To be perfectly honest: Troy is a very tragic figure. Raised by alcoholic parents during the height of their addictions, unloved by his mother, even at her death, and by the time his father was capable of trying to do right by his son, it was too late.
Raised on the ranch, he was taken out of school, not because of the beliefs of his parents, but because his behavioral problems made him unfit to continue going.
When you start to see the bigger picture of Troy, much of his behavior starts to make sense.
Considering his treatment by his parents, his callous streak should be no surprise. I mean, what more could one really expect?
This also plays deeply into his more violent tendencies. When you realize how poorly treated he was by his parents during his upbringing, the fact he wasn’t a tornado of brutality is, quite frankly, bordering on amazing!
His upbringing comes into play again when one considers his murder of the Trimbols.
While I won’t excuse his actions, I will attempt to make sense of them.
I may not have any particular idea why he killed the rest of the Trimbols, but, I do know why he killed Mike Trimbol.
As he revealed to Madison, being taken out of school not only separated him from the few friends he had, but, it seemed to cause many of them to abandon him, too. Mike was the exception.
Mike had become one of the few friends he had for a very long time. This fostered a great deal of loyalty to and appreciation for Mike in Troy.
However, when Mike joined his family in leaving the ranch, this clearly felt to Troy like his friend was abandoning him. For a guy like Troy, so long neglected by his parents, this sort of abandonment was something he couldn’t take, and lashed out violently. Troy told Madison that “things got out of hand”. We don’t know what happened, but, clearly, Troy’s intent wasn’t to go out and kill Mike and his family.
Troy’s upbringing even plays into his worst crime: Siccing the horde on the ranch.
When you think about how isolated Troy’s relationship with his parents and behavioral problems (And subsequent removal from school) made him, his jealous feeling towards the ranch seem…not as crazy, in hindsight.
With only his brother and Mike to lean on when he was younger, it would make sense that he would grow so attached to one of the few familiar and consistent things in his life, i.e. his home.
When he felt that being taken from him (Though, his distrust of outsiders, particularly the Black Hat tribe, certainly helped), his decision to attempt to make a violent last stand and all that followed fall with what one might expect from a person as disturbed as Troy.
And now, my last argument for Troy’s redeemability comes simply from the fact that, in spite of all the awful things he did, Troy was not devoid of humanity.
Despite the way his parents treated him, he still loved both of them. According to Jeremiah, even though his mother still showered him with abuse, Troy persisted in attempting to care for her in her dying days. And, when Nick killed Jeremiah, Troy ran to his father, overcome with grief.
He held similar emotions for his brother, trying his best to help Jake when he as bitten. When the horde descended on the ranch, he told Nick that, even at his highest enthusiasm for his actions, he’d always intended to find some way to protect his brother.
But, perhaps his greatest display of affection was for Nick.
During his shootout with Qaletaqa’s troops, he took a knife to the forearm to protect Nick from Crazy Dog.
And, as Nick seemed to be spiraling back into addiction, Troy was the one attempting to be the voice of reason. When Nick was whispering to infected that he couldn’t go back with his mother, Troy was the one who held him, trying to keep his friend from drawing the attention of the dead.
Troy Otto is an extremely complicated character. On the one hand, he’s a warped, jealous, violent racist. Yet, on the other hand, he’s also surprisingly human. In spite of everything, he loved his parents, he loved his brother, and he was staunchly loyal to his friends.
If his actions hadn’t killed so many, honestly, Troy would almost be a shoe-in for me. Even with those caveats, it’s tough for me to outright condemn someone who’s flaws were so dependent on things over which Troy never really had control.
Maybe if his parents’ demons weren’t so strong, Troy’s might not have been…
Next: Keeping Conflict Contained