Season Eight, Episode Fourteen, Still Gotta Mean Something

by Thom McKee

Imagine you watched this show for the very first time tonight. Let’s say that you didn’t know anything that has happened up to this point and that you just tuned in and you had to try and figure out what was going on. Let’s also pretend that you never read the comics (which may be true) and that you have never heard a single conversation about the show.

Who on the show would you relate to the most?

Would you be able to figure out what was going on?

My guess is that you would be very confused. You would know that someone named Carl wrote some notes. Perhaps he died recently? You would know that Carol was looking for a little boy… for some reason. You would see that Jadis lives in a nice wooden room hidden in a trash heap and that she escaped near death. You would also see that a man named Negan named his bat after his wife and that Jadis didn’t seem to blame him for the death of her friends (she lets him go after all). And most importantly, you would see Morgan and Rick as two cold hearted killers hunting some real people and killing them in very cruel ways.

As a matter of fact, I think that you would have a very hard time in tonight’s episode knowing who was good and who was bad. I might even be bold enough to say that you might think that Negan was a good guy and Rick and Morgan were baddies (TV Guide surmised that very conclusion).

Why?

Because Rick participates in some of the cruelest behavior that we have ever seen him participate in. With Morgan, we kind of expect it. Remember when he was “clearing” people? But with Rick, this is a whole new territory.

In the past, Rick has been a real moral compass on the show. He hasn’t been perfect, and he has made plenty of mistakes. But he has never done the type of thing that he did on the show tonight. We could always rely on Rick to figure out right and wrong (or at least attempt to) in very sticky moral scenarios.

So what happened to him tonight?

We know that he is still grieving the loss of his son. We also know that he is very angry about the outright cruelty of the saviors. But when he killed all of the ex-prisoner saviors who had escaped during the battle last week, we saw a new side to Rick – and this wasn’t a good side.

The scene that I am referring to is when Rick and Morgan are tied up in the pub because they have been captured by Jared and the other escaped prisoners. Earlier in the episode, seemingly good-guyish savior prisoner Alden tells Rick that these escaped prisoners may have just made a mistake. He also tells Rick about the pub where he thinks that they can be found.

Rick doesn’t give Alden any indication that he is going to show mercy, but what happens at the pub was absolutely shocking. Rick and Morgan are tied up and Jared is discussing with the other saviors whether to bring them to Negan. They are also discussing what to do with their wounded. But then Rick interrupts…

Rick: Wait! My truck’s not far. We can get ’em to the Hilltop’s doctor. They could come back with us. You all could. You didn’t want this. You made a split-second choice, and you chose wrong, but it’s not too late. You cut us loose. You cooperate. We’ll give you a fresh start, a chance to become part of our community, to become one of us. I’m giving you my word. There’s not a lot that’s worth much these days, but a man’s word that’s gotta mean somethin’, right?

Jared: You a**hats aren’t dumb enough to believe that?

It is kind of funny how right Jared is to not trust Rick. But honestly, Rick has never outright lied like Jared was suggesting. So I didn’t really think that Rick would break his word and just kill all of them while they were fighting the walker herd.

Morgan? Yes, I could see him doing this, but Rick’s presence should have counted for something, right?

Apparently not. The captured saviors show mercy on Rick and Morgan and then they instantly turn on the guys and Rick even plants a hatchet in one of the guys’ necks!

Ouch.

Rick completely lied to them and then just mercilessly killed them with total indifference. As a matter of fact, it was almost like they were just killing mere walkers.

I think that what we have witnessed tonight is the total characterological breakdown of Rick. While no one but Morgan was there to witness it (which means that it will probably remain a secret) we wonder if Rick is no longer someone who we can totally trust. His decision making ability has been seriously hampered.

I don’t know where the show is going with this, but I hope that they don’t sweep under the rug what happened tonight. This is the kind of thing that cannot just be chalked up to “but the saviors were all bad.” They clearly weren’t and aren’t. And Rick just slaughtered them in a cruel way. Even Jared, who is not a nice person (to put it mildly) died a pretty horrible death at the hands of Morgan. But the guys who let them go? They trusted Rick’s word and found out the hard way that they shouldn’t have done that.

I am sure that lots of fans won’t mind this about Rick and certainly won’t mind the show forgetting about this incident. But this is going to be hard for me to do. I have always admired Rick (mistakes and all) up to this point. But now I have to say that I am very disappointed in Rick, and if the show doesn’t deal honestly with the consequences that a human being would suffer if they did this, I will be upset at the show too.

You see, as a Christian, I can’t see this as something that you just sweep under the carpet. Rick lied to, betrayed and murdered some strangers who had just shown him mercy. He also completely successfully attempted to convince these guys of something that he knew was not true in order to murder them. No matter what they did, he was going to kill them. And that means that Rick is showing a major character problem.

