The Walking Dead: Explaining behavior vs. defending it

The Hilltop. The Walking Dead. AMC
The Hilltop. The Walking Dead. AMC /

The behavior on The Walking Dead is very interesting to examine. Often explaining or observing behavior can be confused with defending or excusing it.

Characters on The Walking Dead, just as people in real life, often have reasons for behaving the way they do. Sometimes the behavior is calculated and premeditated, sometimes it is the result of childhood trauma or other big events that happened in the character’s life.

Sometimes behavior is based on fear or panic, jealousy, exhaustion, hunger, or love. Shame, insecurity, guilt, greed, pride, embarrassment. Physical pain. Emotions drive behavior.

Often when I write about characters, especially their flaws, I try to look at what might be behind their behavior. Sometimes that can be interpreted as defending their behavior.

Occasionally, I consider forgiving the behavior. Usually I’m not denying the bad behavior or excusing it. I like to observe and try to explain. I don’t necessarily want to defend. And I definitely don’t want to excuse or condone in many cases.


Recently Abraham broke up with Rosita in an extremely harsh and cruel way. I don’t defend his behavior, but I do understand it. It’s quite inline with his character. He doesn’t know how to soften things.

When he makes a decision, he likes to execute. Now. Remember how he wanted to leave the church that night instead of waiting until the next morning. Or immediately leave with the fire truck instead of staying one night to sweep for supplies as Maggie suggested.

He rips off the band-aid in one motion. He was cruel. I don’t defend his behavior; I forgive him. I think he did the right thing for the right reasons. Poor execution. Pure Abe.

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Ron’s behavior was driven by jealousy and feelings of powerlessness. He watched his mom be beaten by his dad and couldn’t protect her. He was beaten himself and couldn’t protect himself.

He loved his father even though he was a mean abuser. Those feelings are confusing, He watched his father be killed by someone who could do what he couldn’t. Rick could protect his mom and yet he took away his father.

Carl was a kid who could protect himself in this crazy world and was friends with Ron’s friend and perceived girlfriend. Rick and Carl came in with the abilities he didn’t have and stole everything he loved.

I can explain that behavior, but I can’t forgive Ron for trying to kill Rick or Carl. Ron needed to find a better way to express those emotions. He needed help. But that’s hard to get in the confines of a walled community in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

Explaining and Observing

Those are two examples of what I mean by explaining yet not defending behavior. I love to observe and try to dig into the reasons behind the behavior of the characters on The Walking Dead. I’m not always right. I’m just making my own observations.

I try to think of real life and connect it. My 8-year-old nephew told my brother’s girlfriend (whom he loves) that she wasn’t his mother when she told him what to do once. I forgive him even though it had to hurt her terribly. He’s a kid. He wanted his way and reached for the harshest words possible to produce guilt and get what he wanted or to not feel ashamed of whatever he did wrong that she was admonishing.

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This is a huge acting out lesson to remember when adults act out. Adults have their own versions that show up in many circumstances. I can just imagine the most real reaction from a child on The Walking Dead:

This is the worst apocalypse ever!