Rick Grimes: Christ Figure of The Walking Dead (Spoiler Alert)
The Walking Dead is a television series that has managed to gain substantial popularity, executing their zombie apocalypse storyline with grisly, gory finesse. However, The Walking Dead is also more than that; it is the story of the zombie apocalypse survivors’ struggle to stay alive and, simultaneously, maintain their humanity. It is the story of the man who stuck out among these survivors. He is the man who, in first episode, rises from apparent death. The man who wakes up alone and walks out of a hospital that has become a tomb. The man who leads his followers through despair and manages to set them on the right course again and again. The man whose quest seems to be the preservation of humanity. This leader, Rick Grimes, seems to have a story that shares several similar characteristics to that of the story of another well know man. This other well-known figure also rose up from death and educated his followers on the best ways to live, his goal being the salvation of humanity. Who is this other famous man? Jesus Christ, of course. When considering the possibility of multiple parallels between the star of a zombie apocalypse television series and the man proclaimed to be the son of God from the Christian viewpoint, the idea may at first seem farfetched. But it’s true. When one stops to compare the stories of Rick Grimes and Jesus Christ, similarities emerge. It is apparent that Rick is a Christ figure, which is demonstrated through his near miraculous rise from apparent death, his leadership of his followers, and his struggle to save humanity.
In the first episode of The Walking Dead, Rick is almost killed and falls into a coma (“Days Gone Bye”). When he regains consciousness, he painfully rises from his hospital bed with a wound in his side, having survived the widespread zombie outbreak while lying quietly in his hospital room in a coma (“Days Gone Bye”). It appears that, in a hospital filled with the aftermath of the zombie outbreak, a comatose man with no way to defend himself survives the death that claimed many throughout the hospital. How many people died in that hospital? Hundreds? Thousands? How many of them were running for their lives? How many of these fleeing people were able to not only walk, but sprint? Rick survives simply by lying quietly in his hospital bed, incapable of any movement whatsoever, barely sheltered from the threat outside his room. Not only has Rick managed to avoid being eaten by zombies, but he has recovered from his injury and coma without medical attention for what appears to be a couple days at least. When Rick wanders out into the hall and witnesses the destruction that has taken place while he lied quietly in his hospital room, the miraculous odds of his survival become even more apparent.
How did Rick do it? How did he manage to survive? The fact that he survived both the initial outbreak of the zombie apocalypse when countless others perished and a coma with little to no nutrients or medical attention for days is astounding. Is there something greater at play here, something that watched over Rick as he laid helpless in his hospital bed? Is Rick, like Jesus, blessed in some way? Whatever the reasons, whether it is luck or something greater, Rick survives. Then, after several days of searching for his wife and son, Rick come across a group of survivors (“Guts”). These survivors, it turns out, are now part of the same group as the wife and son Rick has been searching for (“Tell it to the Frogs”). By returning with these survivors to their camp, Rick manages track down and return to his family, the family that had mistakenly thought him dead (“Tell it to the Frogs”). From their point of view, Rick has come back to life. Rick’s shocking returned is similar to Jesus’ resurrection and his family’s surprise regarding his return is similar to the awe experienced by Jesus’ disciples when Jesus returned from the dead. Jesus, proclaimed to rise from the dead three days after his death by crucifixion, was laid in a stone tome with a large boulder placed in front of the entrance (Bible Gateway). Then, “after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb” (Bible Gateway). These women found that the tome had opened and that Jesus had risen from the dead (Bible Gateway). The women quickly returned to Jesus’ twelve apostles and told them of what they had seen; however, many of the apostles doubted until they saw Jesus with their own eyes (Bible Gateway). In both instances of Rick and Jesus’ return, it is clear that those that knew these individuals had serious doubts about whether or not Rick/Jesus would return. This is especially true in the case of Rick’s wife Lori, who simply accepted that her husband was dead (“Tell it to the Frogs”). However, the followers and loved ones of both Jesus and Rick were proven wrong in doubting.
Beyond Rick’s apparent rise from the dead in non-zombie form, it should also be noted that Rick, like Jesus, also gathers disciples and followers of his own. Early on in the first season, it becomes clear that Rick is a strong leader. At one point, during his first introduction to the survivors that would become his followers, he tells one troublesome individual in danger of dividing the group that they “would survive this together, not apart” (“Guts”). It seems that Rick’s projected confidence and ability to form a plan enables him to quickly become the leader of his survival group. Furthermore, Rick’s assertion that the group could accomplish more together is similar to Jesus’ first encounters with the men who would become his disciples; Jesus saw the first two disciples fishing and walked up to them, saying “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people” (Bible Gateway). It is said that these men quickly left their nets behind and followed Jesus (Bible Gateway). Jesus, like Rick, spoke to his followers with a plan of action and gained their confidence. This seems to be the theme of Rick’s leadership throughout the next few seasons of The Walking Dead. He always manages come up with a plan. He assumes command and arguably keeps the majority of them alive.
Beyond the survival of the group, Rick’s main concern is defined by the overall struggle in The Walking Dead: the struggle to maintain one’s humanity in the face of desperation and evil. In this way, Rick, like Jesus, assumes a role of leadership in which his primary concern is the preservation of goodness and humanity. This concern is maintained throughout the duration of each season. The finale episode of The Walking Dead gives the audience strong evidence that Rick has remained a strong leader concerned with the well-being of humanity. In this episode, after Rick’s group has been accepted into a remarkably sheltered community, Rick addresses his a crowd of townspeople, saying, “We’ll survive. I’ll show you how… You’re not ready, but you have to be. Right now, you have to be ready” (“Conquer”). This scene comes after an attempt by certain individuals within this town community to ostracize Rick (“Conquer”). This episode, in which the community turns against Rick, is similar to the part of Jesus’ story in which Jesus is arrested and brought before Pontius Pilate, a Roman governor that would act as Jesus’ judge during his trial (Bible Gateway). Pontius turns to the crowd that has gathered to see Jesus’ sentencing and gives the crowd an option: he could either release Barabbas, a dangerous criminal, or he could release Jesus; the crowd, having been influenced by Jesus’ enemies, asks Pilate to free Barabbas and crucify Jesus (Bible Gateway). However, it can be observed that despite how almost everyone seems to turn on Jesus, Jesus does not condemn humanity for their betrayal. In fact, Jesus seems more concerned for them than he does for himself. Rick also demonstrates this concern for humanity over his own well-being. This can be observed by what Rick is doing while he is supposed to be at the meeting in which members of the community are attempting to ostracize him from the community; Rick is running around town, killing zombies that have breached the fence (“Conquer”). Being absent for one’s own hearing cannot be expected to make a good impression, but Rick’s primary concern is for the well-being of the towns people, not his own reputation and safety. When Rick finally does show up at his hearing and tells the group that they must work together to survive, he comes dragging along a neutralized zombie to prove that he is looking out for their well-being (“Conquer”). It is clear where Rick’s priorities lie; Rick, like Jesus, is concerned with the preservation of humanity over his own well-being.
It is possible that, as The Walking Dead continues into its sixth season, Rick could deviate from his current values. Rick is by no means the same as he was in season one. However, Rick has persevered; like Jesus, he rose from apparent death and walked out into the world to show he still lived. Jesus, like Rick, gathered followers and began to lead them on a path towards unity and perseverance. Both Rick and Jesus strive to help others, often with the risk of harming their own chances of survival. Furthermore, neither story is finished yet. Christian claim Jesus will return (Bible Gateway). The Walking Dead is still airing with widespread success. Based on the outstanding perseverance of Rick’s leadership and ability to endure, it is not unreasonable to believe that Rick, like Jesus, will continue to do his utmost for the good of his fellow survivors. After multiple seasons of The Walking Dead, it is apparent that individuals with ability to both lead and survive such as Rick can are few and far between. There is something different about Rick, who has proven himself to be kind of a savior time and time again throughout the story of The Walking Dead.
Bible Gateway. Bible Gateway, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.
“Conquer.” The Walking Dead. AMC. Netflix.com. 29 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
“Days Gone Bye.” The Walking Dead. AMC. Netflix.com. 31 Oct. 2010. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.
“Guts.” The Walking Dead. AMC. Netflix.com. 7 Nov. 2010. Web. 10. Nov. 2015.
“Tell it to the Frogs.” The Walking Dead. AMC. Netflix.com. 14 Nov. 2010. Web. 10 Nov. 2015.