Nothing says a man is not to be trifled with than when he is tied up, kneeling in front of a trough that is meant to catch his blood after his neck has been slit, and he still has it in him to threaten his captor. Not only does he tell his captor he will kill him, he describes the weapon: a machete with a red handle. Yes, Rick Grimes of The Walking Dead is that man.
This new Rick made his first appearance in an earlier episode when he used his teeth to rip out the jugular of a man who threatened Carl’s life. He was outgunned and on the verge of facing his death. But what was far worse for him was that he was about to witness his son be raped and killed. The horror of that moment unleashed something primal inside Rick. The camera blurs and uses slow motion as Rick bites into his captor’s neck. The scene is reminiscent of a wild animal attack. Afterwards, he is seen staring out into space with the dead man’s blood around his mouth.
Since the end of last season, the writers of this show continue to hammer the point that Rick is a changed man. He no longer questions his decisions. He no longer questions himself. This is especially true when he chooses to use violence.
It is not mere bravado when after he is caught by the Terminus people he declares, “They’re going to feel pretty stupid when they find out…They’re screwing with the wrong people.” And he keeps his word. His group, with Carol at the forefront, devastates the people of Terminus. Even when Rick and the group get away, Rick insists they go back and kill any survivors.
For the first time in his life, Rick Grimes is experiencing a feral satisfaction with using violence. This is clearly shown in episode three of this season. There is forethought in how he corners Gareth and his men in a church. He tells Gareth that he will not waste bullets on him and his men. He has Gareth kneel before him as he once made Rick kneel in front of a trough. Gareth begs and pleads for his life, promising to leave Rick and his people alone. Rick couldn’t care less about Gareth’s promises. He is more interested in keeping his promise to Gareth, which is that he will be the one to kill him. He reminds Gareth of that promise, and shows him the red handled machete. The poetry and sense of justice is cleverly given to viewers in this scene.
The pleasure of delivering to Gareth what he brought to Rick and others must have been great. And that is the problem. As Rick, Sasha, Abraham, and Michone stab, bludgeon, and hack Gareth and his men, the camera focuses on the reactions of Maggie, Glen, and Tyrese. They are disturbed at the sight of their friends’ blood lust. Rick’s only explanation to them after the killing is to look at the mutilated bodies and say, “That could have been us.”
This new Rick does not talk much. He looks haunted. He warns his son that he is never safe. Sadly, his words echo the warnings written on the walls by the people of Terminus: Never Again, Never Trust, We First Always.