Zeb Larson reviews The Walking Dead #152…
There’s a reason why dictators don’t just kill their enemies, but kill their enemies’ families as well: no future reprisals to fear. It’s not exactly humane or just, but under the right circumstances it might make more sense than allowing a potential enemy to live. Rick has to reckon with this problem in this issue. Amid the successes he’s seeing in trying to get his people ready for a war with the Whisperers, he still has potential fifth columnists ready to wreck things at home. I will be discussing spoilers from here on out, so consider yourself forewarned.
We pick up where we left off with Eugene talking to the other person on the radio. Their initial contact is mixed with excitement and distrust. Both of them have been double-crossed at some point, and they’re afraid to give anything away that would make them vulnerable. On the flip side, they’re excited that there is another organized group out there, and they agree to start talking every day. The situation with the radio is an interesting one; in all this time, we’ve never seen people be able to communicate over long-distances. Like the other person says, this is a brand-new kind of situation, and watching Eugene try to guess the stranger’s intentions is a good read. However, there’s a potential problem here too, because Eugene agrees to keep it a secret from Rick.
Dwight’s training program is going well, and Father Gabriel takes to the whole thing rather quickly. There are some other problems, though: Brandon, Morton’s son. He throws a few punches at Rick, who then gains the upper hand and tries to scare him. It doesn’t take, and Brandon visits Negan. He’s willing to Negan go if Negan will take Brandon to the Whisperers, and the community is in a panic when they see that Negan is indeed gone.
I don’t know that I buy that Negan is going off to betray Rick, at least not yet. He’s had the opportunity to escape once before, and he didn’t take it. He doesn’t exactly leap at the chance when it’s offered to him either, acting rather ambivalent about the possibility of escape. That’s not to say that he’s suddenly loyal to Rick or isn’t playing his own game, but running off to sell Rick to the Whisperers would be kind of a clumsy move. Negan, more than anything else, seems interested in power. Burning these communities to the ground would be out of character for him, as his angle this whole time seems to have been finding a way to get back into a position of power.
Now, if Negan were to bring Rick Brandon, he would be in a real position to move up. He’d simultaneously be demonstrating loyalty, and he’d have yet another chance to play the devil on Rick’s shoulder. Brandon shouldn’t be allowed to live at this point. He’s ably demonstrated that he’s a threat, one who’s willing to kill dozens of innocents just to get to Rick. If Rick were to listen to Negan’s hypothetical advice, it would almost assuredly be to kill Brandon, making Rick into the kind of leader Negan has wanted him to be for a while.
Perhaps I’m wrong, and Negan has been waiting for this moment to escape. I kind of hope that I’m right, though, because it suggests two interesting arcs for Negan. It could be a kind of redemptive arc, channeling his gift for manipulation and killing into a socially-useful direction. Or, it’s one hell of a revenge story, as Negan tries to make Rick more like him.