Its not often I write a third blog post in a week. I’m writing this on Tuesday, having just watched the latest instalment of The Walking Dead.
I’ve been a long time fan of the Walking Dead television show. It’s quality has waned somewhat in the last 2 or 3 years. Previously known for gripping drama and even horror but unbeknownst to non-fans, some of the best writing, characterisation and acting too.
This fell by the way-side with the overly long feud with the admittedly coolest bad-guy ever in the shape of Negan and his trusted barbed wire encased baseball bat, Lucille. Never ending battles, scripts and stories that made little sense, confusing fights and the loss of many beloved characters for seemingly gratuitous and pointless reasons.
Happily with the terrible producer booted upstairs, The Walking Dead has improved dramatically this year. The stories are back to being gripping, slower paced with thrilling moments and the eternal battle for survival both against Walkers, other humans and to rebuild civilisation.
One thing that has been ever present in life has been the leading character Rick Grimes. The police officer around whom the series has been built and whose ups and downs have had us all gripped.
I’m a big fan of Rick and of British actor Andrew Lincoln who so ably plays him. Rick is such a heroic character, he reminds me of Captain James T. Kirk. Upholding the law, protecting the weak and the good against the bad and the dead no matter what the cost.
I’m sure Andrew Lincoln didn’t expect the show to still be running 9 years on and his understandable needs to return to Blighty to spend more time with his family have necessitated the end of Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead, for now at least. I’m really glad that he didn’t end up as a zombie though and also that his final season has returned to good quality and so his last appearance or death wasn’t like those of many of his compatriots in recent years.
Having been impaled on a steel rod and at deaths door, Rick spent much of the hour walking slowly on horseback just a few feet from one of the larger hoard of Walkers we have seen for a year or two. What was always going to be a memorable episode was made more so by the re-appearance in a dazed state by some of the other characters we have lost.
First up was his ‘brother’ Shane. Taking the show right back to the beginning and the police incident that saw Rick end in hospital where it all began. It was great to see Shane again and a little amusing that Shane reminds Rick that the family Rick has been fighting for, is likely his. Shane forgives him for his death and the pair natter on with some of the banter that made the first year or two so enjoyable. Shane was a nice guy, before he had his way, with Ricks wife Lori, undermind Ricks authority and then tried to kill him. Interestingly in all of these dream sequences, the characters strongly urge Rick to return to reality whilst depicting the sides of Ricks personality. Shane presenting that tough, go-get them approach.
Towards the end of the episode, Rick finds himself in a large expanse of dead bodies. One of which is presumably the lovely Beth who was so tragically killed some years ago. Here Rick comes face to face with Sasha who re-assures Rick that he always did his best and did what he had to do to help his friends and family and hold on to some semblance of humanity.
There is another similar scene where Rick dreams he has been saved by his friends and Michonne which shows us the part of him that feels at home and belonging.
My favourite scene of the week though and one of my favourite in any television episode ever is the one with Hershel. Hershel is one of my favourite characters I’ve had the pleasure of stumbling across in life. An elderly farmer in the state of Georgia. He is full of love and heart, something which is sorely missing in the world Rick finds himself in. Rick and friends come across his farm in season 2, a refuge from the death outside. Except of course for the barn which houses several Walkers as Hershel is so full of love that he hopes they can be restored to humanity.
I love Hershel so much, partly for the character and partly for the actor, Scott Wilson. Hershel died too soon at the hands of The Governor and sadly in October this year, so too did Scott Wilson after a battle against Leukaemia. However, Scott was always hugely supportive of The Walking Dead and somehow after several years, came back to film one last scene.
Here Rick finds love, happiness and home and Hershel assures him he has nothing to apologise for despite the terrible carnage that Rick inadvertently inflicted on Hershel and his family.
Apparently it was quite emotional for nearly every fan who watched it and I don’t think you have to know who either character is to see what a touching scene it is.
Surprisingly to non-fans, these scenes are really what The Walking Dead are about as much as any gore. Beautiful, raw and touching.
Hershel reminds me of Red in Shawshank Redemption, I guess I just like kindly, wise and gentle male characters in a world where there are so few. Maybe I see a bit of myself in the future, albeit hopefully without the 40 years in prison or a apocalyptic world.
And finally we get to the end of the Rick Grimes, or at least almost the end for now. All year Rick has been obsessed about building the bridge to facilitate better trade and communication between his various communities. With a large army of Walkers on his tail and heading to peaceful and unready Hill Top, Rick does what he always does. Finds a way to save his friends and family, one last time.
It’s incredibly cinematic and again does what Walking Dead should do, bring these epic horrific moments and intwine them in emotion and characters as can be seen by one of the toughest characters on television in the shape of Darryl, walking away in tears.
I hope Rick and Darryl will re-unite one day and with Rick being whisked away by that mysterious helicopter it seems that there is a good chance this might happen one day.
Interestingly, the terrible Negan who killed so many either directly or indirectly including Ricks son Carl, avoided death in prison. Maggie, eldest daughter of Hershel who has gone from gentle farm-girl to a warrior and leader went to kill Negan… and actually put in place the events that had Rick in trouble. Seeing Negan crying pitifully as all he wanted to do was die so he could be with his family was the one thing that stopped Maggie from killing him against Ricks wishes. For death would be easy and Negan needs to suffer. Quite how his character can ever be redeemed is beyond me. I’m guessing only some sort of martyrdom in a similar manner to Darryl’s hillbilly and rather evil brother Merle will be his future.
Or perhaps Negan will be the new leader. For the the episode finishes with a jump 6 years into the future when a small group of humans about to be overcome by Walkers are saved by the unflinching shots of a young girl wearing a distinctive Sheriff hat of Rick and carrying the sword of Michonne. Judith Grimes has grown up a little and is every bit in the footsteps of Carl, Michonne, Rick and even her blood father Shane.
I’ll miss Rick Grimes a lot but he leaves a lot of memories. Rick of course can come back but sadly Hershel never can. So long friends.