During last year’s season finale of The Walking Dead, there’s a scene where (SPOILER ALERT) our favorite perpetually dour cowboy, Rick Grimes, discovers Andrea dying on the floor of the Governor’s torture chamber. It’s meant to be a heart wrenching moment except due to her character’s decline from bland to irritating to unforgivably dumb, most viewers, I would guess, watched her demise with fiendish glee, ate it up like candy, etc. Anyway, after her death, Rick exits the torture room and grimly shuffles down a hallway; no tension, no suspense. This is the moment, I would submit, when the Governor should have popped out and shot Rick in the head.
Why would I wish death upon the show’s main character, the ostensible hero of this sadness porn? Andrew Lincoln’s a solid actor, eking out plenty of gravitas, perfecting his gloomy Rick Face. I also don’t think killing off characters is a great way to advance a story, a mistake Lost made more frequently as quality dipped, and I’m not even particularly interested in the “OMG ANYONE CAN DIE” shock value. No, the primary reason I think Rick should be dispatched is because he’s basically dead already.
Sure, the theme of the show and the comic, The Walking Dead, is the living have become as dead inside as the zombies, but guess what: a gloomy guy puttering around, making bleak declarations about their situation, frowning at dead bodies, all with little to drive him other than keeping his son alive gets boring real fast. Even the writers seem lost as to what to do with Rick, so he spends the whole first episode of season 4 following a lady–who never recurs–through the woods to her camp where she promptly stabs herself in the belly. The message: gosh we live in a harsh unforgiving world. Wait–what? We know this already. Why do we need to cut away from the cool characters fighting zombies raining from the ceiling for a reminder this is a godless hellscape?
Besides that, even Rick himself seems sick of being alive, and in a meta way, seems confused as to why he’s still on the show, with the subtext to his nearly every scene being ‘This is all pointless.’ Even his zombie hacking is passionless, mechanical. More than any other character, he comes off weary and exasperated with the never-ending cascade of crises, from plagues to zombies to psychopaths. Part of this, I think, comes from his lack of hobbies, interests (besides grimacing), or any joie de vivre at all, which was also my big problem with Jack Shephard on Lost. Life is one long funeral for these dummies because they have no other note to their personalities besides ‘somber’.
And like Jack Shephard, Rick is no one’s favorite character (not even their second or third), and regardless of interest level, is automatically relegated to the role of Standard White Male Lead. For guidance, let’s look at a dramatically better show, one that has plenty of somber moments as well as funny ones: Game of Thrones. (SPOILER ALERT FOR GAME OF THRONES.) Toward the end of the first season, the beloved main character, the crux of the show, gets offed. Afterward, plenty of viewers felt betrayed and threatened to stop watching because their favorite character was gone. Instead, not only did it not ruin the show, it dramatically subverted viewers’ expectations and opened up the narrative to fresh, more surprising directions like—okay, yeah, more main characters dying, but also other things.
Likewise, Rick’s death would breathe new life (no pun intended) into The Walking Dead, with more time to focus on Daryl, Michonne, and even Tyreese, all of whom I find more engaging to watch than Rick. Meanwhile, I’d imagine Carl’s character would turn even darker, correcting the missed opportunity of not dealing with Carl’s coldhearted execution from the season 3 finale. After all, which is more fun to watch: a vicious child psychopath lurking in their midst or…I don’t even know what Carl is now. Severe? This seems like common sense to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love The Walking Dead despite its humorlessness, occasionally stilted dialogue, and odd character choices like Tyreese going bananas and punching people. It’s amazing to me that such an unabashedly pessimistic show could appeal to 16.1 million Americans, many of whom probably also love Big Bang Theory and The Voice. Even with Rick’s presence, I still relish the survivors’ despair and the ever present prospect of worse misery to come. As with The Killing or emails from Change.org, I love the vision of a world consumed by sadness. But I’d love it even more if a zombie chowed down on Rick’s miserable face.