According to the scriptures, this is one of the biggest themes starting at the very beginning. Starting with when Eve attempts to lie to God all the way to the ten commandments, trustworthiness is paramount. Even a cursory glance at all of the leaders in Israel, you can see character as the central reason as to how history judges them. Even good leaders like David, still kill and manipulate, and God takes these things very seriously. And in the New Testament, characters like Judas, Ananias and Saphira (and many more) suffer horrible physical and spiritual consequences for their deceptions.

In all of the examples of outright deception in the bible, sometimes people admit their faults and change, but it is very important to point out that deception is almost always considered a fault. Just look at what Jesus has to say about truth-telling and character in His sermon on the mount.

33 “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37, NLT)

Clearly Jesus is aware that many people have come up with exceptions throughout the ages for truth-telling. People have made up intricate vow making language that allows oaths to be broken if the language isn’t stated in an exact way. But notice where He says that this behavior comes from, “this is from the evil one” (vs 37). Jesus isn’t mincing His words here. This is terrible behavior.

It reminds me of the promises that children make on the playground. My fourth grade daughter will say, “I pinky swear that I am telling the truth.”

Of course my response is usually, “just say what you mean and you don’t have to swear!”

That is exactly what Jesus is talking about here when He says ” Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ There really isn’t an excuse for intentionally deceiving people because it does something very bad… it makes it so that people can’t trust you anymore.

When I was in my twenties, I had a nasty habit of not being honest with people, and believe me, it had all kinds of consequences. When people can’t trust what you say, they won’t believe you, even when you are telling the truth. And that is a very natural consequence for this behavior, whether you are a follower of Jesus or not.

I am aware that what Rick did was far worse than just lying– he slaughtered people unmercifully, but his deception is what is going to completely undermine his leadership if this story gets out. You see, when people know that they can’t trust you, they aren’t going to help you when you need them to believe you. And that is a pretty serious consequence, whether you live in a zombie apocalypse or not.

SEASON 8, EPISODE 14 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1) Alden tells Rick to show mercy to the escaped prisoners. Do you think that Rick had any intention to do that? Why or why not?

2) When Carol and Rick split up, do you see that their intentions are different? Why or why not?

3) Jadis shows Negan mercy and lets him go. Do you think that was wise? Why or why not?

4) What do you think Negan is going to do with Simon and the others who disobeyed him? What do you think Negan should do with them?

5) How honest is Negan with other people? Rick’s group? The saviors? Strangers?

6) Why do you think that Rick lies to the escaped saviors when he is tied up?

7) Did Rick have some other options? If so, what were they?

8) Jesus says that we shouldn’t take vows at all. Does that make sense in every situation in life? Why or why not?

9) Does Jesus seem to allow exceptions here? If not, what does that mean to you?

10) Why do you think that Jesus cares so much about people being honest?

11) When it comes to situations where lying will make the outcome better for you, what do you think Jesus would want you to do? How do you think that will affect your relationship with others?

Thom McKee Jr. is a husband, father, pastor… and film geek (and brother of Jonathan McKee). Thom lives in Northern California with his wife and two kids.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen's Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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2 Responses to Season Eight, Episode Fourteen, Still Gotta Mean Something

  1. Tracie Smith says:

    If you were watching TWD for the first time, then yes you would be confused about what is going on. However, if you love this show and have been following it, for me Ricks behavior is who he is. Rick doesn’t give a lot of second chances. Rick and Morgan are captured and tied up, they are going to do and say anything to stay alive. But once they are freed, they decide to kill them. Never mind these same men would have turned on Maggie and the Hilltop just a day ago. Do I think Rick needs to lighten up, because that was his sons dying wish

    • Thomas McKee says:

      You are right that he has done this before. He said the exact words, “a man’s word has to count for something” right before he slaughtered some saviors at their own compound at the beginning of this season. However, this week was different. On Talking Dead on Sunday Chris Hardwick quoted Scott Gimple in saying that Rick has never done anything like this before. Gimple said that this has to do with Rick’s grief at the loss of his son. Also, we don’t know that the escapees would have turned on Maggie. We just know that they ran, and Alden pointed out to Rick that it was a simple mistake. Maggie also was contemplating killing all of them (out loud, right in front of them). This is very different than some random saviors guarding a compound. Rick knew that these saviors acted with Mercy on him and he slaughtered them anyway. Rick is now in the darkest place that he has ever been on the show. Just check out all of the discussion on the internet about whether Rick is worse than Negan now. (I don’t put a ton of stock in what the internet is saying, but it is worth mentioning) People are noticing that this is different. I don’t personally think that he is worse than Negan, but he is making some pretty bad choices. Thanks for your comments Tracie!

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