The Walking Dead season 11
Our first stop in this examination of the worst villains of the final season of The Walking Dead takes us to Pope, the original leader of The Reapers.
Honestly, it feels like forever since Pope was the principal villain of the show, which can kind of minimize exactly why he’s on this list in the first place. So, for the sake of thoroughness, let’s look back on it, shall we?
While we’d heard a little about Pope’s actions (via The Reapers) from Maggie as she recounted the destruction of her community in Meridian in season ten’s “Home Sweet Home”, we didn’t see him until halfway through the first third of the season. What we see of him in that episode doesn’t exactly paint the best picture of him.
Firstly, he’s obsessed with hunting Maggie down because, apparently, driving her and her group out of their home (And killing many of them) wasn’t enough. Then, as part of some bizarre “test”, he attempts to burn Daryl and Leah (His second-in-command, I might add) alive inside a house. And finally, after Daryl passes this test, Pope turns around and throws one of his own men into a campfire. His own guy!
This was because he believed that this subordinate, Bossie, had fled the battle against Negan and Maggie rather than stand and aid a fellow Reaper who died in the fight. For this perceived betrayal and cowardice, he murdered him. It is at this point that I will remind you that Bossie was not just some rando Pope picked up in the apocalypse, but a man who’d served under him in the army during the war in Afghanistan for years, then again as part of Pope’s mercenary company (Created partially to give these traumatized veterans steady employment, and make civilian life less jarring for them), and finally surviving Operation: Cobalt with Pope and his comrades, coming together specifically to watch out for one another. This was the man that, for one perceived act of cowardice (In spite of refusing to leave his wounded friend behind and carrying him back to Meridian), Pope burned alive.
That was just his first episode. He would get worse, including torturing a member of Maggie’s group, Frost, to get more information on her before, ultimately torturing him some more until he expired. A strong showing of why he should be on this list so far.
I want to take a brief detour for a minute and explain why Pope murdered Bossie. You see, because of his experiences in war, Pope became extremely loyal to those who served under him and believed that that loyalty (And what his men were supposed to do in service of that loyalty) was among the highest morals the Reapers could adhere to.
Why take this detour? To demonstrate just how crazy and full of shit he was. Not because of his belief in loyalty but rather his selective adherence to it.
You see, as Maggie, Negan, and Elijah were closing in on the Reapers and battling them in the streets of Meridian, Pope orders one of his men to use their secret weapon, a hwacha (A medieval Korean missile battery, essentially), to bombard Maggie and the walkers she and Negan brought with them despite warnings that the weapon’s explosive projectiles would almost certainly kill his men on the ground fighting with Maggie and Negan.
Where’s all this loyalty? When Leah warned of the danger the weapon would put her brothers-in-arms in, Pope simply brushed the concerns aside and simply said that it was “their time to die”.
This is what cements him on this list. For a guy who supposedly cared so much about loyalty that he burned one of his own men to death for a perceived abandonment of a squad mate, he turned that right around when it came to destroy his enemy.
Loyalty to the men under your command? Bah. When you got enemies to kill, everything’s fair in love and war, including using a makeshift missile truck. Who cares if it might catch your men in the crossfire? You’ve got more important things to deal with!
The conquering of Meridian, the killings that came with it, the torture, and even the murdering of Bossie, while not good by any means, were, at least, consistent. But, when you turn around and decide to be inconsistent, it basically flies in the face of everything you claim to adhere to and kind of makes you seem like you don’t care about your own principles. We don’t know how Pope was at the beginning of the outbreak, he might have been a good leader, for all we know, but by the time we’re introduced to him, the good man, the good soldier, the good leader, he seems to have been before the outbreak, was gone, replaced by a man obsessed with destroying his enemies, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice what was most important to him — The lives of his men — to achieve it.