A major recurring theme in The Walking Dead is the post-apocalyptic setting which forces people to their limits. Between the struggle for survival, the constant threat of zombies, and the total breakdown of law and order, the characters in The Walking Dead have to carefully weigh every decision they make – as evidenced by the show’s high death rate.
Being pushed to the limit doesn’t always make the characters bad people, however. The Walking Dead indicates that the apocalypse reveals who people really are at a base level, whether that level is admirable or contemptible. As such, some characters make for excellent role models, and some make for truly terrible ones.
10Good Role Model: Father Gabriel Stokes Adapts Without Losing Himself
For much of his time on The Walking Dead, the priest, Gabriel Stokes, was a poor role model. Gabriel was a self-righteous hypocrite who left his parishioners to die, and who tried to betray Rick’s group numerous times, viewing them as too violent. He was poorly-adapted to the apocalypse, and a worse person for it.
Events caused Gabriel to toughen up. He learned to become a warrior, and somebody who could command the respect of others. Even as he rose to the occasion, however, he remained true to himself. Gabriel became a spiritual leader in Alexandra, important to maintaining morality and morale.
9Bad Role Model: Simon Rebels For The Wrong Reasons
It is well-accepted by many that people have the right to disobey immoral orders, and the right to depose leaders who are immoral, or bad for their group. As such, attempting to dethrone Negan from the Saviors at the height of the war with Rick’s group, could have been an excellent choice.
Simon rebels, however, purely out of ambition and personal dislike for Negan. Alongside horrific actions like murdering the Scavengers – and costing any chance at peace – Simon shows himself to lack Negan’s few morals. As such, he is one of the worst role models in The Walking Dead.
8Good Role Model: Daryl Dixon Shows The Value Of Growth
Despite being a target of fan love from almost his first appearance, Daryl Dixon had a number of flaws starting out. Aside from his devotion to his racist, hated brother, he was also a sullen loner with a temper, and very little in the way of a purpose in life.
The better people in Daryl’s life rub off on him, and he does begin to change, almost always for the better. Over time, he becomes a loyal friend to a great number of people, a valued community member, and one of the most principled characters in the entire cast. Daryl is admirable for showing that positive change can happen even in the worst circumstances.
7. Bad Role Model: Maggie Rhee Lets Vengeance Consume Her
Maggie Rhee (once named Greene), is one of the characters who has undergone the most development in The Walking Dead, truly embracing her steel and becoming a major leader figure within the post-apocalyptic political landscape. In recent seasons, however, fans have noted a darker turn to her development.
Following the war with the Saviors, Maggie has become obsessed with revenge on Negan, which had driven the majority of her storylines. Although there is no denying that Negan has done awful things – or that his redemption is uncertain – Maggie’s obsession with revenge threatens often to land her in trouble, not a trait of a role model, despite her many admirable qualities.
6. Good Role Model: Michonne Shows Parenthood In Impossible Circumstances
There is obviously more to the character of Michonne Hawthorne in The Walking Dead than her status as a mother. She is an important figure in her community, a moral voice, and one of the cast’s most lethal fighters. Nonetheless, recent seasons have seen her acting as a mother figure to Judith Grimes as well as her own son, Rick Junior.
It can be rare in television to see a healthy depiction of a blended family, with it being even more staggering in The Walking Dead, of all places. As such, for managing a difficult parenting situation in the post-apocalypse, on top of her other valuable roles, Michonne is undoubtedly a role model.
5. Bad Role Model: Eugene Porter Still Struggles With His Many Flaws
Eugene Porter started as unpopular with fans, but redeemed himself in the eyes of both the characters and the viewers of The Walking Dead. Initially depicted as an awkward manipulator, claiming to be able to cure the zombie plague just to ensure himself protection, he went on to show an underhanded and manipulative streak.
This won him fans when he turned it against the Saviors, but is still something he grapples with to more sympathetic people. Even in the latest seasons, Eugene struggles to trust people with important information, which, in as tense a survival situation as faced by the characters, is a terrible trait to have.
4. Good Role Model: Rick Comes To Find The Balance Of Leadership (Eventually)
Leadership is never easy, and even less so in the zombie apocalypse. One of the major explorations in The Walking Dead‘s middle seasons was the morality of Rick Grimes, and his leadership of the gang. Slipping back and forth between lucidity and instability, and crossing terrible lines to save his chosen family, Rick for a time was a very dark person – self-admittedly.
Eventually, Rick would grapple with his morality and come out the better for it. Although harsh by some standards, Rick cements himself as one of the most balanced leaders in the apocalypse, and somewhat aspirational.
3. Bad Role Model: The Governor Is A Poor Leader And A Worse Person
The Walking Dead dedicates a reasonable amount of time to exploring the struggles of being a leader, especially in as harsh an environment as post-apocalyptic Georgia. Numerous leaders in The Walking Dead admit that they have to be far more ruthless than they are comfortable with to keep their people safe, and struggle with their morality.
The Governor, however, shows himself to be a terrible person without much remorse and – when push comes to shove – a bad leader. Despite the trust the people of Woodbury have in him, he is happy to march them into a pointless war that he started. Whereas, leaders like Rick focus on protecting their own. An icon of good leadership the Governor is not.
2. Good Role Model: Hershel Greene Is A Moral Voice When There Is None
A recurring element of the survivors in The Walking Dead, however the cast varies, is that there is usually at least one person who serves as the group’s conscience, reminding them of a better way. The role has been filled by numerous characters, but one of the most effective was Hershel Greene.
Initially presented as a man out-of-touch and unnecessarily obstructive to Rick and his group, Hershel becomes an indispensible member of the group for his wisdom and his ability to hold them to account. His death was a major blow to the group, for the loss of his true advice and his selfless nature.
1. Bad Role Model: Negan Tries To Redeem Himself, But He Doesn’t Reform
One of the most complex characters in recent seasons of The Walking Dead is Negan Smith. Initially presented as a wholly antagonistic figure, he is a brutal ruler who seeks to bring the local communities under his thumb. Negan isn’t afraid to make vicious examples of those who cross him, and commits awful actions such as forced marriages.
After the Whisperer crisis, Negan redeems himself in the eyes of some, and makes friends amongst the other survivors – but not everybody is convinced. Although he seems to have turned over a new leaf, Negan self-admittedly thinks his main mistake wasn’t the morality of his actions, but not exterminating Rick’s group at first contact. Negan has changed, but not enough to make him a role model.