Spoiler alert: This article speculates about Season 7 of AMC's The Walking Dead and discusses the comic books the TV series is based on. There are spoilers for both the show and the comic book in this article, especially the latter. Please proceed with caution if you wish to avoid spoilers.
As Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead has transformed from just an ordinary zombie comic to one of the most iconic television shows in history and arguably the greatest post-apocalyptic product, many symbols -- squirrels, angel wings, and dumpsters -- have come to perfectly represent the franchise. However, few are able to strike fear, terror, and nostalgia into a fan's heart than one simple word:
First coined by Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick, the Ricktatorship refers to the near-dictator-like leadership that Walking Dead protagonist Rick Grimes has used to keep his friends and family alive in the apocalypse. As time went on, the Ricktatorship that began two months into the zombie outbreak has turned into a full-scale Rickpublic, as our favorite ex-cop now has the full leadership of the Alexandria Safe-Zone and is slowly turning it into the perfect home for his group.
Unfortunately for Rick, an all-our war is set to break out between his group and the Saviors, a cult led by the menacing, F-bomb loving Negan, the Hilltop Colony, and the Kingdom -- and it's one that has already resulted in the death of at least one member of Team Family. As the Season 6 finale showed us, Rick Grimes -- the man who has killed men by biting their throats out, murdered his own best friend in cold blood, and even sacrifice innocents to the walkers -- is still capable of finding something to fear as he locked eyes with Negan.
With a war on the horizon, his group already suffering, and his cold demeanor broken by a ruthless cult leader, is it possible that we could be seeing the end of the Rickpublic?
First, let's start off with a bit of history on the leadership of Rick Grimes and how a group of terrified, weak strangers eventually became one of the strongest survival groups we've seen in any franchise. While unofficially the Ricktatorship began by the time Rick first arrived at the Atlanta camp in Season 1's "Tell It to the Frogs," things weren't official until the former deputy murdered co-leader Shane Walsh and the group had to flee Hershel Greene's farm in the Season 2 finale "Beside the Dying Fire." When Carol Peletier, who would later become one of Rick's closest advisers, told the man to do "do something," the already-hardened survivor responded with one of the most memorable speeches in television history.
"I am doing something! I'm keeping this group together. Alive! I've been doing that all along, no matter what; I didn't ask for this! I killed my best friend for you people, for Christ sake! You saw how he was like. How he pushed me, how he compromised us, how he threatened us. He staged the whole Randall thing, let me out to put a bullet in my back. He gave me no choice! He was my friend, but he came after me. My hands are clean. Maybe you people are better off without me. Go ahead. I say there's a place for us, but maybe- maybe it's just another pipe dream. Maybe -- Maybe I'm fooling myself again. Why don't -- why don't you go out and find yourself. Send me a postcard! Go on, there's the door. You can do better. Let's see how far you get. No takers? Fine. But get one thing straight... you're staying. This isn't a democracy anymore."
When Season 3 starts nearly a year later, the group has become proficient in both hand-to-hand combat and guns. With ease, the group is able to clear the West Georgia Correctional Facility out of walkers -- and prisoners -- and begin turning it into a home, especially for Rick's new daughter, Judith. Daryl Dixon has replaced Shane as Rick's second-in-command, Hershel has turned into a "badass grandpa" who is capable of holding walkers off with a crutch, and Rick's son, Carl, has quickly become a crack shot with a silenced pistol.
Carol, the same woman who openly called Rick out at the end of Season 2, even praises the Colt Python-carrying survivor in a conversation with Daryl.
"Rick's gotten us a lot further than I thought he would, I'll give him that. Shane could never have done that."
By the end of Season 3, though, Rick had begun to doubt both his leadership and his parenting after losing his wife, getting the group into a war with fellow survival camp Woodbury, and having kept his eyes off Carl for the majority of the season. After making the decision not to turn future lover Michonne over to the Governor in "This Sorrowful Life," Rick called everyone together and announced his resignation from the group's leadership position.
"What I said last year, that first night after the farm... it can't be like that. It can't. What we do, what we're willing to do, who we are - it's not my call. It can't be. I couldn't sacrifice one of us for the greater good because... because we are the greater good. We're the reason we're still here, not me. This is life and death. How you live, how you die - it isn't up to me. I'm not your governor. We choose to go. We choose to stay. We stick together."
