What follows are
expanded notes from Negan
and the Walking Jihadists
, plus further observations by me and by an
anonymous correspondent who has also watched the series.


I noted in Negan and the Walking Jihadists:
…In literature, while there is a
limited amount of malevolence one can accept in fiction, it is not, or should
not be, a permanent, unlimited feature; a continual presence of evil or of a malevolent
character or theme can dull one’s brain and make one indifferent or hostile to
any and all values.  In a story, evil or
malevolence must be defeated at some point and rendered impotent. If it is not foiled
and made powerless, but instead becomes a continuous presence and a driving
theme in a story, then there is no point in contemplating the story any
further.
This is basically
the state of literature and art today. There is little respite from the
malaise. One finds relief where one can.  Where can one turn in a dying culture in which
the grotesque, such as The Walking Dead, is the norm?  Where does one turn when even the mitigating
attributes of the grotesque, such as the heroism of some of the players, are
going to be diminished if not outright extinguished? For that is what is going
to happen in The
Walking Dead
, and when it does, my TV screen will go blank.
In today’s
culture, the moral – that is, the rationally moral – is regarded as the
impractical, as the unjust, as wrong. It is regarded as an affront to hold
another person to a moral standard and to call for justice, either for his good
actions or his evil actions.
The almost
drooling anticipation in many of the series’ fans of the debut of Negan in the
finale of Season Six of The Walking Dead, which I have been watching as a
dramatization of emergency ethics in an apocalyptic world, is not flattering to
those fans. I sense that the writers and directors of The Walking Dead are
going to at least partially pander to fans’ appetites for brutality and gore
and a kind of nihlistic fireworks. Which means that I would stop watching the
series.
Many strong
characters emerged over the six seasons, chief among them, at least from my
moral and esthetic tastes, Carol
Peletier
(played by Melissa
McBride
) and Daryl
Dixon
(played by Norman
Reedus
).
Carol’s character
blossomed from a self-effacing housewife with a brute of a husband (who dies
early on) into an efficacious dreadnaught of a zombie fighter and a moralist
who finds values to fight for outside of her formerly shrunken realm of
domestic chores. Daryl’s character evolved from an ambiguous, brash,
loud-mouthed, back-country redneck to a man of quiet, understated moral
certitude and honesty.
But they may be
sacrificed to the irrational demands of the series’ fans.
A bellwether
indication of the direction the series is taking now is in the character of Morgan
Jones
, played by British actor and playwright, Lennie James, who in a
very long, special episode is depicted as being converted to some pacifist
philosophy of life – actually a martial art – Aikido, by a recluse. It is
called “The Art of Peace,” one of whose tenets are that “All life is precious.”
 Morgan is taught that bringing justice
to a criminal does not give one “peace.” A criminal who has slaughtered
countless people is somehow redeemable. He can be allowed to go on living, even
though his victims are dead.
Morgan encounters
the Wolves, looters
and killers. He easily defeats
them
– but does not kill them – and leaves them unconscious in an abandoned
car, safe and sound. He encounters them again in a later episode, and again lets
them go,
who go on to kill again. Because “all life is precious,” and the
killers can “change.” They can become “good” people and blameless with no blood
on their hands.
One of the things
that shocked me in the Star Wars
movie, Return of the Jedi, was the
denouement, in which Darth Vader,  a.k.a.
 Anikin Skywalker, the incarnation of
evil, was elevated to the pantheon of Jedi sainthood because he saved his son,
Luke, from the evil emperor. Here was a character who had blown up planets and
killed millions of people in his career before he died, yet he was forgiven.  At the end of the episode, “
Obi-Wan,
Yoda, and the redeemed
Anakin
[are] watching over them.”
Carol Peletier
apparently has been influenced by the pacifist philosophy of Morgan Jones. In
the last two episodes of the series she begins to express doubts about killing
men who are killing or are capable of killing her friends. From out of nowhere,
she produces Catholic worry-beads or a rosary, even while her hands are secured
together with duct tape. (It isn’t clear if she found the rosaries on the floor
of where she was being held hostage, or if they had been on her possession all the
long.)
Melissa McBride as Carol, and Norman Reedus as Daryl
Abruptly feeling
remorse, without any warning to viewers and in contradiction to the series story
line, Carol writes a note to one of the characters that she is leaving the safe
zone of Alexandria. It is addressed to everyone living in the zone:
“I wish it didn’t have to end,
not this way. It was never my intention to hurt you, but this is how it has to
be. We have so much here—people, food, medicine, walls – everything we need to
live. But what we have, other people want, too. And that will never change. If we
survive this threat [from the Negan gang] it’s not over and another one will
take its place, to take what we have. I love you all here. I do. And I’d have
to kill for you. And I can’t. I won’t. Rick sent me away and I wasn’t ever
going to come back (from an earlier “safe zone”], but everything happened and I
wound up staying. But I can’t anymore. I can’t love anyone because I can’t kill
for anyone. So I’m going as I always should have. Don’t come after me, please.”
The note is
basically a capitulation to the irrational. After all her fearless fights, she
has had enough of fighting, even though she knows that for as long as
irrational killers are out there, there will always be a conflict with the
irrational. To fight for her values is no longer possible for her. But, to
refuse to fight for her values, is, in effect, to surrender those values to the
irrational. Carol has written what amounts to be a suicide note.
My anonymous “pen
pal” wrote me, and left on a fan blog site, Verge,
this comment:
It’s a miserable
thing to watch a favorite character being destroyed by his or her creators.
I’ve seen that more than I care to and it appears that may be what is happening
to the great Carol Peletier. To watch a timid, abused woman grow into an
implacable protector of the good and then be brought down by guilt-inducing
religious mysticism is inexcusable. Shame on the TWD writers
if that is what they are doing.
I replied:

