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Is Rick Still the Protagonist of TWD?

Who is the protagonist of The Walking Dead show? It might seem like an easy answer. Obviously it’s Rick Grimes, the leader of the group, our eyes and ears since we met him in Days Gone Bye. But since Season 3, The Walking Dead has been veering away from Rick, pushing him toward the background.

Episodes of The Walking Dead often have multiple narratives running through them. Most memorable, perhaps, is the skilled weaving in Season 3, where Andrea and the Governor’s storyline in Woodbury intersects with and parallels Rick’s story in the prison. But although Rick takes a backseat during certain episodes, Season 3 is still firmly rooted in his struggles: is the prison safe for his family? Will they ever be able to settle down? Can he trust another group of survivors?

In Season 4, the series changes drastically. Although a few episodes are still told from Rick’s perspective (the season opener 30 Days Without Accident, for example) other characters begin propelling the narrative forward. Two episodes in a row focus on The Governor, and after the fall of the prison, Rick is off-screen for four more episodes (Inmates, Still, Alone and The Grove). Episodes in Season 4 begin focusing on secondary characters and the relationships between them, like Daryl and Beth, Tyreese and Carol, and Bob, Sasha, and Maggie.

And now, in Season 5, The Walking Dead has essentially become an ensemble piece. The story continues to be divvied up amongst characters, going whole episodes without a glimpse of Rick Grimes. Whereas Rick’s Season 4 struggle between Farmer Rick and Throat-Ripping Rick is the primary development spanning the entire season, in Season 5 Rick’s story is a minor conflict. Rick is still essentially Throat-Ripping Rick—the Rick who wants to gun down Terminus and murder the Hunters, who would rather storm Grady guns-a-blazing than make a trade with the group—but this story is just one of many. Rick has remained distant while other characters like Beth (RIP), Carol, Tyreese and Sasha grow and change in the forefront.

While Rick is still the leader of the survivors, he is no longer the sole protagonist of The Walking Dead. The show is now about a larger cast of characters, each one providing a unique perspective that enriches the world more than any single character could.

Let us know what you think in the comments below! Do you agree that The Walking Dead is now about an ensemble of characters? Or is it still all ’bout that Rick Grimes?

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  1. Negus January 2, 2015 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Just because other characters have been developed and are getting more screen time doesn’t mean he’s not the protagonist anymore, at this point Rick is still very much the Walking Dead.
    In the comics these days? Not so much.

  2. BASTET. January 2, 2015 at 11:39 am - Reply

    I’ve always viewed the show as being about an ensemble of characters with Rick always as a leader but never the sole protagonist. The spotlight shone bright on him in the beginning & for a while, then has seemingly shifted. Ultimately, however, all of the drama/conflict, etc. we see with other characters & their story lines shape who Rick is becoming & how things are handled. This is his story, even when we don’t see much of him. He’s in the shadows here & there but he remains the one in charge, the one they look to, listen to, and follow, the one who holds them together and helps them survive. It is all about Rick Grimes, but Rick Grimes is not complete & wouldn’t be who he is without his ensemble.

  3. DaanielF January 2, 2015 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    I hope this isn’t true. I hate that they’ve steered so far from where they originally were. The Walking Dead will always be my favorite show, but I just wish they’d stay focused on Rick. I guess I can just rewatch the first two seasons over and over again.

    • IshmaelJMurray January 2, 2015 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      Me too man, this show really does lack since season 3. Season 3 was a travesty and blasphemy. The prison arc had not justice done to it what so ever. We had one really good episode in the prison arc whih was too far gone. They better get back to how things should be with RICK as the main focus and doing justice to the comics or I’ll stop watching.

