Since the end of The Walking Dead Season 6 the focus has been on who will meet the business end of Negan's bat, Lucille, but a more interesting question is what will happen to everyone who survives that encounter? There is no character who will face bigger repercussions than Rick Grimes, the show's fearless leader. Rick has dealt with his best friend's betrayal, losing his wife, facing the Governor, and cannibals. Through it all he has grown in confidence and his belief there is nothing his group cannot achieve if they stick together. Season 7 is going to dismantle Rick's ideology and The Walking Dead may become a better show in the process.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Andrew Lincoln spoke candidly about the change fans can expect to see in Rick now that he and everyone he cares about are in Negan's hands. "You meet a man who's powerless, terrified for his own life and his son's family’s life, and everybody else beside him," Lincoln told EW. "And he realizes that there’s a new world, a much bigger, scarier, and formidable world."
Rick's power and authority are being taken away from him and it will be the most interesting thing to happen to the character in a long time. The Walking Dead found a hero in Rick, but without a fall, a hero can become complacent. After the Glenn and Daryl death fakeouts in Season 6, the post-apocalyptic world Rick and his friends inhabited began to feel too safe. It seemed nothing could touch the core characters, and that is not a good thing.
By stripping Rick of his leadership role, the audience will get to see Rick as a person. Bringing Rick back to his base instincts, forcing him to examine who he is as a man, father, and friend could lead to some of the show's best material. For the first time, the show is introducing a real threat to Rick's role. Negan wants to absorb Rick's group into his own. He wants to make them work for him and in the process reshape the entire narrative.
Every surviving character will be left in a situation where their entire worldview is upset. Can they bring themselves to work for a man who killed one of their own? How will Rick's failure to protect them change their perception of the man they trusted to keep them safe? The ripple effect from the introduction of Negan is going to be like a shot of adrenaline.
The Walking Dead is an untouchable hit for AMC, and it is in no danger of losing viewers, but even the best shows have to reinvent themselves as they age. Taking a character as beloved as Rick and putting him in a place where he will feel disoriented and defeated is the perfect way to kick off the next chapter for these characters. Rick will have to go on a journey of rediscovery this season. His unwavering belief in his leadership skills is going to crumble, and the Rick that rises in the aftermath is a Rick fans should want to meet.
Rick is headed into uncharted territory in Season 7, and he's taking the show along with him. There has never been a more exciting time to be a fan of The Walking Dead.
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