The group continues to move towards Washington DC but on the way Rick and Abraham continue to but heads about who is in charge and basically who is the alpha male around. While travelling they take a detour to Rick’s old home in order to restock on supplies. There they meet Morgan and find he is in a bad state after the death and zombiehood of his son Duance.
Along the road they are attacked by bandits who try to rape Carl which triggers Rick to completely lose it and make them severely regret it. On the road, Rick and Abraham find common ground discussing the actions they’ve been driven to and the people they’ve lost.
They’re spurred to run again by a massive zombie herd
This Volume can probably be summed up with a quote from Rick:
“Our switches flipped, we’re doing whatever it takes - Whatever it takes - to survive and to help those around us to survive. Those people without the switch - those who weren’t able to go from law-abiding citizens to stone cold killers, those are the ones shambling around out there trying to eat us.”
In the aftermath of so much disaster and so much trauma, this volume is about what the zombie apocalypse does to people and how they react.
Some people, like the Governor and the people who attacked Carl and the people who raped and killed Abraham’s family have taken advantage of lawlessness to become complete monsters. Their “switches” have flipped too far and they’ve become savage fiends.
But others like Rick, Abraham and Carl - and Michonne for that matter - have flipped that switch to become what Rick describes - people willing to do whatever it takes to survive. They have all crossed lines of conventional, civilised morality but by doing so, they have kept not just themselves, but their groups safe. Without the ruthlessness of these people, the group would long since have disbanded or died. It is the very thing that causes the others to doubt them and even fear them that has allow those others to survive at all.
They have adapted to the new world, accepted it and done what they need to do to keep their little communities going. They realise that the world is not going to go back to what it was and they have resolved to do whatever it takes to live. Again to quote Rick:
“It doesn’t whether we can live with yourselves, so long as you live.”
Ultimately, conscience is a luxury they cannot afford.
Those who haven’t flipped their switch, for the most part have broken to one degree or other, unable to cope with what they’ve experienced. As discussed last week, Rick and Michonne are carrying their own damage - but even then then they are aware of their delusions and their delusions give them strength and help them cope with what they’ve dealt with.
Compare that to Morgan who, in his grief and solitude, has not remained stable in the aftermath and is both self-harming and virtually incomprehensible. We see this with Ben’s disturbing behaviour dissecting a cat - a classic early serial killer sign and we see this with Sophia and her utter denial of reality. Above all we see this in the suicides, the people who quite literally could not cope. The group ran across a house this volume with a family inside that had chosen to die rather than face the zombie world. And, of course, Maggie who has lost all of her extremely large family, attempted suicide as well; to say nothing of the Carol’s suicide back at the prison.
Even Dale, who appears to be among the more unaffected members despite his losses, has embraced his own form of obsessive delusion. He is convinced that if he and Andrea and the twins leave the group then they will fine - they will find their peaceful little utopia and live a happy life. This is completely ignoring the reality they live in and he is pursuing to such an extent that not only is he regularly nagging Andrea to stay but he has started blaming all of their problems on Rick - Rick has become a scapegoat for the dystopia. If he can escape Rick, he can escape the zombies. This allows him to hold on to hope for the future, but prevents him confronting the world as it really is.
All of these who’s “switches haven’t flipped” have survived because of those who have become ruthless.
The only members of the group who, so far, have not become unstable or noticeably harmed by the dystopia are Glen (who hasn’t suffered any severe losses - he was already estranged from his family, he wasn’t tortured or hurt in Woodbury and has even found love post-zombie rising) and Andrea (who has suffered losses but we don’t really spend enough time in her head to see much about her).
One of the compelling elements of Walking Dead is the way people cope with the dystopia, what is happening to them and what they are forced to do and it’s extremely well maintained theme.
In terms of issues, there weren’t as many problems as we’ve seen previously, largely because a lot of the volume was spent on Abraham, Carl and Rick and the relationship between Rick and Abraham; though this did again focus that the leadership would be between the alpha male straight white men.
Even though we didn’t see as much of her, Michonne continues to shine this volume as Rick’s second. She constantly has his back and she’s constantly the one he relies upon. In addition, she dishes out excellent common sense, shows a constant ability to plan, think ahead and think tactically (even with throwaway lines like seeing that people had looted the knives and axes but had neglected to take the sharpeners). She’s thorough, intelligent and intensely capable. Even at the end of the volume when everyone is running from the Herd, she is the one who recovers quickest and instantly has orders for where everyone needs to be and what everyone needs to do. She organises the group to move in a second - not Abraham the soldier, not Rick the long term leader, it’s Michonne who knows what she’s doing and what everyone else needs to do.
Less positively, Rosita is still nothing more than Abraham’s love interest and the way Dale treats Andrea sets my teeth on edge. Yet again Dale wants to abandon the group only this time Andrea finally refuses - to which Dale gets her on her own so he can “talk some sense into her.” He completely dismisses Andrea’s very valid objections and even uses the line “I know what’s best for us.” Which, if I had been Andrea, would have earned him a swift slap across the face because rarely have I seen something so patronising. The only reason he doesn’t get his way is because of the herd.
Alive: Rick, Michonne, Carl, Dale, Andrea, Bill, Ben, Glen, Maggie, Sophia, Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, Morgan