Then, for a short time, there's a council that makes the decisions, but by the time the prison group reunites after the destruction of their home, Rick is back as their leader for good. Once the group manages to escape from Terminus to start season five, the Ricktatorship has turned more into a family that works as a team -- hence the fandom's nickname of Team Family. Even after the deaths of Bob Stookey, Beth Greene, and Tyreese Williams, the group continues to follow Rick all the way to the Alexandria Safe-Zone, where he becomes their leader within a few weeks.
Now, roughly three months into their stay in Alexandria, the time may be coming for Rick to hang up that fur coat and Python of his and turn Alexandria over -- or at the very least, enter a co-leadership position -- to someone else. By all means, Rick has remained a fantastic leader and has handled everything from abusive husbands to walker herds extremely well, but maybe the father of two has peaked as a leader and could use a break from the action.
Am I saying that Rick could bite the bullet soon and be killed off? No, not at all, especially with him being the protagonist and this story still being his as opposed to Carl's. Am I saying that there's a chance we could see Michonne take on more of a leadership role and even become Rick's replacement as Alexandria's leader in the near-future? Actually, yes.
If there's one thing AMC and the show's writers have done really well in the past few years, it's how they've handled the character of Michonne. While everyone's favorite samurai was just as much of a badass as she was in the comics, her character is held back by essentially being a sex object and getting into relationships with three different men, all of whom die at some point and all of whom she treats like garbage.
But in the show, Michonne feels like a real person, not one who's just there to do video game stuff with a sword and try to seduce every black male who comes along. Since her arrival in the Season 2 finale, we've gotten to see her come out of her shell, see her go from a relatively silent woman to one who is able to happily gush about comic books with Carl, who's she taken in as a son. For a character who rarely ever found happiness in the comic book, Michonne really is one of the few surviving members of the group who's come anywhere close to legitimate happiness in the show.
Michonne becoming Alexandria's leader would also fit in nicely with her arc and character development. Early in Season 2, she laments that she misses Andrea and Hershel, two of the moral compasses that also served as second-in-commands of their respective groups -- Andrea in Woodbury and Hershel with Team Family (Andrea, as her actor Laurie Holden explained in 2013, even was supposed to save and lead Woodbury if she were to kill the Governor). There's also the tie-in of it being the idea of turning Michonne over to the Governor that made Rick re-think his decision to lead in Season 3 and turn things over to a council. Now, that same Michonne would be replacing him as a leader, all because Rick decided to save her.
Rick also has much more incentive to stand down from his leadership role in the near-future as opposed to the end of the all-out war in the graphic novel. Both of Rick's children are alive, he's in a relationship with a woman that was being groomed by both her current boyfriend and ex-Alexandria leader Deanna Monroe on how to lead, and he's not dealing with a handicap like he is in the comics where he has just one hand and has to use a cane to walk.
Rick has always led because he had to, even if others had age and wisdom on him. The council was a good idea in theory, but Rick as a leader likely would have handled the Governor situation a bit better. If the group went back to a council after being reunited at Terminus, how long would they have lasted before getting separated again? Weeks? Days? When Rick leads, nothing can stop him or Team Family aside from the plot.
But, it also probably helps Rick that the one person he'd be giving a leadership position to is his girlfriend/partner. Andrea, who is Rick's girlfriend/wife in the comic, is smart and a great shot, but she didn't really fit the commanding role that Rick and Michonne do. Sniping people from a distance with precision doesn't equal being good enough to help a now-prospering Alexandria survive the threats outside.
Although there's a chance Maggie could also lead Alexandria if Rick were to resign, it's much more likely that she'll be taking over either the Hilltop or the Kingdom the way she did in the comics with the former. Maggie may be a much stronger woman in the show than she is in the comic, where she tried to kill herself, but she may not like the idea of staying in Alexandria where there'd be so many memories of her and Glenn -- if Glenn were to die, that is.
Regardless of what they do with Rick as a leader, AMC just needs to make sure he keeps his beard of death and keeps that fur coat of his.
And if Michonne were to become the leader, what would it be called? Ricktatorshop and Rickpublic were easy decisions, but Michonne? Mich-onne Accomplished is too long and sounds too corny, the Michonne-aries seems like a 70's church choir. If you have any ideas on what a potential Michonne-led group would be called, let us know in the comments below.
[Image via AMC]