Zeb Larson reviews The Walking Dead #144…
(There are big spoilers in this issue, so I’m putting up an especially big red flag).
Well, this issue of The Walking Dead ends on a predictably bleak note. I think the best thing that can be said is that things didn’t go nearly as badly as they could have, but the slow boil that we were all waiting for is starting to overflow. There are no easy answers about where to go from here, and Rick is going to have to make some awful decisions once the full weight of what has happened becomes known in the community. I will be discussing spoilers in this review, so consider yourself forewarned.
Rick and Alpha walk back from the horde as Alpha explains her views of human beings as nothing more than animals, free from the constraints placed on them by civilized life. Alpha will allow him to leave if he ceases bothering the Whisperers. Carl begs Rick to let them take Lydia with them, and Lydia tells Rick about the rape she suffers. Alpha loudly denies that the rape is anything traumatic and that pain is ephemeral…but in a twist, takes Rick aside and asks her to take Lydia, because she can’t protect her. The group leaves, but not before Lydia tells them that there’s a new border between their lands. Rick finds it: a gruesome picket fence of the heads of various fairgoers, including Ezekiel. Andrea and Michonne approach Rick, and can only ask what happens next.
Alpha’s characterization continues to become more and more interesting, especially as we see some of the ways that she’s trapped. She has to maintain control of a group that seems to believe her ideology as much if not more than she does, and that takes the idea of “might makes right in the jungle” to a horrifying extreme. She can’t risk losing control of the group at all because of that massive horde of zombies: any dissension in the group would risk losing control of it, and losing everything. It’s sort of a humorous, post-apocalyptic spin on nukes: don’t watch over them carefully, and they can destroy you too.
But if Alpha presents as an interesting and complicated character, that doesn’t present much consolation for Rick. All of the happy moments we saw in the fair earlier that reminded us of happier times were completely crushed. The attempt to bring a little bit of normalcy back just left the community vulnerable, and Alpha took advantage of it. (You might say it was a cheap shot to tear that happiness down, but this is The Walking Dead). There’s no way that Rick is going to be able to cover this up for long, either: the sheer number of victims, including Rick’s closeness to some of them (Rosita) and the fact that some of them were leaders (Ezekiel) means that the whole community is going to have to know about this. How are they going to react to all of these deaths?
People don’t usually respond well to mass killings, and somebody’s going to want revenge. Combined with the fallout coming from the Hilltop, and Alexandria looks to be a deeply fractured community. To me, I can’t help but wonder whether this is where Negan will have a chance to come back. With a new threat that’s extraordinarily dangerous and a bunch of people who want revenge, Negan might be the right man for the job.