Eight seasons in, and AMC's The Walking Dead still has the ability to spark intense debate among its legion of viewers, as demonstrated by the latest twist, which stands to change the landscape of the hit drama. The death of Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) in last week's misdeason premiere doesn't only eliminate a character who's been there since the beginning, it leaves his father Rick (Andrew Lincoln) at a crossroads.
As part of his last will and testament in "Honor," Carl begs Rick and Michonne (Danai Gurira) to chart a way toward peace. Even with enemies like Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and traitors like Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Carl preaches that the new world can only be built through non-violence, but that Rick must make the first steps.
That's definitely an idealist notion, considering the lives that Negan's Saviors have taken. With Rick agreeing to present Carl's philosophy to the people he led at Alexandria, to Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and the Hilltop, and to Ezekiel's brethren from the Kingdom, it's difficult to see such a truce going over well. As a result, Rick may now be on the cusp of his biggest threat to date: a full-blown civil war.
We can see Michonne and the peace-seeking Ezekiel (Khary Payton) siding with Rick. But this attempt to honor Carl's dream of everyone (including their sworn enemies) living in harmony will surely be met with hostility, as a lot of blood has already been spilled. Honestly, it's tough to imagine anyone offering forgiveness to Negan's posse, and animosity should be expected from key members of Rick's alliance -- namely Maggie.
Negan beat to death her husband, Glenn (Steven Yeun), and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), after all. Plus countless others have died at the hands of Saviors. Given that Maggie is a key leader at the Hilltop and that she witnessed a similar villain, the Governor (David Morrissey), murder her father, not only would this peace be personal torture for her, it would also dishonor the Hilltop citizens that have suffered or died because of Negan's ruthlessness. Morgan (Lennie James), who has now adopted a bloodthirsty attitude, is likely to be skeptical as well, as he too has seen people lose so much in this post-apocalyptic world.
As for those who could swing either way, Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) come to mind. Not only are they the last remnants of Season 1, they're big parts of Rick's inner-circle. However, despite doing anything to survive in the past, they've been more rational and less trigger-happy lately. They may simply be tired of this war and only want it to end. Dwight (Austin Amelio) is a wildcard, too, given that he turned on Negan, who burned his face and took the love of his life.
It's worth nothing that in the comics, unity was achieved, but quite differently. Rick, after defeating Negan, showed him mercy and kept him imprisoned. Many people hated Rick for that, but eventually, Negan earned his keep and helped to protect Rick's camp. Despite being under constant surveillance, Negan even managed to form an odd bond with Carl. But as we've seen with Carl dying, the show doesn't stick to the source material. So even if Rick wants to form some relationship with Negan's people, there's a chance of even more resistance than in the comic books.
Taking all that into account, it's not a case of if but when this civil war occurs. It won't be like when a jealous Shane (John Bernthal) tried to kill Rick, or when an egotistical Spencer (Austin Nichols) attempted to sell Rick out to Negan so as he could take over Alexandria, or even when a naive Andrea (Laurie Holden) sided with the Governor and tried to convince Rick's people to follow. This civil war will resonate deeper because those disagreeing with Rick will be considered family, and most importantly, they'll have just cause. After all, the enemies Rick will be asking them to coexist with are tyrants that represent everything wrong in a broken world, and with whom it's impoissible to envision any sort of "happily ever after."
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC, The Walking Dead stars Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan.