In the post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested dystopia that The Walking Dead took place in, simply staying alive, for most people, was the ultimate fairy tale ending. But for others, surviving the “Zombie Apocalypse” is just as unfortunate as living during it.
Most characters who made it to the end of the comic series were in a much more wholesome, happier, and positive place than they were during “The Trials.” However, Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s The Walking Dead #193 reveals that life for some of the survivors was just as distressful, if not more so, than the one they lived before Rick Grimes’ death. Below is an exploration of the “unhappily ever after” circumstances for some of the saga’s biggest, most important characters.
There’s no doubt that life in a zombie apocalypse is hard, but for Laura it becomes much more tolerable after she leaves the Saviors. She finds solid, stable, enriching work as part of Rick’s Militia, and on a personal level, she found companionship and love with a reformed Dwight. It’s about all she could ask for in such dire circumstances. But, that life comes crashing down when Rick shoots and kills Dwight after he pulls a gun on Pamela Milton. In that instant, Rick make san enemy of Laura, and she must feel a twinge of delight upon hearing that he is murdered. But his death does not end the pain, anguish, and hate that she has for him. This is only made worse by the fact that in life, and especially after death, Rick is celebrated as a hero who can do no wrong. In the aftermath, rather than achieving some level of closure over Dwight’s death, she can neither escape the mention of his killer nor the mention of his killer’s “goodness.” It is so debilitating that Laura resorts to a sort of self-exile where she avoids the communities and crowds to live a harder, more isolated life on the edge of society.
4. Hershel Greene
As the son of one of the most powerful and influential people in the survivor community, life was always going to be better for Hershel Greene than most other children born during the apocalypse. But his sense of entitlement is further fortified by the fact that his mother, Maggie spoils him. It’s not that Maggie is a bad parent; rather, between all her responsibilities and her wishing he could have a better life than other kids, such as Carl Grimes or her own foster daughter Sophia, she lets him have his way. This is most evident in the fact that he is allowed to keep “Walkers” for his “See the Walking Dead” traveling show business. But the wealth and position he enjoys in society masks a deeply troubled young man who longs for a connection to the father he never knew. Because so few people even remember who Glenn was, Hershel has almost no way of building that connection. While his show business is looked upon with derision by some members of the community, Hershel still carries on. For Hershel, the show not only serves as a reminder to the communities of what they have to lose if they forget their history, but also as a means for he himself to create his very own bond with his dad. This is all wiped out in the aftermath of Carl Grimes killing Hershel’s “Walkers” and crusading to outlaw the business altogether. Without the business, Hershel is forced to find another way to extend his father’s legacy.
For more than a few fans, and Maggie Greene, anything less than an ending with his death feels like a win for Negan. Under this perspective, allowing him to live in any capacity despite his brutal murder of Glenn, persecution of Rick, and general psychopathy would be a glaring “hole” in the story, especially considering the fate of Rick. However, as revealed in The Walking Dead #193, death rather than living would have been the ultimate cop-out. By keeping Negan alive in the aftermath of the series, but in effect, “canceled” by the rest of society, Kirkman forces him to endure a living hell where every day that he’s alive he’ll have to grapple with the thoughts of all the people he hurt, all the deviancy and chaos he engendered. This is especially painful because after so many years Negan has, as he himself states in The Walking Dead #174, “lived long enough to regret the things” he’s done, and “have a quiet enough moment to allow the memory of your actions horrify you.” By staying alive, Negan will experience a debilitating self-torture, that he will never be able to escape, at least not until his last breath.
2. Pamela Milton
Pamela’s life, in many respects, gets better during the apocalypse. While she does lose her husband and daughter, she gains absolute power as the Governor of the Commonwealth, and she uses that power to rule with an iron fist. Being that the Commonwealth is nothing short of a “superpower” in the post-apocalypse world, Pamela’s position at the apex of the power structure allows her to live like a queen. Ultimately, however, her power does not save her from changes in and outside the Commonwealth. Resentment of her drastic rule and unbending support of the repressive upper class leads to her ouster as a leader at some point following Rick’s death. While she still has the protection of the state, due to her past leadership position, it is unlikely that she considers her new situation an upgrade to her life. Indeed, for someone who certainly gets used to the idea of her wishes being other people’s commands, being an average citizen with no influence in the community is certainly not the ending Pamela would wish for
1. Sebastian Milton
If there’s anyone who suffers a monstrous “reversal of fortune” in the Walking Dead aftermath, it’s Sebastian Milton. In fact, as the son of Pamela Milton, his life is significantly better when zombies are overrunning the world. Then, he lives above the law, doing as he pleases with few if any consequences. He even has Mercer attached to him as his personal security guard and fixer. However, his murder of Rick, whom he sees as a threat to his way of life, sets into motion a chain of events that actualizes his greatest fears. His mother loses power and is nearly chased out of town. Additionally, he is sentenced to life in prison, by his own mother, for Rick’s murder. To make his life even more tragic, even if he’s set free before he dies, he must worry about Carl Grimes, who promises to hunt him down and kill him if he ever sets foot out of the prison. It’s a sobering end for a character whose name once opened doors but now is spoken with hatred and disgust.
Life is hard during the apocalypse. Death, disease, and damage are rampant; risks arise not only from the zombies but also from fellow human survivors. To simply survive and make it to the world that develops over the years following Rick’s death is an extraordinary feat. Survival for most people means a happier and more enjoyable aftermath where new opportunities arise to leave the apocalypse behind. However, for others, the aftermath of The Walking Dead produces a more tragic ending that puts them in a worse position than they ever experienced before.