The Walking Dead final season
Pope is something unique among Walking Dead villains: He’s the first to be an officer in the U.S. military. There have been villains in the show who had been in the military (Mitch Dolgen, The Governor’s tank driver, immediately springs to mind) but never an officer.
As we learned, Pope was a man who led troops into war in Afghanistan and made sure to do his damnedest to get them all back out again. He did this again and again, first as a soldier, then as leader of his own private security company, and finally, bringing his troops together to combat the beginning of the zombie outbreak.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about the fact he had his own security company. Part of it was because it provided a way for him and his subordinates to have gainful employment in a world that they otherwise struggled to fit into. All of them had lingering trauma left over from the war, making readjusting to civilian life increasingly difficult. Rather than let his troops languish in this state, he gave them income, direction, purpose, and stability.
What does this tell us about him? Firstly, it tells us that he was good at being a leader. If he weren’t, even if his troops were struggling, they wouldn’t have come to him for help, they would have tried to tough it out on their own. Secondly, it reinforces that Pope did truly value loyalty…at least at one time. He brought his team in because he knew that they were struggling with civilian life just like he was, and he wanted to provide them with a means to make that easier. You don’t do that for strangers, but you do that for people you care about.
As for the more violent things that he did? Well, we don’t know when he started behaving this way. Honestly, we’ve seen Rick, Morgan, and even Carol and Maggie do things that, had they seen someone else do them at the beginning of the apocalypse, would have been horrified. It’s entirely possible that like his willingness to turn on his troops for even the possibility of them having abandoned a comrade, the more violent actions we know Pope committed may be something that developed over time, with his more violent streak slowly emerging the deeper he and the Reapers got into the apocalypse.
For another thing, we know that he did not come out of the war in Afghanistan unscathed, and it’s possible that whatever lingering trauma he may have had from the war was exacerbated by what he saw and experienced during the outbreak (Operation: Cobalt, for example). If Rick can savagely murder Saviors willing to join him in fighting Negan after losing Carl, I think it’s entirely possible that Pope may have snapped at some point in the decade or so of living in a world filled with zombies and just never recovered.
Does this mean he was “good”? No, but with what we know of him, I think it is possible that he may have been at one time and that it was simply lost over time as madness slowly consumed his mind.