newcomers to be trusted?
Anyone intimately familiar with the ways of Negan would be weary of anybody insisting on a repeated bartering relationship, and although Georgie draws comparisons with Negan, Maggie recognizes fundamental differences between them. While Negan rules with malevolence and violence, Georgie motivates with knowledge and faith. Yes, Georgie wants you to produce great things for her -- insofar as you can produce great things for yourself and others. While Negan has built up a hierarchy of horrors simply to serve his own particular interests, Georgie aims to move the world forward so that we can all do more than just survive. Georgie may not have Negan's particular pizzazz or resources, but her mission seems to stand on its own without all the pomp upon which Negan relies. It makes you wonder what Negan could be capable of as a benevolent leader, or even just a benevolent person. For our characters' sake, may we hope Georgie really is some kind of ideological antidote for the plague that is Negan and the Saviors.
Though Rick may have gone a bit off the deep end this week, we have seen him come around from other traumas, smarter and stronger than ever. Luckily Rick has Maggie whom he wisely foresaw as a leader as well as the ever wise and strong Michonne to guide him through his grief. Rick may have felt it before, but now that Carl is gone, he will come to appreciate and need the rest of his family in a new way. In this way, perhaps hope isn't lost for Rick and his people. And, if they keep following Carl's advice, maybe there is hope for Negan as well.
Other Lingering Questions
- Where is Jadis taking Negan, and will they fight or team up?
- Is it possible that Rick, Negan, and Jadis might all fight Simon now?
- What side will Dwight take when he arrives at the Hilltop?
P.S. The season eight finale is screening in theaters!
Ciara Cerrato was a projectionist and curator at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, and she currently is a poet and freelance writer in New York.