Well, folks, it’s about that time — our heroes have finally reached the fork in the road where they may have to abandon their humanity in favor of survival.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not as though the survivors haven’t had to tread dodgy moral ground before. But, for the most part — for a band of wayfaring people trying to get by in the bleakest of times — they’ve managed to remain remarkably unscathed morally.
So much so, it’s even been part of their codified initiation into the group — asking someone how many walkers they’ve killed versus how many non-walkers (aka regular people).
Those who have strayed too far from this moral high road haven’t exactly fared well. When Carol made the decision during Season 4 to kill Karen and David in the prison under the guise of protecting the group, it got her (temporarily) banished. When Shane’s questionable ethics started spiraling, well, we all know how that ultimately wound up.
Still, there’s always been that lingering question as you watch Rick and the crew make their way in the zombpocalyse: will there come a point when the extreme choices they have to make don’t include an option that is clearly morally sound? Can you survive in this world and keep your humanity intact indefinitely?
Tonight, we found out.
Last week, we saw Maggie barter a deal with the Hilltop Colony by which the Alexandria survivors would virtually exterminate Negan’s cronies who have been terrorizing Hilltop. This was the first time we’d really seen the survivors cross the line in the sand from defensive fighting to straight-up assassination.
Sure, they’ve all killed a metric ton of walkers at this point. Most of the survivors haven’t killed many people along the way though and, if they have, it’s been in the heat of the moment or to save a life, whether it be theirs or someone else’s.
Now we’re wading into new waters. Tonight’s episode forced the survivors to decide what they were willing to do — how far they were willing to go — to protect the civilization they were trying to build (or rebuild, in a sense) at Alexandria.
Is murder ever justifiable?
Such is the question everyone in Rick’s camp is faced with when he and the gang return from Hilltop and unveil their plan to sneak into Negan’s camp and slaughter a bunch of his “Saviors” in their sleep. Yikes.
Naturally, there is some resistance. It’s no surprise that Morgan doesn’t want to kill anyone — thanks to his hour-long story arc in the first half of the season, we understand his deep aversion to lethal force. Interestingly, despite her recent tumultuous history with Morgan, Carol seems to side with him. She’s settled quite nicely into her domestic role in Alexandria (even sparking up a potential romance), so she’s none-too-keen about traipsing off to kill a bunch of random strangers.
Most notably, Glenn and Heath had trouble coming to terms with the mission. Neither of them have actually taken a non-walker life up to this point, and the idea of doing so is clearly haunting them.
Given that Glenn has been the moral compass of the group for a solid stretch now, it was intriguing to see which side he’d land on after the deliberating was done. Would he be able to hold on to hope that one could reconcile living in this world with being an authentically good and pure person?
Sadly, it doesn’t appear so. Is Glenn still a good person? Absolutely. He obviously struggles with what he has to do leading up to doing it and during the act. But I have to admit: watching him plunge a knife into the heads of two men who are asleep and totally unaware was hard to stomach.
Later, when he and Heath have to defend themselves using guns, the ensuing carnage is equally disturbing. While it’s very likely that the people they mowed down were terrible, it tarnished our heroes ever so slightly.
Not to mention the mental and emotional aftermath they’ll inevitably grapple with. As Morgan cautioned the group, “They come back when they’re dead, too — I don’t mean the walkers.”
It raises an interesting dilemma. In this new world they’re living in, who decides what is right and what is wrong? Survival is paramount and, so it would seem, morality comes in a distant second. Most pressingly, though, what cost will they ultimately pay for the decisions they make in the name of the “greater good”?
With Carol and Maggie currently being held hostage, we might just find out next week.
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.