Hero or Villain: We Decide #4 - Rick Grimes
This week we examine a character who has suffered, broken down and come back; Rick from The Walking Dead.
The show deals with death (and the undead) regularly and so the characteristics that define heroes and villains seems harder to define. If you have to kill to survive then your actions become less about the sanctity of life and more about how far you will go to keep going. As the former deputy in King County, Georgia Rick knows the difference between right and wrong yet this is tested thoroughly as he guides the group away from peril week after week. He assumes responsibility of the group and openly protects as well as cares for those under his wing. Due to his previous employment he remains calm, smart and a natural leader though when pushed he has proved he can show a villainous side too.
Recently the show has delved deeper into the human psyche, analysing why certain characters made certain gut-wrenching decisions which proves for fascinating viewing. Though she only appears fleetingly in the premier episode of series four, 'Clara' left Rick with a fundamental question when she asked: "Can we come back from the things we've done?" That is pretty deep, especially for a TV show, yet it hints at the moral quandaries that these characters have to deal with every day. The world as they know it is no more and The Walking Dead is testament to what people will do to survive when forced to their absolute extremes. Killing isn't questionable any more, it is essential and even the good-natured can kill if they deem it vital to the cause.
Hero - As the main protagonist in The Walking Dead you could argue that Rick is the show's moral compass. He is also one of the main reasons that the group have managed to get this far. The others look up to him as a protective father figure and someone to lead the group out of danger. His advanced combat skills means that he regularly puts himself into dangerous situations to carry out heroic deeds though perhaps he takes on too much responsibility.
In season two he attempted to rescue Carol's daughter, Sophia, after feeling guilty for not keeping her close in the first place. This showed that he was prepared to play the hero yet when he discovered her reanimated state he began to lose faith in God. After then losing his wife he suffered through spells of mental instability and shut himself out for the benefit of the group which some may say was self-sacrifice. In season three he amputates off Hershel's leg, saving his life and taking a decision that may have proved too squeamish for others.
Villain - Just like Tony Soprano, Rick is guilty of killing his best friend for the greater good. Seeing Shane as a genuine threat to the group, not only does he stab him in the heart but he leaves his son, Carl, to finish off the zombified reanimation. Heart-breaking stuff but then Shane had been sleeping with his wife. More recently he also allowed Carol to leave the group and fend for herself and only time will tell whether that was for the greater good or, arguably, hypocritical behaviour.
Quote - "We've done the worst kinds of things just to stay alive. But we can still come back. We're not too far gone. We get to come back. I know... we all can change."
Verdict - Hero
At times Rick takes on too much and you can see the mental strain weighing him down. As a result he occasionally takes decisions a little too rashly though you can tell his moral compass is pointing in the right direction. Indeed, without him you wonder quite how far the group would have gone and even through suffering great loss he still manages to perform when the group need him.