3. Rick’s unilateral decision to banish Carol
There are several reasons why Rick’s decision to banish Carol in season 4 was a terrible one.
One, Rick had no authority whatsoever to do this.
At that time, Rick had stepped back as a leader, and the prison was being run by a council. Carol was a council member, while Rick wasn’t. Rick had absolutely no right to take such a momentous decision all by himself, without consulting anyone.
Of course, Rick was understandably worried about Tyreese’s reaction if the word spread that Carol was the murderer. But there were plenty of other ways to handle this. At the very least, he should have consulted a few other people, even if he kept it quiet. Carol similarly had no right to decide to put down Karen and David all by herself, in the name of safety. But banishing one of the core members of the group, thus acting as judge and jury, was also way out-of-bounds on Rick’s part.
Two, his decision had a devastating, lasting impact on Carol.
Before the banishment, Carol seemed to have found her place in the group. She even seemed rather happy in her role. She did not feel bad about putting down Karen and David to protect the rest of the group. She felt it was the right thing to do.
After her banishment, though, Carol was never able to reintegrate into the group. There were many steps in the huge crisis she went through in seasons 6 and 7, but the first and most decisive step was her banishment.
Conclusion: even Rick thinks it was a bad idea
Of course, you could argue, in Morgan-like fashion, that every action has a purpose. If Rick hadn’t banished Carol, she wouldn’t have been able to save the group from Terminus. Except this isn’t true: she could just as easily have found herself separated from the group after the fall of the prison.
So in the end, nothing good came from Carol’s banishment. And, to rub a little salt in the wound, at the end of season 6, Rick eventually admitted – to Morgan, not to Carol – that with hindsight, he now believed her actions had been justified. If only he had been more circumspect at the time, or if he had only told Carol what he told Morgan… Alexandria might not have lost one of their most capable fighters at the time when they needed her most.
Now that Carol is back, it will be interesting to see if Rick ever realizes the impact his decision had on Carol and whether he will feel the need to tell her what he told Morgan.