The Walking Dead has never been a series filled to the brim with hilarity, but last night’s episode was a particularly dark and sullen one, with several characters each trying to find a clear path through depression and mourning. Rick was arguably the most vocal about his feelings, and the epic speech he gave not only tied the series’ title into the show’s outlook on humanity, but it also served as an emotional catalyst for star Andrew Lincoln.

Rick’s speech was about his WWII veteran grandfather and how he dealt with his overseas hardships, and the moody monologue spoke to Lincoln in a way that went far beyond just post-apocalyptic fiction. Here’s how he explained his connection to the scripted words in an interview with EW.
When I read it, it reminded me of something that happened in my life when I spoke to someone in a fight. It almost had the same speech, so it resonated on a really, really profoundly deep, familial level. I remember when I read it, I just cried. When I read the script, I couldn’t…because I always tend to read my words out loud and I just couldn’t. I got something caught in my throat when I read this speech.”

It seems like kind of a weird point to bring up in the midst of a fight, but then I’m not trying to act like I know what Andrew Lincoln’s life has been like. Plus, this show’s dismal subject matter has often left the actors in dark places, and it obviously doesn’t all revolve around other characters meeting their makers.

The episode “Them,” which Lincoln has been eager for fans to see due to how comparable to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road it is, sees the group at one of its most dour points. The deaths of Beth and Tyreese still weigh heavy on everyone’s minds, and the grief is compounded by torturous traveling without an ample supply of food or water to keep the survivors going. Rick’s speech, which he gives as everyone is huddled in a rain-pelted barn, is actually one meant to inspire the group. Here’s how Rick compared his grandfather’s fatalistic attitude to his current state of mind.
Every day he woke up, he told himself, ‘Rest in peace. Now get up and go to war.’ And then after a few years of pretending he was dead, he made it out alive. And that’s the trick of it, I think. We do what we need to do, and then we get to live. But no matter what we find in D.C., I know we’ll be okay, because this is how we survive. We tell ourselves that we are the walking dead.

A pretty powerful thought process to be sure, but one that Daryl doesn’t have time for, since he’s all human being. Luckily, the group will probably soon be finding a semblance of the humanity that they once knew, thanks to that mystery character at the end of the episode.

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