(If you aren’t up to date, beware of *spoilers*)
[su_quote cite=”Shane Walsh”]”Rick you can’t just be the good guy and expect to live, not anymore”[/su_quote]
For the characters in the Walking Dead, years of enduring this decimated world has made them strong survivors so when basic needs get scarce, there’s got to be a way to sustain the new life they have become accustomed to. We have seen Rick and his group use strong democratic morals and judgments that still aligned, albeit teetered on the edge, of our own feelings about what is morally acceptable behavior. We’ve also seem some behaviors, we didn’t agree with but we accepted for the greater good.
Either way, it seemed up until this point in season 6, there were definitive lines on good and bad. We watch our main characters fortify their homes from outsiders and walkers, each episode fearing for the inevitable: another main character death, a walker invasion, or something else dreadful in this ominous series- an encounter with the bad guys. But in the last few episodes, we get a huge emotional twist: instead of renegades attacking, we see our “heroes” viciously tear down others in a desperate attempt for survival. This murderous and reactionary response created a shocked reception and forces us to ask the question: who really are the good guys anyway?
Good vs. Bad
We have made our judgement about others based on the perspective of our main characters up until this point, cheering them on, caring and fearing for them. We decided that people who attacked our team or put them in danger were bad. We have also determined that people who were defending themselves, even violently, against corrupt or horribly immoral groups were good. We were glad when we watched Carol’s abusive husband become zombie food. And there was careless Nicholas cowardly killing Noahand almost getting Glenn killed numerous times. We were waiting with baited breath for the destruction of the burger-grilling, Terminus crazies. And we cheered for the demise of The Governor despite a glimpse into his sadness and personal strife dealing with his zombified daughter.
We see this in the largest conflict throughout the beginning of the show: the best friend feud between Shane and Rick. Not only in a fight for some resolution in a new family structure as Rick returns, but also a leadership struggle of which direction the group should take. In the end, Shane lost this battle and Rick took the lead. In season 6, we were sure that the scavenging Wolves were bad, but we considered Morgan’s choice to keep Owen acceptable when Owen saves Denise’s life.
But what of these pockets of tribes still enduring in their own ways, living according to their own neo-morals and post-apocalyptic values?
A Gray Area
Much like the feuding tribal communities before agricultural and industrial revolutions of our own historic past, in this post-apocalyptic society, it appears it is necessary to trade, barter and kill for your survival. Episode 13: The Same Boat forces us to consider the other survivors as our “heroes” aren’t acting so heroic anymore.
Carol and Maggie are in captivity as a response to the group’s slaughter of sleeping Negan followers. With these deaths, the line of no return has been crossed putting us into a strange gray area of uncertainty and it is blatantly obvious when Chelle tells Maggie, “you’re not the good guys. You should know that.” Who’s to say who is right in this mangled social experiment? Even democratic Maggie has a contemplative look in this scene, considering this new information- and with her, we wonder whose side we should be on. Ultimately, we are torn between our old associations of those bad extremists and the consideration of the emotional reactions and lives of the others just trying to survive.
In Episode 14: Twice as Far, with everyone at their breaking point, we watch these emotions take over as Carol sneaks away, Daryl goes on a man-hunt and Morgan decides to leave the group. The search parties spread out and all hell breaks loose leaving us with a handful of loose ends to discover.
In the End
Season 6 forces us to look at what remnants of humanity endure after the main characters encounter zombified herds and tribal fights. Throughout each successive episode, we see individuals and groups thrown into situations that force them to consider their survival over morals and values even at the cost of the lives of others. These deep glimpses into the gray areas of morality and societal perpetuation are ultimately what draws us in for more insisting we contemplate our own personal morals to decide what is good and bad, as the lines of right and wrong shift and change. With the final episode upon us, what will happen to our heartstrings next?