Opinion: The Walking Dead Must Kill Rick Grimes

Posted by on November 10th, 2011

Would you rather an adaptation of a source material be a literal copy or a totally new story with the same characters and themes?

It’s a fundamental question, which I believe is at the heart of the ever raging debate amongst The Walking Dead viewers and fans of the Robert Kirkman funny book. Do you want to see actors portray stories you know on sets that resemble what you’ve seen before? Or do you want the story to surprise you, like the source material once did, with new twists and turns?

If your answer is the latter, then there is nothing that could shake up the story in the AMC series than to kill our hero Rick Grimes. I explain AFTER THE JUMP…Credit where credit is due, I started thinking about this after it was casually mentioned on this episode of The BS Report with Bill Simmons. He and Grantland writer David Jacoby (neither of whom have read the comic) mentioned that if Rick died, it would make the show more interesting.

I have read the book and I think they’re right. He’s why…

It reinforces the core themes of the show and the book

Chiefly, anyone can die and this living hell will unleash every element of horror on our survivors. Sisters die, infants die, family members are turned into screeching imps that try to tear your lungs out.

Up to this point, it has been the story of Rick. We followed his perspective from the cop car to now. But really, isn’t this a story about survival? And what the price of that survival is?

Meanwhile, Rick’s plot arc has reinforced his struggle to assume the leadership role he needs to embrace. Wouldn’t it be an amazingly macabre end if he was overtaken by the burden? If he gave 100% and died anyhow?

If that isn’t The Walking Dead, I don’t know what is.


It opens up myriad character possibilities

Not only has Shane had a more interesting journey. But his very existence in this version of the story gives the survivors two ALPHA skitched-20111110-162734.jpgpersonalities to lead them.

Meanwhile, a dead Rick effects our most compelling characters and best actors (read: Lori, Shane and Carl) a ton to chew on.

How do the rest of the survivors take it? In the first season it was Rick that stood between a coked up Merle Dixon and ultimate leadership. Who stands up once he’s gone?

These are massive, character-based problems that demand resolution. Something that a billion episodes of looking for Sophia in the woods could not produce.

It buries the “BUT IN THE BOOK!” argument

This one is personal.

I am very much an proponent for this series to be it’s own story. The “…but in the BOOK!” argument gets on my last nerve. I’ve been critical of the series for a lot, but I’ve always tried to let it live on it’s own.

Killing Rick emancipates the series from the comic. The book was Rick’s story, the series is not. It’s that simple.

Besides, it would really, really, really irritate book purists, which would delight me to no end.

15 Responses to “Opinion: The Walking Dead Must Kill Rick Grimes”

  1. Michael Kolodoski Says:

    I actually like the idea. The comic is Rick’s story. Shane is still alive in the TV series, so make the TV adaptation Shane’s story: Shane is the one to survive instead of Rick… and have everyone grow goatees so we can tell at a glance that it’s in the mirror universe.


  2. Michael Kolodoski Says:

    I actually like the idea. The comic is Rick’s story. Shane is still alive in the TV series, so make the TV adaptation Shane’s story: Shane is the one to survive instead of Rick… and have everyone grow goatees so we can tell at a glance that it’s in the mirror universe.


  3. Stwo Says:

    I agree.  Screw the book purists.  

  4. Stwo Says:

    I agree.  Screw the book purists.  

  5. Rich Dean Says:

    I have not read the books but I like the idea that no one is safe.

  6. Chris Tisdale Says:

    As someone who is not nearly as critical of this show as most people, (it’s still a goddamned zombie apocalypse TV show, something that has never been on TV before, and that I’ve wanted to see since I saw Night of the Living Dead.) the only two things I have complaints about are: 

    1: Sophia needs to be found so that (assuming they want to follow some of the book) the relationship between her and Carl can start developing, or so that they can make another unnecessarilly high pile of rocks at the farm in her honour and move on. 

    2: While I think killing Rick like you suggest is extreme, and highly unlikely, one of the most interesting things from the books (spoilers ahead, perrhaps) is watching everything about Rick fall apart as he tries to hold everything together. Short of being exsanguinated to feed Carl’s greedy bullet wound, to the point of almost maybe passing out, we haven’t seen enough terrible things happen to him to fascilitate his decline. I want to kill him too, but more slowly, over seasons. Because I’m a humanitarian.

  7. Xcamr Says:

    Either Rick gets crazy as hell fast, or drop him…

  8. EbonNebula Says:

    I would disagree, at least for now. It seems like what they are trying to do is stack the deck for a power struggle between Rick and Shane. Like you mentioned, two Alphas in one pack doesn’t work two well. On one hand we have Rick, a bit of a white knight who sometimes makes stupid decisions out of morality. On the other hand we have Shane, the “evil within” with a history of backstabbing allies to save his own ass.