  4. IshmaelJMurray January 2, 2015 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    I love how they pride themselves in how the show is “about a large cast of characters rather than one single character”, but the show proves otherwise. This show absolute sucks when RICK and Carl aren’t in an episode, this show sucks for the most part when they don’t follow or at least create something up to par with the comics. Still and slabtown are prime examples of this. This first half was MASSIVE let down. I was more excited about filming spoilers and set pictures than I was watching the actual season. It’s the same thing with season 4, the only good episode of the first half was too far gone. Season 5 only had no sanctuary, strangers, four walls and a roof, and coda. This seaosn had so many production and editing errors and plot holes. A lot of bad choices in what to leave in an episode and what to cut out. I’m really disappointed and the only thing that can save this show is keeping its soul purpose intact which is keeping RICK grimes the main character/main focus and over arching story. As a whole, the show’s story is shit compared to the comics. I hope this problem gets fixed in season 6. To me, RICK grimes is the main character and that’s how it’ll stay. It’s how it should be.

  5. Maximus January 2, 2015 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    I think I’ve read a number of times that the comic was always about Rick’s story, or at least that’s how they intended it. So yeah, we see lots of other cool people and their stories, but Rich is still the main person. I think that while both the comic and the show could survive Rick’s loss, it would not be the same story afterwards. Rick and Carl are the primary relationship that drives the story. Without them, it’s just another zombie show like Dawn of the Dead.

    • IshmaelJMurray January 2, 2015 at 8:29 pm - Reply

      Very well put and I agree completely. My point is, the show should not steer from RICK being the focus until it reaches the current pooh t in the comics. In the comics right now it’s focus is Carls ms maggie and jesus, it’s okay because it was the right time to do it. The shows timeline right now is HUGE events and sourve material for RICK and takin that away is VERy bad for the show. This show has proven that it lacks when it doesn’t follow the comics and/or have RICK as the primary focus. The best episodes of this series are the episodes that follow the comic almost exact like: too far gone, after, A, no sanctuary, strangers, four walls and a roof, self help, coda. Episodes like still, alone, the season 4 premier, episodes 5,6,7 of season 4 (the governor episodes) were just boring. We need better writers and for this show to be on FX at 10:00 for it to be at its absolute full potential. We’d get swearing, sex scenes, more gore, and all the darkness and realism this show needs. Amc is just holding TWD back which the shows quality has proven. Season 3 was an injustice all the way through.

      • Maximus January 5, 2015 at 12:50 pm - Reply

        Agreed!!! AMC has proven that it can push the envelope to deliver with violence and sensitive topics, so I think it just comes down to showrunners. We’ve had good ones, but not great ones like David Simon, Matthew Weiner, or Vince Gilligan.

  6. jmoore711b January 2, 2015 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    I like it all. Rick and Carl is of course the larger story but they have built an ensemble cast and I love watching the other characters develop as well. I mean… Carol? Do you want to cut back on Carol episodes? Hell no. I love seeing Carol. And all of the others are great. I’m loving the show’s version of Abraham/Eugene. I think the only thing that’s been a struggle is pacing, but it doesn’t bother me that much. I think you can have more Rick/Carl without doing massive cutaways for several episodes at a time. I would have liked to see season 4’s second half show the same development in fewer episodes. For me the show is getting better and better. And the comic too. Except Magna. Kill Magna.

  7. Neutral-Grey January 2, 2015 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    Yes, Rick is the protagonist. He is the sole core of the show. Focusing on others doesn’t diminish that fact. Nor does it magically make anyone else a “protagonist.” The Walking Dead Wiki suffers from shitty definitions of protagonist/antagonist but “protagonist” means the main character. Not the main characterS. But The main character of the main characters.

  8. Chestplates420 January 3, 2015 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    The show has really touched on the relationship between Carl and Rick a lot. More so I think than in the comic. The comic does a great job at progressing characters, but could deff work on cultivating better relationships between those characters. The show however builds character pretty well but reallyyy shines when you get those heavy relationship moments between the characters. Rick is deff protagonist on the show. Comic I would say Rick used to be the main protagonist, but now you have Carl all grown up basically and he is ready to take the throne on that.

