Negan keeps talking about how he’s doing Rick a lot of favors. What Negan doesn’t realize is that he has done Rick the biggest favor of all after showing up in Alexandria.
Things have really changed in Alexandria. There was a point in time when Rick’s group was looked upon with fear, but then slowly the fear became something different. The fear has been replaced with respect.
Deanna had done a great job keeping the Alexandrians moving forward before Rick and the group arrived. What’s important to remember from those early days is that the Alexandrians thought Rick was a savage when he showed up. This was partly due to his long beard and often blood-splattered face, but it was also due to his black and white, no middle ground approach to doing things.
Only a few Alexandrians had ever ventured beyond the gates, and none had been through what Rick’s group had been through. It was hard for the Alexandrians, who had been living in this idyllic little island in the middle of the apocalypse, to understand what life was really like. Hearing stories from Maggie and Carol and the rest of the group did nothing to really paint a picture of what life was life beyond the walls because they were so far removed from it.
But then the Wolves arrived, and the walls fell, and things changed very quickly. The Alexandrians lost people, including their leader. They lost their food supply. They saw what havoc could be wreaked not only by the Walkers, but by other people who wanted what they had. They struggled, in as much of a way that people with running water and wall-to-wall carpet can struggle.
Some of the Alexandrians still felt that Rick was the wrong person to be in charge, Spencer chief among them. The way they saw it, Rick was the cause of their problems.
However, everything changed with Negan.
At first, it was more of the same. Rick came back from taking Maggie to the Hilltop, and the group no doubt told the tale of what happened during their encounter with Negan. Abraham and Glenn’s bodies were at the Hilltop so they didn’t have anything to show the Alexandrians, which meant everything was based upon their word. Spencer didn’t believe Rick, nor did he want Rick in charge to handle the Saviors.
Then Negan showed up.
The first experience with Negan was a way for the Alexandrians to see Rick’s subservience to the Savior leader. But then Negan showed up when Rick wasn’t home. He got comfortable in Rick’s house with Rick’s children, and he started playing pool with Spencer while the other Alexandrians watched. Rosita and Tara looked on in horror, knowing that something bad could happen at any moment. Gabriel wasn’t there to see what Negan did to Abraham and Glenn, but he knew enough to take Rick’s word about it.
When Negan gutted Spencer, the Alexandrians looked on in shock. But when Arat killed Olivia, their shock turned to something different. Now they knew what was going on outside the walls. Now they knew what Rick was talking about. Now they could say that they’ve witnessed the horrors wrought by Negan. And now they know what they’re up against.
Now the Alexandrians must turn to Rick for guidance. Now Rick is the only person who can guide them through this situation.
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The fact of the matter is that Negan did Rick a huge favor. It took Negan showing up and killing more people to get everyone on the same page. Now there is no question that Negan and the Saviors are bad people and that Alexandria will need to fight or roll over and die under the Saviors’ rule.