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The Walking Dead: Why Rick's Speech to the Survivors Matters

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead, "Mercy," which as of publication has not yet aired on the west coast.

The Walking Dead ended its seventh season by setting up a war between Negan's Saviors and Rick Grimes' group, and the unification of Alexandria, Hilltop and the Kingdom. In a soft, reflective speech, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) told Rick how everything that had happened to them -- beginning with the moment Glenn decided to save Rick in the series premiere -- had brought them to that point.

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Similarly, the Season 8 premiere, "Mercy," opens with another kind of speech -- rousing, inspiring one delivered by Rick, as he addresses his troops. It's a call to arms that looks to both the past and the future.

As he stands above his army, Rick talks about the bigger world he found, and how that it's now theirs for the taking; how there's still room for good people who want to build instead of control. He tells everyone that no matter what happens, no matter who lives or who dies, the simple fact that they're standing, that on this very day, they choose to fight for the kind of world they want, and that their battle is already won.

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As Rick states a few times throughout the episode, it's not about him; it's not about the one person. It's about the entire world, the characters we have met and those we haven't yet. It's about the Hilltop and the Kingdom and Alexandria, and Judith. The people, the collective.

In The Walking Dead #115, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, before Rick also makes a speech before he sets out to start his war against Negan. But that speech is delivered on a much more surface-level. It's a declaration of war, a rallying of the troops as he tells his people that right now, they have no choice but to be soldiers, even if they aren't. However, the television series decides to give a different kind of address, one that's much more introspective and inspiring.

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Rick's speech very much represents what The Walking Dead, from its first episode, was always about: not just about fighting to survive, but fighting for tomorrow -- against the dead, and the living. From the moment Glenn saved Rick, the series was about community, about the bonds between people, whether they were friends or strangers. Only together could there then be hope to build -- to go forward.

And this is exactly what Rick is telling his troops. As he looks to the devastating battle ahead, as he and his allies are about to embark on a war that will undoubtedly leave many of them dead, friends or strangers, they are all survivors. They are all fighters. And they are all builders -- of a better world, and of a better tomorrow.

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, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes, 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.

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