  9. Chestplates420 January 3, 2015 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    I agree that Rick is and should always be, the Protagonist. I also dislike the fact that nowadays seeing Rick in an episode is like some sort of treat. It should be common place to see Rick in every episode. Episodes which I thought were good that had no Rick, are limited. “The Grove” is a great example of an awesome episode without Rick. But i honestly can’t think of any other episodes that are as good as the episodes Rick is in, or even as good as “The Grove.” They need to kill off some characters in the show so it gets back to a small group of people like how it was when they were at the Farm, and the very beginning of the prison arc. so that they aren’t always splitting up and going off and doing pointless stuff, thus leaving Rick out of a lot of action and screentime. I would rather see an hr of Rick talking to Carl about STUFF and THANGS than to have to sit through another solo Beth episode….when did Beth even become a big character, after she tried to kill herself or after she sat in a room with baby Judith for half a season….lmk when you figure that out lol.

  10. Annie62 January 5, 2015 at 11:25 am - Reply

    Yeah, of course he’s still the main protagonist. Rick’s journey and perspective are what inform and drive the rest of the stories. But like any work of fiction, you can have multiple protagonists or a multiple narrative. Sometimes, there is a “false” protagonist that the writer uses to merely propel a story forward. These protagonists end up the victim of plot devices meant to drive emotion (Hershel, Beth, etc.). The WD is suffering now because they continue to fall back on this plot device of disposing of a false protagonist just to jerk a few tears. I think the writers also try to use a single narrative structure within a multiple narrative storyline. If you’re going to have multiple protagonists (and keep it interesting) then you learn things about them based on their interactions with each other. The WD lazily falls back on a single narrative where the show is written through one person’s eyes. This show has gotten a bunch of lone wolves together and just goes back and forth from single to multiple depending on which personality Scott Gimple is using that week.

    I love the show and will keep watching regardless of the lackluster writing because the actors continually rise above the mediocrity of their lines. I confess, I’m a Frank Darabont fan and nothing will quite measure up to the crispness and clean writing of the first season. I find myself repeatedly disappointed by the direction of the show under Gimple and hope that changes soon. It’s an insult to the viewer’s intelligence to see plot devices used gratuitously and repeatedly just for shock value.

    • Maximus January 7, 2015 at 11:07 am - Reply

      Exactly! Darabont’s direction gave that first season pop, avoid the plodding 16 episode season structure. The most potent cable shows are able concentrate and fill their 10-13 episodes with ample storylines and I firmly believe if TWD adhered to this structure it would have a lot less filler.

  11. GovernorPhillip January 5, 2015 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Even though many of the episodes recently have gone on to focus on different characters, the show is still about Rick. At the end of the day, everyone comes back to Rick. He then has to cope with his friends who have been shaken by the course of recent events and he alone must deal with them. Rick is still in charge.

    • MaximumParty January 6, 2015 at 4:45 pm - Reply

      Straight up gov, ricks always been a major focal point for me ( and glenn ) but it always comes back to rick, whatever the events, it always ends with “we’ll see what rick has to say” im sure he’ll eat shit once chandler riggs is old enough or something like that but hopefully theyll follow the comics and just do a graceful bow out with a new look, he’ll still run the show but from afar, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain right?

  12. Mako_Shark January 7, 2015 at 5:34 am - Reply

    In the comic generally there are arguably 2 Alpha male characters in Rick’s group.
    Rick and Shane, Rick and Tyreese, Rick and Abraham so the dynamic of the group is largely defined by the conflict or co-operation of these leader types.

    In these relationships, Rick is a constant.

    Because there are so many of these characters at the same time, these relationships have changed.

    Where Rick and Abraham were in opposition in the book, Abraham has been paired/opposed to Glenn.

    Tyreese has been paired with Carol, and is not nearly as ALPHA as he was on the page.

    I might even argue that the Tyreese/Rick relationship has been nearly lost on tv.

    And Darryl is thrown into the mix.

    Rick is far less the center of the Walking Dead screen universe than he was in the graphic novel version.

