In the latest episode of The Walking Dead, Rick took actions way more suited to a villain than a hero. Has Carl's death made him abandon morality? As the old saying goes, war is hell. That has definitely proven true for those involved in the all-out war between Rick's makeshift army and Negan's brutal Saviors. The conflict has already resulted in massive numbers of casualties, some at the hands of either side, and some at the teeth of walkers.
Arguably the biggest loss of The Walking Dead season 8 so far has been Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), who died after being munched on by a walker. Sadly, his bite was on the torso, so a quick Herschel-style amputation wasn't an option in his case. As one might imagine, losing his son seems to have changed Rick for the worse, leading him to try and literally fight through his grief, instead of taking any time to try and emotionally reconcile with his loss.
That lack of emotion was taken to an extreme during the episode "Still Gotta Mean Something." In response to the escape of the Hilltop's band of Savior prisoners last week - inadvertently caused by Henry - Rick decided to head out and find them. While he paid a bit of lip service to bringing them back alive, clearly he left with the intention to kill. Along the way, he ran into an increasingly unhinged Morgan, who also planned to kill all the escapees. Unfortunately, the Saviors got the jump on Rick and Morgan, tying them up.
While the Savior escapees argued about whether to return to Negan's compound, a bound Rick made them an offer: release us, and we'll let you return to the Hilltop as members of the community. Rick even gave them "his word," stressing that a man's word still meant something. The decision had to be made fast, though, as a walker horde was soon due to arrive. When the walkers showed up, the Saviors turned on their leader (Jared - the man who killed Henry's older brother, Benjamin), untied Rick and Morgan, and gave them their weapons back. This was almost immediately followed by Rick and Morgan slaughtering the men who just freed them, with Rick even murdering a man who just minutes before had saved him from a walker attack coming from the rear.
These weren't quick kills either, with one of Rick's victims being thrown to walkers and horrifyingly devoured. The guy who had just saved Rick was treated to first getting a hatchet in the neck, then a bullet in the brain, all while clearly wondering what he had done to deserve this fate. While Jared's own flesh-ripping demise at the hands of walkers was arguably deserved, none of his compatriots had seemingly done anything to warrant being massacred so violently. While this isn't the first time grief has caused Rick to snap, it's extra notable now, as Carl recently expressed his desire for Rick to once again be the kind man he once was, and unite the survivors of the war after it ended. At this point, Rick has no moral high ground left, and Carl would no doubt be ashamed of his actions.
Can Rick still be the man Carl hoped one day? It's possible, but seems to grow more unlikely by the day. While Negan is far from a good man, at least he has a "code" he tends to stick to, as perverse as that code can sometimes be. At his worst, Rick is pure chaos, a force solely of destruction. Should he survive the war, he may be in no condition to lead anyone into a bright future.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.