When The Walking Dead returns tonight, it will presumably involve the survivors being led from one dangerous situation to another, with the notoriously moody Rick Grimes heading the pack. For four-and-a-half seasons now, Rick has pushed through one emotional boundary after another in order to do “what it takes” to keep Carl and the others safe. But what if Rick wasn’t around, and it was up to someone else to serve as head honcho?
Here are five other Walking Dead characters that could have stood in as proper leaders if Rick either hadn’t woken up from his coma or died along the way. Since we already have a spinoff coming to show us how this universe will be without Rick, let’s pretend like this is the eventual Walking Dead reboot that we all know is coming in 20 years or so. First up, the obvious choice.
DarylOver the years, no one has delivered the same amount of intense zombie-massacring as Rick than the silent-but-deadly Daryl Dixon. He’s the only other alpha male character that’s been there since the show started, and he’s definitely capable of committing whatever harsh deeds need to be done. Daryl doesn’t generally have to do anything on the psychotic side of heroism, though, since Rick is always there to bite rapists’ necks and accomplish other morally challenging tasks. But with his trusty crossbow and a never-ending supply of walker-killing arrows, Daryl is destined for a greatness that isn’t guided by the Word of Grimes, especially since he doesn’t have an immediate family to take care of. (Merle was doomed since birth.)
What Kind of Leader Would He Be? Given his approach to life consists of aggressively walking around in silence, Daryl would probably be a more easygoing authority figure in terms of direction, and would lead a nomadic group much like the one we know now. Though he also seems like the kind of guy who wouldn’t accept failure without some form of punishment involved, so watch out.
DaleConsidering Dale and his RV were two of the main components that got this group of survivors together, I think his ascent to the top of the heap would have been easily justifiable. His entry into the apocalypse was not a happy one, with the death of his wife, but he understood the power of bonding with a large group. (Even if some of them were depression-stunted weirdoes like Jim.) Unlike Rick, Dale would be more of an idea guy as opposed to a hands-on one, making big decisions from his lawn chair. That is, if he were still alive, which he probably would be if Carl had grown his zombie-killing balls a little earlier. Which he would have without Rick around to man-coddle him.
What Kind of Leader Would He Be? I still think that Dale is the most intelligent person to have ever been a part of this group, or at least the one with the most common sense. Dale would have kept his eye on the big picture, attempting to set up a structured society rather than one that bounces from one place to another.
MichonneIt’s too bad that we don’t get to see Michonne doing very much decision-making on The Walking Dead, because it’s hard to tell just how effective she would be as a guide. From what we know about her, she is capable of being a warrior, with her swords used as fluidly as her arms and legs. But the rugged exterior comes from having a more emotional past ripped away from her, so she’s capable of compassion. Plus, we haven’t really seen her making any brain-bustingly terrible choices that led to mass chaos and dead bodies. So even though a lack of bad evidence doesn’t equal good evidence, I think Michonne could easily step up and shepherd these characters to safer places than Rick has gone.
What Kind of Leader Would She Be? Because she never comes across as bullheaded (or opinionated at all, really), Michonne seems like the kind of person who would lead by committee, with a trusted team of advisors around that would presumably not be guided by Michonne’s walker leashes. She would be the chess queen of this dystopian setting.
ShaneTo get this out of the way right quick, I hated Shane and his big dumb bald head. But a lot of that had to do with how the character was portrayed (and treated) in the time after Rick awoke from his unconscious sabbatical. Had Rick died, Shane and Lori would have built their relationship up, and his wide skillset would have worked well with Daryl’s as far as keeping these characters alive. (Plus, Shane was a far better father figure for Carl, who would have stayed in the house, goddammit.) Yes, Shane made choices that involved sacrifices for the Greater Good, and that’s what good leaders have to do sometimes. They don’t guilt-shave their heads though.
What Kind of Leader Would He Be? As a former police officer whose morals were never very polished, I really see Shane as more of a second banana, guided by advice that he can sometimes ignore on the sly. So that’s probably how his authority would work as well, with him taking credit for good decisions and passing blame to others for the bad ones. Maybe Lori would have kept him virtuous, and she might not have died.
The GovernorUnlike the others on this list, we actually got to see what Philip “The Governor” Blake was like as the head of a community. As far as places in ruined societies go, Woodbury was a pretty decent effort, run with the kind of precision that Rick just isn’t capable of at this point. (Though it may be coming, hopefully.) The elephant in the room here is, of course, that the Governor kept his undead daughter around and also had a collection of heads in jars. I’m not saying the guy would be the most saintly and mentally coordinated of leaders. I’m saying that even while batshit insane, he managed to put together the building blocks of a real town. Rick grew a beard.
What Kind of Leader Would He Be? A sociopathic one, to be sure. But still, one able to provide a reflection of what life was like before walker extinction became a daily occurrence. Who’s to say Woodbury’s growth wouldn’t have eventually led to the Governor regaining his wits and becoming a truly great leader?
The Walking Dead returns to AMC tonight, February 8, at 9 p.m. ET. But before that, tell us who you think would have been the group’s best leader had Rick not stepped up.
Who Would Be the Best Leader for the Group?