During the Feb. 9 midseason premiere of ‘The Walking Dead,’ fans were (albeit briefly) forced to consider the reality of the show ditching its longtime lead, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). Of course they didn’t actually go through with it — but should they?
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), his hair, and that crazy southern accent (Caaah-rul) have been front and center in The Walking Dead universe since its television inception, but the Feb. 9 episode “After” forced us to consider a different reality — could the show go on with Carl (Chandler Riggs) as its lead?
Should Rick Stay Dead — The Pro Column
When Carl almost had to shoot Rick — who looked rough last night — pretty much all of the 16 million-ish hearts watching the show stopped for at least two seconds. I mean, the man looked dead — dead dead, not pretty, fake, CW-network dead. During this brief amount of time we all had to contemplate what the show would look like with Carl at its helm, and luckily, much of the remainder of the show gave us a peek at that alternate universe as Carl scavenged the Atlanta suburbs for giant tubs of pudding.
So, could the show go on without Rick? Absolutely! Chandler Riggs has grown exponentially as an actor over the last couple of seasons, and we’re already invested enough in his journey to see him as a completely separate entity from his father. (In earlier seasons, I would definitely argue that we really only cared about Carl as an extension of Rick.)
Carl is interesting, capable, and far more willing to make difficult decisions in a pinch than his father, whose dismissal of the Governor led to complete chaos. (And he got rid of Carol!) Also, Carl is great with Michonne (Danai Gurira), who has emerged as a surrogate family member in the midst of all of this madness. The show does need some sort of “family” element if we’re all going to continue to remain invested in it — with a landscape this bleak, small moments of peace and hope (“It’s for you”) are what keep us all going — and Carl has arguably found that with more characters than the unfathomably damaged Rick has.
Also, despite the reign of the Grimes men, Dead really is an ensemble drama, and I’m sure that there are many people out there who would be more than happy to see more of Daryl (Norman Reedus), Tyreese (Chad Coleman), and Carol (Melissa McBride) — and less of Rick — as time goes on. Last night’s episode narrowed the focus to the Grimes men for the bazillionth time, and I’m sure that that decision has its dissenters.
Should Rick Stay Dead — The Negatives
Regardless of everything I just said… no. Just no. Chandler is a solid actor and the show could move on without Lincoln at its helm, but it shouldn’t. As time has gone on and Rick has morphed from a wild west cowboy to a sweaty PTSD survivor, Lincoln has flourished and become infinitely more interesting. I’d rather see a sorrowful Rick trying his darndest to build a sustainable reality for his son than the “he talked about the deer,” Shane-fighting Rick of yesteryear. That Rick had swagger, but this Rick is heartbreaking and utterly relatable. All much as we’d all love to think that we’d be a Daryl or a Michonne in a zombie apocalypse, it’s far more likely that we’d end up somewhere in the middle of the moral spectrum, like Rick. In a show filled with caricatures, Rick is undeniably the real freaking deal.
I mean, characters like Daryl, Michonne, and Carol are interesting for sure — plus, at least two of them make for better action figures — but Rick is the one being forced to make the impossible decisions that ground this show in its own reality. And it’s Rick’s somehow still-solid parenting that has morphed Carl into the admirable young man we’ve enjoyed over the last several months. He was teetering over the edge there for a while, and as interesting and fun as it was to watch Carl almost become a tiny sociopath, we needed Rick there to help him tow that moral line. So if Rick kicked the bucket, what would happen to Carl then? Would he continue to be the kid who strives for human connection and bonds over comic books with Michonne, or would he wander off and eat all of the pudding by himself like a little prick? Methinks it would be the latter, and the last thing Dead needs is another sociopath running the show after that unfortunate Governor debacle from last fall.
Also, that hair!
What do you think, fellow Dead-heads? Would you enjoy a Walking Dead with Carl in the front and center, or do you still love Rick as the lead? Or, alternately, is there another character you’d love to see more of? Let me know in the comments!
— Shaunna Murphy