    It would certainly be exciting to choose Shane over Rick, but at the end of the day, the audience needs characters they can associate with. I shouldn’t have to remind anyone what happens when choose excitement over characters people care about *cough* Star Wars prequels *cough*

  9. JustinRYoung Says:

    There was nothing exciting about the prequels. How dare you.

  10. JustinRYoung Says:

    If anyone thinks the post-prison elements of the book where Rick is going crazy and hearing voices will play on television they are crazy. It’s tedious and annoying in the book, it will be slow death on the screen.

  11. JustinRYoung Says:

    I really don’t think it’s “Shane’s story” as much as it’s a story for survival.

  12. soemarko Says:

    note that I have not watch any of season 2. not killing shane in the first season reminded so much of season 2 of heroes where sylar overstay his welcome. and I never watch heroes beyond that. so, on that, I’ll wait until the end of this season whether it pays of or not, based on my friends’ reviews, yours, brian’s and tom’s of course.

    however I read the comics, which I’ll say the book is about humanity. the way humans treat other humans. it’s not just about surviving the zombie apocalypse, it’s about self preservation against everything including other people. they protect their families and their land and will kill other human being who _might_ screw them.

    on “but in the book” thing, it **really** depends on the execution. I haven’t read any of the Sookie Stackhouse books, but I’ve heard that True Blood is pretty much running on its own, it’s still a fun watch (and Anna Paquin boobs helped). And then there was Dresden Files which books I loved, but the tv show was horrible… still have the bad taste in my mouth remembering it. though it was in early 00’s,.. but still… on the other hand, following the original art is a safer path. look at game of thrones, or in movies, watchmen.

  13. Chris Tisdale Says:

    I agree, and I’m not saying I want them to follow the letter of the books, I’m not a purist in that sense. I think there are quite a few chunks of the books that are mediocre, and should be tempered or avoided on TV, but I also want to see some of the broad strokes of the story and character development, as well as some of the big Holy Shit moments to play out on screen.

  14. mxyzptlk Says:

    There are all kinds of good reasons to make this happen. First, though, you need to ask what’s most important about re-telling a story in a different medium — do you want to slavishly recreate the plot, or do you want to recreate the alchemy created by the narrative for the audience?

    Look at it this way: When Sam Beckett’s works were translated into both French and English, he did the translations himself, and he changed each version on a number of small points. Beckett understood that any kind of translation changed the work and altered how it would be received; you couldn’t just run Endgame through Google Translate and have it achieve the same effect on the audience. He instead manipulated his translations so the English versions would be a little different from French versions, but would still achieve the same kind of effect. I’ll take narrative alchemy over narrative fidelity every time. (And narrative alchemy can entail narrative fidelity — see Game of Thrones.)

    The televised Walking Dead already took some left-turns at Albequrque early on. For one, they never mention the word “zombie,” and Kirkman has said that the TV world is one where George A. Romero never got his corpse on. (Spoier alert: The word “zombie” is used in the comic.) You get Merle and Daryl in this new world, a live and sane Shane, and the CDC functionally takes the place of the prison — all of which leads up to a parallel narrative universe and not simply a reflection. And killing Rick solves a lot of problems people have with this season. Shane can take over Rick’s role, and he’s a far more complicated character than Rick, which makes for better drama later on.

    It’s arguable that Shane’s only out for himself. A lot of people seemed to miss that Shane shaved his head to hide a missing hunk Otis tore out of his scalp after Shane kneecapped him. It wasn’t just to signify Shane’s going all Travis Bickle, like Shwood seemed to think on Frame Rate. But Shane kneecapped Otis out of a simple utilitarian calculation; not enough bullets, both of them lame, and the walkers were catching up. Shane has more physically going for him than Otis, so he’s more likely to get out. Kneecapping Otis creates a diversion for the walkers, giving Shane time to escape and save Carl. Shane’s also more likely to be of use to the group if he survives than Otis is. I can already hear you asking, “But why not just shoot Otis in the head? Why make him a screaming smorgasbord?” As we know, the walkers like fresh meat, and a still-struggling Otis gives Shane more time to escape. It’s cold and mechanistic, but we were already prepped for that when Dale said he didn’t want to get into the ‘good-of-the-many vs the-good-of-the-few’ arguments. Dale didn’t want to, but Shane just went there.

    So if Rick gets topped, Shane’s already in position to take over Rick’s function from the comics. Shane’s also already proven to be a lot more morally gray then everyone but maybe Daryl — except Shane’s morality comes from utilitarianism and not racism. If we learned anything from Lost, it’s that morally complicated characters make for better leaders and a lot better television. So lets hope the producers find a cool way to knock Rick off and recreate the unnerving instability of Kirkman’s comics.

    (My vote: Rick goes mad and becomes a kind of Ben Gunn hermit wandering the mountains, living in caves, and he figures out a way to command a small army of walkers to help him find a buried treasure.)

  15. mxyzptlk Says:

    Funny — I’ve been talking to Rick on the phone a lot lately, and he thinks it will work. I don’t know if I should trust him, though.