  13. KingDead January 9, 2015 at 8:29 am - Reply

    I just want to say to all the people who are writing bad things about the walking dead tv show f*** you. Yes Rick is still the protagonist of the walking dead and people should stop being so particular and comic based biased. Also appreciate that the show creators and writers have put a great supporting cast around Rick. Episodes like the grove and consumed had me really feeling like this show is realistic and makes you realize how much a zombie apocalypse affects people and shows what a tough world we’d live in. Episodes like seed and clear shows alot of transition and transforming of Rick but also helps build interest for other characters and we learn to love them all. The after orison attack governor episodes loved those. Different. Gave us. insight to the governors resurgence. You can’t have the show just based off Rick it wouldn’t be as gripping. People want to know about other characters and we all know they inevitably die. I love what they have done with the show. O haven’t read the comics but i read the summaries on this website up until negans bad muther fuckin ass hits the scene and kills a show favorite for me(spoiler). I know pretty much what to expect but at the same time never being too sure because of how they make drastic different changes in the show compared to comics. I still love the show and think the writers are great and need to keep it up. 1Thing i will say that would be a real game changer that would probably make me stop watching the show completely is if rick carl daryl michonne is killed off. Especially daryl. He’s the missing piece from the comic we all need. He’s another Rick without the responsibility. And KIRKMAN DON’T MAKE DARYL GAY. YOU’LL RUIN THE SHOW. PLEASE BEGGING YOU. Don’t kill daryl don’t make him gay. Introduce a character he can like and have something with. Even if you kill her off. I think everybody agrees daryl is tooo bad ass to be homo sexual. Nothing against them but from daryl would be a slap in the face. Other than that the walking dead is the best show on tv. I watch every new episode and watch it on Netflix and whoever a rerun is on. I love it keep up the great work. Asz get ready for Bad Ass Rick Grimes

  14. twdusr January 10, 2015 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    I’d like it still to be Rick’s. Andrew Lincoln’s acting is peerless. ‘Ensemble’ is a great egalitarian notion, and the rich parallel storylines work well, but Rick is the beating heart, and to marginalise him would take away the viewer’s strongest emotional investment. This, even considering Carol and Daryl, the other two remaining sympathetic characters. I believe it was a mistake to eliminate Lori, leaving it to Carl to provide the deeper motivation for Rick’s behaviour. Rick and Lori’s conflicts and attachment in the teeth of the constant threat of death were great TV.

  15. OMGtheykilledKinney January 12, 2015 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Rick is almost the new Shane, without a man like Dale to speak out to the group about how far from humanity they have strayed and are willing to stray further to survive… It’s been a long time since Hershel’s farm and everyone’s got a new perspective on the way things are to be handled. It’s not so cut and dry as it all seemed before.. Essentially, yes, Rick is still the protagonist of The Walking Dead in that he is PART of the GROUP, which we, the viewers, are rooting for, (whether they’rr thr cut and dry good guys aor not) and he seems to want the same outcome as the rest of the group. Stay together; stay safe. He IS, however, way at the bottom of the moral totem pole here in Season 5. Daryl and Glen have stepped up to be men in ways that we have seen long in the makin, and Tyreese is clinging as tightly as he can to the hope that this new world can be a good, human place.

    • Juls77 January 17, 2015 at 3:30 am - Reply

      Good point about the lack of a moral standpoint, like Dale or Hershel. I think the further we go into the show, the further it steers from how things were before. They’ve been in this new world for a while now and even Michonne says ‘she can’t remember how it was before’ or Carol ‘feels like another persons slideshow. In the beginning, there was always the .. ‘oh my, how they going to deal with that, how different this world is, what would it be like if that should happen’ .. where as after this amount of time, the differences between the old world (pre zombies) to current world are not so prevalent in your minds. It’s all about the new world, old world (humanity?) is left behind … will it return? different somehow? but a flower always blooms from shit. Who knows .. either way it’s fascinating to watch. I personally would be gutted if Rick, Carl (can’t see it happening) Daryl and CArol (cause I relate to them the most) were killed off. I wouldn’t want a whole new cast of characters from the first season at some point, I want some common thread of perspective. A single person perspective that we follow – i.e Rick or Carl. Just my tuppence worth.

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