Having just watched “Twice as
Far,” and Carol’s goodbye note to Tobin and everyone else, if the
scripters kill her off, I’m done with TWD. If they somehow compromise or kill
of Daryl, I’m double done with TWD. Carol’s “leaving” the story
because she can’t kill people who are trying to kill her or the people she
values, is a dead end, as far as I’m concerned. To hell with the rosary, and
the implied pacifism of Carol. Bad turn in the series. We want heroes, not
characters who are angst-ridden about defending their values.
My correspondent
noted further, about the Season
Six
finale:
How they deal with
the pure evil
of Negan
is going to be a turning point. I think we can wave Glenn goodbye
because his character arc has pretty much hit cruise control and Maggie is
taking over as the family badass. That’s going to be tough to watch, and if
it’s going to be as dark as everyone’s saying there has to be a lot more of the
same. Confronting that level of evil requires defining values precisely and
making an absolute commitment to defend them. If they waffle on that out of
fear of “becoming like Negan”, then I’m through with them as well.
Melissa McBride,
who plays Carol, got a preview of Season Six’s finale and said that she felt
she had fallen into a “black
hole
.”
I left this comment to my correspondent and on Verge:

I have a bad feeling that Carol’s “getting religion” is going to be
the death of her. I have no idea why the scripters decided to wussify her. She
and Daryl are the only two characters I have any empathy for. In reality and in
fiction, you can’t defend the ones you love by refusing to kill those who
intend on killing them. It’s like the Belgians’ “arrangement” with
Islamic jihadists, who promised not to kill anyone. You don’t declare a detente
with killers.
You don’t say,
“All life is precious” when the killers don’t value life, not even
their own lives. You’re the one with the values to defend, you’re the one who
wants to live. In war, you extinguish the killers when they show their faces,
before they extinguish you. You extinguish them before they take more lives you
may not even know. I do not look forward to the debut of Negan. It appears he’s
a thorough-going nihilist and evil to the core. When he shows up, I’m quits with
TWD. It seems that the scripters are pandering to viewers who want Negan. I’m
not one of them. TWD was a great dramatization of how men can conduct
themselves as emergency ethics. I don’t need Negan. We have the kill-happy
Islamists in the real world. Why would I want it in fiction, unless it was
defeated forthwith?
My correspondent
wrote:
… I can’t come up with anything
additional. Checked some fan sites — one in German, big help that was — and
everything seems to be speculation over who gets the Lucille treatment [Negan
has named his barbed wire baseball bat, “Lucille”] from Negan. There is a
constant thread of what a “great” character Negan is because he’s
totally evil but so “complex… I’m not interested in
“complicated” people who steal, kill, rape, and beat innocent people
to death to instill fear. I’m interested in “complicated” people who
beat hell out of the bad guys, though I’ll take uncomplicated ones in a pinch.
There is speculation that Daryl will be the one to get Lucille’d, but unless
Reedus has come up with some reason to leave the show, I doubt it. Daryl’s
character arc isn’t anywhere near finished. Neither is Carol’s, but it would
indeed be “heartbreaking” if she were the one….
Carol’s note is
not an expression of cowardice. Rather, it is an expression of hopelessness. The
tireless fighter for values has grown tired, exhausted, discouraged. Perhaps she
is even traumatized. Trauma is a state of paralysis. Her solution is to stop
having values worth defending. It is a sentence of death.
Evil never seems
to stop attacking. So, let it come.
But evil is not a
metaphysical necessity in one’s life. This is a lesson she has never learned from
any of the other characters, not in the whole series. None of the “good”
characters has learned it. The scriptwriters have “martyred” Carol’s character
in a grotesque TV series in a surrender to their own nihilism.